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Find Beautiful, Healthy Skin with These Professional Tips

rectangle December 10, 2018 /
Skin Care

Expert advice from our dermatologists

When it comes to achieving smooth, radiant skin, you could easily spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on creams, moisturizers, masks, and serums. But the goal shouldn’t just be to have beautiful skin. You should have healthy skin.

Since an estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, it’s important for your skin care routine to promote your skin’s health. This is why we’ve asked Dr. Ronea Chambers and Dr. Carol Trakimas—dermatologists at Sona Dermatology & MedSpa in Charlotte and Raleigh, NC—a series of questions related to skin care needs to learn their expert advice.

Why Customizable Care Is So Important

The one-size-fits-all mentality doesn’t work in skin care. As Dr. Chambers explains, each patient is unique and has different healthcare needs. So it’s important for a physician to provide customizable care.

To better understand their bodies and what is best for their skin, Dr. Chambers believes patients should leave an appointment with more information than when they arrived. She said too many individuals seek medical information outside of the doctor’s office. In fact, one survey found that nearly one-third of respondents avoided the doctor. Dr. Chambers recognizes this problem, and in response prioritizes the time she spends with patients.

“I want [patients] to leave feeling empowered and educated,” she said. “Physicians are teachers, first and foremost.”

Although the majority of her patients have healthy skin, not every patient knows what type of sunscreen to use, how to eliminate acne, or what skin care products are best. That’s what a physician is for: to answer those daunting questions and help you feel confident in your own skin.

“My goal for each patient is to help them achieve their healthiest skin possible,” Dr. Chambers said.

Bonding with Your Dermatologist

Dr. Chambers acknowledges that access to healthcare is difficult for many Americans, which is exactly why each appointment should be worthwhile for the patient. To maximize their time, Dr. Chambers does her best to listen to patients before offering any answers or solutions.

Statistically, doctors have a habit of jumping right in, sometimes forgetting to ask a patient the purpose of their visit. Many doctors interrupt their patients within 11 seconds.

“I try not to interrupt my patients,” Dr. Chambers said. “I try to allow them to lead with what their concerns are. I am always careful to not make assumptions about what is bothering them … it really is about gaining trust.”

To improve and encourage the doctor/patient relationship, Sona provides each patient with an extensive questionnaire, which many other practices don’t offer. In the questionnaire, patients are asked very detailed questions about their skin and body. These include questions about skin issues like acne, dark marks, and stretch marks, so the physicians can get to the root of the problem.

Although Dr. Chambers admits that many patients are very comfortable opening up about their skin concerns, no matter how big or small, there are some patients who are not as candid. It’s important for all patients to feel comfortable and trust that they can discuss their concerns with the dermatologist without judgement.

Dr. Chambers wants all patients to remember that skin is everywhere—it’s the largest organ, and some people have up to 8 pounds of skin—so it can’t be ignored. “I have been trained to take care of these issues, so I want to be able to provide the most extensive and up-to-date care for all of [the patient’s] issues and concerns,” she said.

If you’re hesitant to open up to your physician, remember that they have likely seen it all—and have worked with patients of all ages, genders, and backgrounds—so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask the questions you really want answered.

Common Skin Issues and Concerns

All bodies are different, so each patient needs to be treated differently. However, there are some common skin issues that occur seasonally.

In the summer, more patients tend to present with athlete’s foot (or tinea pedis), which is a common fungal infection that most often occurs in humid, warm months. You can catch this infection when your skin comes into contact with another person’s infected skin, or when your skin touches infected surfaces like communal showers, locker rooms, or pool areas.

In the winter, eczema is common (over 30 million Americans have it). With the decrease in humidity and cooler temperatures, this condition can flare up easily. Although it’s not contagious, it can be extremely itchy and uncomfortable. Common symptoms include dry, red, or inflamed skin.

common skin conditions in summer and winter

Dr. Trakimas has noticed that there are a fair amount of stress-related, precipitated skin conditions, with acne, eczema, and psoriasis at the forefront. Even acne seems to be presenting itself earlier than the teenage years. With Americans “burning the candle at both ends,” Dr. Trakimas admits there are a lot more stress-related conditions affecting her patients. She also sees many complicated autoimmune disorders and skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States.

Common Issues with Fair Skin

Individuals with fair skin tend to be more prone to hypersensitive skin and/or skin issues like rosacea or manifestations, which are often triggered by skin care products or excessive exposure to the sun. As a result, those with fair skin could experience redness, swelling, or irritability. These individuals also tend to burn in the sun.

Common Issues with Olive or Darker Skin

For those with olive or darker skin, dyschromia is a common skin condition that these Sona dermatologists treat. It results in pigmentary changes or an uneven skin tone. Melasma, a form of dyschromia, is also common. It causes discoloration or darkening of the skin related to hormonal changes, excessive exposure to the sun, and most often, pregnancy.

Differences in Acne Based on Gender and Age

When it comes to the common issue of acne, Dr. Chambers noticed that females tend to seek treatment more often than males.

Dr. Trakimas considers acne treatment one of her subspecialties. She said that treatment varies depending on the patient’s age, needs, and type of acne.

Eighty-five percent of Americans between ages 12 and 24 experience some form of acne. Teenage acne tends to affect the T-zone, which includes the forehead, nose, and chin, as well as the back (“bacne”).

Adult acne tends to affect the lower part of the face, also known as the perioral area, or the area around the mouth, as well as the jawline. Acne along the jawline tends to affect women more than men, said Dr. Trakimas.

Like Dr. Chambers, Dr. Trakimas takes the patient’s skin type into account and chooses the best products and treatments for the individual. If there’s scarring, she focuses on products that build up collagen and elasticity in the skin. The best treatment will blend in with a patient’s complexion and give a glowing effect.

Debunking Common Acne Myths

There are many misunderstandings around acne. Here’s what these dermatologists wants those with acne to know:

Washing your face more does not mean you’ll have fewer breakouts.

“Doing too much” is a common mistake, said Dr. Chambers. Patients may be over-cleansing or using too much of a product, which can “end up causing more irritation or more disruption to the skin barrier. That can be problematic and make the acne appear worse.”

If you want to avoid common skin conditions like acne, keeping your skin care routine simple is Dr. Chambers’ best advice.

However, Dr. Trakimas does advise patients to wash their face in the morning and at night. Washing your face more often than that won’t necessarily decrease the acne.

Eating healthy, anti-inflammatory foods may actually help.

For instance, eating a healthy, Mediterranean diet or swapping milk chocolate for bittersweet chocolate could help.

Although there have been various articles written on how greasy food and chocolate may cause acne, Dr. Chambers said that outbreaks have only been proven in a randomized-controlled, peer reviewed study between dairy and acne. Although many studies do show that dairy can cause acne, it may not be true for every individual. Dr. Chambers said that even if dairy triggers the acne, the acne can still be treated.

Pimple popping will cause scarring.

Dr. Trakimas doesn’t recommend this tempting practice. “Just leave them be,” she said. If you’re using a medicine to treat the acne, it’s important for it to target the pore and the oil glands. If you squeeze or pop a pimple, you prevent this and may end up with unwanted scarring.

Choose a cleanser over a soap.

Instead of washing your face with soap, Dr. Trakimas recommends using cleansers or cleansing oils.

Tanning helps acne, right? Wrong.

Instead, Dr. Trakimas recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen. She also suggests using an SPF of 30–50. Note that acne medicine may cause sensitivity to the sun.

Too much of a good thing will not make it better.

When patients are prescribed a medicine or treatment such as Retin-A, they sometimes assume more is better than less. However, patients should only use the prescribed amount, never more.

The consensus?

Getting rid of acne takes patience. Washing your face more or applying more cream will not make it go away any faster. Following your dermatologist’s advice is the best action to take.

Common Treatments for Acne Removal

Sixty million Americans have acne, and 99% of those people break out on their face. What’s most surprising of all is that 96% of those with acne have reported feeling depressed over the skin condition.

Rather than suffer or spend hundreds of dollars on ineffective over-the-counter treatments, it’s a good idea to visit a dermatologist who can help you determine the severity of the condition.

Dr. Chambers has recommended these treatments and prescriptions for acne removal and prevention:

A topical form of Vitamin A: This includes Retin-A (a topical tretinoin), which is a prescription used to reduce acne as well as the appearance of wrinkles, discoloration, or rough skin.

Recommended for: patients who don’t respond to basic, over-the-counter options. If your dermatologist thinks this will work for your skin, they will likely recommend the topical form over the oral form.

An oral form of Vitamin A: “This is the closest thing to a cure for acne that we have,” Dr. Chambers said. The pill works by “permanently reducing the size of the sebaceous glands or the oil glands.”

Recommended for: patients who have cystic acne that is unresponsive to traditional topical treatments such as Retin-A. Dr. Chambers said it is also used as a treatment option for individuals who are “very self-conscious or maybe even have some symptoms of depression because of the cosmetic appearance of their skin.”

Cosmetic Options for Reducing Acne Scars Post-Treatment

Dr. Chambers explains that once the acne improves, many patients are left with scars from cystic acne. One of the benefits of choosing Sona is that it can be a “one stop shop” for your acne care.

Because Sona offers both dermatology services and cosmetic services, you can get laser treatments after treating acne to “reduce discoloration and textural changes that were left as a result of acne scarring.”

Dr. Chambers said that by giving patients access to both dermatology and cosmetic services, “we remove [a] barrier … Often times, [patients] have to go to another provider, and it’s almost like starting over.” At Sona, patients get to enjoy the convenience and accessibility, and maintain a “continuity of care and level of comfort.”

Thoughts on Botox®?

When it comes to Botox, Dr. Trakimas has noticed that many people still believe it is unsafe. However, she assures her patients that the treatment is offered by safe providers and administered for both medical and cosmetic FDA-approved reasons.

Botox services are available for both women and men. “Brotox” (Botox for men) is becoming more and more popular. Now, the experts at Sona are recommending Botox before wrinkling begins and animation lines start forming.

Dr. Trakimas doesn’t recommend Botox for anyone under the age of 20. “We want them to be proud of who they are,” she said. If teens or young adults are uncomfortable with something, whether it’s their lips or forehead lines, the dermatologist will offer cleansers, serums, and other solutions.

Skin Protection Motto: Remember the 5 S’s

For those who must be in the sun for work reasons, such as landscapers, roofers, and lifeguards, it is best to cover as much skin as possible using hats, long sleeves, and of course, sunscreen.

An easy way to protect your skin is to abide by “slip, slop, slap, seek, slide.” Dr. Trakimas coined this mantra to help patients remember how to guard their skin from the elements:

  1. Slip on protective clothing.
  2. Slop on sunscreen.
  3. Slap on hats.
  4. Seek shade.
  5. Slide on sunglasses.

If you follow these rules, you can protect your skin and still have fun in the sun. Dr. Chambers also recommends using an umbrella if you don’t want to apply thick amounts of sunscreen or don’t want to wear layers of clothing in the warm temperatures.

skin cancer prevention tips

What’s the Best Sunscreen for My Skin?

Dr. Chambers advises that you use the “highest SPF that you can tolerate, [because] most people don’t apply enough, and most people don’t reapply.” People don’t realize that they are wiping or sweating their sunscreen off throughout the day, so it’s important to frequently apply at least an ounce to the exposed skin areas.

You can use either physical sunscreen or chemical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens are made of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These don’t have to be applied before you go into the sun. Chemical sunscreens take longer to work, so you should apply them 15 minutes before sun exposure. Chemical sunscreens are more organic and are often carbon-based. These don’t leave white marks on the skin, but take longer to work.

What to Expect at Your First Skin Exam

Full-body skin exams are highly recommended by dermatologists. If you’ve never had one before, you may feel intimidated, but they’re an effective way to catch cancer in its earliest stages or even prevent it from developing.

“I do a very thorough exam,” Dr. Chambers said. “On average, my contact time for a skin exam is about 15 minutes.”

The skin exam is one of the most comprehensive exams, and she doesn’t want to miss anything. She goes “head to toe,” which includes the face, scalp, mouth, buttocks, in between your toes, etc. The key is to “ensure that the uniformity, texture, color [of the moles] for that individual is normal.”

During the exam, Dr. Chambers likes to answer the patients’ questions regarding what some spots are—if they’re actually not moles, what’s happening to their skin as they age, what certain bumps are, and more. She’ll also ask the patients questions, like what products they use, what type of habits they have, and what type of skin care routine they maintain.

By using the dermatoscope—essentially a polarizing lens—Dr. Chambers can evaluate the moles more closely, using the ABCDE’s of melanoma to determine if a mole is suspicious or not.

How Often Should You Get Your Skin Checked?

An annual skin exam is recommended for all patients, but the frequency may change “depending on changes in moles, bleeding, non-healing skin lesions, [and] if you have had skin cancer, or if you have skin cancer in your family, “ said Dr. Chambers.

  • If you have had melanoma within the last year, Dr. Chambers recommends that you see your dermatologist every three months.
  • If you have been free of melanoma for two years, you should visit the dermatologist every six months.
  • Once you’ve hit five years of being free of melanoma, you can return to having the routine annual exam.

Although most patients come in for a yearly skin check, many will visit during certain times of the year. For example, the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day or the winter holidays are busy. Patients also go in before events like prom, reunions, anniversaries, weddings, or even big career events.

Dr. Trakimas sees many different patients, all of different ages and skin types, as well as different needs. One patient, for instance, was marrying a well-known NFL football player and wanted to eliminate her acne before the big day. Dr. Trakimas started with a medical treatment for the acne, then focused on complexion blending and laser services. Six months after starting treatment, the woman walked down the aisle with a spotless, beautiful complexion.

No matter what services you want or need, the professionals at Sona will get together to discuss the best plan of action for each individual patient. Even if you’re young, Dr. Trakimas said, “I will look at their face, ask them what’s bothersome, and gear them toward [the best solutions] that will accentuate their beauty.”

What to Expect if You Have a Suspicious Mole

If Dr. Chambers believes that a mole could be malignant (cancerous), she will recommend a biopsy. If the patient is able, the biopsy can be done that very same day.

During a biopsy, you can expect the following procedure:

  1. A local anesthesia will be applied to just that area to numb it, so you won’t feel any pain.
  2. The skin lesion will be removed by one of two procedures: a shave removal or a punch biopsy.
  3. The lesion will be sent off to a lab for further analysis.

A shave removal is used if the mole is a raised growth, whereas a punch removal will be used if it’s a pigmented lesion or a dark mole. The punch removal does require stitches, but the shave removal does not.

Why Sona Dermatology & MedSpa?

Many practices start as medical and bring in cosmetic procedures, but this isn’t the case at Sona Dermatology & MedSpa. Sona has been in business since 1997, and has been a leader in the medical aesthetics industry for decades. Now, they are introducing dermatology services in their offices.

The goal in integrating dermatology services into Sona’s cosmetic offices is to make skin care and treatment more accessible and convenient for patients.

“It’s one-stop shopping, and that’s what a lot of patients want now,” said Dr. Chambers. “They want the convenience of being able to take care of many issues at one place.”

At Sona, you can choose from a variety of non-invasive cosmetic services. The goal is to ensure that patients achieve a “timeless, natural you,” said Dr. Trakimas. Whether that means taking advantage of CoolSculpting® fat reduction, body contouring with Venus Legacy™, fractional technology for improved skin texture, or other procedures, the professionals at Sona want to help both men and women feel and look their most beautiful (and natural) self.

“I help [patients] navigate through the choices,” Dr. Trakimas said. “There is a myriad of topical choices … [and] there is a myriad of procedures that both the medical spa and medical staff perform based on a very individualized assessment of [the patient’s] complexion and what they clinically present with.”

Some of the benefits of choosing Sona is that they offer affordable, high-quality care with cutting-edge technology and the highest regard for safety.

Dr. Trakimas’ Background

Dr. Trakimas has been in practice for more than 20 years and is now the Medical Director at Sona in Raleigh, NC.

She received a military scholarship to attend medical school at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She then completed an internship and a residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and was later deployed to Bosnia. After deployment, Dr. Trakimas was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where she became the Chief of Dermatology and finished the rest of her service as an army lieutenant colonel.

Soon after the military, Dr. Trakimas went into private practice at Pinehurst Dermatology and then went to Raleigh to open an all-inclusive medical and surgical esthetic practice as a solo provider. She has always supported the all-in-one medical, surgical, and esthetic services, so when Sona approached her, Dr. Trakimas said that their practice and model paralleled her own.

Her military experience gave her an “extensive exposure to all the fields of dermatology, especially medical dermatology.” As the chief resident, Dr. Trakimas had the opportunity to focus on rare dermatology, including complicated dermatology and rare disorders, which is why Dr. Trakimas does extensive evaluations at Sona.

Dr. Trakimas loves that “[Sona is] a one-stop shop for patients from the pediatric population through the geriatric population for all medical, surgical, and esthetic needs.”

Dr. Chambers’ Background

A graduate of Howard University and an Air Force veteran, Dr. Chambers has always been drawn to the field of dermatology.

“I have always practiced procedural, medical, and cosmetic dermatology,” she said. “As a medical student, I decided to specialize in dermatology, because it was such a broad specialty where I could practice the surgical as well as the medical and cosmetic aspect of medicine. It was one of those specialties where you rarely get bored because you’re always learning and it requires [me] to be abreast of the changes in technology and the changes in the healthcare trends.”

With skin at the forefront of society’s anti-aging concerns, Dr. Chambers is continuously learning and bringing her patients the most up-to-date information possible.

Fortunately, obtaining healthy, beautiful skin doesn’t have to be costly. Dr. Chambers maintains a basic beauty routine and won’t spend a lot of money on skin care lines. Simply using a daily, gentle cleanser and oil-free moisturizer can make a difference, she points out.

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