It’s something almost everyone fears: Waking up on the day before or day of a big event such as a wedding, reunion, business interview, or first date with an unsightly skincare emergency. How many women have cancelled that first date because a cold sore erupted? How about cystic acne on your chin that appears the day before your wedding? While neither of these are “life threatening” conditions, there are solutions. Dr. Susan Stuart is a La Jolla board certified dermatologist and co-founder of La Jolla Plastic Surgery & Dermatology. As a female dermatologist, she is not immune to these skincare emergencies and shares her expertise on what can be done to mitigate various conditions.
Problem: Cold Sore
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Solution: Dr. Stuart offers cortisone injections to patients who want to look better faster. “Very diluted cortisone into the cold sore, this can bring the inflammation down quite rapidly,” she says. If you are afraid of needles, call your doctor and ask him/her to call in a prescription for Valtrex, Famvir, or Acylovir, Dr. Stuart says. You can pick up Abreva, an over-the-counter medication. If you can’t make it to the pharmacy, you can try some old-fashioned remedies: Visine will help take the red out. You can also use a cold compress and Tylenol or Ibuprofen.
Problem: Allergic Reaction
Solution: The first thing you need to do is stop eating or using whatever is causing the allergic reaction. If the reaction happens a few days before you’re an important event or meeting, Dr. Stuart recommends using hydrocortisone cream twice a day and taking Allegra, Claritin or Zyrtec which are longer acting and less sedating than Benadryl. Try a whole-milk compress for 10 minutes twice a day. For allergic reactions the day of your wedding, use the hydrocortisone cream and then cover up redness by canceling it out entirely. The opposite of red is green, so apply green tinted concealer on the red area. The combination will create a flesh-toned hue. A good quality tinted moisturizer naturally has green/yellow undertones and also provides moisture to dry skin. “If this type of reaction is something you have never experienced before, go immediately to your dermatologist,” says Dr. Stuart.
Problem: Cystic Acne Breakout
There are some people who use a lancet or small knife to cut into a cyst and fish out the clogged part of the pore. “Cutting open a cyst is extremely risky. You not only run the risk of getting an infection, but you also run the risk of scarring, as in a permanent skin indentation or protrusion,” says Dr. Stuart. And what if you cut open a cyst but can’t squeeze out the root clog? You don’t know where the root is or how deep it resides inside your skin. You can’t even be 100% confident that you will be able to completely remove the hardened plug of the cyst. If any remnants of the clog remain, the cyst is likely to get re-inflamed and come back even worse. It’s also not exactly good to cut open skin and dig around and squeeze the wound. Doing so will only make a bloody mess, increase the chance of skin scarring, and prolong the time it takes the cyst to heal.
Here’s a secret that many a supermodel or actress use: Steroid shot. Dr. Stuart explains that, “when we discuss treating acne with cortisone or “steroid” shots, we are referring to the process of gently placing a very dilute quantity of a “glucocorticoid” steroid into the cyst. Glucocorticoids are a class of steroid molecules that are naturally produced by our bodies and have numerous functions including the regulation of human metabolism, immunity, and inflammation. They have very potent anti-inflammatory effects so they are often used to treat inflammatory diseases in medicine. They can be formulated as creams to treat skin rashes or as pills to treat systemic disease. They can also be injected directly into local areas of inflammation such as in arthritic joints and inflamed acne cysts. Within one or two days of injection into a cyst, the steroid will shrink the inflammation producing relief of pain and almost immediate cosmetic improvement.”
Problem: Puffy Eyes
Solution: The key to reducing the puffiness of puffy eyes is having something cool applied to them. “A cool compress or cooled cucumber slices applied for 5 to 10 minutes can constrict blood and lymph vessels,” says Dr. Stuart. You can also use cool tea bags, which contain tannins that will help reduce swelling. And since puffy eyes can be caused by a high salt diet or alcohol, try to cut out both before an important occasion.
Solution: Take a cool bath or shower. Set the water to a cool temperature that’s just below lukewarm, and relax for 10 to 20 minutes. The temperature will ease the pain, and the water will stop your skin from becoming as irritated. Repeat as often as you need to.
Avoid using soap, bath oils, or other detergents as you bathe – they’ll irritate your skin and possibly make it even worse. If you have blisters forming on your skin, take a bath instead of showering. The pressure from the shower might pop your blisters. When you get out, don’t rub your skin dry with a towel. Instead, let yourself air dry, or pat the towel over your skin in small, gentle movements. Apply cold compresses to your skin. If you’re not in a situation where you can bathe, or you’d just prefer not to, you can instead apply cold, wet compresses to your skin. Dampen a washcloth or other piece of fabric with cold water, and lay it over the affected area for 20 to 30 minutes. Re-wet it as often as you need to. Apply aloe vera to burned skin.
Using the pads of your fingers, gently apply the aloe to your sunburn. Don’t “rub it in” all the way, like you might with a regular lotion. Leave it a bit goopy and moist on top of the burn – this helps prevent the skin from drying out and becoming more irritated. Reapply as often as necessary. Treat inflammation with cortisone cream (optional). Cortisone creams contain a small dose of steroids that can work to reduce inflammation to your sunburn. You can find low-dose, over-the-counter tubes at your local drug store or supermarket. Wear loose cotton clothing over sunburned areas. Baggy T-shirts and loose cotton pajama pants are ideal things to wear while you’re recovering from sunburn. If you can’t wear that, at least try to make sure your garments are cotton (which allows your skin to “breathe”) and as loose as possible. Drink plenty of water. Sunburns can be dehydrating, so it’s important to counterbalance this by drinking a lot of water while you recover. Aim for 8 glasses containing 8 oz. of water each day (or even a little bit more). Apply unscented moisturizer to your skin as it starts to heal over. When you no longer have open blisters, or the redness of the sunburn has subsided a bit, treat your damaged skin to some TLC. Liberally apply a creamy, unscented moisturizer to sunburned areas over the next few days or weeks to prevent peeling and irritation.
About Dr. Susan Stuart
Susan Stuart, M.D. received her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed a highly competitive one year internship at Mercy Hospital Medical Center in San Diego followed by a residency at Emory University, one of the most highly respected dermatology training programs in the U.S. She also completed a one year postgraduate dermatology fellowship in pediatric dermatology at Stanford University Medical Center.
Dr. Stuart’s career began with her undergraduate education where she received her B.A. degree from Duke University and was elected into Phi Beta Kappa, an elite academic honor bestowed upon a small percentage of undergraduates who have achieved the highest standards of scholarship in the U.S. In addition, Dr. Stuart is the founder and past president of a nationally recognized organization for children with physical and emotional disorders at Duke University.
After completing 8 years of postgraduate medical education, Dr. Stuart began offering San Diego skin care services and has remained in the area ever since. She has worked with several internationally respected dermatologists and laser experts while continuing her academic endeavors as a faculty member at UCSD Medical Center, where she has instructed interns and residents. She maintains active staff privileges at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.
Dr. Stuart is considered one of San Diego’s leading experts in dermatology and lasers and has been selected as one of American’s top physicians in dermatology. She has been featured regularly on news shows including NBC, ABC, and KUSI for her expertise on a variety of dermatology topics and procedures, including San Diego Fraxel® laser skin rejuvenation and BOTOX® Cosmetic.
Reprinted With Permission