Accutane works by slowing down the sebaceous (oil) gland activity. It is prescribed mainly for people who have chronic and severe acne, including puffy cysts, nodules, large and inflamed pustules. Usually other treatments have been tried and failed. It is still quite new and there are several risk factors to be discussed with the dermatologist. Some of the possible side effects include dryness of the eyes and mouth, skin peeling on the hands, lips and feet, hair loss, diarrhea, headaches, the danger of causing birth defects, increased sensitivity to the sun (sunburn, pigmentation). Despite this, we have seen some good results in those who have tried it under the supervision of a skin specialist. It is taken internally for a period of time depending upon the individual’s condition, approximately three months.

What water temperature is best for washing the face? Is it good to splash with cold water as a final rinse?

It is best to use warm to lukewarm water to both wash and rinse the facial skin. When the water is lukewarm it is still able to dissolve skin oils and dirt, provide a sudsing effect for the cleanser and yet is less drying than hot water. When hot water is applied to the skin, the surface will slightly expand, and cause the blood vessels to quickly dilate, bringing a rush of blood to the surface. A constant repetition of this can lead to a weakening of the walls of the capillaries and cause couperose (“broken” blood vessels). Because hot water evaporates much more quickly than cool, some of the skin’s natural moisture will be evaporated along with it, causing dehydration. If you have an oily skin you may be led into thinking that this drying effect is good for you, but this is a loss of water, not excess oils and the natural oils may become trapped beneath a layer of dry dead skin cells.

The cold water rinse that supposedly closes the pores can actually harden the oils in the skin so they don’t flow as freely onto the surface of the skin, leading to clogging.

A while ago you mentioned in an article that one should push back cuticles with a towel after a bath or shower. I have been doing this but they still get very red and they split.

The function of the cuticle is to protect the area where the nail is taking form at the base. It frames the nail on three sides and, since it is skin, it is constantly producing new skin cells and discarding old ones.

We would guess that you have been too harsh in pushing cuticles back. Your pressure should be very light, as if you were rubbing cream onto a bruised area. It takes time to achieve good results, up to three or four weeks, by doing this every day. This is because of the length of time needed for the cuticle’s skin to regenerate.

To keep cuticles pliable, massage them daily with a cuticle cream or a lubricating hand cream. If they are left to dry and harden, they will stick to the nail and as the nail grows out the cuticle sticks to it. This stretches it until it finally splits, and causes a hangnail. Soften the skin with a cuticle cream or oil and gently push cuticles back with an orangewood stick covered with a bit of cotton (from a cotton ball) but do not force them back.

I am subject to hives and they seem to come just at the wrong time (the last time was on my way to a job interview). I’m told they are caused by stress. What do you suggest?

Hives, urticaria, or nettle rash come in a few forms but the most common is a small mosquito-bite type of rash which is itchy, short-lived, but can enlarge into larger welts. They are commonly due to medication, emotional stress and reactions to certain foods and usually appear very quickly after the aggravating factor is present. They can disappear in a few hours or a couple of days. You could apply cool compresses to soothe them; calamine lotion is often of help. Do not have hot showers or baths as these could further irritate the skin.

If you are on medication, you should check with your doctor to see if it could be the cause. It is easy to spot whether or not the cause is a food reaction because the hives will appear almost immediately after the food is consumed. Chronic or prolonged hives should be seen by a doctor.

Can my husband use my products for his skin or does he have to use a men’s line?

There are similarities and some definite differences to consider in the care of the male and female skins. For instance, most men shave each day which, for some, causes razor burn, ingrown hairs, dryness or a burning sensation and sometimes a burning feeling with aftershaves. The pores of a man’s skin are usually larger and often oilier. The pH of the skin is more acidic therefore some of your products may not be right for him. More and more men do like a product designed especially for them and are becoming aware of their particular needs.

If your skin types are the same and you have the same requirements eg. control of oiliness or dryness, soothing sensitivity, etc. then you may be able to use some of the same basic products. However, do consider the differences in choosing the best skin care.