The word melanoma can refer to any tumor composed of melanin-pigmented cells, although we commonly associate it with the malignant form. Malignant melanoma can be cured if found early and, fortunately, it is easy to notice any danger signs. Moles are most often found on the areas exposed to the sun e.g. back, arms, face and rarely on the buttocks, scalp. They can be affected by over-exposure to other forms of radiation and certain types of sunlamps. Changes in hormonal balance with the birth control pill, pregnancy, estrogen therapy, etc. may cause changes in moles.

You should examine your skin regularly, once a month, to look for changes. Examine how it feels, its texture, appearance, where moles and other marks are located, how large they are, how they feel, etc. During your regular medical check-ups, have your doctor examine any marks that you are concerned about, no matter how small the concern.

Most melanomas are non-malignant, even with slight changes. It is always best, however, to have any signs checked out professionally.

I am 19 and my skin is still very oily. I wash my face with soap at least four times a day and it still shines by evening. I have also been using a scrub once a day but I’m afraid this might be irritating. Can you recommend something better for me?

It may seem contradictory, but you are probably over-doing the cleansing. Many people with an oily skin end up irritating or over-stimulating the skin with very harsh or granular cleansers, abrasive sponges, very hot water and alcohol-based products. The immediate result may seem to be good as the surface oils are removed, but the long- term results can be less than desirable. The irritation of the skin cells from the scrubbing loosens the top layers of skin and this shows up as flaking and peeling. This can also leave the skin red and sensitive. The removal of too much oil can dehydrate the skin and this, too, can lead to flaking and perhaps sensitivity and the formation of fine lines. If the surface of the skin is continously stripped of too much oil, the oil glands may over- react by producing an excess in an attempt to keep the surface of the skin bathed in this natural protection. Thus begins the vicious circle.

First, we recommend that you find a daily cleanser that is designed to be used on an oily skin. Consult with a beauty therapist or esthetician and have your skin properly analyzed. Usually a cleanser for an oily skin is designed to be used two or three times a day. To clean properly, wet your face thoroughly with warm, not hot, water. Apply the recommended amount (more is not necessarily better) of cleanser and use gentle, circular massage movements, paying particular attention to the problem areas. Do this for approximately 30 seconds to one minute. It is important to rinse very thoroughly with warm water and facial sponges are recommended.

Follow with a non-alcohol toner or freshener designed for your skin type. You may be advised to use a protective day cream that is designed to help control oil production. Avoid products that contain fats or extra emollients. A weekly treatment with a clay or other mask for an oily skin would be beneficial and a monthly facial will help to keep the pores unclogged.

I have a problem with the skin on my body. Sometimes it feels so tight I think it will crack when I stretch. I am also getting white, flaky lines. Can you help?

Any dry skin problems are exaggerated in the winter due to the harsh climate and the dehydrating effects of central heating. If you do not already have a humidifier, we suggest that you get one. Crash diets and generally unbalanced eating habits can leave nutritional deficiencies that cause the skin to be dry or more prone to stretch marks. Dryness can also be caused by certain medications, prolonged or severe illness, major surgery, very poor circulation. Your particular problem sounds quite pronounced and we suggest that you seek the advice of a naturopathic doctor, nutritionist or medical doctor. In the meantime, avoid hot baths and showers (try warm only), and use only mild soaps. Instead of a body lotion, use a cream which will have more emollients. Look for a product containing lactic acid, urea or lanolin. Apply the cream after the bath while the skin is still slightly damp. Use it morning and evening. It is especially beneficial in the evening to put on a pair of flannel pajamas over a thick layer of cream to help seal it in.