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Category Archives: Beauty

5 Common Culprits in Skin Damage

Your skin is affected by everything from the sun to irritating laundry detergent and cigarette smoke.

And it can show — with anything from redness to wrinkles, and in some cases even skin cancer. But before you resign yourself to the effects of your environment on your skin, consider the five most common culprits of skin damage and find out what steps you can take to avoid them.

1. Sun exposure. The sun is the biggest cause of skin damage, says Faramarz Samie, MD, PhD, director of Mohs Surgery and vice chair of the department of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. The ultraviolet rays of the sun break down the various components of the skin such as collagen and elastin that help keep your skin looking smooth. These rays also affect melanocytes, which can lead to changes in your skin’s pigmentation. What’s more: The aging effects of the sun eventually show on your skin as wrinkles, age spots (patches of brown spots), and possibly skin cancer.

To avoid skin damage that can be caused by the sun, dermatologists advise staying out of the sun during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest, wearing protective clothing such as a hat, and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen — one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays — with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours for maximum protection.

2. Free radicals. One of the ways the sun damages your skin is through production of harmful substances called free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules with a single electron. In short, doctors think that ultraviolet light from the sun can lead to damaged DNA and skin damage, Dr. Samie says. Free radicals may even play a role in the development of skin cancer. They are also the result of exposure to tobacco products or other environmental factors. Some skin care products contain antioxidants such as vitamins C and E that can help lessen the effects that free radicals have on your skin. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants (especially berries, broccoli, carrots, and spinach), can also promote healthy skin.

3. Smoking cigarettes. Overall, the skin of a smoker isn’t as healthy and doesn’t heal as well as a nonsmoker’s skin. It also has a tendency to wrinkle easily. That’s because smoking cigarettes causes your blood vessels to constrict, or become more narrow, and that lowers the amount of nutrients and oxygen that reach the skin and keep it healthy. As a result, the skin loses elasticity, meaning it can’t snap back into shape as easily. This lack of nutrients also makes it harder for skin to heal when you have a wound, and can lead to skin ulcers. In women, smoking leads to lower estrogen levels, which dries out the skin.

Cigarettes can also cause the skin on your face to become dry, more prone to wrinkles and stretch marks, and appear dull and gray, according to Smokefree.gov, a website created by the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute. Wrinkles can appear in smokers as young as in the early thirties, but quitting can help you avoid premature aging.

If you have trouble quitting, talk to your doctor about the best smoking cessation option for you. Nicotine gum, inhalers, lozenges, nasal spray, and patches can all help you quit, along with prescription medications such as bupropion, varenicline, nortriptyline, and clonidine.

4. Irritants. Certain chemicals in cleaning products and laundry detergent can cause red, irritated skin and allergies in people who are susceptible, Samie says. For example, ammonia and bleach have a tendency to irritate skin. These chemicals may cause contact dermatitis, which causes scaling, irritation, and sometimes even a chemical burn. People with sensitive skin may experience more skin irritation than others. There are also over 3,000 substances in our environment that can cause allergies.

The easiest way to protect your skin from irritants is to avoid contact, either by wearing gloves when you clean or wash dishes or by switching to less irritating products. Also, moisturizing your skin can help. Some people may need an antihistamine or steroids for treatment.

5. Smiles and frowns. As you age, your skin loses elasticity, which means it loses the ability to snap back into place after you make facial expressions the way it did when you were younger, Samie says. As a result, your skin is more likely to show wrinkles even when you’re not frowning or laughing.

While there’s no need to avoid showing expression on your face, you can try to combat wrinkles by preventing skin damage from the sun by using sunscreen. You might also consider using over-the-counter or prescription wrinkle creams or other topical medications to smooth out the skin. Also, there are many procedures available to reduce wrinkles, including microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and injectable fillers such as collagen.

6 Steps to Younger-Looking Skin

If you haven’t been protecting your skin, it can start to give away clues about your age. Fine lines and wrinkles begin to appear, along with brown spots and rough skin patches caused by sun exposure. Your skin might be producing less collagen, and dead skin cells don’t flake off imperceptibly anymore. If this sounds like your skin, it’s time to turn to anti-aging products and treatments to slow down, reduce, or even reverse the signs of aging and regain younger-looking skin.

Any skin that’s been regularly exposed to the elements can be expected to show its age and needs special care to maintain its youthful look, says Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, CEO and medical director of Elite MD, Inc. Advanced Dermatology, Laser, and Plastic Surgery Institute in Danville, Calif.

Your Anti-Aging Action Plan

At-home and doctor’s office procedures can have a visible impact on your complexion, giving you back younger-looking skin.

  1. Protect your skin. The first rule of thumb: Prevent the damage. “The best thing to do to protect your skin is prevention,” Dr. Badreshia-Bansal says. The sun is enemy number one, so you need to wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30 or higher whenever you’re outside. You also should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Protect your face and neck with wide-brimmed hats, your eyes with sunglasses with UV coating. Dryness is enemy number two, making lines seem more noticeable, so choose a moisturizer made for your skin type and use it regularly to keep skin supple.
  2. Apply a vitamin A cream. Prescription-strength, vitamin A–based topical gels or creams known as retinoids can reduce wrinkles and produce younger-looking skin. “It helps to build collagen, which can prevent the development of fine lines and wrinkles, and to lighten dark spots,” Badreshia-Bansal says. “We also use it to treat acne, and it can help prevent precancerous growths.” Prescription retinoids include Retin-A and Renova (tretinoin), Differin (adapalene), and Avage (tazarotene).
  3. Bleach your brown spots. You can try lightening brown spots (also called age spots) with a bleaching cream that contains hydroquinone. “Hydroquinone helps inhibit an important enzyme in pigment synthesis,” Badreshia-Bansal explains.
  4. Pick up a pentapeptide anti-wrinkle cream. These anti-aging creams stimulate the skin’s production of collagen and elastin and are found in some drugstore or beauty counter products. “You’re helping to build back the support structure that’s been lost through aging and sun damage,” Badreshia-Bansal says.
  5. Peel to reveal fresher skin. Dermatologists use various methods to remove the top layer of skin and expose new skin. These procedures can help tighten the skin and diminish fine lines and brown spots. “By exfoliating that top layer, you’re allowing the moisturizers and other products we use to penetrate deeper and work better,” Badreshia-Bansal says. Procedures include:
    • Chemical peel solutions to loosen and slough away the top layer of skin
    • Laser skin resurfacing to vaporize the surface skin
    • Microdermabrasion that sprays tiny particles to strip away topmost skin cells
    • Plasma skin regeneration using a stream of ionized nitrogen gas to heat the skin and cause the top layer of cells to flake away
  6. Consider Botox. Injections of botulinum toxin have become tremendously popular as an anti-aging therapy. The injections relax the muscles under the skin and can eliminate deep lines and wrinkles around the face. Botox treatments also can help prevent new wrinkles from appearing.

You have many options available to create younger-looking skin. Factors including cost and the recovery time associated with procedures like peels will help you decide on your best course of action.

Dry Skin Brushing for a Body Detox

You brush your teeth and hair every day, so why not your skin? Advocates of something called dry skin brushing — literally taking brush bristles to your birthday suit — enthusiastically say you should. “Dry skin brushing is a simple but effective way of not only improving health, but also beauty,” says Tracy Piper, founder and owner of the Piper Center for Internal Wellness, a holistic health care facility in New York City.

Dry skin brushing tones the skin, reduces the appearance of cellulite, opens pores to release toxins, gets rid of dead skin cells, and aids in the circulation of blood, Piper says.

Beyond healthy skin, “dry brushing stimulates the lymphatic system, which is also known as the broom of the body,” explains Jovanka Ciares, a holistic wellness coach and nutrition consultant practicing in New York City. “One of the lymphatic system’s primary functions is to clean toxins and debris out of your blood and help your body run more efficiently. It also helps your body absorb nutrients better, eliminate residues from the outer skin layers, help redistribute fat deposits, and push toxic matter into the colon” — a claim that has not been substantiated by research.

How to Dry Skin Brush

You’ll need a dry natural bristle brush or loofah for dry skin brushing. Make sure you are dry, too. There’s no single way to do it, but you’ll always want to brush toward the heart, says Piper. She uses this technique:

  1. Before using the brush, use your fingertips to pump 3 times on the terminus, which is the indentation between the collarbone and the neck, to start the flow of lymph. Then use your fingertips to pump in your armpits 3 times, then 3 times where your ribcage meets in the center of your body, and 3 times in your groin area.
  2. Step Two: Brush down the neck into the terminus and from each breast outward toward the armpits (avoid the nipples). Brush the arms upward toward the heart.
  3. Step Three: Brush the abdominal area above the navel diagonally up and out toward the armpits.
  4. Step Four: Brush the abdominal area below the navel down toward the groin.
  5. Step Five: Brush the legs up toward the groin. Your palms and the soles of your feet can be brushed in small circles.

When to Do Dry Skin Brushing

To get all the benefits of dry skin brushing, Piper suggests doing it twice daily — in the morning and again in the evening. If you can only do it once a day, do it at night; this will kick-start the lymph system and help your body detox while you’re sleeping, she advises.

On a personal note, Piper says she finds dry brushing “quite calming, especially when I do it before bed,” and “the softness of my skin is very soothing and motivating to continue doing it.”

Dry skin brushing is also a skin and beauty regimen that might benefit the millions who spend hours in front of a computer screen. Stiffness in the shoulders, lower back, and hip area are very common among people who work in offices, says Ciares, and “dry skin brushing once a day for a few weeks will help you increase oxygenated blood flow in those areas and feel energized.”

Dry Skin Brushing: Evaluating the Claims

“I am a big proponent of exfoliation in all its forms, dry brushing included,” says Alicia Zalka, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in Connecticut. “By helping the skin’s built-in mechanism of cell renewal, the act of sloughing spent cells by brushing enhances the process. This is particularly helpful on lower legs, feet, and upper arms and elbows, where dry, dull skin can linger.”

Dennis Gross, MD, a dermatologist and dermatological surgeon practicing in New York City, is less enthusiastic, however. “For exfoliation purposes, one must be careful not to over-exfoliate, and my preference is for chemical exfoliation over mechanical exfoliation, which can be too harsh on the skin.”

So can dry skin brushing detox your body? “The bottom line is that dry skin brushing can improve circulation,” says Dr. Gross. “One could theorize that increased circulation can eliminate toxins, but that is a stretch. Skin does not regularly suffer from a lack of circulation.”

Although Dr. Zalka does not believe that dry skin brushing can eliminate cellulite, she says it could temporarily improve the look of it. If you want to try dry skin brushing, “make sure the brush is cleaned or replaced regularly,” she advises. “Start gently and see how your skin tolerates it. Always apply oil or moisturizing cream to follow, or else the skin could be irritated. Do not do it if you suffer a skin condition such as psoriasis, eczema, or impetigo.”

There are claims on the Internet that dry skin brushing can prevent breast cancer. The American Cancer Society, however, says it has “no opinion” on the technique. “We have no credible evidence or research that concludes this treatment reduces the risk of breast cancer,” says Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer of the cancer society.

In fact, there are no studies of any kind to support any of the various health claims about dry skin brushing, so it’s important to take the possibility of benefits like detox with a healthy dose of skepticism. If you want to make your outer layer shine, dry skin brushing may be worth a try though. Just make sure you use a gentle touch.

6 Amazing Reasons to Sleep for Skin Health

A good night’s sleep can mean good skin health because when you’re sleep-deprived, your body makes more of the stress hormone cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol can lead to increased stress and inflammation in the body, hurting your skin’s quality.

But the relationship between skin health and lack of quality sleep can be a vicious cycle, especially with conditions like atopic dermatitis or eczema, which can lead to scratching even through the night, recent research published in the journal Clinics in Dermatologyshowed.

“Poor sleep can lead to increased stress hormones in the body that increase the severity of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis,” explains Jessica Krant, MD, MPH, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and founder of Art of Dermatology in New York. This can result in increased itching, which can disrupt sleep. As the vicious cycle continues, skin conditions and sleep quality can increasingly worsen together. In contrast, skin conditions and sleep quality can also improve together. Getting a good night’s sleep will help to clear up skin, which allows sleep to improve and, in turn, will improve skin health.”

Need more convincing? Here are six reasons why not getting enough sleep detracts from skin health and your health in general:

  1. Not enough sleep worsens existing skin conditions. Increased inflammatory response shows up as increased acne breakouts, increased skin sensitivity, increased allergic contact dermatitis reactions, and increased irritant dermatitis — and more severe conditions mean more treatment and skin care.
  2. Not enough sleep detracts from your skin’s natural beauty. Increased inflammatory cells in the body lead to an increase in the breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, the molecules that give the skin its glow, bounce, and translucency.
  3. Not enough sleep makes immune-related skin problems worse. Increased inflammation in the body throws off the body’s ability to regulate the immune system, which leads not only to getting sick more often, but also to flares of immune-related skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema. Psoriasis is not just a skin disease; it’s also an indicator of body inflammation. “Many people with severe psoriasis actually have an increased risk for heart attacks, which is even more reason to keep stress low and get good quality sleep,” Dr. Krant says.
  4. Not enough sleep results in less beauty. While you’re sleeping, the body’s hydration rebalances. Skin is able to recover moisture, while excess water in general in the body is processed for removal. Not getting enough sleep results in poor water balance, leading to puffy bags under your eyes and under-eye circles, as well as dryness and more visible wrinkles.
  5. Not enough sleep accelerates the aging process. During deep sleep, the rise in growth hormones allows damaged cells to become repaired. Without the deeper phases of sleep, this won’t occur, allowing daily small breakdowns to accumulate instead of being reversed overnight. This results in more noticeable signs of aging.
  6. Not enough sleep contributes to weight gain. Sleep also helps with weight management, which is good for your skin. Sleep makes you feel less hungry, Krant explains — recent studies have linked sleep deprivation to excess snacking and calorie consumption.

Getting a Good Night’s Rest

Here are tips from Krant for getting good sleep and better skin health:

  • Don’t eat a big meal too late in the day.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but not late at night.
  • Sleep under a warm blanket in a cool, dark, quiet room.
  • Keep electronics out of the bedroom.
  • Use breathable cotton sheets and wash them regularly, so they don’t collect dust mites and bacteria.
  • Use laundry detergents that don’t have strong fragrances, which can be irritating to skin.

The Best Foods for Your Skin

If you want a smoother, clearer complexion, Jessica Wu, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at USC Medical School and a dermatologist in Los Angeles, encourages you to toss all six of these fortifying Feed Your Face foods into your grocery cart.

Tomatoes

Definitely one of your skin’s best defenses, tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. While studies have not yet been entirely conclusive, many suggest that lycopene may be responsible for helping to protect the skin against sun damage.

Lycopene is best absorbed by the body when it has been cooked or processed, so eating tomato sauce, tomato paste, and ketchup is likely to be more effective than just eating raw tomatoes when trying to safeguard your skin against harmful UV rays. Lycopene is also fat soluble, which means that it is absorbed more easily when consumed with fat, such as eggs, avocado, and olive oil.

Red Meat

Sometimes it gets a bad rap, and even though red meat does contain saturated fat and cholesterol, lean red meat is one of Dr. Wu’s favorite Feed Your Face foods because it’s so high in protein and zinc. In fact, recent studies suggest that red meat may be even better at treating acne than antibiotics.

To produce collagen, your skin needs the amino acids glycine and proline, and theprotein in red meat has the highest concentration of these two amino acids. Themineral zinc is also crucial for collagen production. “It’s an essential cofactor,”says Dr. Wu. “Without enough zinc, it’s difficult for the skin to make collagen. Plus, zinc is a natural anti-inflammatory.” And vegetarians don’t need to miss out. Dr. Wu adds that high concentrations of glycine can also be found in seafood, proline in cottage cheese and cabbage, and zinc in lentils, kidney beans, and raw oysters.

Green Tea

It’s no secret that green tea is an antioxidant powerhouse. Its strong anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects are attributed to its high concentration of catechin compounds. Studies have shown that green tea can be used both orally and topically to help protect the skin from sunburns and UV-associated skin cancers. Research also suggests that drinking one cup of green tea twice a day over the course of six months may actually reverse sun damage and significantly improve any problems you have with redness and broken capillary veins.

Green Beans

As long as we’re going green, let’s talk about how these low-calorie beans can help you grow thicker hair and healthier nails. Green beans are a star Feed Your Face food because they’re one of the richest sources of silicon — not to be confused withsilicone,which is found in bad lip jobs and breast implants! The USDA has not yet established recommended daily intakes (RDIs) of silicon, but 10 mg per day seems to be adequate for strengthening hair and nails, according to recent studies. Dr. Wu recommends choosing organic green beans, since they retain more silicon from the soil. Don’t like green beans? You can also get your silicon fix from volcanic mineral waters such as Volvic, which contains 14.5 mg per liter.

Walnuts

Usually it’s salmon that’s synonymous with omega-3 fatty acids, but did you know that walnuts are also incredibly high in omega-3s? If you’re concerned with redness,swelling, blotchiness, acne breakouts, or wrinkles, walnuts may be your new best friend. Plant-based omega-3s, such as the ones found in walnuts, are naturally anti-inflammatory; they can help seal moisture into your skin and protect it from chemicals and other toxins. In particular, the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in these omega-3s can work to combat the dryness associated with aging that leads to wrinkles. But don’t stop with walnuts; you can also increase the amount of plant-based omega-3s in your diet by eating almonds,olive oil, and flaxseed, too.

Yogurt

Not only is it the main ingredient in the best smoothies, yogurt is a natural probiotic, which means that it helps replenish the “good” bacteria in your body and keeps yeast in check. This can come in handy if you have gastrointestinal issues or you’re prone toyeast infections, but what does it have to do with feeding your face? Well, according to Dr. Wu, yogurt is an excellent Feed Your Face food for dealing with acne breakouts, eczema, and even dandruff. Just be sure to choose a low-fat and low-sugar yogurt, since sugar can aggravate inflammation. And if you think your breakouts are related to dairy, Dr. Wu suggests skipping the yogurt and going straight for a probiotic supplement instead.

5 Daily Skin Habits to Start Now

You may spoil your skin silly with facials, fancy products, and a skin care regimen that would make your dermatologist proud. But there are a few important (and surprisingly simple) steps that can make a huge difference in having healthy, glowing skin.Incorporate these five best skin care habits into your routine and you’ll have smoother, clearer skin in no time.

1. Wear sunblock 365 days of the year

In rain or shine, winter or summer, whether you have ivory white skin or a dark complexion, your skin is always susceptible to sun damage. “You’re consistently exposed to the sun’s rays during daylight hours, even when you don’t realize it,” warns Jeanine Downie, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and director of Image Dermatology in Montclair, New Jersey. “You should be wearing an SPF 30 every day, not only to protect against skin cancer but to prevent fine lines, wrinkles, large pores, and uneven skin tone.” In addition, it’s essential that you reapply your sunscreen every couple of hours, especially if you’re out and about — one morning slathering of SPF 100 won’t last you until sundown!

2. Refrigerate your eye cream

You can get more bang from your eye cream simply by storing it in the icebox. “The cold constricts the blood vessels, immediately reducing puffiness,” explains Manhattan-based dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D. “It’s best to apply cold eye cream in the morning; at night, the product can migrate into your eyes and create swelling and irritation.” Look for creams containing caffeine, which will further decrease any swelling. To combat fine lines and wrinkles, products that contain peptidesor retinol will do the trick.

3. Add antioxidants to your skin care and your diet

Here’s a two-point plan to rid your skin of environmental pollutants: Attack the problem from the inside and out. Use topical products containing vitamin A (in the form of retinol), vitamin E, vitamin C, and coffeeberry directly on your skin, and eat brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and other good-for-you foods like blueberries, pomegranates, and olive oil. “Both will help to combat free radical damage, reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and inflammation,” says Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles–based dermatologist and the author of Feed Your Face. She also recommends eating a balanced breakfast that combines protein, fiber, and healthy fats to regulate blood sugar throughout the day. Studies have shown that when blood sugar rises too quickly, it can cause acne, wrinkles, and rashes.

4. Lightly exfoliate regularly

While you might think anti-aging creams and high-end moisturizers are the key to youthful skin,experts agree that exfoliation is one of the best ways to achieve and maintain a gorgeous complexion. “A good exfoliating agent will slough off the dull top layers, minimizing wrinkles, acne, and dry spots to reveal new, healthy,glowing skin,” explains Fusco. Of course, if you have a sensitive or acne-prone complexion, you don’t want to use a harsh scrub too often. Instead, try a cleanser that contains smooth microbeads just two or three times a week. An even gentler solution for every day: Use a textured cleansing pad, which will very lightly scrub the skin without irritation.

5. Exercise often

Sure, you know you should be hitting the gym, not only for a toned physique but because it’s better for your overall health. Well, here’s another reason to work up a sweat: Exercise tightens the skin on your entire body. “Strength training and cardio boost circulation and improve muscle tone, which results in younger-looking, toned skin,” Downie says. “Not only that, but it also reduces wrinkle-causing,skin-damaging stress.” Just make sure to wash your face post-workout. What good is a hot body if you’ve got clogged pores all over your T-zone?

Best Ways to Beat Dry Skin

Dry, itchy skin is no joke. Because skin is the body’s largest organ (weighing about nine pounds), the frustration and discomfort that go along with dehydration can affect your daily existence, from your wardrobe to your social life. And if you happen to have a skin condition like eczema, you know from experience that flaky skin is no laughing matter.

However, you can fight flakiness and itchiness with a few important tips. Here, skin experts share their best advice for keeping your skin soft and supple.

Find the Right Exfoliator

Exfoliating can be beneficial for those who have dry skin because it helps the dead surface layers of skin cells to be shed, layers that can prevent moisturizers from being absorbed, says Doris Day, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center.

The key is to find the exfoliator that works best for your skin. Scrubs and alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids are best for those who don’t have sensitive skin. Those with sensitive skin can exfoliate with a home remedy that consists of a paste made from baking soda and water. “It’s great for your face or for rough patches like your heels, and nobody breaks out from it,” says Mona Gohara, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University.

Note that if you have any skin conditions, it’s best to check with a dermatologist before trying anything new. And beware of exfoliating too often because it can cause irritation.

Don’t Wash Too Often

Like exfoliating too much, washing too often can lead to dryness. “I usually tell people to use soap only where they need it — underarms, groin, hands and feet,” says Rebecca Baxt, MD, a dermatologist in Paramus, New Jersey.

Take a Lukewarm Shower

“Hot showers can strip the skin of oil and leave skin dry,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Although hot showers are relaxing, fight the urge to parboil yourself and use lukewarm water instead. Also, limit the length of your showers to 10 minutes or less.

Moisturize Every Day

Using a moisturizer daily is crucial to combating dry, flaky skin. “When the skin is dry, it needs to be hydrated from the outside in — drinking eight glasses of water is not enough,” says Dr. Day.

For the most effective moisturizer, look for ingredients, including ceramides, that help support and replenish lipids in the skin. Hyaluronic acid and glycerin, both humectants, help the skin attract water and hold in moisture. Additionally, Dr. Zeichner recommends that, to help seal in moisture, you apply moisturizer to damp skin after showering.

New Full-Face Transplant Photos Revealed

Seven months after receiving a full face transplant, Richard Norris is showing off his new look in photos released by his doctors.

“For the past 15 years I lived as a recluse hiding behind a surgical mask,” Norris said in a press release. “I am now able to walk past people and no one even gives me a second look.”

Norris lost his midface and jaw, and suffered extensive tissue damage, in a 1997 gun accident. The Virginia resident received a face transplant transplant in March, 2012, then spent two months in the hospital and another three months recovering at home under doctor surveillance.

Norris’s operation was performed by a surgical team from the University of Maryland in Baltimore, which claimed it was the most complex and extensive surgery of its kind ever performed.

“The surgical team used their knowledge of vascularized composite allograft techniques with expertise in oral and maxillofacial surgery, dentistry, and plastic surgery to precisely transplant the entire face, including the midface, maxilla, mandible, teeth, tongue, and other facial soft tissue structures from the scalp to neck,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, dean of the university’s school of medicine in the release.

Fundamental to the development of the procedure was a decade’s worth of research into the immunologic response to composite transplants and in how to overcome various technical barriers, said Stephen Bartlett, MD, who chaired the hospital’s department of surgery.

Norris’s surgery was performed on March 19 and 20. It transformed his appearance, and was successful in allowing him to maintain his eyesight — a first for recipients of full face transplants.

“Today, Richard Norris has a face with normal height, width, and projection,” said Eduardo D. Rodriguez, MD, DDS, chief of plastic, reconstructive, and maxillofacial surgery at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland after the March procedure.

“This is an unprecedented procedure that we believe will change the face of medicine now and in the future,” Reece said.

Virus Could Fend Off Pimples

Forget over-the-counter acne potions and antibiotics. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and University of California, Los Angeles have just identified a type of virus that can infect and kill the bacterium that causes acne.

In a study published in the September 25 issue of mBio, researchers say the findings could help them develop a cream that contains the virus to more effectively ward off those pesky pimples.

There are many prescription antibiotic treatments on the market for acne, but antibiotic-resistant strains of acne-causing bacterium have emerged, highlighting the need for better therapies, the study authors wrote in a press release.

Researchers used over-the-counter pore-cleaning strips to peel off samples of phages — viruses that attack bacteria  from the noses of both pimply and unblemished study participants.

They found the viruses were genetically similar from patient to patient, sharing more than 85 percent of their DNA. The lack of genetic diversity suggests that resistance to phage-based antimicrobial therapy is less likely to develop, study authors said in a press release.

“We believe that these phages display numerous features that would make them ideal candidates for the development of a phage-based therapy for acne,” the authors wrote.

Graham Hatfull, professor of biotechnology and biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the study authors, said that the enzymes from the phages might also be useful as a topical anti-acne treatment.

“This work has given us very useful information about the diversity of that set of enzymes and helps pave the way for thinking about potential [acne treatment] applications,” he said in the release.

‘Super Bug’ May Thrive in Homes Where Kids Have Staph Infections

People in the homes of children with skinand soft-tissue infections caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus have a higher rate of methicillin-resistant S. aureus colonization than the general population, a new study finds.

S. aureus infection often is referred to as Staph infection. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) — a serious public-health issue — is a contagious, antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria that causes difficult-to-treat infections in humans.

This study included 183 children with S. aureus skin and tissue infections and colonization in the nose, armpit and/or groin area, and more than 600 of their household contacts, defined as people who spent more than half their time each week in the child’s home.

More than half of the household contacts were colonized with S. aureus, and 21 percent were colonized with MRSA, compared with an MRSA colonization rate of 0.8 percent to 1.5 percent in the general population, said Dr. Stephanie Fritz and colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Of the 183 patients, 61 percent were colonized with MRSA, 30 percent with methicillin-sensitive S. aureus (MSSA) and 9 percent with both forms. Of the household contacts, 53 percent were colonized with S. aureus. Of those colonized with the bacteria, 36 percent had MRSA, 60 percent had MSSA and 4 percent had both.

Among the patients’ household contacts, parents were most likely to be colonized with MRSA. The researchers also found that the groin area was a major site of MRSA colonization.

The study was published June 4 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The researchers noted in a journal news release that household members of patients with S. aureus infections are not routinely checked for S. aureus colonization. Shared objects and surfaces in the home are potential reservoirs for S. aureus transmission, and the failure to identify all household members with colonization may result in constant colonization or repeated infections.

It is not known, however, if routine household sampling or decolonization would be practical or cost-effective, the study authors concluded.