Wall Street Dermatology https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com Top-Rated Dermatologist in NYC Mon, 19 Oct 2020 00:58:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Wall-Street-Dermatology-Favicon.jpg Wall Street Dermatology https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com 32 32 NYC Dermatologist Shares Her Top Considerations in Cosmetic Mole Removal https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/nyc-dermatologist-shares-her-top-considerations-in-treating-and-removing-moles-on-your-skin/ https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/nyc-dermatologist-shares-her-top-considerations-in-treating-and-removing-moles-on-your-skin/#respond Sun, 27 Sep 2020 03:37:58 +0000 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/?p=2118 I frequently see patients who have waited, for too long, to remove an unsightly mole on their face or body.  Their story is usually the same–they saw another dermatologist or physician in the past who advised against mole removal because the removal would most certainly leave a large post-surgical scar.  However, these patients still remained ... Read more

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I frequently see patients who have waited, for too long, to remove an unsightly mole on their face or body.  Their story is usually the same–they saw another dermatologist or physician in the past who advised against mole removal because the removal would most certainly leave a large post-surgical scar.  However, these patients still remained secretly wishful that one day, someone could remove their mole without the severe consequences that they were previously warned about.  Patients would bashfully ask me at my practice whether removing their mole could possibly result in a decent cosmetic outcome, and my answer is usually “yes”.  There are actually many methods to remove moles that result in aesthetically elegant outcomes.  

From my 10+ years as a dermatologic surgeon and cosmetic expert treating a variety of medical and cosmetic skin concerns, it’s not just about removing the mole, but also listening and understanding the concerns of each patient in making the decision to treat and how.  From a technical standpoint, knowing which method to utilize depends on body location, skin type, and type of mole. 

Before and after of a mole removal above the eyelid performed by Dr. Tzu.

 

Here are some of the top considerations that I ask our patients to consider when deciding on mole removal:

#1 What kind of mole or skin growth is it?

The word “mole” is a medically nonspecific term, but is often taken to be the equivalent of what dermatologists refer to as a “benign nevus’.  When evaluating a mole, it is important to consider the following: 

  • Contour: Is it flat or raised?
  • Color: Is it light brown or very dark?
  • Location: Is it located on a difficult/delicate area like the eyelids, lips, or nose?
  • Evolution: Is this a new mole? Is it rapidly changing in appearance? Suspicious changes to a mole may warrant a medical biopsy first, as determined by your dermatologist.

A benign nevus is usually removed via surgical excision, shave removal, or laser (in some cases). The actual method of removal will depend on a careful evaluation of the above factors, along with patient preference. 

Sometimes, what patients refer to as “moles” may actually be diagnosed as skin tags, sun spots,  or seborrheic keratoses by the dermatologist.  These types of growths are often removed differently from a benign nevus. 

#2 Are newly-acquired moles a symptom of something more?

Normal, healthy individuals may continue to develop new moles throughout their lives, with many located in sun exposed areas. People with lighter skin tones generally have anywhere from 10 to 40 moles on their skin.

However, it is recommended that you have your dermatologist evaluate new moles to make sure they are not cancerous. 

#3 Do home remedies and topical solutions work?

Any mole or growth should be evaluated by a dermatologist and be given a benign or noncancerous diagnosis first before cosmetic removal can be considered.  Therefore it is recommended that moles not be removed yourself without approval by a dermatologist, and the method of removal is medically significant.

The biggest misconception that people have about removing moles is that self-treatment or treatment by a non-physician is acceptable because of the incorrect assumption that visible removal means complete removal. If a mole turned out to be a cancerous growth and was removed by improper methods,  it will continue to persist and potentially spread to surrounding tissue and distant organs. Therefore, proper dermatologic diagnosis is critical to determining the proper method of its removal. 

In short, don’t self treat your moles and don’t go to a salon to remove your moles. This can be dangerous to your health.  Go see a dermatologist. It’s worth it.

#4 How many moles are you removing?

Some moles can be removed in multiplicity in one session. However, there are also moles that require highly skilled surgical removal and cannot be performed in bulk sessions. During your consultation, your dermatologist can discuss with you the numbers of moles that can be safely and optimally removed in one treatment session.

#5 Where is the location of your moles?

Moles on the face tend to require more skilled surgical removal by virtue of its cosmetically sensitive location.  Moles located on the eyelids, nose, lips, and ears in particular, can be more surgically challenging and will require a higher order of skill to remove in a cosmetically optimum fashion. Thankfully, there are a number of advanced surgical techniques that can be employed to optimize outcomes.

#6 How does the mole make you feel?

Does the mole impact your ability to display your inner confidence? Sometimes a large mole located on a highly visible part of the body, such as the nose or the cheek may cause anxiety and loss of self-confidence. You may have conditioned yourself to live with an unwanted mole.

It’s important that you understand that moles can be safely and effectively removed with good cosmetic outcomes. Don’t let the fear of surgery or a scar prevent you from discussing your concern with a dermatologist who is well versed in mole removal. You may be surprised at how easily and beautifully your mole can be removed with the proper techniques.

Facial mole removed adjacent to the nose performed by Dr. Tzu at Wall Street Dermatology.

Taking the Next Steps on Mole Removal

The biggest and most transformative step for prospective patients interested in mole removal is simply making an appointment with an experienced dermatologic surgeon to discuss their cosmetic concerns.  If you’ve been living with an unwanted mole for longer than you would like, I encourage you to see an expertly-trained specialist like myself who can guide you on what moles can be removed, how it will be removed, and discuss expected outcomes, risks, costs, and recovery time. I’m one of a few dermatologists who specialize in cosmetic mole removal at my practice. I have removed moles for both cosmetic and medical reasons for well over ten thousand patients, and it is honestly one of the more satisfying procedures that I do because of the permanent gratification that it provides my patients.

You may not need to live with that unwanted mole for much longer.

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Shifting Paradigms on Botox Use: Are You Too Young To Start Botox? https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/shifting-paradigms-on-botox-use-are-you-too-young-to-start-botox/ https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/shifting-paradigms-on-botox-use-are-you-too-young-to-start-botox/#respond Wed, 18 Mar 2020 19:24:46 +0000 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/?p=1716 In recent decades, preventative care has dominated the landscape of medicine and healthcare, due to paradigm shifts in the way we approach health and wellness.  Similar attitudinal shifts in aesthetic medicine has altered the way in which we approach anti-aging procedures.   Injectable neuromodulators, more popularly referred to as “Botox”, is a perfect example of a ... Read more

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In recent decades, preventative care has dominated the landscape of medicine and healthcare, due to paradigm shifts in the way we approach health and wellness.  Similar attitudinal shifts in aesthetic medicine has altered the way in which we approach anti-aging procedures.   Injectable neuromodulators, more popularly referred to as “Botox”, is a perfect example of a rejuvenating treatment that has evolved from being traditionally used in mature individuals to relax deep-set existing (static) wrinkles, to a treatment now used in sophisticated younger patients to prevent its formation before it ever appears.

So are you too young to start Botox?  While there is no age cut-off for adult men and women, I often advise my patients to start thinking about injectable neuromodulators when they hit 30 years of age.  While turning thirty has no magical biological significance, it is the age at which most people start noticing a subtle increase in the signs of aging.  Forehead lines and undereye wrinkles begin to be etched in the skin even in the absence of facial expression.  The longer the wrinkles are left etched into the skin, the more difficult it is for the lines to be erased later on in life by cosmetic procedures such as Botox.

I often offer my patients a simple analogy for them to ponder. Imagine having two bed sheets that you had folded up and stored in a drawer.  You folded one bedsheet one week ago and the other one you folded ten years ago.  You take out both bedsheets from the drawer today and unfold both.  Which bedsheet will have creases that are most difficult to eliminate?

And that is the simple reason why preventative “Botox” works.

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5 Top Misconceptions about Botox https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/5misconceptionsbotox/ https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/5misconceptionsbotox/#respond Mon, 16 Mar 2020 21:27:16 +0000 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/?p=1671 Patients often come see me with curiosity about starting Botox injections to reverse signs of aging, but often express concerns about the procedure.  Inevitably, those who try botox injections become converts to believers of the procedure.   Here are the five most common misconceptions about botox , along with the facts everyone should know. Misconception 1: ... Read more

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Patients often come see me with curiosity about starting Botox injections to reverse signs of aging, but often express concerns about the procedure.  Inevitably, those who try botox injections become converts to believers of the procedure.   Here are the five most common misconceptions about botox , along with the facts everyone should know.

Misconception 1:

Botox is a poison and therefore should not be placed inside the body.

Truth:  Although botulinum toxin was originally discovered as a bacterially derived toxin, its use in medicine is strictly therapeutic and has been used in a wide variety of conditions ranging from migraines, to excessive sweating, to wrinkles.  The small doses used in cosmetic applications are considered extremely safe from a medical standpoint.

 Misconception 2:

Botox creates an unnatural, frozen face that betrays the procedure.

Truth: Botox injections can result in a very natural but youthful appearance without looking “frozen”.  People often associate botox with an unnatural appearance because those are the outlier cases that people tend to see and become aware of.  The majority of well done procedures are subtle and go unnoticed by others.

Importantly, the cosmetic outcome of botox depends on which licensed health professional is administering the injections.  When administered by a properly trained and licensed physician (for example, a board certified dermatologist) who has the same aesthetic goals as you, the outcome is often natural and subtle.   Most of my patients tell me that their coworkers notice that they appear more “well rested” and “refreshed”.

 Misconception 3:

Botox is just botox

Truth: Just like how people refer to all facial tissue as Kleenex, people tend to refer to all injectable neuromodulators (the technical term) as “botox”, which is really the name of Allergan’s most well known injectable neuromodulator.  In reality, there are numerous competing brands of injectable neuromodulators priced differently.

 Misconception 4:

I can get “botox” much more cheaply from a local Groupon deal.

Truth: While many promotions may advertise shockingly low prices, the consumer should be aware that not all “botox” , or injectable neuromodulators, are created equal.  Botox is actually the brand name of the most well known injectable neuromodulator.  There are many different types of injectable neuromodulators each with its own price point.  There are also authorized and unauthorized retailers of the product.  Lastly, the price point of “botox” also depends on the skill level of the individual injecting the product.

 Misconception 5:

I don’t want to start botox because I will become addicted to it.

Truth: While one cannot become addicted to botox in the form of physical dependence (as one can be with alcohol or nicotine), one can become addicted to botox as one can with shopping for luxury handbags.  Potential side effects may include extreme happiness from looking better.

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Protect your skin: Sunscreen 101 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/protect-your-skin-sunscreen-101/ https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/protect-your-skin-sunscreen-101/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2020 22:58:57 +0000 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/?p=151 Daily use of sunscreen is crucial for the health and beauty of your skin. Sunlight contains ultraviolet radiation (UV-A, and UV-B) that induces skin cancer development and accelerates skin aging. A commonly held misconception is that sunscreens should only be used during sunny days or during sunny outings. Sunscreens really should be used daily on ... Read more

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Daily use of sunscreen is crucial for the health and beauty of your skin. Sunlight contains ultraviolet radiation (UV-A, and UV-B) that induces skin cancer development and accelerates skin aging.

A commonly held misconception is that sunscreens should only be used during sunny days or during sunny outings. Sunscreens really should be used daily on all sun-exposed areas of the body. Because ultraviolet radiation is invisible to the naked eye, how “sunny” the day appears is not a reliable indicator of the incoming UV radiation exposure.  Hence, UV radiation can be present in high levels even on an overcast, rainy day.

When choosing a sunscreen, look for a high SPF (sun protection factor).  SPF of at least 30, which blocks out 97% of the UVB, is typically recommended for everyday usage.   A higher SPF may be recommended for outdoor activities.

Always look for “broad spectrum” on the SPF label as an indicator of protection against UV-A and UV-B, both of which contribute to skin aging and skin cancer.

So how much sunscreen should be applied on the body? Generally, a shotglass (approximately two tablespoons) amount of sunscreen is sufficient for the average person. Remember that sunscreen should be applied thirty minutes prior to sun exposure, then reapplied every two hours especially for outdoor activities.  For outdoor activities that involve water exposure, look for the “water resistant” label that indicates the duration, typically 40 or 80 minutes, of sun protection while exposed to water.

When applying sunscreen, ensure coverage to all sun exposed areas of the body. Areas of the skin that are frequently overlooked include top of ears, back of neck, and lips.  An SPF lip balm is an ideal vehicle for application of sunscreen to the lips.

So will appropriate sunscreen application allow you to be safely exposed under the sun for longer periods of time?  Remember that sunscreen only filters out a certain amount of sunlight and that increased duration of exposure may cancel out the beneficial effects of sunscreen usage.  Prevention of skin cancers and sun induced premature aging depends on a combination of proper sunscreen usage and prudent sun avoidance.

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Can you Plan for Beautiful Skin During Pregnancy? https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/can-you-plan-for-beautiful-skin-during-pregnancy/ https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/can-you-plan-for-beautiful-skin-during-pregnancy/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2020 22:58:27 +0000 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/?p=148 This can be a chapter onto itself, but here are a number of important tips for women who are planning a pregnancy and who also want to maintain their pre-pregnancy lustrous skin tone.  Don’t fall into the trap of believing that pregnancy itself will give you beautiful skin—the “pregnancy skin glow” that we all have ... Read more

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This can be a chapter onto itself, but here are a number of important tips for women who are planning a pregnancy and who also want to maintain their pre-pregnancy lustrous skin tone.  Don’t fall into the trap of believing that pregnancy itself will give you beautiful skin—the “pregnancy skin glow” that we all have been accustomed to believe does not happen to everyone and does not prevent the many problematic changes that occur to the skin during pregnancy.

  1. Timing is everything.   Strictly from a skin perspective, plan for conception during the late summer/fall. This will reduce the changes of developing brown patches of discoloration that often accompanies pregnancy (melasma) which may or may not be reversible after delivery. This will also reduce the severity of heat/sweat induced skin disorders. Of course, this only applies if you are living in an area of the world where there is seasonal variation in sun exposure.
  2. Wear broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Yes, even if it is wintertime, apply the sunscreen to prevent the brown discoloration from forming. Pregnancy hormones make your skin particularly susceptible to sun induced melasma.
  3. Moisturize as much as possible. Pregnancy is often accompanied by itchy, dry skin, especially in the expanding area of the abdomen. While there is no solid evidence on the ability of “stretch mark oils” to prevent stretch marks, applying oil to the abdomen on a routine basis will keep the skin in a hydrated, supple, and healthy state.
  4. Avoid oils to the face. During pregnancy, changing level of hormones in the body sometimes causes outbreaks of acne in women. Unfortunately, many of the typical anti-acne medications that are often used cannot be used during pregnancy. Avoiding oils to the face will prevent clogging of the pores that can exacerbate acne. Instead, use a noncomedogenic moisturizer.
  5. Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. Although the expanding nature of the abdomen may prevent many women from wanting to drink additional fluids, it is even more important to maintain a healthy fluid status during pregnancy, from both a skin and overall health perspective.

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Three Steps to Beating Acne Scarring https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/three-steps-to-beating-acne-scarring/ https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/three-steps-to-beating-acne-scarring/#respond Mon, 13 Jan 2020 22:57:48 +0000 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/?p=145 Acne scarring is one of the biggest concerns amongst young adults and one of the most common reasons why patients come to see me in consultation. Often times, the scarring worries the patient more than the active inflammatory acne on their skin.   Here are the top three points that I bring up to my patients ... Read more

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Acne scarring is one of the biggest concerns amongst young adults and one of the most common reasons why patients come to see me in consultation. Often times, the scarring worries the patient more than the active inflammatory acne on their skin.   Here are the top three points that I bring up to my patients when discussing acne scar treatment and helping them look their best.

  1. Treat the active acne first.

The root of the scarring is the inflammatory acne. Therefore, the first requisite step is to control the acne. With some patience and persistence, this can be accomplished by a variety of topical medications and oral medications. There are lasers that also help treat active inflammatory acne.

  1. Treat the red discoloration that represents an early acne scar.  

In my practice, I like to use a laser that targets the red discoloration as well as any active inflammatory acne lesions.   Hence, patients can have both their acne as well as the discoloration treated in the same session.  Unfortunately, there are no truly effective topical medications or products that can reduce the red discoloration associated with early acne scarring.

  1. Treat the depressions on the skin that represent mature acne scars.

It is important to treat these depressed scars earlier in life, as the appearance of these scars can worsen with over time, with the gradual loss of fat underneath the skin. My favorite procedure is acne scar subcision, a procedure that releases the tethered scar tissue from the deeper portion of the skin, and fills in depressed areas with hyaluronic acid, a substance that is naturally found in our bodies.   The procedure should be performed only after the active acne is completely cleared. Subcision works well for most types of acne scars. However, for extremely deeply pitted scars, scar excision is the preferred approach.

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Hugh Jackman Diagnosed with Third Skin Cancer: Can It Happen to You? https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/hugh-jackman-diagnosed-with-third-skin-cancer-can-it-happen-to-you/ https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/hugh-jackman-diagnosed-with-third-skin-cancer-can-it-happen-to-you/#respond Mon, 03 Nov 2014 19:51:43 +0000 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/?p=1890 In the past year, Hugh Jackman has made headlines because he was diagnosed and treated for a type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma.  In recent weeks, he was reported to have undergone cancer treatment for basal cell carcinoma on his nose a third time. If this sounds frightening, be reassured that basal ... Read more

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In the past year, Hugh Jackman has made headlines because he was diagnosed and treated for a type of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma.  In recent weeks, he was reported to have undergone cancer treatment for basal cell carcinoma on his nose a third time.

If this sounds frightening, be reassured that basal cell cancers are extremely common and are treatable.  In fact, basal cell cancer is the most common cancer in the world.  It is mostly found in individuals with fair skin and is correlated with cumulative sun exposure. “Although basal cell cancer very rarely causes death, if left unchecked, it can cause significant damage in important areas of the body such as the eyes, nose, lips, and hands.  Hence, early detection and treatment of basal cell cancers are extremely important,” says Dr. Julia Tzu, Medical Director of Wall Street Dermatology and Assistant Clinical Professor at NYU School of Medicine.

When basal cell cancers affect cosmetically and functionally important areas of the body such as the face or hands, a special procedure called Mohs surgery can be used to remove the skin cancer. In fact, Hugh Jackman chose to undergo multiple Mohs surgeries to remove the skin cancers on his nose.  Mohs surgery is considered the most optimum way to treat skin cancer in important areas of the body because of its high cure rate and its tissue conserving properties.    During the procedure, the Mohs surgeon (a dermatologist with fellowship training in Mohs surgery) removes small strips of tissue and examines the tissue under the microscope during the operation, providing a real-time reading of whether skin cancer still remains at the surgical margins.

Because Mohs surgery requires the dermatologist to interpret tissue findings during the procedure, familiarity with skin tissue diagnosis is critical to the success of the surgery.   Although formal training in skin tissue diagnoses (dermatopathology) is not required for the Mohs surgeon, having formalized training and board certification in dermatopathology certainly helps in cases that require more expertise.  Dr. Tzu is the only Mohs Surgeon with fellowship training and board certification in dermatopathology in all of New York City is at Wall Street Dermatology

These images show is a Mohs surgery done at Wall Street Dermatology involving the nose, and the post-surgery outcome after approximately 6 months.

In his interview with David Letterman, Hugh Jackman announced to the world, “go for check-ups and wear sunscreen”.  Early detection of any skin cancer is key to its successful treatment, and routine sunscreen application and sun avoidance lessens the probability of developing skin cancer.  If you haven’t already, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist for a skin cancer screening today.  You can say that Wolverine sent you.

FEBRUARY 2020 UPDATE: Hugh Jackman shared in an Instagram video that he has been given the “all clear” on his previous skin cancer diagnosis, and has been active in bringing awareness of skin cancer to a broader audience using his platform.

“REMINDER: Get your skin checked. I’m all clear. Make sure you are too.” – Hugh Jackman on Instagram

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

REMINDER: Get your skin checked. I’m all clear. Make sure you are too.

A post shared by Hugh Jackman (@thehughjackman) on

(Information on Hugh Jackman is based solely on reported news)

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The Truth About Brown Spot Removal https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/the-truth-about-brown-spot-removal/ https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/the-truth-about-brown-spot-removal/#respond Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:11:28 +0000 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/?p=1899 The skincare market is filled with creams that promise to fade discoloration and brown spots.  Every season there is a new spot-fading product with new ingredients and new claims.  Just how effective are these creams and is it worth spending the time and money for these products? Despite the myriad of brands and creams available ... Read more

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The skincare market is filled with creams that promise to fade discoloration and brown spots.  Every season there is a new spot-fading product with new ingredients and new claims.  Just how effective are these creams and is it worth spending the time and money for these products?

Despite the myriad of brands and creams available in the market, there are only a few ingredients that are considered mainstream for the purpose of fading brown discoloration. Hydroquinone, also available in a weaker over-the-counter formulation, is the most effective ingredient prescribed by dermatologists to fade brown discoloration.  Although considered more effective than other mainstream ingredients such as azelaic acid or vitamin C, hydroquinone’s efficacy is still limited and results are variable.  Furthermore, hydroquinone can have a potentially undesired effect of irreversible darkening if used for a prolonged period of time.

The problem with topical treatment for discoloration is that there is a reliance of the cream or lotion to penetrate through the skin and reach only the areas in which the discoloration exists. In reality, there is limited penetration of the formulation and no selective targeting of the discolored areas. Hence, the results of using topical formulas to treat discoloration have never been optimal.

In recent decades, advances in laser technology has transformed the field of dermatology and allowed for a scientifically targeted approach in dealing with skin discoloration.  Specific pigment lasers have the capability to selectively eliminate the darker skin cells and spare the normal skin cells.   This translates into an effective and scientifically elegant way to remove brown spots in one or several treatment sessions without the uncertainty of whether and when a cream will be able to fade a brown spot.  That being said, it is also critical to ensure that the operator of the laser device has a profound understanding of the biophysical interactions between skin and laser energy.

So, next time you’re at the beauty store you can be a bit more savvy about the ingredients contained in and what to expect from fading creams.  There is real science behind brown spot removal, and the proof is in the clear-cut results.

Please share this post if you found it useful. 

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The Dermatologist’s Secret to Soap https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/the-dermatologists-secret-to-soap/ https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/the-dermatologists-secret-to-soap/#respond Mon, 17 Feb 2014 19:42:31 +0000 https://www.wallstreetdermatology.com/?p=1888 One of the advantages of having excelled in college physical and organic chemistry class is that the fundamental knowledge of how the world works stays with you forever in every aspect of your life. I recently attended a soap-making class and finally made some practical use out of theoretical chemical equations that were still lingering ... Read more

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One of the advantages of having excelled in college physical and organic chemistry class is that the fundamental knowledge of how the world works stays with you forever in every aspect of your life. I recently attended a soap-making class and finally made some practical use out of theoretical chemical equations that were still lingering in my subconsciousness. It also really made me think about product creation from a medical standpoint. After all, even though dermatologists constantly prescribe various personal products and critique every skincare ingredient, I can’t say how many dermatologists actually create their personal products from scratch.

Soaps can be hand-made or commercially made. The processes are similar, but different enough for me to recommend hand-made soaps over any commercial soap. The common reaction is saponification, whereby sodium hydroxide (also known as lye) is mixed with any number of fatty acids types to produce “soap” and glycerin. In commercial soaps, the fatty acid used is often animal fat and the glycerin, which is a prime ingredient of skin moisturizers, is removed to manufacture moisturizers. In hand-made soaps, you can control the fatty acid type (I recommend a vegetable oil such as olive oil) and retain the hydrating glycerin.

After the saponification reaction comes the fun part for hand-made soaps, whereby you add any number of fragrant essential oils and natural exfoliants. I made my soaps with a permutation of lavender oil, orange oil, and peppermint oil. I chose raw poppy seeds and oatmeal grains as the exfoliant. Unlike commercial soaps, I avoided addition of synthetic dyes, synthetic fragrance mixes, and chemical preservatives.

The last part of hand-making soap is the casting of the soap into a mold. In commercial processes, sodium chloride (salt) is added to precipitate the soap into curds which are then collected and compressed into various shapes. In hand-made soaps, you pour the well-mixed solution into a mold and let it solidify without the addition of salt, which can be harsh to sensitive skin.

After the hand-made soap is placed into a mold, it takes several weeks for the soap to cure. On a chemical level, the saponification process is slowly reaching completion. But alas, good things come to those who wait.

So hand-made soaps simply involve a basic understanding of the saponification reaction, but don’t attempt to repeat this at home without formal instruction. Sodium hydroxide (lye) is extremely toxic and the chemical reaction is extremely exothermic (heat generating).  Proper precautions and  protective gear is required. However, at least you now understand what you’re cleaning your skin with on an everyday basis.   Like all prized consumer goods, the best soaps are still hand-made.

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