Embarrassing Bodies’ Dr Dawn Harper tells us how to feel confident in time for summer
After a long winter, summer is finally here, which means it’s time to show off your body. This can cause many of us to feel anxious and self-conscious, as there’s no hiding common beauty concerns such as acne, unwanted facial hair and excessive sweating when you’re on the beach! That’s why we put your biggest body problems to Dr Dawn Harper, resident GP on This Morning and Embarrassing Bodies. Here are her simple solutions to help you face the season with confidence. There’s no way body bothers will spoil your holiday now!
Also known as hyperhidrosis, this is a common problem that affects as many as one in a hundred British adults.
You can start to beat it by choosing clothes that will show any sweat marks less obviously – black and white are the best colours and natural fabrics are better than man-made fibres. Alternatively, aluminiumbased antiperspirants are available from the pharmacist and can be applied at night and left on while you sleep. Initially, they need to be used every couple of days, but this can be reduced as soon as the treatment is working and they can be used indefinitely if necessary. The condition is often associated with understandable anxiety and managing this can help – try cognitive behavioural therapy. Specialists can offer a treatment called iontophoresis, which involves passing a very weak current over the affected area and works for most people within six to 10 sessions, but you may need top up treatments every few weeks. Botulinum toxin (botox) injections into the area (most commonly the armpit) are very effective and the response is often very quick and dramatic, although it will need repeating every six to nine months. Sometimes, it can be available on the NHS, but going private will set you back a few hundred pounds each time.
Stretch marks occur when the skin has been overstretched.
When they first appear, they can be red or purple in appearance – this pigmentation reduces over time, but if you want a quick fix, laser treatment will speed up the process. There are also some very good camouflage make-up services – check out changingfaces.org.uk for more information.
These are most common in darker-haired individuals and can cause acne-like rashes or boils where the hair buries under the skin.
If you do get these rashes or boils, you may need to use topical or oral antibiotics. It might be best for people who are prone to ingrowing hairs to avoid waxing as a form of hair removal as this removes the hair by the root and increases the risk of it being able to grow back under the skin. Instead, try an alternative method, such as shaving. After hair removal, use a loofah gently on the area and consider using an aftershave.
Most people will experience white flakes in their hair during their life, but it can be embarrassing when it’s constant.
Start by switching your wardrobe to include lighter colours to reduce the appearance of dandruff on your clothing. Apply olive oil to the affected areas and leave on for several hours or even overnight before washing off with a coal tar based shampoo. Medicated shampoos containing ketoconazole or selenium sulphate should be used twice a week for at least a month, after which time the frequency can be reduced.
From peach fuzz to a unibrow, unwanted facial hair can be an embarrassing problem for many of us.
Facial hair can be easily bleached to reduce the appearance or removed by shaving, using depilatory creams, waxing, electrolysis or laser. The latter is my favourite and works best on darker hair, but it doesn’t come cheaply. Alternatively, there is a contraceptive pill called Dinette which is available on prescription that can be good for treating unwanted facial hair in women. There is also a prescription cream called Eflornithine that you can apply twice a day to skin where the hair has been removed by one of the above techniques. It works by preventing the hair from regrowing, although you may have to pay for this privately.
Not only is sunburn painful, it’s also a sign of skin damage, which can lead to premature ageing.
Protection is most definitely better than cure here. I always recommend that people wear a sun block with an SPF of at least 15 (30 for children). If you do get sunburnt, cool the skin with a cold sponge or flannel, drink plenty of fluids, stay well out of the sun and, if in pain, take ibuprofen or paracetamol. If the skin is blistered or you develop a fever or chills, you should seek medical advice.
Unfortunately, once a bunion is formed, only surgery will cure it. Bunion surgery is a bigger deal than most people realise and it can take 12 weeks to make a full recovery so you certainly don’t want to be going down that route right now – it will rule out your summer!
Talk to your pharmacist about gel pads to put over the pressure point at the base of your toe. You can also use splints at night to keep the big toe in the correct position and some slimmer versions can be worn inside footwear. As a bunion sufferer myself, I like to wear Sole Bliss shoes (£159, solebliss.com). These elegant shoes have been designed specifically for women with bunions as they have special padding built into the shoe so they look great and feel like slippers.
This is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point – and it doesn’t just appear on your face.
There are a myriad of over-the-counter creams to help with acne. My favourites are those containing benzoyl peroxide, but if they don’t work, that doesn’t mean you have to put up with acne. Your GP can prescribe stronger creams or antibiotics by mouth which are better for widespread acne affecting difficult-to-reach areas. These antibiotics may take several weeks to work so you need to get on to it now in time for the summer. In severe cases, we can refer to a dermatologist for a treatment called roacutane.
Dr Dawn Harper is the brand ambassador for Sole Bliss Shoes. The full Sole Bliss range is available at solebliss.com