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Dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Dover answers skin-care questions

CJan 8, 2003: Dr. Jeffrey Dover Acne, Hair Removal And Stretch Marks Dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Dover answers skin-care questions.

-------------------------------------------------------------------- Q: I take an antibiotic twice a day and I use Retin-A, but my acne is still not well controlled. Any suggestions?

A: What you're doing is reasonable. There are a few things you can do. The first is you may want to add in benzoyl peroxide, which is available over the counter or by prescription. And maybe consider changing your antibiotic. We use about five different antibiotics for acne. Some work better than others, so when one's not working we try another. Don't switch more often than once every four months, because it takes about six weeks before antibiotic starts working. So see your doctor. If nothing else works, you may have to use Accutane. We only use that for severe acne that doesn't respond to anything else.

Q: Are there any new products for removing facial hair?

A: There are lots of products. The reason is none of them are perfect. Vaniqa is a relatively new product by prescription about a year old, and it helps to reduce facial and body hair, but it has to be used twice a day. It's a little bit irritating, and it's not covered by your insurance, so it will cost you a certain amount every month, so that price adds up. There are a lot of old-fashioned treatments. My favorite new one is laser hair removal, which is effective and causes permanent reduction in hair. It is costly and won't be covered by insurance.

Q: I am not overweight, but I have stretch marks. What caused them and what can I do?

A: They're called stretch marks because they occur when the skin is stre4tched, either from gaining weight quickly or by suddenly growing, so lots of adolescents get them on their chest, their back, even their groin from a sudden growth spurt. Two good treatments: If they're still pink and new, Retin-A, the cream we use for acne and for wrinkles, happens to help red stretch marks to turn silver and to look less noticeable. If they're silver, the best treatment is probably laser treatment, the same one we use when we treat port wine stains or red birthmarks. That also helps to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Unfortunately, we don't know how to prevent them.

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