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Traumatic Skin Injury and Ways to Heal: Interview with Dr. Monica Lynn Halem

By Jackie O’Neal

As the skin is the body's largest organ, burns can result in one of the most devastating injuries the body can endure. According to The American Burn Association, statistics estimate that about 51,000 Americans are treated in hospitals each year for burn injuries, and 5,500 die as a result of severe burns. I sought the expertise of Dr. Monica Lynn Halem, assistant clinical professor at Columbia University Medical Center Eastside. Dr. Halem was awarded a Dermatology fellowship from University of California San Francisco Department of Dermatology.

Jackie O'Neal:
When re-constructive surgery is not needed for burns on the face, how precisely does corrective make-up help normalize the appearance? Are there any particular ingredients in the formulas, and is the make-up typically a "Heavy" coverage?

Dr. Halem:
Whether reconstructive surgery is needed or not, corrective makeup can be very helpful. Corrective makeup can be used to conceal and camouflage both the scar left over from the burn, and the scar from the reconstruction. Basically corrective makeup works as an opaque cream, gel, or liquid concealing the burn and allowing it to blend with your natural skin tone. Most companies have a wide range of colors, that often need to be mixed to match a persons skin tone. Some companies have a consultants help you match the color, while some have interactive websites that aid in this process. I personally think a cream based formulation is the best. This helps keep the concealer from looking cracked or caked on. In addition, some formulas will contain ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acid, vitamin E, and gluconolactone. These ingredients provide anti-aging properties as well as mosturization. Once you apply the makeup, it is important to follow with any finishing powder. This helps the makeup set. The ideal corrective make-up should be opaque, smudge resistant, moisturizing, non creasing, non-comedogenic, water-resistant, and long lasting (at least up to 16 hours). There are 2 companies I recommend: CoverBlend by Exuviance and Dermablend™. Dermablend™ can be found at In addition, they are located at most department stores. Go to their website to find a department store near to you. Once you know your formula, most of the products can be ordered on line.

Jackie O'Neal:
Besides make-up, what is the best skin care routine for someone who has suffered 2nd or 3rd degree burns? Are there any products on the market they should avoid?

Dr. Halem:
After suffering from a burn, the most important part of your skin care regimen is to be using sunscreen daily, even in the winter, to this area.. The sunscreen should have and SPF of 30 or higher, and have both UVB and UVA protection. The area that was burned is at an increased risk of developing a skin cancer as compared to normal skin. It is also important to watch the area and monitor for any irregular bumps or growths. It would be wise to see a dermatologist yearly to have them take a look at the site. In addition I would use a gentle cleanser such as Cetaphil and avoid products that have too much fragrance.

Jackie O'Neal:
I've read that African-Americans tend to have "thicker" layers of skin than caucasians- would a more specialized skin care regimen be recommended? As far as make-up for corrective purposes- would a higher pigment formula be appropriate?

Dr. Halem:
This is not the case. African-Americans do not have "thicker" layers of skin than caucasians. They do however contain more melanin, which are the cells that give skin its color. Often times with a burn those cells are destroyed and the burn area is white, even in African-American skin. The corrective makeup can help hide this white scar by using a color that matches the darker skin tone. Most companies have formulations for darker skin. It is also important for those patients to apply sunscreen to the burned area, because of the increased risk of skin cancer to the area.

Jackie O'Neal:
Once disorders of the skin, or burns are present, what is the procedure to restore the moistness and flexibility of the skin? Is age a factor in the healing process?

Dr. Halem:
During the healing process, an ointment should be applied daily. This can be an antibiotic ointment or Vaseline. This greasy formula helps the skin to heal faster. Once healed, in order to keep the skin moist a moisturizer should be applied. The best way to do this is to get out of the shower or bath and pat yourself dry. While you are still damp, apply a moisturizer from head to toe. This seals in the moisture. The best types of moisturizers are the ones that again are a cream base, not a lotion. This is an oil-water mixture and prevents the evaporation of water from our skin.

As we age, it does take longer for our skin to heal. In addition, it is even more important to apply a moisturizer, because we do not have as much water in our cells.

Jackie O'Neal is a contributing writer for, learn more abut Jackie by visiting her blog.She is a freelance writer and owns and operates O'Neal Media Group, a public relations consultancy. For more information and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your public relations needs, visit the O'Neal Media Group. 

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