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Throughout summer, most customers call us to talk about sunscreen, and although we are just as fanatical as the next person about sun protection, we at PharmacyMix are equally eager to discuss skin care in general.  Here are just a few questions (and answers!) that have popped up recently.  Keep them coming!

1. Do retinoids thin the skin?  And can they be used long-term?

Retinoids actually help thicken the skin as they boost collagen production and increase cell turnover, giving a plumper and smoother look to the face.  As for long-term use, [Link Removed] not only correct existing damage (wrinkles and dark spots) but also work as cell communicators to regulate skin cell functions that deteriorate with age and sun exposure.  If you are using a prescription-strength retinoid long-term, it's recommended to continue regular consultations with your doctor or dermatologist.

2. I stopped using hydroquinone when I was pregnant, but now that the baby has been born, can I go back to it?

Hydroquinone should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding.  If neither of these conditions apply, then [Link Removed] use can be continued.  However, it is still wise to test for skin sensitivity when treatment is resumed after a long period of time.

3. I have lines around the mouth they call Marionette lines. They are not real bad but I am looking for a product that will help make them less noticeable, and maybe more firmer. I was thinking of starting the Green cream level 6. What can you recommend that would help me?

Either high-potency retinol [Link Removed] retinal serum would be very good choices to start with for the lines around your mouth. Retinoids in general boost collagen production, leading to smoother and "plumper" skin. Incorporate gradually into your skin care routine and give it at least a month to work (skin renews itself every 28 days) and you may find that it is a great alternative to more invasive procedures. If you prefer not to go the retinoid route, look for a cream with peptides as they also boost collagen production and help plump the skin to fill in wrinkles for a smoother look.

4. I have little bumps on my upper arms and thighs. They look kind of like acne.  Can I use acne creams to get rid of them?

From your description, it sounds like you may have keratosis pilaris (KP), a common skin condition that presents itself as dry, rough patches of skin or small acne-like bumps, often on the upper arms, legs and face.  Although they are painless and not medically serious, KP can occasionally look red and inflamed.

KP occurs when the human body produces excess keratin, which is a natural and hard protein designed to protect the skin from harmful substances and infection. This excess keratin forms a scaly plug that surrounds and traps hair follicles in the pore. The result is hyperkeratinization (or the formation of many plugs) that lead to rough, bumpy or sandpaper or 'chicken skin'.

Although there is no cure for KP, effective treatment to control the condition includes moisturizing and exfoliation using an alpha hydroxyl lotion such as [Link Removed] .  Often keratosis pilaris will resolve on its own, but it can sometimes take months or even years. If you are susceptible, the condition is likely to recur so it is important to continue treatment on a regular basis.

5. I've been using skin lighteners for a long time and heard that hydroquinone can cause cancer.  Is this true?

Although issues of carcinogenicity and skin lightening have been raised in the past due to a study involving rats being injected with large doses of hydroquinone, there have been no concerns raised with topical use either on humans or animals.

The risk of side effects is small if hydroquinone products are used wisely:  stick to concentrations of 4% or less, use in a cyclic fashion of 4 months on and one month off, and pay careful attention to applying a thin layer to target areas only.  However, if you are still concerned about using hydroquinone or unable to tolerate its use topically, consider alternative skin lightening agents such as [Link Removed] .

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti-aging skin care and women's wellness. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed].
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