Got an embarrassing grooming problem? Fear not, whether it's stinky feet or spots, unsightly blackheads or a hairy back, MSN's grooming guru Lee Kynaston has some fast and effective solutions to your worst skin and haircare nightmares.
The problem: stinky feet
With a quarter of a million sweat glands, your feet are bound to end up a bit whiffy sometimes. Even celebrities suffer (one of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin's exes famously sold a story about the Coldplay singer's "very stinky feet" a problem Gwyneth Paltrow says is now under control).
The solution to smelly feet
"Bathing your feet in warm water with a few drops of tea tree oil, which has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, will help reduce the amount of odour-causing bacteria," says Geo F Trumper's resident chiropodist Marc Metcalf. He also recommends choosing socks with care. "Cotton socks are the best for wicking moisture away from the foot but nylon or other synthetics will only make things worse." If things are really bad and your feet are acting as a contraceptive, try applying an extra-strong anti-perspirant from brands like Driclor to minimise sweating.
The problem: eczema
A skin condition that causes an itchy, red, scaly, dry rash, eczema is thought to affect 1 in 12 of us and, though scientists still don't know exactly what causes it, you're at increased risk if you have asthma, hives or hay fever in the family.
The solution to eczema
Corticosteroid creams, available from your GP, can be effective at relieving inflammation and itching in the short term, but there are other things you can do too. For starters, try treating dry patches with a product like aloe vera gel.
"Aloe Vera juice not only helps to moisturise dry and red areas, but also provides natural anaesthesia to soothe skin irritation and reduce pain," says Dr Chris Steele.
Adjusting your diet may help too. According to a study by the Allergy Department of Asola Hospital in Italy, a diet low in nickel is effective in controlling symptoms of nearly 40% of eczema sufferers. Foods to avoid include nuts, beans, porridge oats and (regrettably) chocolate. Finally and how's this for a great excuse to avoid the washing up? steer clear of cleaning products as these can often exacerbate eczema.
The problem: blackheads
Blackheads, or comedones as they're less commonly known, occur when sebum (the natural oil produced by your skin) hardens and dries before reaching the surface of your mush. It ends up blocking pores, trapping dirt, forming a plug and oxidising a process which leads to the black colour. Left untreated these unsightly nasties can stretch pores, leaving your face littered with mini-manholes, so it's worth heading them off before they become a problem.
The solution to blackheads
A good cleansing routine and using a face wash designed to tackle excess oil is essential if you want to beat blackheads. Follow this up with an exfoliating scrub three times a week to remove dead skin cells and prevent blocked pores.
If blackheads do form you can dislodge them by applying pressure to either side of the blackhead with (clean) fingertips and by using a gentle rocking motion (try steaming your face over a bowl of hot water first to make them easier to shift). If they still won't budge think about a professional facial where they can be removed one by one - a strangely satisfying experience almost on a par with a hand massage.
The problem: chronic dandruff
The result of our skin's natural skin-shedding process gone crazy (you can blame a fungus called malassezia globosa), dandruff will affect half of us at some point in our lives. As well as turning us into human snow globes, dandruff can be bad news for your barnet too. "Hair from dandruff sufferers can also have less flexibility and be weaker and more likely to break," warns Head & Shoulders' Senior Scientist Rene Rust.
The solution to chronic dandruff
Apart from using an anti-dandruff shampoo, take a long hard look at your diet. "Your natural skin secretions, such as sweat and sebum, form a protective covering on your scalp that keeps the bacteria on your scalp dormant," explains trichologist Philip Kingsley. "But eating lots of salty, sugary or fatty foods can cause these secretions to change adversely and lose their resistance to the ever present bacteria." The result is accelerated skin shedding, and worse still a potential knock back.
The problem: ingrown hairs
Ingrown hairs (also known as pseudofolliculitis barbae) occur when hair curls over and burrows back in to its follicle or nearby skin causing inflammation and a small, painful 'bump'. Guys with curly hair are especially susceptible but most of us will get them from time to time.
The solution to ingrown hairs
The simplest way to prevent ingrown hairs is with regular exfoliation. Using a face scrub two or three times a week will help lift hairs, release ones just penetrating the skin and remove dead skin cells which can block hair follicles. If you're especially prone to them try a product like Anthony Logistics Ingrown Hair Treatment which contains a raft of ingredients to treat and prevent the annoying things.
The problem: hairy back and shoulders
If you've a back like a badger's and your hairy shoulders have become 'scary shoulders' it's clearly time to phase out the fuzz. A process not nearly as demeaning as you might think.
The solution to a hairy back and shoulders
If you've a willing partner (or a friend with a stomach for this sort of thing and a good sense of humour), applying a hair removal cream is a great way to get rid of the fuzz. A much more convenient and less embarrassing way, though, is to use a gadget like the Mangroomer Do-It-Yourself Electric Back Hair Shaver. A nifty extendable body groomer (imagine a shaver on a stick), it's a brilliant way to get to those hard to-reach places yourself without needing someone to assist you.
The problem: acne
Most of us might associate acne with gangly, awkward teens but reports suggest adult acne is increasingly common, with up to 25% of men affected. The exact causes of adult acne, or the reasons for the increase in its incidence, aren't known but our increasingly stressful lifestyles and the rise of resistant bacteria may be partly to blame.
The solution to acne
Your GP can offer topical creams to treat acne but registered nutritionist Anita Ellis also believes in tackling the problem from the inside. "Carbohydrates, especially highly processed foods with a high glycemic index such as white bread, potatoes and cakes cause insulin to flood the blood to lower sugar levels and this in turn increases testosterone levels which exacerbate acne," she says. As well as reducing the amount of these foods you eat she recommends upping your intake of vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium, which all increase the immune system and limit bacterial infection.
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