Last week I saw a lot of patients in my dermatology office with very crusty seborrheic keratosis. They’re scaly, bumpy growths and most people who have them don’t like them. They look funny, scale comes off of them and they can get caught on clothing, becoming irritated. My patients and I call them barnacles, because they’re stuck on the skin much like barnacles are stuck on things in the ocean.
These barnacles are structurally similar to warts because they’re made up of excessive layers of skin cells from both the living and dead skin layers. The fact that they are made from your outer skin layers means that skin care products can help to get rid of the growths. There are some easy skin care tricks to help control these age spots and last week I spent a lot of time teaching patients how to do this.
The key is to physically buff your skin with an exfoliating product, and to use strong alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) products to help soften and sometimes entirely loosen these crusty growths. The AHA products need to be strong, and the best AHA for the job is glycolic acid because it’s the best at loosening dead skin cells so that they buff off more effectively. Done right, it really is possible for almost everyone to have velvety-smooth, hydrated, soft skin again- skin that doesn’t look and feel like it’s covered with crusty barnacles.
Barnacles (seborrheic keratosis) start forming on most of us usually after we’re about 30. If you have them, you’ll see that they have a ‘stuck-on’ feel and appearance. They’re also typically darker in color than the rest of your skin. They can form on any part of your body, but the most common sites are along your hair line, neck (where they can look like small skin tags), under your breast folds, all over your back and on the outside of your forearm, the backs of your hands, tops of your feet and behind your knees.
Like a wart, a barnacle happens because your living skin cells grow excessively and form a little mound that’s raised up higher than the rest of your skin. The little mound of living cells then makes excessive layers of dead skin cells (called the stratum corneum) and this is why they feel crusty and stuck on- like a barnacle. It’s the dead cells that we can buff and exfoliate away with powerful, regular, AHA-containing, exfoliating skin care. Occasionally, this exfoliating skin care treatment will also get rid of the little mound of living cells too.
I have a lot of patients with barnacles and I’m prone to them myself. Over the years I’ve used a variety of AHA products to control them, but I developed my current, and extremely powerful, regimen just in time for my 40th birthday – when I grew my first barnacle on my right arm. At the time, the concept of exfoliating skin care was less common. I experimented (on myself as usual) until I came up with something that worked well. It got rid of that barnacle-like age spot and has kept new ones off of me for the last 12 years. I’ve since had thousands of patients use this regimen successfully too. Because it’s strong it can be irritating to sensitive skin areas, but it’s easily modified to fit almost all skin types. I’ve put it all together in a kit along with complete instructions, and I call it my Anti Aging Body Skin Care Kit. Here’s how I tell my patients to use it:
Dermatologist’s Anti Aging, Exfoliating Skin Care To Control Crusty Age Spots On The Body
Starting twice a week
- In the shower use an exfoliating sponge or cloth, like the Salux Cloth or a Body Buf Puf Sponge (they’re more effective than a luffa). Squeeze Glytone Body Wash on the sponge/cloth and gently massage the skin with it. Go easy in the folds and the neck and chest, which can be particularly sensitive. Pay particular attention to areas with barnacles, including the backs of your hands, tops of your feet, behind your knees, your back etc. Rinse well and towel off.
- Within 3 minutes after toweling off, no more, apply Glytone Body Lotion to all of your skin. At first the lotion may sting or tingle a little on your skin, but this usually last for just a few seconds. If you want, you can cut the lotion strength in half by mixing it with another plain body lotion in your palm before applying it to your skin. Gradually your skin gets healthier and can handle the Glytone Body Lotion without dilution. Again, the folds and your neck/chest may be extra sensitive.
- On the other 5 days of the week apply a nice and rich body cream or lotion within 3 minutes after the shower. You can scrub with the exfoliating cloth/sponge and the Glytone Body Wash in the shower, or your favorite bath soap (always use a non-drying soap though, such as Whole Foods 365 glycerin bar soap).
As your skin gets healthier you can use the Glytone Body Lotion more frequently to get even smoother, softer, barnacle-free results.
The reason the regimen works so well is because of the effects of strong glycolic acid on the skin and the way the treatment combines glycolic acid’s ‘chemical exfoliation’ power with the buffing of physical exfoliation:
- Glycolic acid, like other alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s), loosens the cement that holds your dead skin cells together. The loose cells buff off easily.
- Glycolic acid (like other AHA’s) causes a compacting of the healthy cells to give your skin a polished, smooth surface. It’s sort of like using your own cells to give you a nice waxy sheen.
- Glycolic acid (and other AHA’s) also binds the water molecules to your skin for super-powerful hydration that’s far more effective than plain moisturizers or oils.
The end result is polished, smooth, hydrated, healthy skin.
My Anti Aging Body Kit has everything you need for this powerful skin care treatment. Using it really helps control barnacles for me and my patients. For patients with a lot of big barnacles I still need to freeze-off the larger ones. In general though, I see that their skin grows fewer of these crusty age spots and the ones that do manage to grow are smaller, smoother and easier for me to treat. Their normal skin also looks so much nicer as they age. All we’ve done is replace their normal bath soap and skin lotion with products that work better at keeping their skin soft, hydrated and healthy.
Of course it’s important to never use strong exfoliation or AHA’s on broken skin or sores. Any sore that won’t heal or new growth that doesn’t go away should be checked by a dermatologist.
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