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California State University, Long Beach
Health Resource Center, Student Health Services
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Skin Conditions

Blocked Hair FollicleAcne

Acne is a common skin problem of people in their teens and twenties. Its severity may range from an occasional pimple to severe scarring. Areas of the body usually affected include the face, chest, shoulders and upper back.

What Is Acne?

Acne begins when ducts of sebaceous (oil) glands become plugged with dead skin cells, debris and bacteria. The first skin change is the whitehead or the blackhead, just beneath the skin surface.

How Do I Control Acne?

For the normal care of your skin, wash your face with soap and warm water twice a day. Washing too often may actually make your acne worse. Always wash at bedtime and perhaps more often during the warm summer months. Use Ivory, Dial, Safeguard, or similar soap during the summer months and Dove, Tone or similar soap in the winter to achieve amoderately dry skin condition. rinse well after washing, as residual soap can irritate the skin.

Shampoo Regularly

Regular shampooing is also recommended. If your hair is oily, you may want to wash it more often. Oily hair that comes in contact with face, neck, and shoulders adds to skin surface oil on the forehead, cheeks, nape of neck, and upper back. It contributes to clogging the surface of the pores. Your dermatologist can recommend the best face and hair washing routine.

Eat A Sensible Diet

Acne is not caused by the foods you eat. Dermatologists have differing opinions on the importance of diets in the management of acne. One thing is certain, a strict diet by itself will not clear your skin. On the other hand, some people find that certain foods seem to make their acne worse. If that's the case, foods that clearly worsen your acne should be avoided. But be careful about jumping to conclusions, acne has many ups and downs on its own.


A tan can mask your acne, but the benefits are temporary. Since sunlight ages the skin and can cause skin cancer, you should not sunburn, "bake in the sun" or use sunlamps. Choose a sunscreen that is oil-free, such as a gel sunscreen.


If you wear a liquid foundation or use a moisturizer, look for ones that are oil-free and not just water-based. Choose products that are "non-comedogenic" (should not cause whiteheads or blackheads) or "non-acnegenic" (should not cause acne). Remove your cosmetics every night with soap and water. A fresh-tinted acne lotion can safely hide blemishes. Loose powder mixed with oil-free product is also good for cover-up. Shield your face when applying hairsprays and gels. If the spray comes in contact with your facial skin, it can cause a cosmetic type of acne.


Control of acne is an ongoing process. All acne treatments work by preventing new acne. Existing blemishes must heal on their own. Improvement takes time. If your acne has not improved after 6 to 8 weeks, you may need a change in your treatment.

Mild acne

The treatment your dermatologist recommends will vary according to your type of acne. Occasionally, an acne-like rash can be due to another cause - such as makeup or lotions you've used or oral medication. Rarely acne can be due to a hormone imbalance. It's important to help your dermatologist by providing a history of what you are using on your skin or taking internally. Women will want to discuss changes in the menstrual pattern.

Women who are taking birth control pills may notice a significant improvement in their acne, and occasionally birth control pills are used specifically for the treatment of acne. It is also important to know that oral antibiotics may decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. This is uncommon but possible, especially if you notice break-through bleeding. As with most medicines, check with your doctor about taking antibiotics if you are pregnant or nursing.

Alopecia Areata (Baldness)

Human hair varies widely in color and texture, and people differ considerably in the amount of facial and body hair they have, depending on their age, sex, race and genetic makeup. But in spite of the many differences that are found in hair, it's normal for all of us to have it on the top and back of our heads. When it starts to disappear there, it's considered alopecia, or baldness.

Patchy hair loss in children and young adults, often sudden in onset, is known as alopecia areata. This disorder may result in complete baldness, but in about 90 % of cases the hair returns, usually within a few years. With alopecia universalis, all body hair falls out and the likelihood of regrowth is slight, especially when it occurs in children. Tearing out one's own hair, a disorder known as trichotillomania, is seen most frequently in children.
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  • In men, thinning hair on the scalp, a receding hairline, or a horseshoe-shaped pattern that leaves the crown of the head exposed.
  • In women, thinning of hair in general, but mainly at the crown; complete balding is rare.
    Complete loss of all hair on the body; a rare disorder called alopecia universalis.
  • Excessive shedding of hair, but not complete baldness, associated with various illnesses and drug treatments, rapid weight loss, anemia, stress or pregnancy; a condition known as telogen effluvium.

Athlete's Foot

Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection, and you don't have to be an athlete to get it. This annoying ailment occurs most often in men and boys, but it is common enough in women and girls, too. Athlete's foot is a by-product of a society that keeps its feet enclosed in shoes most of the time.


  • Itchy, scaly, red rash that usually starts between the toes; if untreated, develops into cracked, blistered skin that may become infected.
  • Dry, flaking skin on the soles of the feet.
  • Unpleasant foot odor.
  • Whitish, brittle, flaky toenails.


Strictly speaking, eczema is a form of dermatitis characterized by chronically itchy, inflamed skin. The affected area typically becomes dry, the skin flakes off, and blisters occasionally develop. When eczema appears on fair-skinned people, the affected areas typically turn a brownish gray color; on people with dark skin, it generally alters their natural pigmentation, making the affected area either lighter or darker. Eczema appears most frequently on the face, wrists, elbows and knees but is not limited to those areas. Eczema (atopic dermatitis) afflicts between 3% to 7% of the population to some degree, and in more than 70 % of patients, it runs in the family. It is most common among infants, many of whom grow out of it before their second birthday. If it persists, the child is likely to be a chronic sufferer and may develop distinctive thickened, brownish gray skin in the areas that break out most frequently. Eczema is often associated with asthma, so children with that disorder may be at greater risk of skin problems. Since eczema may be in part an internal response to some sort of external stress, initial treatment focuses on identifying and reducing the possible cause.


  • Patches of chronically itchy, dry, thickened skin, usually on wrists, face and inner creases of the knees and elbows.
  • Skin lesions, patches of redness, scaling and in dark-skinned people changes in skin color; sometimes small bumps or blisters that may ooze fluid.


Unpredictable, intractable and unsightly, psoriasis is one of the most baffling and persistent of skin disorders. It is characterized by skin cells that multiply up to 10 times faster than normal, typically on the knees, elbows and scalp. As underlying cells reach the skin's surface and die, their sheer volume causes raised, white-scaled patches. Palmar or plantar psoriasis, which affects only the hands or feet, tends to be much more painful and often blisters and oozes.

Though not contagious, psoriasis tends to run in families. Fair-skinned people aged 10 to 40 are particularly susceptible, especially those with a blood relative who suffers from the disorder. Psoriasis is extremely rare among people with dark skin. Outbreaks are triggered by the immune system and can affect other parts of the body, particularly the joints, in which case the condition is called psoriatic arthritis. Although psoriasis may be stressful and embarrassing, most outbreaks are relatively benign. With appropriate treatment, symptoms generally subside within weeks.


  • Deep pink, raised patches of skin with white scales, typically on the scalp, knees, elbows and upper body; mild to severe itchiness.
  • Pitting, discoloring and thickening of the fingernails and toenails. If psoriasis develops on the nails, they may separate from underlying skin.
  • Red, scaly, cracked skin on the palms of the hands signals palmar psoriasis; on the soles of the feet the same condition is plantar psoriasis. These forms of psoriasis affect only those areas; the condition can become very inflamed and ooze fluid, making movement very painful.

Skin CancerMelanoma

Skin cancers fall into two major categories: melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is cancer of melanocytes, affecting about 1 in 10 skin cancer patients. It can start in heavily pigmented tissue, such as a mole or birthmark, as well as in normally pigmented skin. Melanoma usually appears first on the torso, although it can arise on the palm of the hand; on the sole of the foot; under a fingernail or toenail; in the mucous linings of the mouth, vagina or anus; and even in the eye. Melanoma is an extremely virulent, life-threatening cancer. It is readily detectable and always curable if treated early, but it progresses faster than other types of skin cancer and tends to spread beyond the skin. Once this occurs, melanoma becomes very difficult to treat and cure.

Non-cancerous skin growths have the potential to become cancerous. The most common are actinic keratoses - crusty reddish lesions that may scratch off but grow back on sun-exposed skin. Another precancerous skin growth, cutaneous horns, appears as funnel-shaped growths that extend from a red base on the skin.

Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in the world. Most cases are cured, but the disease is a major health concern because it affects so many people. Skin cancer tends to strike people of light skin color; dark-skinned people are rarely affected, and then only on light areas of the body such as the soles of the feet or under fingernails or toenails. The incidence of skin cancer is predictably higher in places with intense sunshine, such as Arizona and Hawaii; it is most common in Australia, settled largely by fair-skinned people of Irish and English descent.


The general warning signs include:

  • Any change in size, color, shape or texture of a mole or other skin growth.
  • An open or inflamed skin wound that won't heal.

Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, may appear as:

  • A change in an existing mole.
  • A small, dark, multicolored spot with irregular borders either elevated or flat that may bleed and form a scab.
  • A cluster of shiny, firm, dark bumps.
  • Diameter larger than a pencil eraser.

An easy way to remember the signs of melanoma is the ABCD's of melanoma: Assymetry, irregular Borders, changes in Color, Diameter larger than a pencil eraser.


Even though light-skinned people have the highest risk of being sunburned, skin of any color can be damaged by the sun's rays. A sunburn is like any other kind of burn, except that it comes on more slowly. Skin that is reddened and feels hot to the touch can be self-treated and will heal in a matter of days. Sunburned skin that swells or blisters, causing localized pain and overall discomfort, is considered a first-degree burn. A sunburn that results in swelling and extensive blisters may be accompanied by fever, nausea and dehydration.


  • Mildly reddish to severely red or purplish skin discoloration; skin feels hot and tender. Sunburn appears 1 to 6 hours after exposure tosunlight and peaks within 24 hours, later fading to tan or brown.
  • Small, fluid-filled blisters that may itch and eventually break; flaking or peeling skin that reveals the tender, reddened under layer.
  • Red, blistered skin accompanied by chills, fever, nausea or dehydration. This severe stage of sunburn is considered a first-degree burn.
  • Pain and irritation of the eye associated with overexposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight or other sources.


As many as 2 million people in the United States have this disease, which results in white patches on the skin. Sometimes the patches appear symmetrically; for example, you may have almost identical patterns on your right and left index fingers. The first signs of pigment loss often appear before you reach age 20, and there may be cycles of rapid loss of color followed by little or no change. The dormancy period can last for years. The progression of the disease varies. One patient might develop a few spots at first and then nothing more happens for years, while another might lose all skin pigmentation in six months. Emotional or physical stress can be contributing factors. Vitiligo itself does not endanger your health, but can be associated with thyroid problems, pernicious anemia, Addison's disease (decreased adrenal gland function) and alopecia areata (patches of hair loss). For most patients, however, the greatest risk is loss of self-esteem.


  • White patches of skin are often located symmetrically on both sides of the body; borders of the irregularly shaped spots may be raised.
  • Patches can appear at any time, though their appearance may be stress related.
  • Patches are most common in exposed areas such as the face, neck and hands but can emerge anywhere.


After acne, warts are the most common dermatological complaint. Three out of four people will develop a wart (verruca vulgaris) at some time in their lives. Warts are slightly contagious, and you can spread them to other parts of your body by touching them or shaving around infected areas. Children and young adults are more prone to getting warts because their defense mechanisms may not be fully developed, but it is possible to get a wart at any age.


  • Common warts are small, hard, rough lumps that are round and elevated; they usually appear on hands and fingers and may be flesh-colored, white, pink or bumpy. 
  • Digitate warts are horny and fingerlike, with pea-shaped bases; they appear on the scalp or near the hairline.
  • Filiform warts are thin and threadlike; they commonly appear on the face and neck.
  • Flat warts appear in groups of up to several hundred, usually on the face, neck, chest, knees, hands, wrists or forearms; they are slightly raised and have smooth, flat or rounded tops.
  • Periungual warts are rough, irregular and elevated; they appear at the edges of fingernails and toenails and may extend under the nails, causing pain.

References and Resources
American Podiatric Medical Association
National Alopecia Areata Foundation
E Medicine Consumer Health
WebMD Health