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American Academy of Dermatology 65th Annual Meeting
Feb. 2-6
Washington Convention Center

The Industry: skin medicine

The Attendees:16,771 skin defenders wielding lasers, needles, scalpels, chemical weapons, and SPF 45

The Issues:

Cheek to Cheek: Yale-based dermatologist Michael Kaminer described alternatives for sagging, aging skin that offer faster healing and less risk than face lifts. In “thread lifts,” barbed sutures are channeled beneath facial skin and adjusted to achieve the desired look. Patients can bypass Botox with “autologous fat transplantation,” in which the patient’s own fat cells are injected to fill in wrinkles without risk of allergic reaction. Kaminer suggested harvesting the fat from the outer thighs for its fluffy quality. (Abdomen fat tends to be gritty; inner thigh fat a bit too rigid.) Also good: the backside—“That’s the best, if you have spare fat there.”

Hair-Raising: Leading a roundtable on female hair loss, Dr. Paradi Mirmirani noted the average person loses 50 to 100 hairs a day. In addition to hair shaft and bulb examinations, lab tests, scalp biopsies, and treatments, the doctor needs to address emotional symptoms such as denial, shame, and loss of self-esteem, Mirmirani said. Good words: “thinning,” “bare areas,” “alopecia.” Bad word: “balding.”

Top Tips: Avoid high-tension hairdos, such as tight braids and overly snug orthodontic bands. Camouflage by moving the part to draw attention from the thinning area or powders to decrease contrast between hair and scalp. “It’s all about the presentation,” she said. “Hollywood [stars] don’t have the hair we think they have.”

Tattoo U.S.A.: Northwestern University professor Anne Laumann detailed a study of tattoos and body piercings conducted on 500 Americans. Among the findings: Lower educational status significantly increased the likelihood of having a tattoo; equal numbers of men and women had tattoos, but women had significantly more piercings; lifestyle factors associated with body art include being in jail more than three days, heavy drinking, recreational drug use, and lack of religious affiliation.

Aftershocks: After having her tongue pierced on a vacation in Corfu, Greece, a woman was struck in the mouth by lightning. She endured mouth burns caused by 15,000-degree Celsius temperatures, the inability to speak for three days, two weeks in the hospital, and endless jokes about the trip “recharging her batteries.”

New Excuse for Tinted Windows: St. Louis University researchers studied 898 skin-cancer patients and concluded that cancers on the left side of the head and neck and on the left arm and hand correlated with time spent behind the wheel. Preventive techniques include applying UV-proof clear or tinted films to window glass, using sunscreen, and wearing protective clothing.

Sweat Inequity: Approximately 8 million people in the U.S. suffer from hyperhidrosis—excess sweating. Stemming from a neurological imbalance, the condition can make sufferers fearful of shaking hands, participating in sports, and intimacy. Women are more than twice as likely as men to seek treatment for the condition because, postulated researcher Dee Anna Glaser, it’s “considered manly to sweat.”

Tush-y Subject: Dr. Mary Spraker, mother of triplets, dispelled diaper dermatitis myths such as: cloth is better than paper, washing skin after each urination prevents infection, and powder keeps skin dry. Fact: Babies urinate 20 times a day on average. Covered in her illustrated history: Early diapers were made from grass, moss, and fleece. In the Middle Ages, babies were wrapped in swaddling bands. Wrapped-up babies were sometimes hung from ceiling hooks, allowing drainage of urine and other matter. Diaper dermatitis is rarely seen in countries where babies don’t wear diapers. “It’s when babies are left to sit in [urine and feces] that it causes problems.”

The “Treat” in Treatment: Antibiotic resistance, side effects, and alarmist news reports have fueled concerns about traditional acne treatments. But new photodynamic therapy is proving successful in treating flare-ups in just a few sessions without side effects, and, adds Dr. Amy Taub, teenagers “think the blue light is cool.”

The Real Heartbreak of Psoriasis: Discussion about “Psoriasis Treatment in the Age of Biologics” revealed that the condition skews to lower-income people but can cost $40,000 a year to treat.

Lipo Lite: On the show floor, UltraShape representatives explained their Contour I noninvasive treatment for the “safe clearance of lysed adipose tissue via the body’s natural mechanisms.” The results, they claim: two centimeters off your waist after a single treatment. The only problem: Nobody knows when this “focused ultrasound technology” will be approved for U.S. use.

Mini Spa: The Therabath PRO hot-wax treatment coats the hand like a glove—soothing joints, relaxing muscles, easing arthritis pain, and distracting dermatology patients from the discomfort of such procedures as chemical peels. Scents include “melon burst” and “chocolate mint.”

Foul Play: Attention sand volleyball players: You’re at risk to become infested with cutaneous larvae migrans, a small burrowing worm.

Now You See It: “I know it when I see it” doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to skin-cancer diagnoses. At a focus session on color and pattern recognition, a presenter urged derms to be frank about their use of “nonverbal recognition to maximize their visual diagnostic skills.” Despite the role of pattern perception in identifying skin disease from melanocytic nevi to seborrheic keratoses, the human eye is not perfect. It’s excellent at edge detection, good at color discrimination, fair at color recognition, and poor at evaluating gradients.