Check Your Skin, Save Your Life – 6 simple steps to perform a skin self-exam

Check Your Skin, Save Your Life – 6 simple steps to perform a skin self-exam

While it might not be the first thing on your to-do list, prioritizing regular skin checks could save your life.

Though a trip to the gym wasn’t uncommon for John Ahern, the bruising he noticed after a particularly strenuous workout was unusual. Ahern’s board-certified dermatologist, Lindsay S. Ackerman, MD, FAAD, made a life-saving observation: the bruises indicated a severe blood issue. After testing, Ahern was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

Ahern’s story offers an important reminder to pay attention to the body’s largest organ and is one of many examples that show how the skin is a window to overall health.

“While bruising can be common, when it appears in unusual areas or in the absence of trauma, it can represent problems with other organ systems,” Ackerman said.

Performing regular self-exams can familiarize people with their skin and help identify areas of concern. For example, Yvonne Basil noticed changes to a mole on her toe and quickly scheduled an appointment with her board-certified dermatologist. After a same-day surgical biopsy, Basil’s dermatologist, Dr. Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD, confirmed it was melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Because of the early diagnosis and treatment, doctors stopped the spread and Basil is now cancer-free.

“While Yvonne’s melanoma was very serious, it could have been much worse had she not found the mole and quickly made an appointment with a board-certified
dermatologist,” Desai said.

Regularly checking your skin from head to toe can help catch skin cancer and other conditions early when they are most treatable. These simple steps recommended by the experts at the American Academy of Dermatology to perform a skin exam could help you detect a condition early:

Examine your body in a full-length mirror

Look at your underarms, forearms and palms

Look at your legs and soles of your feet and between your toes

Use a hand mirror to examine your neck and scalp

Use a hand mirror to check your back and buttocks

Take note of all the spots on your body, including moles, freckles and age spots

People of all skin tones should perform skin self-checks. When skin cancer develops in people of color, it is often diagnosed in its later stages, making it more difficult to treat. If you notice any new or suspicious spots on your skin, or any spots that are changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.

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ABCDEs of Melanoma

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, when detected early, it is highly treatable. These warning signs can help you identify melanoma:

Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.

Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.

Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next.

Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters, or about the size of a pencil eraser, when diagnosed, they can be smaller.

Evolving: The spot looks different from the rest or changes in size, shape or color.

Did You Know?

Dermatologists are trained to diagnose, treat and manage more than 3,000 conditions of the skin, hair and nails. 

Natural Care for Skin and Hair

Natural Care for Skin and Hair

The beauty industry is quick to point out what’s new, innovative, and “guaranteed” to make us more gorgeous. But before there were modern-day emulsifiers, preservatives, thickeners, artificial colors, and fragrances, there were ancient practices used by indigenous people from all around the globe that utilized nature in its simplest form to enhance their beauty and self-care rituals. Passed from generation to generation, these practices have withstood the test of time, and involve simple, healthy ingredients that can be found in your kitchen cupboard or your garden.

Here are some of my favorite beauty rituals from around the world, and the best part is, they don’t break the bank and they’re free of chemicals.

Facial Treatments

Ayurveda is an ancient lifestyle medicine from India and its mantra is that “beauty comes from within.” These 5,000-year-old self-care practices are designed to support the healthy functioning of your body. When you honor yourself and your body in this way, it is said that vitality will illuminate through you like Lakshmi herself, the goddess of beauty.

Some common facial treatments in Ayurvedic medicine include the following:

Rosewater comes from rose petals that have been steeped in distilled water, and when used as a facial toner, it has strong anti-inflammatory and hydrating benefits. You can spray rosewater on your face throughout the day to keep it refreshed. The scent of rose also elevates the mind and spirit.

Neem oil can be used as a spot treatment for acne or discoloration. Use a cotton swab to apply it directly to pimples or spots of minor inflammation and leave it overnight.

Aloe Vera isn’t just for sunburns. It makes the skin smooth, supple, and toned. It can be applied topically, like a toner or serum, underneath a moisturizer.

Dry Brushing for Body Care

Dry Brushing is another Ayurvedic practice that uses a natural bristle dry brush on your body. The mechanical action of dry brushing is excellent for exfoliating dry winter skin. It also helps detoxify your skin by increasing blood circulation and promoting lymph drainage. It has the additional benefit of stimulating your nervous system, which has an invigorating effect.

Starting with your feet, brush in gentle, upward, circular motions toward the heart. Make your way to your legs, torso, and arms. Then rinse off in the shower. Dry off and do some self-massage with your favorite oil, such as olive, avocado, coconut, almond, or sesame oil. Do not use dry brushing directly on skin that’s broken, which includes cuts, scrapes, lesions, sores, eczema, psoriasis, or burned skin. Stop the practice if the skin becomes irritated or inflamed.

Hair Oiling

The history of hair oiling can be traced back to many parts of the world. Research on mummies shows that ancient Egyptians used plant and animal fats on their hair, and in ancient Greece, women relied on olive oil to condition their luscious locks.

The Berber women of Morocco have been using Argan oil in their beauty rituals for thousands of years by applying it to their hair, as well as their face, nails, and entire body. Not only does Argan oil have a wonderful scent, but it is also loaded with rich antioxidants, vitamin E, and fatty acids. It can help make the hair shine, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, treat scars, acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Ayurvedic medicine has a ritual known as Murdha Taila, which translates to “anointing the scalp with oil.” Indian women take great pride in their crowning glory, and for thousands of years, they have kept their tresses lovely with nourishing scalp oils made from coconuts, herbs, flowers, and spices. Some common ingredients include tulsi (Indian holy basil), hibiscus flowers, curry leaves, and fenugreek seeds.

Hair oiling and scalp massage promote thick, lustrous, healthy hair. Beyond the hair-fortifying aspect of it, this calming and relaxing practice is very grounding due to the many nerve endings on your scalp. Massaging the scalp can improve circulation and slough off dead skin cells, which is said to help hair growth.

Apply coconut or sesame oil to the crown of your head, working downward and outward with your fingertips. Massage your scalp using a pinching motion, bringing the fingertips and thumbs together, then releasing. Move hands forward and back, then side to side, covering the entire head. After the massage, comb the oil through your hair and leave it on for 30 minutes as you relax. For deeper conditioning, cover with a shower cap and leave it overnight. Gently rinse with a sulfite-free shampoo and finish with your typical hair care routine.

Soak it Away

It is said that Cleopatra’s most sacred beauty ritual was taking a bath with dead sea salt, aromatic flowers, olive oil, and milk. Bath soaks have been soothing muscle aches, destressing the mind, softening the skin, and lightening the mood for millennia. I have adopted my own Cleopatra bath ritual and no bath is complete without olive, almond, sesame, lavender, ylang-ylang, or eucalyptus oils, as well as Epsom or Himalayan salts. I still haven’t been courageous enough to pour milk in the tub, as Cleopatra did, but maybe one day.

Natasha Kubis is a licensed acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher.
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Courtney Maybin, Owner of Beauty Bin, Asheville’s New One-Stop Beauty Shop

Courtney Maybin, Owner of Beauty Bin, Asheville’s New One-Stop Beauty Shop

Native to WNC, Courtney Maybin has lived here all her life, except during a few years when she moved around the country with her husband, Cameron Maybin who is a professional baseball player. In 2015, they returned to Asheville and bought a home. It was then that Courtney found the opportunity to consider what she wanted to do for her own career.

“I always loved the beauty industry, so I chose to take the esthetics course at Blue Ridge Community College. I became a licensed esthetician in 2018. From there, I decided to start a studio out of my home to continue to practice and to begin to gain clientele, but I always knew I wanted to open a store front,” she says. “I began the planning for Beauty Bin in early 2019 and worked throughout the year to prepare for an end-of-year opening.”

Courtney’s vision for a salon and spa includes her mission to give affordable services to everyone regardless of race, gender, or age. “It’s important to me that no matter who walks through the door, they (my staff) know how to work on any kind of hair or any kind of skin type.” Insisting on this diverse skill set means that her employees require more training, but Courtney believes it is worth the effort. “Self-care is important and something all people should invest in.”

Tammy Barnwell, Courtney’s mother, has been instrumental in her new business venture. “She’s my lifesaver,” Courtney says. “As far as business things, whether it’s scheduling or bookkeeping, she can do it all. I know the field of esthetics, which she doesn’t know at all, and she knows all these things about internal business. We’re learning a lot from each other. Beauty Bin couldn’t run without her!”

With Tammy by her side, these two ladies also look for ways to give back to the community. Beauty Bin was a drop-off location for MANNA Food Bank’s annual holiday food drive; and they are planning to continue to work with the food bank throughout the year to help those in need. Courtney is also continuing to work on a charity she started with her husband, Maybin Mission, with a spa-inspired twist. The original program allowed the community to nominate families to receive holiday gifts: a Christmas dinner party, and a visit with Santa. One lucky winner was gifted with a 60-minute massage, custom facial, brow wax, and skin-care set.  “Looking forward, I want to find more ways to give back to the community as much as possible.”

At Beauty Bin, you’ll find everything you are looking for in a spa or salon. This “one-stop” shop offers facials, massages, lash extensions, color, cut, and more. You can get it all under one roof at the Beauty Bin.

Visit the Beauty Bin at 117 Sweeten Creek Road in Asheville and you’ll leave feeling beautiful!