that because they’ve used the same cream or
wash for years that they can’t develop an al-
lergy to it.”
Similarly, natural ingredients aren’t al-
ways the wonders that marketers and con-
sumers make them out to be.
“The biggest issue that we face is that pa-
tients think because they are purchasing an
all-natural product that it can’t possibly cause
skin problems. Then patients show up in our
office with a rash on their face or eyelids.”
As for probiotics, Dr. Graber doesn’t rec-
ommend them, and said more studies are
necessary. And as for those devices that are
flooding the market and creating a billion-
dollar business, they have their limits, noted
Graber. Although mechanical brushes are
good for exfoliating, they haven’t been prov-
en to be effective against acne, according to
Dr. Graber, who added that while LED may
help a pimple go away a bit faster, it won’t make a blemish vanish
“OTC products do a good job, but it
would be even better if they were less irritating to the skin,” she concluded.
Got an Itch?
Products that irritate the skin can cause temporary itching. Aside from scratching, most
folks opt for OTC anti-itch treatments. Sales
of these products jumped more than 7%
during the past year to over $521 million,
according to IRI. Category leader Chattem
Inc., which makes such brands as Cortizone
10 and Gold Bond, led the way with sales of
$151 million, a sales gain of more than 20%
during the past year.
But what about consumers who suffer from debilitating itching? The kind that
is resistant to cortisone cream other OTC
Now, in the US, tormented consumers
can choose between two itching research
and treatment centers at Temple University
in Philadelphia and Washington University
in St. Louis. Why the interest in itching?
“Itch is now where pain was probably 20
years ago,” Dr. Lynn Cornelius, chief of dermatology, Washington University School of
Medicine, recently told The New York Times.
“It used to be lumped together with pain.”
Washington University researchers
discovered a receptor in the spinal chord that was
specific to itching. This gastrin-releasing peptide
receptor helped prove that pain and itching signals
travel different pathways.
Similarly, older people often have an itch on
their backs between the shoulder blades—but it’s
not dry skin. Those same Washington University
researchers discovered that the condition, nostalgia
paresthetica, is linked to spine and disk problems.
Clearly, when it comes to itching, researchers have
only scratched the surface.
Whether it’s kids suffering from acne, backyard
gardeners with a bad case of poison ivy or weekend warriors hampered by muscle soreness—when
you’re going through hell, you gotta keep going in
“In the past, if your back hurt you might take a
day off from work,” recalled Carroll. “Today, people
are showing up at the workplace because that job
might not be there when you get back.”
And that’s the kind of pain that no topical formula can
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An itch between your shoulder blades
has a name: nostalgia paresthetica.