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Mind and Body

9 common skin problems and solutions

As the body's protective outer-shell, your skin puts up with a lot. Harmful elements such as chemicals, infections, cuts, scrapes, and sunlight keep the seemingly delicate organ under near-constant assault. The addition of sweaty gym-sessions and stress send your epidermis into overdrive, leaving it no choice but to react.

We're not saying a flawless exterior is impossible, but it takes effort. We talked with Dr. Monica Carezani-Gavin, owner and medical director of Azani Medical Spa in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, about how to deal with common skin problems and what to do when something pops (or shrivels) up.

Acne

Contrary to what most guys think, pimples don't stop popping up when your voice finishes changing. Raging hormones were responsible in your teen years, but other factors such as humidity, stress, heavy sweating, or the use of steroids cause the irritating red bumps now. 

RELATED: Breakaway from breakouts with these five hidden acne causes—and how to beat them.

Even if you're the figure of perfect personal hygiene and diet, you'll still see flare-ups. In fact, washing your face too much can cause acne to get worse.

If your acne is bad enough to rattle your confidence, see a primary care physician. "Acne truly is a medical condition that requires medical treatment," Carezani-Gavin said. "A primary care physician can also help identify the cause of even occasional flare-ups and advise accordingly."

Not a fan of lab coats? Pick up a 5 percent, over-the-counter, benzoyl-peroxide skin wash from your local drug store, and use it twice a day. "A lot of patients do wonderfully just with that," Carezani-Gavin said.

Razor burn

Razor burn may mean a few hours of discomfort and a red face, or it can be as serious as an irritating rash with infected blisters and pimples lasting several days. Shaving technique's probably not your problem—by now you have mastered the perfect amount of pressure to shear hair and leave untainted skin behind. But other common blunders can result in feeling the burn. 

RELATED: Achieve a perfect shave every time with these products from the 2012 Men's Health Grooming Awards.

Wash your face in warm water before you shave, use new, sharp, razor blades (or clean blades with an electric shaver), apply lubricant such as soap or shave gel, and always shave with the grain of the hair in short, deliberate strokes to avoid razor burn.

Too late for prevention? Rub on an aloe-based cortisone cream or soothing aftershave with vitamin E to calm the skin and reduce redness. It'll work better than plain moisturizer.

Sunburn

This skin injury shows up immediately after our skin is exposed to UV radiation. Some guys hardly ever turn lobster red—those with more of a brown pigment called melanin that protects the skin from the effects of UV radiation. But a fair-skinned guy can burn and blister in the dead of winter. 

RELATED: Try these four foolproof methods to soothe a sunburn.

Everyone can benefit from prevention strategies like daily sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats, even in the winter. But when it's too late for prevention and you need a quick fix for painful sunburn, reach for vitamin E. "For any kind of skin trauma, applying vitamin E twice a day helps the skin heal itself," Dr. Carezani-Gavin said. For best results, cut a vitamin E supplement in half and rub the gel directly onto your skin.

Rosacea

We all know the red-faced guy who eternally looks like he knocked back a few too many glasses of scotch. While that may be the case, some people—about 14 million Americans—credit their rosy face to the inflammatory skin disease called rosacea. It's not life threatening, but it delivers a major blow to your appearance and self-esteem. And if left untreated, it gets worse over time.

The antidote for this one requires prescription drugs, but self-care is important too. Everyone is different, so it's necessary to pinpoint what causes flare-ups—the sun, certain foods—and minimize exposure to those things. Other prevention strategies include wearing sunscreen, avoiding rubbing or touching the face too much, and not using products with alcohol on the skin.

Athlete's foot

Any guy who works out is at risk for athlete's foot—it multiplies in public areas such as communal showers, locker rooms, and fitness centers. The infection starts in the spaces between your toes, but it can spread to your toenails and the sides of your feet.

The good news is this fungal infection responds well to over-the-counter treatments such as Lotrimin-AF and Lamisil-AT. A tube of Lamisil is more expensive than most anti-fungal creams and powders, but it works faster. Wash and dry your feet twice a day to avoid repeat infection. And if the weather permits, let your feet breath by wearing sandals—no socks.

More severe cases of athlete's foot may require prescription medication. Call your doctor if home remedies aren't helping after a week.

Wrinkles

Wrinkles may conjure the image of your sweet, elderly grandmother, but the fact is, they happen to everyone. It's part of getting older—skin gets thinner, drier, and less elastic.

RELATED: Try these four strategies to massage the wrinkles out of your face in just minutes a day.

Since you can't turn back the hands of time, protect your skin from further damage. Number one priority: ban cigarettes. Even if you've smoked for years, quitting now will prevent future wrinkles. Protect your skin from the sun by wearing hats and sunscreen, even in winter. And rub on a moisturizer every night before bed. Dry skin turns plump skin cells into shriveled ones, creating lines and wrinkles.

"Once a wrinkle is there, it's like a crease in a piece of paper—it's not ever going to completely go away," Dr. Carezani-Gavin said. "It's extremely important for men in their 20s and 30s to take good care of their skin now to prevent the onset of wrinkles."

Groin rash

An itchy, red, rash in your groin area is unsettling; but jock itch is much more bothersome and uncomfortable than it is a serious issue. The same fungus that causes athlete's foot leads to this problem in guys who sweat a lot.

Reduce your risk of jock itch by taking the following steps: bathe daily, stay dry in your groin area, change underwear often, avoid thick clothing in warm weather, make sure anything you wear down there (athletic supporter, sports uniforms) fits correctly, and don't share your stuff.

If it's too late for prevention, doctors suggest using an over-the-counter antifungal ointment (Lamisil AT), lotion, powder, or spray. Most infections respond well to topical means.

Staph infections

Right now there' s likely some staphylococcus aureus bacteria—staph—on your skin, in your nose, or in your throat. Most of the time, the bacteria are harmless or cause mild skin infections, but a staph infection can turn deadly if it gets into your body.

What can you do now? Make a habit of washing your hands, keep any wounds covered with bandages, and never hesitate to get tested.

Also: Keep an eye on minor skin problems—pimples, bug bites, cuts, and scrapes—and call you doctor if they become infected. Drugs that treat ordinary staph infections aren't effective against MRSA, (they could make it worse) so always ask if there's a chance your infection is MRSA.

Warts

Common warts are a harmless growth of cells caused by direct contact with the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is passed from person to person, but you can get it by touching a towel or other object used by someone who has it.

Warts eventually disappear, but they're gross looking and embarrassing, so you likely don't want to wait. And unless you have an impaired immune system or diabetes, there's a simple home-remedy: salicylic acid.

Go to any drugstore and look for a solution or patch containing 17 percent salicylic acid. It requires daily use for a few weeks, but it'll peel off the infected skin. For best results, soak your wart in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes before applying.

Click here to learn about all 11 Common Skin Problems and Solutions.