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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Illegal Silicone Buttock Injections Can Be Deadly

The 30-year-old woman arrived at the Henry Ford Hospital emergency room in Detroit out of breath and coughing blood.

It didn’t take long for doctors to figure out why: The woman admitted to having been at a party at a hotel five days prior at which she — and others — received injections of liquid silicone to “enhance” the buttocks and various body parts.

The silicone was not the medical silicone that is sometimes used for implants, but the type easily procured at hardware stores like Home Depot. The fat solvent used to make the silicone had quickly traveled to her lungs and gotten stuck in the airways, resulting in “silicone embolism syndrome,” or clots, in this case, in the smaller vessels in her lungs.

The syndrome, admittedly rare, was first seen in transsexual men wanting to augment their breasts in the 1970s.

“There are two types of side effects [that can result from silicone injections],” said Dr. Angel Coz, the pulmonary and critical care specialist who treated the woman. “Lungs is one of them. The other goes to the brain. The mortality in lungs is close to 20 percent but in the brain it’s close to 100 percent.”

This woman, who was attempting to augment her buttocks, was one of the lucky ones. She survived after receiving steroids, said Coz, who is slated to present information on the case Monday at the American College of Chest Physicians’ annual meeting in Honolulu.

Others have died.

“We’ve been hearing about this,” said Dr. Malcolm Z. Roth, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “There are ‘pumping parties,’ involving high-volume injections to fill up the face, lips, cheekbones, chin or breast. Often it’s buttock enhancement and often it’s not sterile.”

And these illicit procedures may be on the rise, thanks to a slow economy and pocketbooks that aren’t full enough to afford licensed plastic surgeons, said Roth, who is also chief of plastic surgery at the Albany Medical Center in New York.

“It’s really a white-coat deception,” Roth said. “Sometimes the person doing the injections claims to be a physician from another country and in some cases the patient knows very well it’s not a physician but, feeling they can’t afford to go to a legitimate board-certified plastic surgeon, they find a short cut.”

Two other, similar cases of patients developing complications after silicone injections are also being presented at the meeting this week.

One involved a 22-year-old woman who showed up at the UCLA Medical Center emergency room, also with shortness of breath. This quickly progressed to right ventricular failure of the heart and the patient died despite the physicians’ best efforts.

Most likely, the silicone and solvent had damaged the lungs, leading to collapse of the heart.

This patient had had injections in her buttocks from “a doctor in Mexico” earlier that day, a friend told doctors.

The researchers presenting the case said this is the first documented case of right ventricular failure from silicone injections.

The third case was a 23-year-old woman with the familiar symptoms, shortness of breath and cough, who had had several silicone injections in her buttocks.

She was diagnosed with silicone embolism syndrome but, after receiving oxygen and steroids and spending five days in the hospital, recovered and went home.

According to Roth, patients should “run away from these procedures.”

“You don’t do medical procedures in a hotel room or garage. This procedure is illegal,” he said. “Patients need to do their homework and check the credentials of the professional they’re considering for their cosmetic procedure.”

“This is something that is not done by doctors,” added Coz. “It’s completely out of the realm of what any physician would do.”

Eyebrow Hair Removal Options

 When it comes to cleaning up your eyebrows, you have a lot of options to choose from. You can wax them, tweeze them, and even have them lasered or “threaded.”

“There is an enormous range of ways to groom your eyebrows,” says Helga Surratt, president of About Faces Day Spa & Salon, in Baltimore, MD. “There are pros and cons to each method, and of course, a wide range in pricing as well.”

Hair Removal: Tweezing at Home

This do-it-yourself option allows you to remove unwanted hair using tweezers in the privacy of your own home.


  • This is the least expensive method of shaping your eyebrows.
  • There are no appointments to keep and no one to pay.
  • You have complete control over the shape of your eyebrows.


  • You may over-tweeze your eyebrows or create a shape that doesn’t suite your face.
  • Results last only one to two weeks.
  • It can hurt.

Price: About $30 per year. A good pair of tweezers will cost about $20 and you may want to keep some eyebrow powder on hand, in case you need to fill in any spaces as a result of over-tweezing

Hair Removal: Depilatories

Depilatories are chemical-based creams designed to remove unwanted hair.


  • You can do use them at home, at your convenience.
  • Depilatories can be bought at the local drugstore.
  • They are inexpensive.
  • They remove hair in 5 to 10 minutes.


  • Depilatories are more suitable for removing hair from larger areas of the body and not recommended for use on eyebrows.
  • They have chemicals that can burn your skin should you leave it on too long or apply it to a sensitive area like the eyes.
  • They can have a strong smell.

Price: Around $10 per container.

Hair Removal: Waxing

With waxing, hot wax is used to remove unwanted hair at the follicle. The wax is put on the hair and covered with a cloth, and then quickly removed from the area by pulling up the cloth and the unwanted hair with it.


  • Results can last four to six weeks.
  • You can do it in the privacy of your home at your convenience.
  • It can be done professionally.


  • Waxing can hurt.
  • There has to be at least ¼ of an inch of hair for the wax to grab hold. For eyebrows, this means you may look a little “hairy” between appointments.
  • It is not easy to wax eyebrows yourself without removing too much hair.
  • There is a risk of infection if you go to a salon that is unsanitary.
  • You could be burned, whether you are waxing your brows yourself or having it done at a salon.
  • If you are using tretinoin products (such as Retin-A), waxing is not recommended because the skin is fragile and may tear.

Price: A good at-home waxing kit costs around $40 and can last for four to six treatments. A salon, depending on where you live, may charge around $20 per visit, plus tip.

Hair Removal: Eyebrow Threading

Threading involves lassoing individual unwanted hairs with a thread and pulling them out from the follicle quickly.


  • Results can last four to six weeks.
  • If you are dealing with an experienced salon, both eyes can be done in minutes. There are no chemicals involved and threading is a very safe and sanitary process.
  • You need only have 1/16 of an inch of hair in order to have threading done, so you can do it more frequently.


  • If your technician is inexperienced, the hair can be broken off close to the skin and reappear quickly.
  • It may be hard to find a salon with technicians experienced in eyebrow threading.
  • It is expensive compared to other hair removal options.

Price: Around $40 to $50, plus tip.

Hair Removal: Laser

A laser is used to destroy hair follicles with heat, allowing for permanent reduction of unwanted hair.


  • Works well on people with fair skin and dark hair.
  • Adverse effects are minimal and short-lasting.


  • May cause a stinging sensation during hair removal.
  • Can take six treatments before permanent reduction of hair is noticeable.
  • Adverse effects can include blistering, discoloration of the skin following treatment, swelling, redness, and scarring at the site.
  • Some hair can grow back and you could require further treatments.
  • People with medium to dark skin may require additional treatments because the pigment of their skin absorbs the laser light.
  • Many salons may tout that lasers offer permanent hair removal. However, the FDA has not yet approved a device for permanent hair removal, only permanent reduction of hair.

Price: Around $60 per eye, depending on where you live. That is $120 per each of the four to six sessions needed to see a reduction in hair growth. Laser hair removal can add up to a total investment of $600 to $700.

How you choose to groom your eyebrows is a personal choice and depends on your financial situation — and how comfortable you are doing it yourself versus letting a professional handle it. Nevertheless, there are many options to choose from.

Could Your Lipstick Give You Lead Poisoning?

 Beauty boost or health hazard? That’s the question women everywhere are asking in the wake of a new study from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that advocates for healthier makeup and hygiene products, hundreds of popular lipsticks currently on the market have tested positive for lead, which can be toxic even in small amounts.

The Campaign reports that the FDA analyzed 400 different lipsticks and found low levels of lead in almost all of them. Maybelline’s “Color Sensational” Pink Petal was the worst offender, with 7.19 ppm (parts per million) — 275 times the amount found in the least-contaminated product, Wet & Wild’s Mega Mixers Lip Balm — but L’Oreal, CoverGirl, and Nars had products in the top five, too. The average lead content across all 400 brands (which include other drugstore lines, as well as high-end companies such as Dior, M.A.C., Chanel, and Lancome) was 1.11 ppm.

To put these numbers in context, the Environmental Protection Agency’s allowable maximum contaminant level (MCL) is 15 ppm in drinking water; 100 ppm in children’s toys. (There is currently no such regulation for makeup by either the EPA or the FDA.)

Consumer advocacy organizations like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have stricter standards, however. They’d like to see all MCLs set at zero, or as close to it as possible.

“There is no safe level of lead exposure,” Campaign co-founder Stacy Malkan told, citing a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the dangers of lead, which include blood and brain disorders in children. “It builds up in the body over time. A little bit every day is adding up and staying with you.”

Indeed, rumor has it that women swallow somewhere between three and nine pounds of lipstick over the course of their lifetime. Given that the average tube amounts to a mere three grams, however, you would have to ingest more than 150 entire sticks to swallow just one pound. So even if you slather on fresh color every morning — which as many as 81 percent of women do, according to a poll from the market research group Mintel — are you really in danger of consuming enough lipstick (and therefore lead) to put you at risk for poisoning?

The FDA says no — for now, at least. “[The study] did not find high levels of lead in lipstick,” the organization said in a statement to Reuters. “We developed and tested a method for measuring…and did not find levels that would raise health concerns.”

“The FDA’s independent study, which will be published in the May/June 2012 issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Science, confirms that lipsticks pose no safety concerns for the millions of women who use them daily,” L’Oreal representatives added. “The lead levels detected by the FDA in the study are also within the limits recommended by global public health authorities for cosmetics, including lipstick.”

Malkan, for her part, claims those “limits” are part of the problem. “When these companies are asked about these chemicals, they argue, ‘it’s legal, so it’s okay,’” she said. “That’s why we’re calling for the FDA to set a standard and give guidance to these companies for the best manufacturing practices.”

Tips to Find the Right Skin Moisturizer

 Feel overwhelmed when you want to buy skin moisturizer for your dry skin? That’s no surprise, as there are dozens to choose from at the drugstore and hundreds more at high-end cosmetics and department stores — creams, lotions, ointments, some with sunscreen, others with an exfoliant. Choices range from the basic $1.50 jar of petroleum jelly to a $500 five-ounce tub of designer skin moisturizer. And all the options in between can make your head spin.

While choosing the right skin moisturizer may seem confusing, it’s actually very simple if you follow a few guidelines, says dermatologist Monica Halem, MD, of ColumbiaDoctors Eastside in New York City. Dr. Halem’s first rule of thumb? Don’t spend too much money.

How a Skin Moisturizer Works

Cleansers and moisturizers are the most important skin products, particularly for softening dry skin. A skin moisturizer works by sealing moisture into the outer layer of the skin and by pulling moisture from the inner layers of skin to the outer layer.

Key ingredients that seal in moisture are petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, and dimethicone. Glycerin, propylene glycol, proteins, urea, and vitamins help attract water into the outer layer of the skin.

Some skin moisturizers also contain an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which exfoliates dead skin, says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation. AHAs are a good choice if you have very dry skin.

Finding the Skin Moisturizer For You

It may take some trial and error, Halem says, so be patient. Follow these guidelines as you shop and, if you’re not getting the results you want, try a new one the next time:

  • Note the first five ingredients. Look for common active ingredients, such as lanolin, glycerin, or petrolatum, Dr. Fusco says. Glycerin is less likely than lanolin to cause an allergic reaction, she says. She also recommends picking a moisturizer that’s made by a reputable company.
  • Go for added sunscreen. Protecting your skin from harmful sun damage is one of the best things you can do to keep your skin looking young, so buy a moisturizer with a sun protection factor of at least 30. You’ll have to do some searching, but more companies are offering face and body moisturizers with sunscreen, Halem says.
  • Make it skin-type appropriate. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive, so it’s a good idea to use a different moisturizer on your face than you do on your body, Fusco says and recommends buying one that’s labeled “non-comedogenic” because it won’t clog your pores. Of course, choose one that’s right for your skin type. If you know you have sensitive skin, it’s always a good idea to look for a moisturizer labeled hypoallergenic. If you have oily skin, go with a light, oil-free moisturizer. If you have dry skin, get something richer. And if you have combination skin, go with a lighter moisturizer for your whole face and dot drier areas with a heavier cream, Fusco says. Keep in mind that you may need a lighter lotion in the summer, and a cream or ointment in the winter.
  • Consider using a moisturizer with retinol before bed. Retinol is vitamin A for your skin, Halem says. It works by increasing the speed at which your skin cells turn over. You can find it over the counter or by prescription, but use it carefully as it may cause a skin irritation, red skin, or dry skin.

Relief by Prescription

If your skin is very dry, consider a prescription moisturizer. Prescription moisturizers contain the AHA lactic acid, which softens the top layer of your skin and can do a better job if over-the-counter moisturizers aren’t working for you, Fusco says. AHAs such as lactic acid and glycolic acid can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Tell your doctor if you experience burning, irritation, red skin, itching, or a rash.

Another prescription option is a barrier cream, which contains humectants that hold on to moisture longer, Fusco says. Barrier creams penetrate a little deeper than standard moisturizers, she adds.

When to Moisturize

Once you find the right product, moisturize every day and you’ll go a long way toward preventing dry skin and even camouflaging wrinkles. While a skin moisturizer can’t get rid of wrinkles — because wrinkles begin much deeper in the skin due to collagen loss — it can plump up the skin and minimize their appearance, Halem says.

Whichever moisturizer you choose, it will work better if you apply it to damp skin. Think about a sponge that’s dried out, Fusco says. If you put moisturizer on it, it won’t go anywhere. But if you soak the sponge in water and coat it with moisturizer, the sponge will absorb it. Your skin works the same way, happily lapping it up.