• Should You Tan to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency?

    A slew of recent books and studies have touted the benefits of vitamin D and the perils of not getting enough vitamin D; some even encourage lying in the sun and taking vitamin supplements in order to prevent depression. But dermatologists say more time soaking up the rays isn't necessary—most Americans get all the vitamin D they need just by going outside in the course of their daily duties, and beyond that, it's easy to get adequate levels of the vitamin through nutrients in food. "Sunlight helps us produce vitamin D, but the amount of sunlight you need is so low that you could walk outside for probably five minutes and have enough," says Craig Austin, a New York-based dermatologist and founder of AB Skincare.Vitamin D is important because it helps with calcium absorption; it's found in foods ranging from milk and cheese to liver, beef, fish and eggs. Many cereals are now fortified with vitamin D, as well; most people who follow normal diets probably don't need to take vitamin D...
  • Should Swimmers Shake Water Out of Their Ears?

    If water gets caught in your ear after a swim, jumping up and down will help get it out, but only if you've tilted your head and pulled on the ear so that the canal is at an angle for water to run out, says Ted Epperly, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Hopping up and down only increases the gravitational force by which that will come out," Epperly says. Other solutions include Q-tips and using a hairdryer on a low setting.But if you have pain, prolonged blockage or long-term congestion, get it checked out: Leaving water trapped in the ear canal can be dangerous. It makes the skin inside become soggy, and a cut can allow bacteria from contaminated water to infect the outer ear and ear canal, resulting in acute otitis externa, or swimmer's ear. That causes symptoms ranging from severe pain, itchiness, swelling and fullness in and around the ear, to pus and decreased hearing. It can be prevented by leaving foreign objects out of your ear, not swimming in...
  • Do Rewards and Contests Help Smokers Quit?

    Some workplaces offer employees $10 for every month they're able to kick their smoking habits; others give people lottery tickets every day they don't take a drag. But rewards and contests designed to help smokers quit aren't effective in the long term, according to a review by the Cochrane Collection, which analyzes medical research. None of the 17 studies analyzed was able to see higher long-term cessation rates from rewarded would-be quitters than from a control group. Quitters were able to abstain from smoking at a higher rate for a short period after participating in some of the contests. But researchers concluded that any positive effects inspired by the contests faded away shortly after the incentives ended.
  • Fact or Fiction: Does a 'Base Tan' Protect You From Sunburn?

    Answer: FictionThough many believe it's best to be slightly tanned before going on vacation, doing so will hardly save your skin, according to Sarah Stein, a professor of dermatology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "Really, we want to protect ourselves from [both] tanning and burning," she says. Although having a base tan might help prevent sunburns, the tan itself already indicates sun damage. "When we see someone who is chronically tanned, that's a marker for someone who is getting a lot of sun exposure, and that's risky for the development of future skin cancers." Sunburns, of course, signal a more intense level of damage. But don't think that maintaining a constant level of bronze is any better.
  • Are Mineral Water Facial Sprays Worth the Money?

    Evian dreamed up a creative way to sell even more of its bottled mineral water: by repackaging and marketing it as a revitalizing spray for your face. A 5 oz. bottle of the mineral water mist sells for $10 on sephora.com, which touts the product as a way to rehydrate and invigorate tired skin. Other brands say their water sprays will moisturize skin and combat fatigue. But the pricey bottles probably aren't that much better for your skin than putting regular tap water in a spray bottle, or just washing your face, says New York-based dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Levine. Water sprays are useful mostly to refresh skin after a long, dry plane ride, or to reset makeup at work. But in most cities the tap water is clean enough to use as a substitute, Levine says. And water is only useful as a temporary hydrator: "When water evaporates, it could also take things [like natural protective oils] away from the skin at the same time." Levine says she can think of only one clear benefit of using...
  • Six Wacky Snoring Fixes

    People will try anything to stop that nightly racket. Here are some of the most outlandish new suggestions for an age-old problem.
  • Does Aromatherapy Work?

    Aromatherapy adherents will tell you that basil can clear headaches and lemon can be an antidepressant. The idea that scents can be used medicinally has become so widely accepted that so-called "essential" oils, or highly concentrated plant scents, have found their way into a slew of lotions, candles, sprays and massage products promising to help you sleep, wake you up or relieve your stress. But do they work?While it's true that a pleasant smell can put you in a good mood, new research casts doubt on some of the reputed healing powers of aromatherapy. Researchers at Ohio State University found that lemon and lavender oil had no physiological effect on study subjects, despite lemon's reputation as a stimulant and lavender's as a sleep aid. They taped cotton balls that had been dipped in lemon oil, lavender oil or water to subjects' noses and conducted a variety of tests ranging from pain response (dunking feet in cold water) to mood studies (completing psychological tests). Although...