10 Over The Counter Tricks/Hacks from a Board-Certified Dermatologist

Ladies, these are some of my favorite over the counter recommendations to give to my patients and family members. Some of these are pearls I have stumbled on over the years myself, and others that I have learned from colleagues. Some are research/scientific based, and others are “accidental” discoveries. Either way, I hope they help you as much as they help me!

Wishing all of you and your families a happy holiday season!!

1. Dilute Vinegar Soaks
a. White vinegar is a super easy to find and cheap OTC trick for helping to reduce inflammation. If you are suffering from a rash that is weeping, dilute vinegar will help to dry it out, as well as add the bonus of fighting infection. It is an effective and safe remedy for minor skin infections and can aid in wound healing. Always dilute the vinegar!
b. My recipe:
i. Dilute Vinegar Compress: in a clean bowl, mix together 1-2 tablespoons of plain white vinegar + 1 cup of water; using a clean gauze or cloth, dip in the dilute vinegar mixture and squeeze out excess liquid; apply soaked gauze/cloth to affected area on skin for 10 minutes; repeat 1-4 times daily until rash/infection have resolved
ii. This does not REPLACE treatment for an active skin infection/inflammation, nor is it suitable as MONOtherapy, but rather works beautifully as an adjunctive therapy!

2. Niacinamide/nicotinamide
a. Not to be confused with NIACIN (do not buy niacin!), niacinamide is an OTC supplement in the Vitamin B family
b. For those who suffer from rosacea or acne (active inflammatory papules), nicotinamide at a dose of 500mg twice daily is safe and easy to tolerate and can really help reduce redness and inflammation in the skin
c. I personally like the Rugby or Nature’s Way brand
d. Niacinamide has also been proven to be chemo-preventive in patients that have a history of numerous non-melanoma skin cancers

3. Treatment of nail fungus
a. Treatment of nail fungus is very challenging, often requiring oral medications that have side effects on the liver and blood counts
b. Please remember multiple disease states can cause nail changes that appear to be fungal in nature, so if not responding or improving, I always recommend being evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist.
c. While vinegar and Listerine are not an overnight cure, they can dramatically improve toenail fungus for those who are patient and persistent with the treatment!
d. Listerine contains THYMOL, a natural ingredient derived from the oil of the common herb, thyme. This is known to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-itch properties. Because Listerine contains thymol, it makes for an easily accessible and cost-sensitive alternative.
e. My personal recommendation is as follows:
i. Soak affected nails in a mixture of equal parts (1:1) water and white vinegar for 5 minutes.
ii. –Use a medicine dropper to apply Listerine® on and underneath the affected nails daily OR soak affected nails with Listerine® for 5-10 minutes daily
iii. I recommend Listerine “Naturals” because it is clear in color and will not stain hair or nails. This can be purchased at any drug store or pharmacy.

4. Undereye circles
a. Buy Lipton caffeinateLayovertea bags
b. Soak in hot/boiling water for 3-5 minutes
c. Remove tea bags and let them cool
d. Lay over your eyes for 5 minutes NIGHTLY
e. This is NOT a one night wonder, but rather a tried and true regimen that must be repeated nightly to see effects. Though it won’t work the same as undereye filler or laser if vascular changes are contributing to pigmentation, it is a safe and easy way to lighten undereye circles and help reduce “bags” under eyes. The caffeine is vaso-constrictive and the green tea is anti-inflammatory…try it, I promise you will see some results!

5. Redness to complexion
a. One of the “new kids on the block” in the treatment of rosacea or the “reddish” nature of complexion is Rhofade, which can be quite cost prohibitive
b. OTC substitution: purchase a full bottle of Afrin nasal spray and mix in half a bottle of Cerave PM moisturizer
c. The Cerave PM has topical niacinamide in it, which we have already learned is a great anti-inflammatory and also soothing molecule to the skin
d. The Afrin is a vasoconstrictive agent and helps reduce the redness!

6. Deodorant to stop bleeding
a. Yup, you read that correctly!
b. Many OTC deodorants/anti-perspirants have aluminum chloride in them, which we often use in the dermatology setting as a hemostatic agent to stop bleeding after a biopsy (though usually in higher concentrations)
c. So for minor cuts (like after shaving) or minor injuries that are bleeding, apply a soft stick/deodorant that contains aluminum chloride to the bleeding area and watch the bleeding stop!
d. This will not work for profuse bleeding, but is a cheap, easy, safe trick to use in a pinch for those minor nuisance bleeding cuts that you want to stop quickly.

7. Dry hands with fissures in the winter – seal ‘em with superglue!
a. Yup, a favorite trick in the dermatologist toolbelt is to recommend superglue to seal deep painful fissures on the fingertips
b. I recommend the superglue with the extra fine tip—fill in the crack with a tiny amount of super glue and let dry completely
c. As your skin heals and repairs the fissure, it will push the superglue out and voila, fissure is gone!

8. Smelly shoes, sports equipment, etc?
a. Put items in a Ziploc bag and into the freezer when not in use
b. Kills the bacteria and the odor!

9. Dry winter feet
a. Sheila Krishna already touched on this in her recent blog post, and I echo her sentiments.
b. I love the Baby Foot Peel as well
c. Another tip I give all my patients is: mix equal parts AMLACTIN (has ammonium lactate in it to help shed dead skin) with VASELINE and apply to clean feet in the evening. Try to keep cotton socks on for at least 2-4 hours before sleeping or leave on overnight. This is a great way to MAINTAIN baby smooth feet!

10. Dry skin on the face
a. If your dry skin is due to seborrheic dermatitis (which can cause a dandruff like scaling with/without inflammation on the face on the forehead, eyebrows, nasal creases, upper lip, etc), leave Head and Shoulders CONDITIONER (not shampoo) on your face for 3-5 minutes in the shower before washing off.
b. Head and Shoulders conditioner contains zinc pyrithione in a moisturizing formulation, and can really help those pesky dry skin patches in the winter time!