Ask A Dermatologist

Dr. Karen, FRCPC is a leading Canadian, dermatologist. She is Board certified in Canada as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Canada and in the United States as Diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology. Ask Dr. Karen a question

Hi Dr. Karen:
A while ago, I got a really harsh sunburn, and it still hasn’t gone away. There are still tiny bumps throughout my nose, cheeks, and forehead. I’ve tried aloe and I always put on sunscreen so it doesn’t get worse, but it won’t go away! What can I do to help treat it for it to get better?

Sincerely, Anonymous

Dear Anonymous
Following a bad sunburn, the skin becomes inflamed. This can create swelling in the skin which leads to whiteheads or tiny red bumps: I call this “sunburn acne”. If it has persisted for over one month, you may need a topical acne product to clear it up. Over the counter you can purchase salicylic acid in 1-2% concentration. If this doesn’t help, you may need to see your primary care physician for referral to a dermatologist.

The KEY message: SUNPROTECTION! Seek shade; wear a hat, sunglasses, appropriate clothing; and of course SPF 30 or greater sunscreen.

Dr. Karen


Dear Dr. Karen:
I have so many blackheads on my nose and have tried different things to get rid of them, but nothing seems to work. It’s like they don’t want to come out! I’ve tried clay masks, charcoal masks, exfoliating scrubs, lemon juice and sea salt, products that say pore cleansing. Nothing is working! I even wash my face every morning and night. How do I get rid of them?

Sincerely, Oi Vey, Mon nez

Dear Oi Vey, Mon nez
Blackheads can be tough to eliminate: especially on the nose where the pores are larger. I suggest you try an acne product with “salicylic acid” in 1-2% concentration. This is a beta-hydroxy acid, which loves sebum (oil). There are many available without prescription at your drug store. Salicylic acid should gradually loosen the blackheads; continued use may decrease formation of new blackheads.

If this approach doesn’t work after 8 weeks use, I would suggest you see your family doctor for prescription acne medication for blackheads.

Dr. Karen


Dear Dr. Karen:
My scalp is getting really scaly. Way beyond dandruff. I don’t want to brush my hair at school because it is flaking like crazy. Is there a shampoo for this?

Sincerely, Katie

Dear Katie
You may have an inflammatory condition of the scalp, such as seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis [suh-rahy-uh-sis]. If the scalp is RED as well as scaling, I would suggest you consult your family doctor as a first step.

Dr. Karen


Dear Dr. Karen:
I have black color on my nose and now-days seen thick.I feel it is pigmentation.I consulted a cosmotologist and she suggested me peel or laser treatment.I am totally not aware of what to do. Can you please suggest me how to get rid of my problem

Sincerely, tulasi

Dear Tulasi
There are many causes of excess pigmentation. Your treatment options would depend on a correct diagnosis, and your skin type. Laser treatment and chemical peels may resolve some types of pigmentation, but are not typically suitable for someone with dark skin color.

I would suggest you see your family physician as a first step and you may need a referral to see a dermatologist.

Dr. Karen


Dear Dr. Karen:
What is the best cleanser to put on your face as a tween?

Sincerely, GlitterCritters360

Hi GlitterCritters360
The type of cleanser you use depends on your skin type. If you have oily skin, and possible early signs of acne, a cleanser with AHA (alpha hydroxy acid), or BHA (salicylic acid), or benzoyl peroxide is suggested. If you have normal skin, then a gentle soap and water routine (eg. Dove) is fine. If you have dry skin (usually seen in people with eczema, or psoriasis), then you may prefer a detergent free cleanser such as Cetaphil.

Wash your face gently morning and night; also after sports that make you sweat/greasy. And don’t go to bed with makeup on!

Dr. Karen