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Evidence-Based Beauty

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Evidence-Based Beauty
This started out as a post about not lighting a match and burning up your dollar bills on expensive beauty products, but that left out the guys (except for any tranny readers I might have), so that's at the bottom. First, there's the beauty of going by evidence instead of by hand-me-down nonthink. Tara Parker-Pope writes in The New York Times that even doctors believe in unproven crap:

Turkey makes you drowsy. Dim light ruins your eyes. Drink at last eight glasses of water a day. These are some of the medical myths that even doctors believe, reports the British Medical Journal.

Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine made a list of common medical beliefs espoused by physicians and the general public. They included statements they had heard endorsed by doctors on multiple occasions. The result is a seven-item list of medical and health myths that are widely repeated by doctors and in the media, all of which either aren’t true or lack scientific evidence to support them.

The study authors, Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman and Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, said that while doctors realize good medicine requires them to constantly learn new things, they often forget to reexamine their existing medical beliefs. “These medical myths are a lighthearted reminder that we can be wrong and need to question what other falsehoods we unwittingly propagate as we practice medicine,'’ wrote Dr. Vreeman and Dr. Carroll.

The seven myths are:

1. People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

2. We use only 10 percent of our brains.

3. Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death.

4. Shaving hair causes it to grow back faster, darker or coarser.

5. Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight.

6. Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy.

7. Cellphones create considerable electromagnetic interference in hospitals.

Details on each at the link. The best comment on the piece (at the NYT site) is the first one:

The real myth is that people use AS MUCH AS ten percent of their brains. Most people seem to use almost none. — Posted by ACW

You're especially in need of a brain when it comes to interactions with your doctor. While I am certainly not for going by the advice of gray-skinned people at the health food store, too many people operate on the assumption that the people in the white coats have the answers.

Recently, my doctor e-mailed me back (I have Kaiser, so I can e-mail her at any time and get a response back, usually within an hour) about a problem I'd been having, and asked whether I'd have a problem trying "western medicine" for it. I mean, I know doctors these days must deal with all these people who think anything by "Big Pharma" is evil, but please...me?

I told her I don't have a problem with "western medicine" (in fact, I'm pretty damn grateful for it), but I want my care to be directed by evidence-based medicine; meaning, we don't first give me a drug and see if it works, as she suggested, to figure out what's wrong with me. We test me to see if I have a problem, and then give me a drug. Well, I had tests, and they didn't show anything, but my symptoms persisted. I started to get upset and worry that there was something seriously wrong with me.

Luckily, because I'm articulate, pushy, and know how to do research and rough controlled experiments (eliminating stuff from my diet, etc.), I got her to send me to a specialist, who, to my relief, said my symptoms are those of "nothing serious," and then told me we'd do a super-invasive test to figure out what was wrong.

Uh...there's a less-invasive test, right, Doc? Yep. Well, how about we do the less-invasive test first, and then if it doesn't tell us I have what you think I have, we go on to the more invasive test?! And that's what we're doing. Arrrrgh!

And along the way, it seems I may get to Kaiser to change their procedure of handing out self-administered home tests, which they give out with no directions or confusing directions, which causes issues of what's called "access to care." If tests are confusing, people don't take the tests, they put off taking them, or they take them incorrectly.

I told the specialist, who seemed to get that I wasn't the average sheep of a patient who comes to see her, that they need to change their testing protocol at Kaiser. When I detailed how hard the tests were for me in the recent past, and how I held off doing them because of it, and probably did them wrong when I did take them -- and I'm obviously smart, articulate, speak English reasonably, and have beyond a sixth grade education -- she was horrified.

She asked me to report back to her on whether my test this time was equally hard to figure out. It was. Per her request, I'm going to write up what happened and suggestions of how it could be better after I finish this blog item. And it doesn't take a whole lot -- just clear written directions handed out with every test, perhaps coupled with verbal directions from people who know what they're talking about (meaning, the people at the patient interaction windows in the lab may have to be trained and/or moved around).

And nothing serious is wrong with me in case you're wondering. The doc thought I have GERD -- Gastro-Intestinal Reflux Disease. Except that it came on all at once -- the day I ate some cheese that made me violently ill -- and I have almost none of the symptoms of GERD: the pain, the backwash, etc. None of that. Should know in a few days if it's what I thought it was all along, and thought the first doctor had tested me for. Nope. She didn't!

The best was when she suggested I take steps to minimize the GERD; for example, change my diet and lose weight, cut back on drinking and smoking, and exercise. (I'm slim and I don't know how I could eat any healthier than I already do; when I order a glass of wine at dinner, Gregg often ends up finishing it; and I do 20 maniacal minutes on an exercise bike with moving arms every day.)

You know, you've got to monitor these people Every. Step. Of. The. Way.

On to a lack of evidence with less-serious side-effects, Natasha Singer writes in The New York Times that you should "rethink" beauty products that cost more than $30:

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates cosmetics, does not require beauty manufacturers to publish rigorous studies on the efficacy of their products. So consumers do not have a proven, objective method by which to determine whether more-expensive beauty products work better — or whether they simply look fancier and emit more exotic perfume — than less-expensive items containing similar ingredients.

(Manufacturers of prescription products must submit clinical evidence of their efficacy before receiving approval from the F.D.A.)

“Your chances of achieving good skin are not directly proportional to the amount of money you spend,” Dr. Sundaram said. “All too often, what you are paying for is the packaging, the advertising and the celebrity endorsements.”

My skincare regime: An economy-size pumper of Cetaphil face wash from Costco, a tube for the shower of St. Ives facial scrub (which they recently screwed up with some sickening fragrance "improvement"), and Anthelios #50+ sunblock cream "pour la visage" (for the face). Oh yeah, and an umbrella, not for rain, but for when I'll be out in the sun for any length of time. And I take vitamin D to make up for the vitamin D I'm not getting from sun exposure.

Here's the face of a woman a year younger than I am who smoked. (And who probably spent a good deal of time in the sun.) Whether or not her doctor has diagnosed her with GERD, I really couldn't say.