Have you ever heard people say that by consuming coconut water or milk during pregnancy, your baby will have a fairer skin? Or perhaps, have you ever heard people say if you had some burns on your wounds, you should just put some butter or toothpaste?
Today, we are going to have a dermatologist to help us to bust all the myths. For this episode, we have Dr Teeba Raja, a dermatologist from Columbia Asia Hospital Setapak to help us to explain and also to bust the typical myths that our community always talks about.
Dr Teeba Raja: This kind of myth is actually very common, Chinese believes in it, Indians believe in it, Malays believe in it. So, one has to understand what causes the darkening of the skin.
This darkening of the skin happens especially in a dark-skinned person and there are some internal and external factors that influence this. But, definitely consumption of soy sauce is not one of them.
What causes the colour of the scars are; the first thing is the person inherited skin colour itself and the severity of the injury and the depth of the injury, and the stability of pigment cells.
Pigment cells produce melanin, which gives colour to our skin or even the scar. When this is active and then you will have more pigment and the scar is darker.
And one important thing is the prevention of sun exposure. One thing that someone has to do is prevent yourself from sun exposure when you have wound healing and this would help to reduce the risks of dark scars.
Please enjoy your food with your soy sauce. It is not going to have any effect on your scar.
Dr Teeba Raja: This is not true. I also get this kind of question on a daily basis because we deal with patients with eczema, patients with scars or even we do some sort of post minor surgery and they ask you:
“Doctor, can I eat eggs, chicken, seafood?”
“Will it cause itchiness?”
“Will it slow down the wound healing process?”
Actually, it is not. This is just a myth. Eating eggs or chicken does not cause itchiness or slow down the healing process.
Unless someone is allergic to egg or chicken, and when they eat they do get reactions like weals, itchy weals.
Yes, in those kinds of patients, it is true. Otherwise, it is not.
And, in fact, eggs have a good source of protein for wound healing and your egg yolk has vitamins such as Vitamin A and Vitamin D and also Zinc that promotes wound healing.
So, please eat a healthy diet that contains a high source of protein when you have a wound.
Dr Teeba Raja: So many it can cure. You almost don’t need a dermatologist or each of us have to just carry an essential oil.
This is not true!
Essential oil are oils, typically the fragrant ones that have been extracted from roots, stems, flowers and seeds.
There is no evidence-backed research showing that any illnesses, let me repeat this, any illnesses that can be cured with the use of essential oils.
In fact, in contrast to this, in some patients, essential oils can cause contact allergies because it contains allergens and those who are sensitive to this, they can develop contact allergies.
So, I wouldn’t recommend any essential oils usage for any injuries; especially when there is a skin injury, there is a barrier defect there.
I will advise patients to keep the wound clean, apply Vaseline or moisturiser. If your doctor prescribes antibiotic topicals, use that.
“Please do not use essential oils or any other fragrant oils on injured skin.”
Dr Teeba Raja: This is not true, this is just a myth. Sunscreens are safe for everyone and it is also safe for children. Sun exposure can be harmful, especially a long term exposure to the sun can increase the risk of developing skin cancer and causes premature skin ageing.
Like causing wrinkles, ageing spots. So, if you want to stay young, you should use sunscreen regularly.
There are two types of sunscreen:
- Chemical Sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens, on its label, you will see ingredients such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, homosalate and octisalate. And these work like a sponge, it absorbs the sunlight and prevents it from entering our skin.
- Physical Sunscreen
Whereas, your physical sunscreen, on its label you will see ingredients such as titanium and zinc oxide. These work like a shield on our skin.
In children, especially young children, we are talking about the age of less than 6 months; their skin is very sensitive. So we recommend when you bring your toddlers out, please cover them properly with good clothing and wear shades.
And if there is an exposed area, apply physical sunscreen.
Remember, it’s a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. And this also applies to patients with sensitive skin or eczema. We recommend using physical sunblock.
Whereas, the rest of the healthy adults or older children, they can use chemical sunscreen. There is no proven evidence to see that this is harmful to their health.
- Toddler below 6 months – physical sunscreen
- Kids and Adults – chemical sunscreen
There is no contraindication for that unless they are allergic to any of the components.
- The Broad Spectrum – UVB & UVA Rays
The first thing is to look at the broad spectrum. Choose a sunscreen that has a broad spectrum; meaning it covers the UVB and UVA rays. UVB and UVA are parts of light wavelength.
- Amount of SPF
Then, look for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30. It is good enough.
And pick those that are water-resistant. There is no such thing as waterproof, but water-resistant.
If your children would like to go to the park every day, please apply sunscreen on them. Especially if you are taking them out at about between 10 o’clock to 4 o’clock. It’s very important to apply sunblock during this period, and please reapply every 2 hours.
Dr Teeba Raja: This is actually a very, very common practice, I must say that. It also happens in my house. My mother believes it. So, it is not true.
In fact, applying butter and toothpaste to your burn injury can cause infection.
So, what should one do when there is a burn injury? Quickly run it under cool tap water or apply a wet or cold compression for about at least 10 minutes.
After that, apply some petroleum jelly or Vaseline regularly; every 2-3 hours. And you may apply a non-stick sterile bandage on your wound and do not pop the blister. If there is a blister, just let it be.
Because if you pop the blister, the risk of infection becomes higher. And you may take some painkillers for pain control and eventually, just leave it to dry and get better on its own. You may apply some antibiotic cream if prescribed by your doctor.
“So, no butter, no toothpaste. No butter, no toothpaste, please.”
What you can do every day is to apply moisturiser to your baby regularly. Protect them from the sun with the sunblock and if there is any injury, and if it is a mild one, you may treat it as how Dr Teeba mentioned above.
Columbia Asia Hospital - Setapak
MRCP (UK), Advanced Master of Dermatology(UKM), Fellowship in Dermatology(UKM), SCE Dermatology (UK)
This article first appeared in Motherhood.com.my, 12 October 2021.