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60.DIY check-ups

DIY check-ups & Personal Hygiene - Skin
Covering the surface of the body and weighing over 4kg (9lbs), skin is the largest body organ. Made from keratin, a hard protein, it provides a barrier against the environment, bacteria and other foreign organisms and keeps many organs from falling through the skeleton. Just as well then. Self-repairing and self-regenerating when damaged, unbroken skin is waterproof and protects the body from exposure to the sun's harmful rays by producing melanin, a dark pigment, which forms a layer to absorb ultraviolet light; this is why we tan in the sun. Skin also plays a key role in controlling body temperature and water balance. For example, body hairs become erect in the cold trapping warm hair close to the skin, and sweat glands secrete sweat to cool the body when it's too hot. Full of nerve endings, skin also helps us understand our surroundings as it constantly transmits information about touch, pressure, pain and temperature to the brain to interpret. So, in short: don't leave home without it.

Skin is attached to deeper body tissues with elastic fibres called collagen which allows the body to grow and stretch. As we get older, those parts of the body which have been exposed to the ageing effects of sunlight (the face, neck and hands, for example) lose elasticity as the collagen fibres break down. This is what causes bagginess and wrinkles and turns some of us into prunes.

Since the purpose of skin is to protect us from the environment, it's not surprising that - from time to time - it breaks down. While many skin problems are rarely life-threatening and are relatively easy to treat, their effects can be devastating particularly if you suffer from recurrent episodes. That 'hot date' suddenly becomes a nightmare as you explode with spots or an unexplained body rash. Common skin problems include:


Acne (spots) - skin follicles blocked with excess sebum (which lubricates the skin) and infected with bacteria. Also known as white/black heads which usually affect men during puberty but can affect us later on in life as well.
Eczema or dermatitis - inflamed, irritable, flaky, dry skin sometimes caused by allergies, although in many cases the cause is unknown. However, skin tests can sometimes determine the cause.
Athlete's foot - a fungal or bacterial infection causing itchy and sore skin between the toes usually associated with wearing shoes and sweaty feet.

DIY help

Unless you know the cause of your skin condition (and any appropriate treatment) seek professional help - probably your GP in the first instance.


If you are an acne sufferer - avoid greasy skin and hair preparations that clog up the pores making it more difficult for your skin to breathe properly. A chemist should be able to suggest acne preparations which can be helpful in mild cases.
If you suffer from eczema or dermatitis an inexpensive moisturiser can help ensure your skin doesn't dry out.
Changes in your diet can reduce the problem; for example, some eczema sufferers find that reducing dairy products can help.
Stress can trigger or exacerbate skin complaints - consider learning a relaxation technique. Many skin conditions can be helped by some exposure to sunlight - but we're not talking suntanning or burning!
If you suffer from athlete's foot, a range of over-the-counter creams, sprays and powders are available. Simply ask your chemist.

DIY skin cancer check-up

A regular check-up can help detect skin cancer. As with testicular cancer, the sooner skin cancer is discovered and treated, the more likely you are to achieve a complete cure. Warning signs to look out for include:


A slowly growing lump or bump.
A change in skin colour or texture.
A mole or blemish that has changed in shape, size or colour or has started to itch, bleed or become sore.
The sudden appearance of a new mole.
A sore or ulcer that hasn't healed with three weeks.

Don't become paranoid! You also need to bear in mind that your body's appearance changes as you get older.

Skin care tips


Make sure your diet contains plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Drink at least eight glasses of non-carbonated water every day; drinks containing caffeine, eg tea, coffee, and soft drinks don't count.


Give up smoking which can cause premature wrinkling.
Wash regularly with a mild soap and water to remove dirt and dead skin, rinsing off all soap thoroughly.
Don't spend too long in the bath or shower and make sure the water is not too hot.
Use a moisturiser compatible with your skin type.
Dry carefully but thoroughly between your toes and fingers.
When you're out in the sun, put on a sunscreen (with an appropriate factor) on exposed skin, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and a cap to protect your head and the back of your neck.
Wrap up well in cold and windy weather.
Avoid direct contact with hazardous irritant substances such as household bleach and paint stripper.


DIY check-ups & Personal Hygiene - Tattoos
The word, tattoo comes from the Tahitian word tattau, which means to mark, and was first mentioned in explorer James Cook's records from his 1769 expedition to the South Pacific. Some scientists have said that certain marks on the skin of a mummified human body dating from about 3300BC are tattoos. If that's true, these markings represent the earliest known evidence of the practice. More widely recognised are tattoos found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies dating from about 2000BC.

Today, tattoos are created by injecting ink into the skin. The tattoo machine as we know it today has remained relatively unchanged since it was invented in the late 1800s and carries ink into your skin through a needle that moves up and down like a sewing machine. Today's machines puncture the skin at the rate of 50 to 3,000 times a minute. The sterilized needles are dipped in ink, which is sucked up through the machine's tube system. Using an up-and-down motion to puncture the top layer of the skin they drive the ink into the skin, to about one-eighth of an inch deep. What you see when you look at a tattoo is the ink that's left in the skin after the tattooing. At this depth, cells of the dermis are remarkably stable so the tattoo's ink will last, with minor fading and dispersion, for your entire life.

The size and type of your tattoo and the skill of the artist help determine the amount of pain involved. Pain also depends on the location of your tattoo: the lower back and ankle are popular places for tattoos but it's much less painful to get one on your chest or upper arm. This is because skin right above your bones tends to be more sensitive to needles while there's extra body mass in the upper arm or chest to cushion the bones.

You should think carefully before getting a tattoo and the following points may be helpful in coming to a decision. A tattoo is to all intents and purposes permanent, and what you want when you are younger usually changes as you get older. Tattoo removal is considerably more painful and expensive than tattooing. The process usually takes several sessions and offers varying results. Highly visible tattoos have been know to hinder career interests and plans. Speak to a friend who has a tattoo and ask him about his experience.

Check list


Ask your GP if there are any reasons why you shouldn't have a tattoo (other than his/her personal thoughts on the matter).
If you need more than one visit to choose what you want, check over the clinic and discuss your needs with the studio - do so.
Believe it or not there is no uniform standard in the UK. However, studios have to be registered in London with their London Borough, elsewhere they are usually registered with the local council (where they have to have a licence) or the health authority.
Set sufficient time aside, it's not a particularly intelligent idea to have a tattoo or piercing on your way to work!
Make sure the studio is covered by the appropriate health certification.
The studio should be scrupulously clean with separate waiting, tattooing/piercing and sterilisation areas.
Ask the studio to explain in advance the procedures involved, and answer any questions that you may have.
After the tattoo/piercing, the studio should provide you with a written aftercare sheet.
If you have any doubts - follow you gut instinct - and leave.

Tattoo aftercare


Remove any dressing after two hours.
Wash with warm soap and water and pat dry with a clean towel.
Do not recover the tattoo.
Do not get the tattoo contaminated with grease, dirt, paint etc.
Do not expose the tattoo to the sun.
Apply small amounts of Savlon cream to the tattoo for the first two days.
Do not pick or scratch the tattoo.
Wash the tattoo twice daily.


DIY check-ups & Personal Hygiene - Piercings
These days, nipple, ear, navel and eyebrow piercings are relatively common. Nipple piercing goes back thousands of years, and is believed at one time to have been a sign of allegiance and manhood within Caesar's Pretorian Guard. Many Roman statues are thought to show pierced nipples but they could be representing a lorica or breastplate. There are even suggestions that cloaks were fastened to them. If true, they would have been very lightweight particularly when in battle - for obvious reasons!

Genital piercings (through the cock and balls) also have a long history. The ampalang (a barbell placed horizontally through the glans) comes from Borneo, where the women of certain tribes will not marry a man who does not have one. This and other piercings like the hafada (a ring through the ball sac) were considered rites of passage by some cultures, to mark the passage of a boy to a man. The Prince Albert (a ring passing in through the urethra and exiting at the back of the glans, underneath and to one side or other of the frenum) has a more intriguing origin. During the Victorian era, the bulge of a cock in a man's trouser was considered unsightly. This piercing could be used to strap the penis in place which is where the saying '...on which side does Sir dress' is thought to originate. It is also rumoured that Prince Albert wore one, hence the piercing's name. While genital piercings have become popular with some gay men, they are still a relatively small group, even though in some 'specialist clubs' you could be forgiven for thinking that you'd walked into an armoury.

Part of the pleasure of piercings has to do with the subtle sensations of wearing them, and there is no doubt that these types of piercing can be strikingly visual and a real turn-on both for those exhibiting them and those admiring them. What you can have pierced will depend on your personal anatomy. A good body piercer should be able to advise you as to what will suit and the types of jewellery that will be most comfortable or visually striking.

Choosing your piercing

The barbell, the ball closure ring and banana bell (with equal sized balls) are not unusual. Normally a barbell in any body piercing will heal quicker than a ring, as there is nothing sticking out to catch or rub on clothes. Only jewellery made from highest grade surgical stainless steel or solid gold should be worn in a piercing. Silver and other metals which can tarnish should never be used. The important thing is to discuss what you want with the piercer who - if they're good - will encourage you to do ...
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