Skin, hair, and nail FAQs for kids
What makes birthmarks? Will mine go away?
Nobody really knows what makes birthmarks or why some kids have small birthmarks and others have bigger ones. They just seem to happen. Some birthmarks do fade or seem to go away as you get older. This depends, though, on what kind of birthmark it is.
If you are worried about your birthmark, talk to your parents about seeing a doctor who takes care of your skin (dermatologist). The skin doctor can tell you if there are ways to make a birthmark fade or become lighter.
Why is hair different colors?
Like your skin, hair color comes from something called melanin. Some people call it pigment. People with darker hair make more melanin than people with lighter hair. How much melanin you make depends on your genes, which you get from your parents.
As you get much older, you make less melanin, so your hair starts losing its color. That's why older people have gray or white hair.
Is it true that the roots of your hair are alive, but the rest of your hair is dead?
Yes! Hair grows out of little pockets in your skin, called follicles. Your hair begins growing from a root in the bottom of the follicle. Once the hair is long enough to poke out through the skin, a funny thing happens. It dies. That's why it doesn't hurt to get a haircut.
How many layers of skin do I have covering my muscles?
Three layers of skin cover your muscles, including the epidermis, the top layer that protects your body. The middle layer, called the dermis, helps you feel things. The third layer is subcutaneous (under the skin) fat. It attaches the dermis to your muscles and bones with fat and special connecting tissue.
What happens when you get a sunburn?
Any time your skin tans or burns, it's a sign that it has been damaged by the ultraviolet (UV) rays, which are produced by the sun and tanning beds. The change in color comes from something in your skin called melanin. It's what gives your skin its color. It's there to protect you. When your body senses your skin being damaged by the sun's rays, it produces more melanin to try and protect your skin from being damaged even more. This happens whether you have dark skin or light skin.
Why is my head so itchy and what do I do about it?
The first thing to look for is lice, which are tiny little bugs that can live in your hair and make you itch like crazy. If you don't have lice, an itchy scalp can leave you scratching your head in wonder. Another possible cause could be that you aren't getting all the shampoo out of your hair when you wash it. Pour about a quarter-sized amount of shampoo in your palm and then use your fingertips to massage it into your hair and scalp (the skin on your head). Make sure the water runs clear before you stop rinsing your hair. Or, you might need a shampoo that gets rid of dandruff - tiny pieces of dead skin that come loose from your scalp.
If you can't stop itching, ask your mom or dad to take you to doctor who treats skin, hair, and nails. This doctor is called a dermatologist.
How do you get gum out of your hair?
Head to the kitchen and grab the creamy peanut butter. Ask your mom or dad to help you cover the gum completely with peanut butter using your fingers or an old toothbrush. The oils in the peanut butter will help the gum crumble. It might take a few minutes. Then, using your fingers or toothbrush, pull the gum and peanut butter out of your hair. Then shampoo your hair so that you don't smell like a sandwich!
Why do I have freckles?
If you have light-colored skin, it's very possible you'll have freckles, especially during the summer when you are playing outside. This is because of melanin, something in your skin that gives it color and tries to protect it from the sun. When your body senses your skin being damaged by the sun's rays, it produces more melanin to try and protect your skin from being damaged even more. Sometimes this is an all-over color like a sunburn or tan, and sometimes it's small patches of freckles.
What's the difference between a freckle and a mole?
Freckles, which are usually brown and flat, are a sign of extra melanin, the stuff in your skin that gives it color. Making more melanin is one of the ways your skin protects itself from the sun. Getting too much sun can make freckles appear.
You can be born with a mole, but you also can get moles as you grow up. A mole is an area of your skin where the pigment (a fancy way to say color) has clumped together. Some moles are bigger than freckles and can be completely flat or raised above your skin like a little bump. Moles can range in color from light tan to almost black. They can also be pink, red or even blue!
Why is my hair getting greasy? It didn't used to!
When your hair is pushed up through the skin, it passes an oil gland along the way. The oil gland adds oil to the hair and keeps it shiny and soft. It can make it greasy, too. As you get older, the oil glands in your hair may make extra oil and this can make it seem greasy. If you are in a lot of sports or activities, the extra sweat can make it greasy, too. You might need to start washing your hair every day to make it look nice.
Is nail polish bad for your nails?
Actually, nail polish can help keep your nails moist. But it's also a good idea to give your nails a break from polish at least one month a year. And don't use nail polish remover more than once a week. It can be really hard on your nails.
What really happens to your nails if you bite and swallow them?
Your body can't digest nails the way it does when you eat food. So they'll come out when you poop.
Biting your nails is a bad idea because you create cuts in your hands that allow germs to get in. You also put germs that might be on your hands into your mouth. Both can make you sick.