Organ Donation: Don’t Let These Myths Confuse You

Over 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for an organ transplant.

Unfortunately, many may never get the call saying that a suitable donor organ—and a second chance at life—has been found. It’s estimated that every day in the U.S. 21 patients die because of the lack of donor organs.

It can be hard to think about what’s going to happen to your body after you die, let alone donating your organs and tissue. But being an organ donor is a generous and worthwhile decision that can be a lifesaver.

If you’ve never considered organ donation or delayed becoming a donor because of possibly inaccurate information, here are answers to some common organ donation myths and concerns.

Myth: If I agree to donate my organs, the hospital staff won’t work as hard to save my life.

Fact: When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life—not somebody else’s. You’ll be seen by a doctor whose specialty most closely matches your particular condition.

Myth: Maybe I won’t really be dead when they sign my death certificate.

Fact: Although it’s a popular topic in the tabloids, in reality, people don’t start to wiggle their toes after they’re declared dead. In fact, people who have agreed to organ donation are given more tests (at no charge to their families) to determine that they’re truly dead than are those who haven’t agreed to organ donation.

Myth: Organ donation is against my religion.

Fact: Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions. These religions include Roman Catholicism, Islam, most branches of Judaism, and most Protestant faiths. If you’re unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith’s position on donation, ask a member of your clergy.

Myth: I’m under age 18. I’m too young to make this decision.

Fact: That’s true, in a legal sense. But your parents or legal guardian can authorize this decision. You can express to your family your wish to donate, and they can give their consent knowing that it’s what you wanted. Children, too, are in need of organ transplants, and they usually need organs smaller than those an adult can provide.

Myth: An open-casket funeral isn’t an option for people who have donated organs or tissues.

Fact: Organ and tissue donation doesn’t interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor’s body is clothed for burial, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation. For bone donation, a rod is inserted where bone is removed. With skin donation, a very thin layer of skin similar to a sunburn peel is taken from the donor’s back. Because the donor is clothed and lying on his or her back in the casket, no one can see any difference.

Myth: I’m too old to donate. Nobody would want my organs.

Fact: There’s no defined cutoff age for donating organs. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age. Don’t prematurely disqualify yourself. Let the doctors decide at the time of your death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.

Myth: I’m not in the best of health. Nobody would want my organs or tissues.

Fact: Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. The decision to use an organ is based on strict medical criteria. It may turn out that certain organs are not suitable for transplantation, but other organs and tissues may be fine. Don’t prematurely disqualify yourself. Only medical professionals at the time of your death can determine whether your organs are suitable for transplantation.

Myth: I’d like to donate one of my kidneys now, but I wouldn’t be allowed to do that unless one of my family members is in need.

Fact: While that used to be the case, it isn’t any longer. Whether it’s a distant family member, friend, or complete stranger you want to help, you can donate a kidney through certain transplant centers.

If you decide to become a living donor, you will undergo extensive questioning to ensure that you are aware of the risks and that your decision to donate isn’t based on financial gain. You will also undergo testing to determine if your kidneys are in good shape and whether you can live a healthy life with just one kidney.

Myth: Rich and famous people go to the top of the list when they need a donor organ.

Fact: The rich and famous aren’t given priority when it comes to allocating organs. It may seem that way because of the amount of publicity generated when a celebrity receives a transplant, but they are treated no differently from anyone else. The reality is that celebrity and financial status are not considered in organ allocation.

Myth: My family will be charged if I donate my organs.

Fact: The organ donor’s family is never charged for donation. The family is charged for the costs of all final efforts to save your life, and those costs are sometimes misinterpreted as costs related to organ donation. Costs for organ removal go to the transplant recipient.

Why you should consider organ donation

Now that you have the facts, you can see that being an organ donor can make a big difference, and not just to one person. By donating your organs after you die, you can save or improve as many as 50 lives. Many families say that knowing their loved one helped save other lives helped them cope with their loss.

It’s especially important to consider becoming an organ donor if you belong to an ethnic minority. Minorities including African-Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Hispanics are more likely than whites to have certain chronic conditions that affect the kidneys, heart, lung, pancreas, and liver.

Certain blood types are more prevalent in ethnic minority populations. Because matching blood type is usually necessary for transplants, the need for minority donor organs is especially high.

How to donate

Becoming an organ donor is easy. You can indicate that you want to be a donor in the following ways:

  • Register with the National Donate Life Registry. This ensures that your donor registration travels with you, no matter where you live or move across the country. You can register online at Or if you have an iPhone with iOS 10, you can register through the Health app. Registrations submitted via iPhone go directly to the National Donate Life Registry.
  • Designate your choice on your driver’s license. Do this when you obtain or renew your license.
  • Tell your family. Make sure your family knows your wishes regarding donation.

The best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out is to register with the national registry and have donor designation on your driver’s license or state ID. You may include your wishes in your living will if you have one, but that might not be immediately available at the time of your death.

If you have designated someone to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to do so, make sure that person knows that you want to be an organ donor.

It’s also very important to tell your family that you want to be a donor. Hospitals seek consent from the next of kin before removing organs, although this is not required if you’re registered with the National Donate Life Registry or have donor designation on your driver’s license or state ID card.

Updated: 2017-11-18

Publication Date: 2002-04-19

16 Birth Control Myths That Prove We Need Better Sex Ed

Some myths, like that you can always blame Mercury retrograde for whatever’s going wrong in your life, are pretty harmless. Others, like many of those surrounding birth control, can lead to real consequences, such as unintended pregnancy.

Unfortunately, there’s ample opportunity for birth control myths to spread. Only 57 percent of sexually active young women and 43 percent of sexually active young men said they’d received formal instruction on birth control before first having sex, according to a nationally representative 2016 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health that surveyed 2,125 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19.

It seems there’s some serious and necessary room for improvement in sex ed these days. Unfortunately, we can’t create a comprehensive sex education curriculum and distribute it to every school in the country. But we can get to the bottom of common birth control myths, so that’s exactly what we did here.

Myth #1: Using any form of birth control means you’re protected against sexually transmitted infections.

The only kinds of birth control that protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are male and female condoms. As barrier methods, they cut down on the two possible vectors of STI transmission: sexual fluids and skin-to-skin contact.

With that said, condoms can’t fully eliminate skin-to-skin contact, which means that even when you use them, you’re still at risk of getting certain STIs, such as herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV). This is why getting tested regularly so you know your STI status is a huge part of staying as safe as possible, even if you use condoms whenever you have sex. Find out how often you should get tested here.

Myth #2: You can have a little sex then throw on a condom before any ejaculation happens, and you’ll still be just as protected against pregnancy.

Condoms can be a good form of birth control if you’re committed to using them perfectly each time. That involves putting on male condoms before any sex happens and keeping them on until after ejaculation has occurred, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What do you know! Same thing goes for female condoms.

The issue is that sometimes people will start off having unprotected sex, then put on the condom before the person with the penis finishes, Lauren Streicher, M.D., an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. This can introduce the person with the vagina to pre-ejaculatory fluid (which you probably call pre-cum). There’s controversy surrounding whether or not pre-cum always contains sperm, but it’s a possibility, Dr. Streicher says, so your chances of pregnancy might increase if you do this.

It’s estimated that two women out of every 100 will get pregnant within the first year of using a male condom perfectly, but that number jumps to 18 with typical use, which could include putting on a condom too late (or using one without inspecting it for tears, using the wrong size, using it past its expiration date, or doing anything else that can compromise the effectiveness of the condom). For female condoms, five women out of 100 will get pregnant in the first year with perfect use, and 21 out of 100 will wind up pregnant with typical use.

Plus, if you do this, you’re not protecting yourself as well as you could against sexually transmitted infections. The takeaway: Use condoms the way you’re supposed to every single time.

Myth #3: If you haven’t had children, you’re not a good candidate for an IUD.

Nope, nope, nope. There’s a reason the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs for teenagers, most of whom obviously haven’t given birth.

Here’s the deal: If you’ve pushed out a baby vaginally, your cervix has had some practice dilating significantly. Therefore, the theory is that it may not hurt as much when your medical practitioner pushes your IUD past your cervix and into your uterus during insertion.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get an IUD if you haven’t given birth—it should work just as well to protect you from pregnancy, and people’s pain experiences when getting IUDs vary whether or not they’ve had kids. “There is no reason not to put an IUD In someone who hasn’t had children,” Dr. Streicher says.

Myth #4: Once you get an IUD inserted, you absolutely have to leave it in for years.

IUDs are recommended for anywhere between three and 10 years, based on the kind you pick. (Here’s more information about each type.)

Some doctors recommend you keep your IUD in for at least a year for two reasons, Dr. Streicher says. For one, although your insurance may completely cover your IUD, they can cost hundreds of dollars or more depending on your coverage and the type of IUD you choose. Also, the insertion process doesn’t exactly feel like a trip to the spa. So, just in terms of a cost-benefit analysis (and pain-benefit analysis), it often makes sense to keep your IUD for a bit.

Of course, sometimes you’ll decide your IUD’s time is up even though it’s technically still good for use. This may be because you’ve decided an IUD isn’t for you (here are some ways to know one might not be) or because you want to get pregnant. Either way, your doctor should respect your wishes and go through with the removal. Here’s what you can expect from that process.

Myth #5: You always have to take the pill at the exact same time every day, no matter which kind you use.

OK, so this is kind of true. If you’re taking the minipill, it uses the hormone progestin to protect you from pregnancy by thickening your cervical mucus so it’s harder for sperm to get through, along with thinning your uterine lining so there’s not much nourishment for a fertilized egg. The minipill may also suppress ovulation, but it’s not guaranteed.

Since the minipill relies on only one hormone to keep you pregnancy-free, and since it’s at a lower dose than combined hormonal pills, much of its efficacy hinges on taking it as close to the same time every day as you can, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you take it more than three hours after you should, your protection is compromised and you should use a backup form of birth control for at least two days (like condoms).

If, on the other hand, you’re on a combined hormonal birth control pill, the estrogen in it will work to reliably suppress your ovulation, and you’ll also have higher levels of progestin. That means you have some more wiggle room with when exactly you take the pill, Grace Lau, M.D., a gynecologist at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. While you would ideally create a habit of taking your combined hormonal pill at the same time every day just so you never forget it, if you do miss one, you can generally take it as soon as you remember, then resume taking the others at their normal time. You typically only need to use a backup method of contraception if you missed your combined pill by more than 12 hours, according to the Mayo Clinic, although you should always check the exact prescribing methods from the manufacturer to be sure.

Myth #6: Birth control pills will make you gain weight.

“I get asked about this a lot,” Dr. Lau says. There’s no solid scientific confirmation that either combined hormonal birth control pills or the minipill cause weight gain, she explains.

A 2014 review in Cochrane Database of Scientific Reviews looked at 49 studies on weight and contraception, ultimately finding that there wasn’t enough evidence showing that combined hormonal contraceptives have any large effect on weight either way. A 2016 review in Cochrane Database of Scientific Reviews looked at 22 studies surrounding progestin-only forms of birth control and essentially found the same thing. With that said, if you start a new combination pill, you might feel like you’re gaining because of bloating (the estrogen might make you retain more water than usual).

The only birth control that is explicitly linked with weight gain is Depo-Provera (often called “the shot,” it’s an injection of progestin you get every three months), which the Food and Drug Administration specifically points out in the shot’s prescribing information. (The weight gain may be because of appetite changes.) If that’s something that matters to you, bring it up with your doctor when discussing your contraceptive options.

Myth #7: The ring can get lost inside of your body.

NuvaRing, also called “the ring,” is a little flexible plastic ring that you insert into your vagina for three weeks every month. The ring contains a mix of estrogen and progestin to help prevent an unintended pregnancy, the Mayo Clinic explains. Though you may feel nervous that this little device can get lost up there while doing its job, there’s really no need. “Your vagina is just a tunnel with an end,” Dr. Lau says. “There’s no way for it to get to the rest of your body.”

If you think your NuvaRing is “lost,” it might just be stuck high up by your cervix. Try these methods to get it out, or go see your ob/gyn. There’s also a chance that the NuvaRing could have fallen out without you realizing it. Either way, you may need to use a backup method of contraception until you can get back on track—here’s how to know if that’s necessary.

Myth #8: The implant can move around your body.

Much like with the NuvaRing, it’s easy to wonder if your Nexplanon arm implant might take a little trip to another spot in your body.

The birth control implant is a rod-like device about the size of a matchstick that’s inserted under the skin in your inner upper arm. There, it releases a steady dose of progestin to help prevent an unintended pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Once you have Nexplanon inserted, it’s good for three years—and it should stay put for every minute of them.

While it’s possible for the implant to move slightly in your arm, in the vast majority of cases, it’s not going to budge enough to affect your protection. “Think of your skin like a web of interconnecting strands of collagen and elastin. These fibers trap an implant in place, preventing it from moving in the skin,” Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City–based board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, tells SELF.

Myth #9: Fertility awareness-based methods are just as effective as birth control pills at preventing pregnancy.

The term “fertility awareness-based method” is really a catch-all for a few different tactics of tracking your ovulation. The idea is that during your most fertile times (typically thought to be a few days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and one day post-ovulation, according to ACOG), you should either completely avoid intercourse or use a barrier method to prevent pregnancy.

The problem is, it’s hard to know exactly when you’re ovulating, Dr. Streicher says. The rule of thumb is that ovulation happens on day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be true for you; this can change due to things like stress or hormonal problems. Plus, not everyone has a 28-day menstrual cycle.

Even if you pay attention to possible signals of ovulation, like an uptick in cervical mucus (the fluid your cervix typically produces that becomes thinner and slipperier before ovulation to help sperm access an egg) or changes in your basal body temperature, you might not calculate exactly when you’re ovulating properly.

Also, sperm can live in you for up to five days after having sex, according to ACOG. So, if you have unprotected sex because you think you’re not ovulating, then you do ovulate anywhere up to five days later, you could in theory get pregnant.

Estimates suggest that 24 out of 100 women who use fertility awareness-based methods become pregnant in the first year. Birth control pills, however, have a typical use failure rate of 9 out of 100 women in the first year. So, while fertility awareness-based methods may work for some people, there’s a bigger margin for error involved than there is with other methods.

Myth #10: You can put the birth control patch anywhere on your body.

You’re actually supposed to place the patch (which is sold under the name Xulane), on your upper outer arm, butt, stomach, or back. There, it releases estrogen and progestin into your skin.

You should replace the patch every week for three weeks and also do daily checks to make sure it’s in place. The patch is sticky enough so that you can wear it in the pool and shower, Dr. Streicher says. If it does fall off, your next steps depend on if it’s still sticky enough to reapply and how long it’s been detached from your skin.

Myth #11: It’s unhealthy to use birth control that does away with your period or to use birth control to skip your period.

Some forms of birth control, like hormonal IUDs, may result in you not getting a period because the progestin in them prevents you from building up much of a uterine lining. But you can also manipulate many forms of combined hormonal contraception, like the combined pill, the patch, and the ring, to skip your period if you want to.

The “period” you get on these combined methods is really just a withdrawal bleed that lets you know that you’re not pregnant, Dr. Streicher says. “You don’t ever need to get a period on birth control,” she says. “There’s no benefit to it. None. Zero.”

In order to avoid getting your period while using combined birth control pills, you would generally skip the placebo pills and move right into the next pack. Same thing for NuvaRing and Xulane—you’d bypass the ring-free or patch-free weeks. When it comes to NuvaRing, you can either put in a new one or keep your old one in for a fourth week. With Xulane, you’d need to put on a new patch for that fourth week, because using a patch for over a week can increase your risk of unintended pregnancy.

As you can tell, skipping your period with birth control takes some precise calculation, which is why you shouldn’t just decide to do it on your own. These are off-label uses for these methods, meaning you absolutely need to talk to your doctor about whether it’s OK for you to use birth control to manipulate your period before you try it.

Myth #12: Taking hormonal birth control can mess up your fertility down the road.

After quitting most methods of birth control, you’ll return to normal fertility within a few menstrual cycles or sooner. The only real exception is the Depo-Provera shot, which has been shown to delay ovulation for 10 months or more in some people, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If you notice you’re having a harder time than expected getting pregnant when you come off birth control, it could simply be that you were on contraception for a long enough time for your fertility to have declined naturally. It could also be that your contraception was masking an underlying problem that you only discover once you go off of it, Dr. Lau says. Either way, talking to your doctor can help you make sure you’re maximizing your chances of conceiving.

Myth #13: Your body needs to take a break from hormonal birth control sometimes.

There’s no scientific proof that this is the case, Dr. Streicher says. If you want to go off your birth control to see what your body is like without the added hormones, that’s fine. Just use a backup method of birth control if you don’t want to get pregnant, Dr. Streicher says.

Myth #14: You don’t need birth control if you’re breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding typically suppresses ovulation and menstruation, according to ACOG. This is called lactational amenorrhea, and it happens because breastfeeding disrupts the typical hormonal process necessary for your ovaries to release eggs.

Here’s a huge caveat, though (and we’d put it on a billboard if we could): This is not an especially secure method of birth control! For maximum efficacy, you’d need to go no longer than four hours without breastfeeding in the day and no longer than six at night, according to ACOG. You’d also need to exclusively breastfeed, so no supplementing with formula. Another thing: You’re going to start ovulating again at some point, and it’s hard to know when that might be, Dr. Streicher says.

That’s why ACOG recommends people only use this as a temporary form of birth control for six months maximum or until menstruation starts again, whichever occurs first. Even that’s not foolproof. Let’s say those six months aren’t up yet and you haven’t gotten your period, but you ovulate without realizing it. If you have unprotected sex, you could theoretically get pregnant before your period returns.

If you don’t want to get pregnant again quickly and you don’t use any kind of birth control while you’re breastfeeding, you’re kind of rolling the dice, Dr. Streicher says. Instead, you may want to choose a birth control option that offers more security, like an IUD, the implant, barrier methods like condoms, or a birth control pill without estrogen since there’s a small chance the hormone could affect your milk supply, according to ACOG.

Myth #15: You 100 percent can’t get pregnant if your partner has a vasectomy.

Yes, it’s very rare that a vasectomy fails, but it is possible.

When a person has a vasectomy, it means doctors cut and seal the tubes that carry sperm, the Mayo Clinic explains. But all the sperm that’s already been created doesn’t just suddenly vanish into thin air. It typically takes several months and ejaculating upwards of 15 times to get all the sperm out of a person’s system after a vasectomy, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“[Many ob/gyns have] stories of how one of their patients got pregnant this way,” Dr. Streicher says. “You have to have a semen analysis that shows that there is zero sperm before you’re protected.”

Myth #16: Female sterilization means getting a hysterectomy.

“A hysterectomy and tubal ligation are completely different,” Dr. Lau says. It’s true that getting a hysterectomy, which is removal of the uterus and possibly other reproductive organs as well, means you won’t be able to physically carry a pregnancy. Female sterilization (also known as a tubal ligation or getting your tubes tied) has the same result, but a different process.

In order for you to get pregnant, an egg has to travel from one of your ovaries into one of your fallopian tubes, which is where fertilization happens. So, during tubal ligation, a doctor will cut, tie, or otherwise block your fallopian tubes to permanently prevent eggs from being able to travel through them and encounter sperm, the Mayo Clinic explains. That’s as opposed to a hysterectomy, which may involve removing the fallopian tubes, but doesn’t include manipulating them to decrease the odds of pregnancy.

Also worth noting: a tubal ligation would not bring on menopause, whereas a hysterectomy may bring on menopause only if it involves removing the ovaries.

If you have any questions about these or other birth control myths, talk to your doctor.

A good doctor will be dedicated to helping you achieve your reproductive goals, whether that’s avoiding ever getting pregnant, putting it off until you’re ready, or helping you get pregnant in the near future. When it comes to your ob/gyn (and your health in general), there really are no stupid questions.


Watch Aly Raisman and 140 Other Larry Nassar Survivors Receive the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPYs

This year’s ESPY Awards took an emotional turn when it came time for the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, awarded to those who came forward with their stories of sexual abuse by disgraced former doctor Larry Nassar.

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, former Michigan State softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez, and gymnast Sarah Klein, who identified herself as Nassar’s first victim, accepted the award during Wednesday’s ceremony.

“We’re about to tell you a story that is difficult to hear,” Jennifer Garner said, introducing the award. “A story about what can happen in sports goes terribly wrong. We have to hear i…to make sure it never happens again.”

“Abuse. Silence. Victory. Abuse. Silence. Victory. The cycle was repeated for generations,” Garner continued in a voiceover of a moving short film featuring many of the women.

All together, 141 women—including Klein, Raisman, and Thomas-Lopez—came to the stage as the video concluded, creating an image that will not easily be forgotten.

“It is such a privilege to stand up here with my sister survivors as we represent hundreds more who are not with us tonight,” Klein said. “Make no mistake, we are here on this stage to present an image for the world to see, a portrait of survival, a new vision of courage.” And she did not hold back when it came to calling out the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State University, saying they placed “money and medals above the safety of child athletes.”

Raisman echoed that sentiment in her speech as she listed the many years, beginning in 1997, that someone spoke up about Nassar’s abuse and was not believed “in favor of money, medals, and reputation.”

She also called attention to the inaction of so many over 30 years of Nassar’s crimes. “The ripple effect of our actions—or inactions—can be enormous, spanning generations,” she said. “Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could have been avoided… All we needed was one adult to have the integrity to stand between us and Larry Nassar. If just one adult had listened, believed, and acted, the people standing before you on this stage would have never met him…To all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone rewrite your story. Your truth does matter. You matter. And you are not alone.”

Raisman concluded her speech with a simple yet impactful statement: “We may suffer alone, but we survive together.”

The message may have been hard to hear, but it was also hopeful.

As SELF wrote previously, Raisman has been open about the emotional and psychological effects of surviving such abuse, continuing to talk about it, and listening to others’ stories. “I am very triggered, sometimes for a few days. I want to support them, but I make sure that I take good care of myself after,” she said in an interview with InStyle.

Still, Raisman and her fellow survivors continue to take a stand publicly in the hopes that it helps others know they’re not alone. “As a survivor, I am here to say that if we can just give person the courage to use their voice, this is worth it,” Klein said. “If one more victim of sexual abuse feels less alone tonight, then our suffering has meaning.”


Dandruff Scraping Videos Are the New Pimple Popping Videos

During one of my late-night YouTube binges, I landed on a video of a woman using a small picking tool (similar to the one a dentist would use to clear away plaque) to scrape away her dandruff. As someone who has struggled with flakes for over two decades, I was mesmerized. The soft, repetitive scratching sounds sort of have a relaxing ASMR effect. For me, the extreme close-up shots of flakes lifting from her scalp (think of a snake shedding its skin) called to mind the pimple popping videos that I’ve watched again and again. There is something so satisfying about a seeing a blackhead exploded, and it’s the same with watching these huge flakes getting brushed away. Comments under the video—“Why is this so satisfying?” and “I can’t stop watching!”—echoed the thoughts running through my head as I watched the entire five-minute performance. And of course, this isn’t the only video out there. A search for “dandruff scraping” on Youtube pulls up 2,600 videos. I’m calling the trend now: Dandruff scraping is poised to replace pimple popping as the new gross beauty fascination.

When I was a little girl, my mom used a fine-tooth comb and a similar scraping technique to get rid of my flakes before shampooing. It stopped the itch, but it sometimes made my scalp bleed. I’m down to suffer a little for beauty’s sake, but where’s the line? I talked to doctors to check if this dandruff scraping trend is the proper way to handle dandruff—and if not, what should we be doing instead? (And, by the way, no matter what I learn, I’m still going to watch these videos.)

First of all, the dandruff in these videos is probably seborrheic dermatitis.

When I showed a couple dermatologists the video that got me hooked, they immediately identified the flakes as a more than your run-of-the-mill dandruff. “This looks consistent with seborrheic dermatitis, which is sort of like a more advanced form of dandruff, which not only includes flakiness but also inflammation,” says dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Sejal Shah, M.D. Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by an overabundance of the yeast malessezia furfur, which is everywhere on the skin, but some people are sensitive to it and have this reaction, dermatologist Michelle Henry, M.D., previously told SELF. These flakes are large and oily, think the size of bran or oatmeal. Also the skin can look pink or red underneath the flakes—a sure sign of inflammation.

Shah says the large, scaly flakes from the videos could also be pityriasis amiantacea, which is a severe form of seborrheic dermatitis that is a result of psoriasis, eczema, or even a fungal infection. If flakes are coating your scalp in this way, it’s best to see a dermatologist to get a true diagnosis.

Manually scraping the flakes away is not a good idea, according to derms.

I have to say, I admire the creativity of YouTubers like GirlFlakesWorld, PitaFlakes, and ScratchingMyScalpOff have when choosing what to use for the scraping. I’ve seen a lice comb, a dental hook, tweezers, and a blackhead extractor. “My favorite tool for scraping is a dental pick. It’s flat on one end and pointy on the other which really allows me to gently lift the scales from my scalp without pulling my hair strands out,” Tracie Martin, the woman behind the dandruff scraping on the Tracie M YouTube channel, tells me. “I try and make nice, straight parts in my hair so that I can pick up the scales neatly. I have to pick and scrape in a way that is the least damaging to my scalp and hair; that is most important to me.”

However, dermatologists are against any and all scratching and scraping. “I do not recommend using the tool as seen in the video,” says Michele Green, M.D., a dermatologist and RealSelf contributor, referring to the metal oral care hook used in so many of these YouTube videos. “You should not force the flakes from the scalp, as this can cause trauma to your scalp.” Scraping could cause more inflammation, bleeding and scabbing, and hair loss the derms warn.

Instead, there are over-the-counter and prescription treatments for seborrheic dermatitis.

So if you can’t scrape it off, what is the best way to handle seborrheic dermatitis? Shah recommends using a shampoo with ingredients like salicylic acid, sulfur, tea tree oil, or coal tar. Some of her top picks include Neutrogena T-Sal ($6) and Bakers P and S Solution ($25). Shah tells her patients to shampoo every other day, but recognizes it might be harder for some hair types (for example, African American women who tend to wash less frequently and wear protective styles). Martin, who was diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis and scalp psoriasis about four years ago, is one such case. “I wash my hair about once every 3 weeks. In between that time I spot treat with 100 percent tea tree oil,” she says. “I’ve found that with most scalp treatment shampoos, you’re directed to wash your hair several times a week, but that’s not an option for me. With my scalp conditions and hair type, washing my hair weekly is really damaging and drying to my scalp and hair.”

When she washes, Martin uses T-Sal shampoo or another coal-tar based product that is paraben or sulfate free, but that alone doesn’t remove all the flakes. “I scrape before every wash or else the scales will all still be there and stuck to my scalp, even after thoroughly shampooing,” says Martin. “There is no cure for my condition, so any product I use to treat it will only help minimize the occurrence, but it never goes away completely.”

If the flakes are resistant to over-the-counter treatments, a dermatologist can prescribe something for seborrheic dermatitis. “In extreme cases, as in the videos, prescriptions such as Nizoral shampoo three times weekly in addition to Temovate scalp solution would be required to control the excess sebum build up,” says Green. Temovarate is a topical steroid that can be mixed with olive oil and used as a nightly treatment to get severe flakes under control.

By following the derms’ advice, you will have to forgo that satisfying scraping—but that’s what YouTube is for.

How plant breeding technologies could make fruits and vegetables more exciting to eat

Forget vegetables with dull colors and fuzzy skin or fruits that lack of flavor — the produce aisle of the future could offer plant products that are designed for creative cooks and fussy eaters. In a review article published July 19 in the journal Trends in Plant Science, two food researchers describe how new breeding technologies have the potential to enhance the shape, size, color, and health benefits of produce, as well as to inform conventional breeding programs.

“Novelty drives a lot of first time purchasing,” says Andrew Allan of New Zealand science institute Plant & Food Research, who co-wrote the article with Richard Espley. “If the experience is good, then the consumer will purchase again. Choice is key — there is no risk with more choice.”

In their review, the authors describe how fast breeding with CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing doesn’t rely on the addition of a new DNA sequence as is often the case with other genetically modified crops. Rather, these breeding technologies allow scientists to edit existing genes, particularly transcription factor genes called MYBs, which control many of a plant’s key consumer traits. Information from these experiments can also be used to inform selection criteria in conventional breeding programs.

“MYBs often regulate the compounds that generate a fruit or vegetables’ ‘wow’ factor — its color,” Allan says. “These compounds are also associated with important health benefits such as lowering cardiovascular disease or acting as vitamins. By using MYBs to elevate these compounds to create a richer color, we can make produce both more appealing to consumers and more beneficial for the human diet.”

This works for changes below the surface, as well. For example, apples and potatoes have colorless flesh, which often means that nutrients are concentrated in the skin. By altering MYBs to produce higher quantities of compounds in the flesh of the apple or potato, scientists can create fruits and vegetables where every bite has the same concentration of vitamins.

The technology is also being used to adjust flavor and texture, and Allan is excited by what this progress could mean for the future of our supermarkets. He even suggests that this could usher in “the next green revolution, with more product choice for developed countries, greater yields for less developed countries, and more growing options for climate resilience.” To those who may have reservations, he says new breeding techniques emulate changes to DNA made in nature and can be used to advance conventional breeding and growing practices.

The authors receive support from the New Zealand Government, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Endeavour Funds, ‘Turbo Breeding’ and ‘Filling the Void.’

Story Source:

Materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Are you prone to feeling guilty? Then you’re probably more trustworthy, study shows

Guilt can be a powerful motivator.

New research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business finds that when it comes to predicting who is most likely to act in a trustworthy manner, one of the most important factors is the anticipation of guilt.

In the study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “Who is Trustworthy? Predicting Trustworthy Intentions and Behavior,” Chicago Booth Assistant Professor Emma Levine, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s T. Bradford Bitterly and Maurice Schweitzer, and Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business’ Associate Professor Taya Cohen, identify a trait predictor of trustworthy intentions and behavior. The researchers also provide practical advice for deciding in whom we should place our trust.

Among the study’s key findings: a person’s tendency to anticipate feeling guilty, which the researchers call “guilt-proneness,” is the strongest predictor of how trustworthy that person is — more so than a variety of other personality traits (extraversion, openness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness).

Guilt-proneness differs from guilt. Whereas guilt elicits reparative behavior following a transgression, guilt-proneness reflects the anticipation of guilt over wrongdoing and causes people to avoid transgressing in the first place. People who rank high in guilt-proneness feel a greater sense of interpersonal responsibility when they are entrusted, and as such, are less likely to exploit the trust others place in them.

In a series of six studies, the researchers set up economic games and surveys to measure trustworthy behavior and intentions. Individuals who scored high in the personality trait of guilt-proneness returned more money to others than individuals who scored low in guilt-proneness.

Furthermore, in one experiment, individuals who were primed to behave responsibly as a result of reading a code of conduct were more likely to return money to others than the individuals who read a passage about the importance of looking out for themselves.

“Trust and trustworthiness are critical for effective relationships and effective organizations,” the researchers say. “Individuals and institutions incur high costs when trust is misplaced, but people can mitigate these costs by engaging in relationships with individuals who are trustworthy. Our findings extend the substantial literature on trust by deepening our understanding of trustworthiness: When deciding in whom to place trust, trust the guilt-prone.”

The study is unusual in that — unlike existing trust research which focuses on what makes people trust each other — this study offers insight into who is worthy of that trust.

“Our research suggests that if you want your employees to be worthy of trust,” says Levine, “make sure they feel personally responsible for their behavior and that they expect to feel guilty about wrongdoing.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Mobile phone radiation may affect memory performance in adolescents

Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields may have adverse effects on the development of memory performance of specific brain regions exposed during mobile phone use. These are the findings of a study involving nearly 700 adolescents in Switzerland.

The rapid evolution of information and communication technologies (ICT) goes along with an increase in exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) in our daily life. The most relevant exposure source to the brain is the use of a mobile phone close to the head. Several studies have been conducted to identify potential health effects related to RF-EMF, though results have remained inconclusive.

The research conducted by scientists at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) looked at the relationship between exposure to RF-EMF from wireless communication devices and memory performance in adolescents. The study follows up a report published in the scientific journal Environment International in 2015 with twice the sample size and more recent information on the absorption of RF-EMF in adolescents’ brains during different types of wireless communication device use. These are the world’s first epidemiological studies to estimate cumulative RF-EMF brain dose in adolescents.

Media usage and brain exposure in young adults

The study to be published on 19 July 2018 found that cumulative RF-EMF brain exposure from mobile phone use over one year may have a negative effect on the development of figural memory performance in adolescents, confirming prior results published in 2015. Figural memory is mainly located in the right brain hemisphere and association with RF-EMF was more pronounced in adolescents using the mobile phone on the right side of the head. “This may suggest that indeed RF-EMF absorbed by the brain is responsible for the observed associations.” said Martin Röösli, Head of Environmental Exposures and Health at Swiss TPH.

Other aspects of wireless communication use, such as sending text messages, playing games or browsing the Internet cause only marginal RF-EMF exposure to the brain and were not associated with the development of memory performance. “A unique feature of this study is the use of objectively collected mobile phone user data from mobile phone operators.” said Röösli. He emphasised that further research is needed to rule out the influence of other factors. “For instance, the study results could have been affected by puberty, which affects both mobile phone use and the participant’s cognitive and behavioural state.”

The data gathered from the Health Effects Related to Mobile phone usE in adolescentS (HERMES) cohort looked at the relationship between exposure to RF-EMF and development of memory performance of almost 700 adolescents over the course of one year. Participants, aged 12 to 17 years, were recruited from 7th to 9th public school grades in urban and rural areas of Swiss-German speaking Switzerland.

Minimising the risk of RF-EMF exposure

The potential effect of RF-EMF exposure to the brain is a relatively new field of scientific inquiry. “It is not yet clear how RF-EMF could potentially affect brain processes or how relevant our findings are in the long-term.” said Röösli. “Potential risks to the brain can be minimised by using headphones or the loud speaker while calling, in particular when network quality is low and the mobile phone is functioning at maximum power.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

If You Love Someone With OCD, You May Need to Stop Giving Them Reassurance All the Time

Living with unmanaged obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is miserable—I know because I’ve likely had it since I was a teenager and was officially diagnosed in 2014. No, it’s not merely having “you’re-so-OCD” perfectionism or organization skills ascribed to the condition on TV and in movies. And given that an estimated 2.3 percent of the population deals with OCD over the course of a lifetime, chances are you know someone suffering from or managing OCD, so it’s important to understand what the condition is and what it isn’t.

Clinical OCD, contrary to the whimsical quirk often depicted in the media, is characterized by intrusive, disturbing thoughts (obsessions), and repetitive, ritualistic behaviors (compulsions) that temporarily alleviate the distress.

The OCD reel might go a little something like this: “You might experience a frightening or horrible thought, feeling, or sensation of ‘not-just-rightness’ or a sense of dread, and so you might do a ritual—like check for safety, or ask for reassurance—to make yourself feel better for a bit,” Lisa Coyne, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, tells SELF. “And it works. That’s why people do it. The downside is that it only works for a short time, and the more you engage in rituals, the more it feeds the OCD.”

For instance, fighting to appease distressing visions of my infant daughter dying in a fire, I would stand in front of the stove touching the knobs in repetitions of five, never quite sure that it was truly off, doubting my own senses. “There’s nothing wrong with checking the stove once, but the problem with OCD is that once is never enough,” Jenny Yip, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and institutional member of the International OCD Foundation, who also has OCD, tells SELF. “OCD thrives on doubt, and it demands black-and-white certainty. The problem is that having complete certainty on anything in our world is not realistic.”

Fortunately, OCD is treatable. The recommended evidence-based first-line treatments for OCD include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy that trains the mind to react differently to intrusive thoughts, and other related psychotherapies like exposure and response prevention (ERP) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Medication can also be helpful, particularly serotonergic antidepressants. The medication I started in 2011 has continued to help alleviate my symptoms, and working with a CBT provider following my diagnosis in 2014 has given me tools to manage them. But OCD never really goes away, ebbing and flowing with the stressors of life. “OCD sufferers have to come to terms with the fact that intrusive thoughts will still happen even after treatment,” Yip says.

That’s where loved ones come in: Having a strong support system can be key to dealing with a mental illness. But, with my OCD, what I didn’t realize is that the way my loved ones—my spouse in particular—responded to my behaviors played a huge role in my ability to manage my symptoms.

In retrospect, back when we were dating and during the first few years of marriage, my husband Jesse’s understanding and reassurance reinforced many of my symptoms.

“Jesse! Don’t forget to make sure the stove’s off and the door’s locked,” I’d yell from the bedroom, after reluctantly tearing myself from the stove (and the door lock, and the light switches) so I could make my way to bed. When he turned in for the night, I’d ask if he checked the stove, the door, and more. Sometimes exasperated but never cruel, he’d reassure me that he did check and, yes, the stove’s off and the door’s locked.

At the worst of my OCD, Jesse’s participation in these rituals didn’t quench my insatiable thirst for certainty—I’d rise wearily from bed multiple times a night, at the expense of sleep and peace, to check again. And again. As Yip explains, even when a spouse or loved one complies with a checking request, that doesn’t always relieve someone with OCD. In fact, it may just reinforce their urge to keep checking.

Reminiscing on my love-hate relationship with excessive reassurance seeking (ERS), a common OCD behavior, I cringe at how the disorder cast a shadow over our marriage. “Text me when you get there,” I’d shout after Jesse every single morning, without fail, as he headed to work. As chipper as my voice must have sounded, a small torture unfolded in my head, with visions of being responsible for his untimely death in a car accident holding me hostage even as I went through the motions of the morning.

And almost without fail, my phone would buzz half an hour later with his one-word message: “Here.” If he forgot to text, or chose not to, or took a little longer than usual, panic would bubble up until I confirmed that he was safe. And during particularly stressful weeks (stress is thought to exacerbate OCD), the reassurance seeking questions would flow freely, and Jesse was usually the one caught in their path.

“The baby looks different. Do you think something’s wrong with her?”

“No. She’s fine.”

“I called my dad and he didn’t answer. Do you think he’s ok? What if something happened?”

“I’m sure he’s just busy.”

“My throat feels weird, do you think I have cancer?”

“Oh my god, no, you don’t have cancer.”

Both of us interpreted these responses as supportive, and that certainly was the intention, but they may have actually fueled the OCD cycle.

As kind as it might seem, telling someone with OCD that they don’t have cancer or that the baby is fine “are lies,” Yip points out. “How could a spouse possibly know that their loved one doesn’t have cancer without medical training and CAT scans?” she says. In most cases, a response that “everything is fine” is an educated and highly likely assumption, but it never quite fulfills what someone with OCD is craving.

And responding to these sorts of compulsions in such a matter-of-fact way also reinforces them, in a way. It made me believe my questions were reasonable and valid, and made me constantly seek the temporary comfort that the reassurance provided.

It’s also only a band-aid, a temporary solution. “If you respond with certainty, for example, ‘No, you won’t die,’ the person with OCD will still always wonder and have the same question and continue to ask in a hundred different ways,” Coyne explains. “The best way you can support your loved one is to help him or her tolerate uncertainty.”

I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that the healthiest responses to my OCD can come off as counterintuitive and unsupportive. But it’s in my best interest to have Jesse (and any of my friends and family) acknowledge that reassurance can actually fuel my compulsion.

This can be tough given that your loved ones just want to do what they can to appease your OCD (or any mental illness). In my case, my spouse wanted to provide the reassurance that I was desperately seeking, since it often helped me feel better in the moment. But the best way for a loved one to respond to excessive reassurance seeking, according to Yip, is to respond vaguely. Yip says that phrases like, “I don’t know,” and, “Maybe you will, maybe you won’t,” are better replies.

If someone is in treatment and working on their OCD, it’s important to “reduce accomodation,” Coyne adds. In other words, she explains, you don’t want to help the person with OCD by trying to make their rituals easier. But if someone is just beginning to treat their OCD, you may need to navigate things more sensitively and gradually. “If the person with OCD is just beginning the journey, perhaps treat these requests gently, kindly, but with honest feedback at how those interfere in the marriage, family, work, etc.,” Coyne says.

Coyne recommends loved ones keep a few phrases at the ready:

  • “That sounds like a reassurance question. I can answer, but it may feed your OCD. What would you like for me to do?”
  • “What if you waited a while before I answer that, and if it still feels pressing for you to know, I’ll tell you later?”
  • “Is that you asking, or your OCD?”

One of my favorite, typical Jesse replies to my reassurance-seeking questions, now that he knows better, isn’t a phrase at all but a distinct facial expression with a hint of a smirk and his trademark raised eyebrow, that conveys everything I need to hear: Do you really need to know the answer or is it your OCD?

It’s important to note that my experience doesn’t represent all people with OCD, which is a heterogeneous disorder with a lot of variation in the content of obsessions and compulsions.

I also acknowledge that I’m luckier than others with OCD in a lot of ways. I have health insurance that covers my psychotherapy. I found a medication that worked well to dampen my symptoms. And I have a trusted support system and a partner willing to learn and participate in the approaches that work best for me.

But one thing’s clear—learning about and participating in your loved one’s OCD management can go a long way. “The more they understand, the better allies and supporters they will become,” Coyne says.


Having the right name helps one to find housing

Over the past four decades, the incidence of housing discrimination against members of ethnic minorities has fallen in both Western European countries and the US. This is the principal finding of a meta-analysis summarizing the results of 71 empirical studies (field experiments) performed during the period between 1973 and 2015. “We found that the overall extent of discrimination is overestimated in the literature. This is partly attributable to the fact that studies which found a relatively high level of discrimination have a better chance of being published,” says LMU sociologist Katrin Auspurg, first author of the new study, published together with her colleague Andreas Schneck and Professor Thomas Hinz of the University of Constance. The paper was published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Nevertheless, reassessment of the data from the field experiments shows that housing discrimination on ethnic grounds has not disappeared. The evidence overall indicates the continuing existence of discrimination against applicants whose surnames suggest that they belong to an ethnic minority. The significance of this factor can be quantified by evaluating the number of applications that are needed to get a positive response by landlords. “On average, members of ethnic minorities must send out six applications in order to be invited to two showings of an apartment. The corresponding number for applicants with last names that are typical for the majority population is only five,” says Auspurg. Her meta-analysis also revealed that this result can often be attributed to what is called statistical discrimination: On the basis of a surname that is typical for an ethnic minority, the landlord often infers that an applicant is likely to be in a weaker financial position than other applicants. “In most field experiments, the level of discrimination significantly decreased when applications included further information relating to the applicant’s social status and income level.”

Auspurg and her colleagues have carried out their own field experiments in Munich and other German cities. The results suggest that there are no defined hotspots of discrimination; the level of discrimination is pretty much the same everywhere. In future studies, she wants to focus more on exploring the underlying causes of ethnic discrimination. In addition, her team is currently teasing out the contribution of an applicant’s social network to success in the search for rental accommodation. But other factors must also be taken into account. “It’s not just a matter of finding accommodation as such. The size and location of one’s apartment are of great significance for many other aspects of everyday living. But the more urgent issue is that members of ethnic minorities should be able to find affordable accommodation in the first place.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Katrin Auspurg, Andreas Schneck, Thomas Hinz. Closed doors everywhere? A meta-analysis of field experiments on ethnic discrimination in rental housing markets. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2018.1489223

Cite This Page:

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. “Having the right name helps one to find housing.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 July 2018. <>.

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. (2018, July 19). Having the right name helps one to find housing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. “Having the right name helps one to find housing.” ScienceDaily. (accessed July 19, 2018).

Wait, just a second, is your doctor listening?

On average, patients get about 11 seconds to explain the reasons for their visit before they are interrupted by their doctors. Also, only one in three doctors provides their patients with adequate opportunity to describe their situation. The pressure to rush consultations affects specialists more than primary care doctors says Naykky Singh Ospina of the University of Florida, Gainesville and the Mayo Clinic in the US. She led research that investigated the clinical encounters between doctors and their patients, how the conversation between them starts, and whether patients are able to set the agenda. 

The researchers analyzed the initial few minutes of consultations between 112 patients and their doctors. These encounters were videotaped in various US clinics during training sessions for doctors. In their analyses, Singh Ospina and her colleagues noted whether, for instance, doctors invited patients to set the agenda through opening questions such as “How are you?” or “What can I do for you?” The researchers also recorded whether patients were interrupted when answering such questions, and in what manner.

In just over one third of the time (36 per cent), patients were able to put their agendas first. But patients who did get the chance to list their ailments were still interrupted seven out of every ten times, on average within 11 seconds of them starting to speak. In this study, patients who were not interrupted completed their opening statements within about six seconds.

Primary care doctors allowed more time than specialists and tended to interrupt less. According to Singh Ospina, specialists might often skip the introductory step of agenda setting because they already know why a patient has been referred.

“However, even in a specialty visit concerning a specific matter, it is invaluable to understand why the patients think they are at the appointment and what specific concerns they have related to the condition or its management,” adds Singh Ospina.

She acknowledges that the frequency of interruptions not only depends on the type of practice being visited, but also relates to the complexity of each patient.

“If done respectfully and with the patient’s best interest in mind, interruptions to the patient’s discourse may clarify or focus the conversation, and thus benefit patients,” she agrees. “Yet, it seems rather unlikely that an interruption, even to clarify or focus, could be beneficial at the early stage in the encounter.”

Time constraints, not enough training on how to communicate with patients, and burnout experienced by physicians may stand in the way of a more patient-centred approach. Singh Ospina would like to see further studies exploring a possible link between a patient being given a chance to set his or her agenda, and the ultimate experience and outcomes of their visit to their doctor.

“Our results suggest that we are far from achieving patient-centered care,” she says.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Springer. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.