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The Parkinson's Mailbag

Grooming Tips for Parkinson's Patients

Ivan Suzman

Putting Your Best Face Forward

For a Parkinson's patient, personal grooming can be difficult. The symptoms of our illness, combined with the side-effects of our medications, can cause visible changes in the way we appear to others. These include facial flushing or sweating, watery or dry eyes, an uncomfortably dry or excessively salivating mouth, and facial muscles that stiffen and pull on the skin, causing a "mask-like" expression that hinders communication through emphasis. Here I bring you some tips to make grooming a bit easier, while helping you to reveal your personality.

Seeing Through New Eyes

Regular eye exams are important. At my last check-up, my optometrist recommended Allergan's Refresh Plus EyeDrops to moisten and wake up my eyes. These drops do not sting, and are placed on the outer and lower edge of the eyelid. Thirty small vials, each containing 0.4 ml (about two oz.), are packaged in a box for $9.95 at
Sweating and oily secretions may make eyeglasses twist or "ski" down the nose. To avoid this, try blotting your skin with alcohol swabs. These can help dry the nose pads of your glasses and the bridge of your nose. A box of 100 swabs, by Becton Dickinson, (888) 232-2737, is available for $1.96 at
If you wear eyeglasses and have light-sensitive eyes, consider asking your optometrist about such products as tinted lenses, photochromatic glass, light-responsive plastic lenses and anti-glare coating. For strained or tired eyes, a moist, cool teabag or a slice of fresh cucumber works wonders.

Trouble-Free Hair Styling

Liquid soap, body wash and soap-on-a-rope are safer than regular bar soap, which can be dangerous if dropped. Take special care when shampooing; some products that sting may force you to close your eyes, potentially inducing a fall. Try a gentle baby shampoo. If you need a shower chair for stability, a variety of styles are available at, starting at $32.00.

Mrs. Peggy Willocks of Tennesee, recommends getting a good electric razor if dyskinetic movements are beginning to render standard razors unsafe. One option is Conair's Wet/Dry Shaver, available in two models for men or women, for $39.84, at

As to hair management, a short style will of course be easier to handle. For those who prefer long or styled hair, Peggy also suggests styling while seated in a well-lit area, equipped with an upright magnifying glass and good mirrors. Such mirrors are available at, at prices ranging from $29.95 to $89.95. To free your hands while blow-drying, try a hair dryer stand such as the Hair Made Hair Dryer Stand, viewable at at a price of $19.95.

For effective and safe trimming of unwanted hair on lips, nostrils, ears and eyebrows, try the compact Deluxe Personal Trimmer, available in the Dr. Leonard's catalogue for $6.99. Order online at or by telephone at (800) 785-0880.

A Healthier Mouth Means a Happier Smile

For comfortable rinsing, a spearmint or citrus-flavored mouthwash is cool and relaxing, especially if you have difficulty swallowing. I experience dry throat and tongue, and find that Listerine Wintermint, an antiseptic and tartar-controlling formula, is surprisingly enjoyable. The manufacturer is Warner-Lambert (800) 223-0182.

Mr. George Docken, Mrs. Rita Weeks and others wrote to us comparing Water Pik with sonic tooth cleansing. Most preferred sonic cleansing. You can find the Sonicare Advance 4100 at for $59.95. For traditional tooth brushing, try a long-handled toothbrush with an angle near the brush end. When flossing, use a plastic floss harp to avoid cutting your gums. A good floss harp is the Butler G-U-M Flosbrush, which costs $3.19 at and is widely available.

Because Parkinson's disease and its medications-along with our fruit-rich diets-can erode tooth enamel, people with Parkinson's disease need to pay special attention to their teeth. See your dentist and hygienist regularly. And be sure to drink water frequently; besides being good for you, it also helps to keep the mouth clean.

Keeping your lips moist will help you smile and speak with greater ease. Traditional Chapstick, by Whitehall-Robbins, is non-greasy. Soothing beeswax lip balms are also available in health food or natural product stores. One well-known product, Burt's Bees Lip Balm, is available for about $2.50.

Try out these suggestions and be sure to tell us what you think of them. In upcoming issues of News & Review, I plan to have Mailbags on finding the best advocates, such as social workers, attorneys and others. Send your ideas and suggestions on finding the best PD advocates to me at or by mail c/o PDF.