Teen Vogue Article
- Posted on: Mar 26 2018
What to Know Before Going to the Dermatologist
Fawnia Soo Hoo
While you visit your regular doctor, your dentist, and possibly your eyebrow threader regularly, you might not have ever stepped foot into a dermatologist’s exam room, as of yet. You know, a dermatologist, a physician that specializes not just in skin, like Dr. Pimple Popper, but also hair and nails.
You might be thinking about making an appointment for any one of a common medical concerns, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, general rash-y situations anywhere on the body, warts (also anywhere on the body, including genital), suspicious and/or regular mole checks. Dermatologists also perform cosmetic procedures, like painful lip injections, and treatments for medical issues that actually fall under the category of cosmetic — but we’ll get to that in a bit.
But like any other baby’s first, a first dermatologist visit can feel like uncharted territory involving lots of questions and uncertainty. So, we consulted two experts to help you get ready for — and feel more chill about — your inaugural dermatologist experience.
First, make sure you find the right dermatologist.
Recommendations from friends and/or family are great, too, but above all — crucial pro-tip — make sure the dermatologist is legit by confirming that he or she is “Board Certified by the American Board of Dermatology,” which can also be done through the AAD website. “Board-certified dermatologists are specially trained in diseases of the skin, hair, and nails, and must pass rigorous exams to maintain their certification,” explains Chicago-based Dr. Jessie Cheung. Dr. Leger also suggests calling the doctor’s office to make sure the derm specializes and treats patients in your age group — to make sure they’re at the top of their game when it comes to the issues that concern you the most.
Clarify the insurance situation before you go.
Have your insurance information ready when you call to make your appointment and check to see what procedures and treatments are covered by your insurance. (This could be a great moment to ask your parents for help. “They’re pretty used to navigating that,” says Dr. Leger.)
For the most part, medical visits for reasons like acne and warts are covered by insurance. “Although in this changing world, you may have deductibles and copays. You should always ask your dermatologist if you’re not sure,” says Dr. Cheung. Also, some medications, especially ones that treat acne and eczema, might not be covered, so ask the dermatologist’s office to help you gain coverage with your insurance carrier.
Cosmetic treatments, like lip injections and laser hair removal, are not covered by insurance. But confusingly, some procedures for acne scarring, like laser treatments, chemical peels, and photodynamic therapy fall under cosmetic and won’t be covered. Again, check with the doctor’s office to clarify and explore your options.
Be prepared before you go in for your appointment.
Not like test prep, but have a list of information and items ready to best help the doctor take care of your treatment course. “If you’re coming in for acne or eczema, put together a list of everything you’ve tried before and note what ingredients may have helped or irritated your skin,” says Dr. Cheung. For all treatments, Dr. Leger suggests documenting the length of time you took previous medications and when the last date of use was. Also, make note of what reactions you experienced and how well (or not) the meds worked.
“Bring medications in or take pictures of them, just so you can really help the dermatologist with your history,” she adds. It’s also helpful to bring in a list of all the skin products you typically use, like moisturizer, soap, cleanser, etc. Also, have the information of your local (or mail order) pharmacy on hand, so you can get your prescribed meds faster.
Know what to expect from your visit.
You might have to get naked and put on a gown — or not. “It depends on what you’re being seen for,” says Dr. Leger. “Every visit can be a little bit different.”
“If you’re coming in for a mole check, expect to have the dermatologist look at everything — private parts, gums, and between your toes — everything will get exposed, eventually,” explains Dr. Cheung. “Don’t worry, we look at skin all day long. Skin is everywhere, and bad moles can develop in areas where the sun never shines.” Also, don’t bother wearing skin-obscuring makeup and remove that gel or polish, especially if you’re going in for nail issues.
Ask all the questions.
The dermatologist might be coming at you with a lot of info and medical jargon, so make sure you listen and fully take in what information and treatment instructions the doctor is imparting. Taking notes helps, especially if the doctor is prescribing a multi-step skincare regimen. Don’t be shy about asking questions or go a step further by asking for informational brochures or online recommendations about your concern or condition.
If you’re going in with a parent — especially a chatty one — make sure you have your chance to explain the situation from your perspective. “Physicians will give both teenager and parents ample time to talk and ask questions,” says Dr. Leger, who also points out that some medications do require adult consent for patients under 18.
Expect to go back, regularly. “For acne, your derm will have you come back every few months to see how treatment regimen is working,” says Dr. Leger, who also points out other chronic skin issues like eczema and warts require multiple visits. If you have a family history of skin cancer, your doctor will also suggest how often you should go in for regular screenings.
And “follow up every few months if [your treatment is] not working,” she adds. “Then we want to change it.” Remember, the dermatologist is there to help you find the best solutions for your skin, hair, and/or nail issues — and become a regular visit on your appointment checklist.