How do you know when you need to go to the dermatologist? What should you expect at your first dermatologist appointment? Washington DC–based board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Cheri Frey, went live with Dermablend on Instagram to answer all of our questions about getting started with dermatology, what a dermatologist does, and why they are so qualified to help us with our skincare questions. If you missed the live conversation, you can catch it on our IGTV, or you can read up on Dr. Frey’s expert tips here.
What does it take to become a dermatologist?
It’s a known fact that doctors go to school for a long time, but what are the steps to become a board-certified dermatologist? Dr. Frey explains, “Dermatologists are medical doctors. Nowadays, there are so many people who have some expertise in skin, but it is very important to determine what everyone’s role is. For a dermatologist, medical school is first, and in school you have to decide on some specialty where you spend some additional years training, which is called a residency. For dermatology, you’re required to do one year of general medicine and then three years of specialized training in dermatology, specializing in hair, skin and nails.”
What do dermatologists do?
Dermatologists learn many techniques in their training, including skin cancer removal surgeries or cosmetic surgery as well as aesthetic treatments like chemical peels, fillers, toxins and laser devices. Dermatologists are also specialists in pathology, which is looking under the microscope at the skin, hair and nails to find out the cause or other things that might be associated with your condition.
What should you know before visiting the dermatologist?
Since they are the experts for all skin health concerns, you might be thinking about scheduling an appointment with your nearest board-certified dermatologist. Here are some things to prepare before visiting a dermatologist.
- Do your research: What if you needed a dermatologist today and don’t have one? Dr. Frey recommends you do your research, starting with your insurance and checking the availability in some offices. Because you could wait months before seeing a dermatologist, “it may be a good idea to establish care before you have a specific issue,” she says.
- Understand it might be quick: “Since dermatologists are specialists, we see a lot of people,” Dr. Frey explains. “Visits usually last 10 to 15 minutes depending on the reason for the visit. Our training consists of visual diagnosis, so what you see as a quick glance is actually a pretty long time for us. We can diagnose you pretty quickly. But even though we have all the expertise, you should still feel like you are heard. You should be able to ask your questions, but because these appointments don’t last very long, you should definitely come in prepared.”
- Make a list: To take advantage of the little time you have with a dermatologist, why not list your questions and concerns in order of priority. “Think about what you want to discuss and what concerns you want to address. Prioritize your questions,” Dr. Frey suggests. If the most important topics are covered in your visit but some weren’t addressed, a follow-up appointment will allow you to resume the conversation. Keep in mind that dermatologists focus on your skin’s health, not just the way it looks. Dr. Frey says, “If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the skin is the window to your health,” so there will be questions about your overall health.
- Be prepared to get undressed: “Seeing your skin will allow me to correctly diagnose you and give you the best treatment plan,” Dr. Frey explains. This also applies to any examination of hair or nails by a dermatologist. If your hair needs to be examined, make sure he or she can separate it and manipulate it. If the issue is with your nails, don’t wear nail polish the day of your appointment.
- Consistency is key: You underestimate the need for a dermatologist until you know one! The first visit to the dermatologist is only the beginning of a long relationship. Complying with your dermatologist’s treatment plans and follow-up appointments will allow you to achieve your skin health goals.