Four Questions to Ask a New Dermatologist During Your First Visit
Walking into your first appointment with a new dermatologist might seem nerve-wracking—especially if you have a particular concern to address or if you haven't changed doctors in years. Luckily, these professionals are here to make you feel as comfortable as possible when you sit down in their chair. With that said, preparing a few questions ahead of time might help you make the most of the initial visit and ease any anxiety. Ahead, dermatologists share what they recommend patients ask during this first meeting.
Is this spot dangerous?
According to Marisa Garshick MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and chief medical correspondent for Certain Dri, before your first visit, do a through self-examination of your skin, and search for any spots that seem unusual to you. Then, ask your new dermatologist if they are cause for concern—or if they could be a sign of skin cancer. "One way to remember what to look for is the ABCDEs: asymmetry, border irregularity, color (changing/multiple colors in one spot), diameter greater than six millimeters, and evolving," Dr. Garshick says. She also wants patients to keep an eye out for any spots that itch, bleed easily, recur, or seem to stand out more than others on the skin.
Are these products suitable for my skin?
"This is a very important question—as skin care is very personal and what works for one person may not work for someone else. It is always good to speak to a board-certified dermatologist regarding your skin regimen," Dr. Garshick says, noting that some people's go-to products could actually be the source of their issues, from flaking to clogged pores. With the right information, your dermatologist can help you make a beneficial change. "For example, for someone who likes to use a harsh bar soap and has used the same one for many years, I often recommend Dove Beauty Bar ($6.88, walmart.com), which, unlike harsh soaps, effectively cleanses without drying out the skin." To avoid any potential skin irritation, you should run any seemingly standard formulas you use on an everyday basis by your dermatologist. And if you are experiencing any other skin conditions, like acne or rosacea, speak up, so they can prescribe a regimen or topical to heal your skin.
Am I protecting my skin enough?
Even though the standard recommendation is to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that boasts both UVA and UVB coverage (reapply it every two hours!), Dr. Garshick suggests talking through your options with a dermatologist. "Some individuals, especially those with sensitive skin, may be better off using physical blockers containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide such as Elta MD UV Physical ($33, amazon.com)," she says. Dr. Carolyn Jacob, a medical director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology and a member of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), adds that you should talk through your sun exposure history (like how often you work outdoors or use tanning booths) and your family history of melanoma. Be sure to ask if there are any side effects of any product your doctor recommends—especially if you regularly experience allergies or sensitivities.
Can you write out instructions?
Before you leave your first appointment, don't hesitate to ask your dermatologist if they can write down all of the steps to follow during a new skin care routine. Even though experts often share handouts explaining everything you chatted about, Dr. Jacob admits that "sometimes, there is so much information, it becomes overwhelming for the patient to remember the details."