What to Ask Your Skin Care Physician

dermatologist examining woman

It’s safe to say that when visiting a dermatologist you want to make the most of your appointment. To ensure you never walk out of another appointment feeling like you missed something, we sat down with our Obagi Education Managers, Perri and Aimee, to discuss some of the most important questions you should be asking your dermatologist and why. Best of all, with our new mobile-friendly site, you can easily bookmark this page and run through this checklist during your next appointment.

  • What is the number one skin care advice you give patients my age?
    Learn from others’ mistakes – especially those in the same stage of life as you. One common mistake patients often make is that they assume that if they don’t struggle with any common skin concerns like acne, hyperpigmentation, dry skin, and the like, that their skin is healthy. A common misconception is that skin care has a “one size fits all” solution, which is contrary to the truth. However, a common link in virtually every comprehensive skin care regimen should be a good cleanser and a broad spectrum sunscreen. Remember, your skin is special – just like you! Be sure you’re doing all you can to reach optimal skin health.
  • Talk to your skin care physician about ALL of your skin care concerns.
    If your biggest concern is dry skin but you get an occasional pimple and that bothers you, bring it up! Your physician may have a solution. Make the most of your office visit by talking about your obvious every day concerns AND the ones that may not seem as important on the day of your visit (like hormonal acne once a month) because as we know, once that zit pops up, you’ll be glad you did. Another reason it’s important is because your skin care physician needs a complete picture of your skin concerns in order to build a comprehensive skin care regimen that continues to help you improve your skin and address all of your concerns and conditions.
    You can also ask your doctor if he or she sees any concerns you haven’t mentioned. It might sound something like: “Doctor, I’ve explained my A), B) and C) concerns to you – do you see any other issues that may be contributing to the look of premature aging in my skin?” (Your doctor may see signs of aging or concerns you’re not even aware of, or that you can fix).
  • What is causing my skin condition?
    It’s important to not only understand WHAT, but WHY your skin conditions occur. Conditions such as hyperpigmentation, dry skin, fine lines and wrinkles, breakouts, etc., can be caused by numerous factors that can be easily addressed by making small adjustments to your lifestyle and/or skin care routine. It is important to discuss these opportunities with your doctor as he or she may have further insight that may help you. Understanding the causes as well as the solution can not only help you address certain conditions but also help to keep them from reoccurring in the future.  
  • Tell your skin care physician ALL of the products and medications you are using and ask him or her how to optimize your routine.
    Your dermatologist prescribes you a precise skin care routine for specific reasons. You can look at this as a master recipe. Even minor changes to your routine can affect your outcome. In addition, some products may not mix well, there could be a more effective way to approach your skin care regimen, or medications you are currently taking can affect your skin. By telling your dermatologist all of the products and medications you currently use (or want to continue using) you will help your skin care physician customize your skin care routine. As your skin changes and as it begins to improve, your protocol may change, so be sure to follow up with him or her as your skin reaches its full transformation, if you have concerns, or if you have any questions.
  • How do I know if my skin is aging well and what can I do to prevent premature skin aging?
    Doctors provide a wide variety of treatments, procedures and products to address a vast array of skin concerns to both prevent and correct premature skin aging. Your physician has access to the best products available, so listen to his or her advice, even if it addresses issues you weren’t aware of before. You’ll be grateful for the preventative guidance.
  • How can I prevent skin cancer?  What products should I look for, and what kinds of sun protection techniques do you recommend?
    Despite everything we know about the importance of sun avoidance and protection, melanoma rates are still on the rise. Recent research shows that melanoma can be potentiated by an accumulation of UVA damage, and frequently shows up on places in the skin which receive little or even no direct sun exposure (inside the nose…bottoms of feet, etc.).1 Be sure your skin care physician does a thorough check for signs of skin cancer, recommends a broad spectrum SPF and talks to you about your risk level and areas you should be particularly cognizant of. Have your doctor describe what abnormalities are, what they look like, and what to do on a daily basis to protect your skin, like using sunscreen every single day (rain or shine), and wearing a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing when in the sun to reduce your risk.
  • How often should I be coming in for visits?
    While once a year is the recommended standard set by the American Academy of Dermatology, your skin care physician may want to see you more often to help you directly address your skin concerns and conditions. Once your dermatologist is familiar with your skin and your history, he or she can put together a long-term treatment program to address both aesthetic and medical concerns.

Do you have other suggestions on what to ask your skin care physician? Tell us in the comments below.

Reference: 1. Skin Cancer Facts. The Skin Cancer Foundation website. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts. Accessed Feb 7, 2014. 

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© 2014 Obagi Medical Products Inc., a division of Valeant Pharmaceuticals North America LLC. DM/OBG/14/0012

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