8 Questions You Should Ask Your Dermatologist This Year
Follow these doctor-recommended tips for healthy, glowing skin.
Whether you’re setting new resolutions or not, the turn of a new calendar year comes with annual adulting duties. You know, like paying your taxes, taking a look at your student loan progress, mortgage payments, strategizing for vacations, or asking for a raise. And if you’re smart, making an appointment with your dermatologist to check in on the health of your skin. Considering that skin is our largest organ, too few people set aside regular time to analyze it’s vitality. Here, derms suggest the topics you should discuss with your doctor each year.
How should I regularly prevent and screen for skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that one in five people will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Even with this alarming rate, few people schedule skin checks that could detect the earliest stages of this disease, says Brian Ginsberg, MD, a board certified dermatologist in New York. If caught in its infancy, Dr. Ginsberg says most will experience a 99 percent survival rate. That’s why he recommends a candid conversation with your derm to cover not only your current sun exposure but any family histories, since some forms of skin cancer are genetic, and you could warrant a check more than once a year. According to Dr. Ginsberg, having five bad sunburns in your lifetime doubles your risk of melanoma, so it's also worth discussing the best SPF for your body, as well any at-home screening practices you can implement into your routine.
What should I be doing for my skin regimen?
A quick Google search of ‘skincare regimen’ and you’re bound to find endless articles, blogs, and links to a vast variety of products. While having access to tons of information has its perks, it can also be confusing to know what works for your specific skin type and issues, says Hadley King, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. Rather than spending time reading the fine print, go straight to the source and enlist your dermatologist to recommend the right ingredients for you. “From which cleansers to use, to which vitamin C and sunscreen, to which lasers to consider, your dermatologist is the perfect resource to answer these questions,” Dr. King says.
How can I monitor my moles?
If you are someone who has plenty of beauty marks it's important to learn how to monitor them, says Peterson Pierre, MD, a board certified dermatologist in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Since you see yourself in your birthday suit daily and know your body better than anyone else, you are the first line of defense. Dr. Pierre says to be vigilant, and to follow the "ABCDE" test to ensure a mole isn’t worrisome. Though you should speak with your dermatologist for in-person instructions, this is a great way to test it out ASAP:
- A is for Asymmetry: Is one half of the mole different than the other half?
- B is for Border: Are the borders irregular in any way?
- C is for Color: Is there a change in color or multiple colors?
- D is for Diameter: Is the mole increasing in size?
- -E is for Elevation: Is the mole getting more elevated from the surface of the skin?
What is this? Is this treatable?
Whether it’s an unruly mole, an annoying ingrown hair, or a discoloration, Dr. Ginsberg says many people walk around with something that’s cumbersome. What many fail to realize is that treatment is often not only possible, but easy. “Scars you thought were permanent, including from acne, may be able to be reduced in just a few months. Many growths can be removed in minutes with minimal scarring. That stubborn pimple can be reduced in days with one simple injection,” he says. “If it bothers you, just ask. You never know what is possible these days with medicine and technology.”
Do I need an eye cream?
Even if your grandmother, mother, and sister all insist you absolutely, 100 percent, must be using an eye cream yesterday, Dr. Pierre says they could be wrong. In fact, some of them can be a waste of cash (and energy) if you’re already using other products on your face that serve a similar purpose. If you are truly worried about the delicate skin under your eyes, he suggests speaking with your dermatologist, who can prescribe a pharmaceutical-grade option that uses high-quality ingredients. “Your dermatologist can provide prescription products like Retin-A or others aimed at your specific condition," he says. "You'll get the best results and save both time and money."
What is causing my acne?
Not everyone overcomes their acne angst once they reach their 20s—or 30s or 40s. In fact, many people suffer from breakouts throughout their lifetime, and what causes them shifts with age, too. As Dr. Pierre puts it, acne is multi-factorial, and our hormones are a major contributor. From clogs in oil glands that lead to inflammation to whiteheads, blackheads, and beyond, it’s important to discuss what’s happening with your dermatologist. When they know what’s causing you trouble, they know the right questions to ask tied to your lifestyle and age in order to give you the best solution possible. TLDR? Dr. Pierre reminds acne suffers there can be clear skin at the end of all of those breakouts, but you have to be honest with your derm to get there.
Are there any new technologies or procedures for skin maintenance?
Dermatologists are always studying new ways to address skin issues. So what wasn’t available five years ago—or even a year!—may be in the works now. That’s why Dr. Ginsberg suggests asking your derm about the latest discoveries, technologies, and treatments that could solve your woes. “These include creams, injectables, lasers, and more. You may be able to treat wrinkles, redness, dark spots, and fat with growingly less invasive and less painful options, often with little to no downtime,” he says. Rather than settling for what was once an option, explore what could be a game changer in the new decade.
How does my diet affect my skin?
Some foods don’t agree with your stomach and cause uncomfortable cramps and bloating. And some foods aren’t exactly good news for your skin, either. Though Dr. Pierre says everyone has various levels of sensitivity, if you keep experiencing breakouts, your diet could be to blame. “Research has shown that high glycemic index foods can trigger acne in susceptible individuals. These foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels which can stimulate inflammation leading to acne,” he explains.
Common culprits are dairy, gluten, fast food, fried foods, and chocolate, to name a few. “Some patients eat all the foods on this list and have great skin; others avoid all these foods yet still suffer with acne,” Dr. Pierre says. A dermatologist can guide you through various elimination diets or tests to inform your meal plans.