Five ways to get the most out of your dermatologist visit

Thanks to the popularity of the 10-step Korean skincare routine, we are definitely learning to pay more and more attention to our body’s biggest organ and how to properly care for it. Many a beauty girl can reel off the various actives, acids, and -ides to look for to solve problems such as dark spots, fine lines, dry skin, and more. But while DIY-ing one’s personal skincare has never been easier, nothing quite beats medical advice, especially for more serious concerns such as milia, allergies, or premature signs of skin aging. In a sense, it’s like comparing WebMD to a visit with the doctor: the former may be useful for minor or short-term issues, but when facing major crises or long-term maintenance, you’re better off going in for that physical checkup.

If a visit to the dermatologist seems intimidating because you don't quite know what to do or expect, never fear! As with anything, the best way to do it is to go in prepared - it will help make that visit a little less nerve-wracking, and also a little more worthwhile!

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Keep a skincare journal

Whether you just follow a basic care routine or regularly use acids and actives, it's a good idea to keep track of the things you put on your face. Having a record of what you’ve exposed your skin to can help your dermatologist isolate potential triggers for acne, allergies, and the like. Even if you don't have issues, your journal can give you a better idea of which skincare products work best for you and ditch those that don't really make a difference.

If you’ve scheduled an appointment in advance (which you probably should do), you can start your journal in the days leading up to it, recording not only the products you use (both makeup and skincare) but also any activities that might affect skin health, such as extended time in the sun or taking new medication. Track things like your diet, where you are in your cycle, or any major changes that might prove helpful in identifying just what is causing your skin to behave in a way you don’t want it to.

Make a list of issues

To avoid wasting both yours and your doctor’s time, it’s best to prepare your list of issues and questions in advance, so that you’re not struggling to remember things once you’re in the doctor’s office. Having a family medical history on hand also helps, too, as many skincare issues can be a result of hereditary factors, and this background will inform your dermatologist’s recommendations.

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Bring visual aids

Certain conditions, like psoriasis or eczema, can “flare up” or lie low, depending on the day or your physical condition. That’s why, before the appointment, you should be taking photos of any problematic areas to document your experience. If you spot any strange spots or unexplained rashes, snap a photo as soon as you notice them so you can show your doctor and allow them to check for any changes in the elapsed time.

And, it goes without saying: if you’re due for a visit to your dermatologist, you should probably put down that pore-perfecting primer and heavy coverage concealer. Leave your skin as au naturel as possible, including your nails.

Be honest with your budget

One of the most intimidating things about a dermatologist visit can be the cost of treatment, especially if you’re facing a chronic skin issue, or one where you might need a series of procedures. In cases like these, it’s best to be open with your doctor about your budget, so they can either recommend alternatives, or find ways to space out your treatments in order to lessen the immediate blow to your wallet. Have an open dialogue about how much you are willing to spend, and don’t be afraid to openly ask for cheaper options!

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Ask for drugstore alternatives

While some may have their own clinical prescriptions, there are also dermatologists who are fans of accessible drugstore products, so don’t be shy about asking if the prescription they give you may be available in a more wallet-friendly format at your drugstore’s skincare or beauty counter. Many actually discover brands like Cetaphil, Physiogel, and Celeteque - among others - because of their dermatologist's reco, so depending on what issues your skin is facing, these budget-friendly finds may come in handy.

If you’re a hardcore beauty geek with a knowledge of product formulations, you may also ask your dermatologists about the active ingredients needed to treat your condition, then discuss with them products you know have those components. While not exactly drugstore, brands like The Ordinary may offer more affordable alternatives for actives like retinoids and niacinamide, which could address skin issues your dermatologist might have uncovered. Just make sure to ask them first instead of simply deciding to DIY because products with the same featured active can still have different formulations!

Have you visited a dermatologist before? What are some things you’ve learned from getting a professional check up? Share them with us in the comments!