What to Expect at Your First Dermatologist Visit

What Happens During Your First Dermatology Appointment for Acne

Seeing a dermatologist is the best thing you can do to help clear up your acne. But if you’ve never been to a dermatologist before, you're probably wondering what goes on during your first visit, and what you should expect.

Once the day of your appointment arrives, be sure your skin is clean, and try to avoid wearing makeup. This will give the dermatologist an accurate picture of your skin. 

Here are some other things you should expect on your first trip to the dermatologist.

1
Expect to Answer Questions About Your Medical History

Female doctor examining beauty spots with magnifying glass on woman's back
Dermatologist Appointment. Willy de l'Horme / Getty Images

Your first visit to the dermatologist begins much as a typical visit to your primary care physician. You’ll be asked about your medical history, medications, health problems, and the like.

It’s important that your dermatologist knows your medical history so that he/she can appropriately treat your acne.  It’s all relevant, even the issues that aren’t directly related to your skin.

Before your visit, you may want to take a few steps to prepare, such as writing down any over-the-counter medications you've tried to treat your acne, and any prescriptions you are already taking. The chances are good you'll get another prescription from your dermatologist, and it's important he/she knows about your current medications, to avoid interactions. 

2
Expect the Dermatologist to Check Your Skin for Things Other Than Acne

Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to disrobe and put on one of those lovely paper gowns. 

If it’s the first time you’ve ever seen a dermatologist, you may be treated to a full body check for other skin problems, suspicious moles for example.

Although this may seem odd if you’ve made the appointment because of acne, remember that your dermatologist is there to help you with all of your skin problems, even ones you may not know about yet.

3
Expect to Be Treated with Respect

The vast majority of dermatologists are professionals who genuinely want to help and have their patient’s best interests at heart.  That said, there are a few random “bad apples” out there.

Don’t stand for a dermatologist who is rude or demeaning, doesn’t spend time any time looking at your skin and listening to your concerns, or gives you a hard-sell for skin care products. You should feel comfortable with this person, and your dermatologist should act professionally and respectfully.

If you're not comfortable or confident in this person, it may be time to find a new dermatologist.

4
Expect to Leave with a Prescription

Once your dermatologist has examined your skin and gotten all of the pertinent information, he/she will likely prescribe an acne treatment medication for you. You can generally expect to leave with a prescription that day.

Make sure you understand how to use your new acne medication and know which side effects to look out for and how to manage them. Be sure to ask how long it will take to see improvement and what you should do if you aren’t seeing good results.

5
Expect to Make More Than One Visit

It would be amazing if all you had to do was make one appointment, get a medication, and never have to worry about acne again.  Unfortunately, acne doesn’t work that way.

It can sometimes take a few tries to hit on the right treatment, or combination of treatments, that will work well for your acne. So don't be discouraged by these return visits.

And once you get significant clearing of your acne, your dermatologist will still want to see you periodically to make sure that the medication you have is working well, that you aren’t bothered too much by side effects, and to simply monitor the overall health of your skin. Plus you'll need to continue to refill your prescription acne medications since these don't cure acne but instead control breakouts.

Use these subsequent visits to your advantage, both for acne treatment and beyond. This first dermatology appointment is the first step to a lifetime of healthy skin.

Sources:

"Questions and Answers About Acne." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Jan 2006. National Institutes of Health.

Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, et. al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016; 74(5): 945-73.

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