How To Prepare For A Visit To
Your Dermatologist When You Have Acne
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard patients tell me they’ve had a bad experience during a visit to their dermatologist. And I can certainly relate—I go to doctors, too, and I wasn’t pleased with the experiences I had as a teenager with severe acne. But I’ve also thought, ‘There must be another side to the story.’ The truth is that there are many ways that we dermatologists can improve, but there are also many things you as the patient can do to get the most out of your appointment. I find that very empowering for both the patient and the dermatologist. Here are some pointers—doctor to patient—on what to know and do before going to a dermatologist, and what to expect when you get there.
Come to your first dermatologist appointment with notes
Your dermatologist is going to need a thorough history of your acne treatments, so have all those details at the ready. To the best of your memory, chronicle what medications were given and when, which were used together and which alone, how long they were used, which seemed to work best, and list any side effects that you experienced. Bring this information written out neatly to your first dermatology appointment. Other things to include: What bothers you most about your acne? When did it start? It doesn't have to be pages and pages long, but it's helpful for dermatologists to know what you’ve used, what you may have found helpful, and what you think wasn’t.
Don’t forget about your non-acne products
It’s not just about your acne treatments and medications; dermatologists also want to know about the cleanser and moisturizer you’re using every day, as well as any other non-prescription products you’re using and any procedures you’re getting such as peels or facial lasers. All too often, both doctors and patients are only focused on acne medications, so if your skin gets irritated, it’s just assumed the prescription is to blame. But it’s just as likely that something else you’re using or doing is what’s causing the irritation. Having a full picture of everything you’re putting on your skin can help your dermatologist figure out what’s best for you during your dermatology appointment.
Mention your body acne at your dermatology appointment
Most of the research on acne has been on facial breakouts, but acne doesn’t exist from the neck up only. A good number of patients also have acne on the trunk, which includes the chest, the arms, the upper arms, and the upper shoulders. I did a study years ago to address how often acne sufferers who come in to treat their facial breakouts also have acne on these areas but never mention it. And I found that at least 50% of patients with facial acne also have acne elsewhere on their body—that’s a significant number—but only one out of four mention it.  We can’t treat what we don’t know about, so often body acne never gets addressed. At your first dermatologist appointment, expect to cover all topics regarding your skin, not just your face acne.
Have pictures of your acne ready for your dermatologist
If your skin is clearer than usual at the time of your visit, bring some good high quality pictures that show what your acne typically looks like. Have them ready on your camera roll or print out the pictures ahead of time—scrolling through your phone during an appointment can waste precious time with your dermatologist. Then tell your dermatologist about your skin in the picture. Was it at its worst on this day? Just average? It helps to know how severe it is for you in order to treat your acne appropriately.
Tell your dermatologist what you’ve heard about acne (so they can set the record straight)
My acne patients come into their first dermatology appointment with a lot of misinformation. They think their acne happens because they’re not cleansing enough or because they’re eating too much chocolate. And in a majority of cases, unless they’re doing something we know can worsen acne like ingesting a lot of whey protein or eating a diet heavy in iodine, it’s not their fault. You’re not to blame for your acne
I’ve also had parents coming down on teens because they wear their hair down or don’t wash enough, but all of these things create a negative environment in the home. And it isn’t going to help your acne. The overbearing parent of an acne patient can be a nemesis to effective acne treatment. Everyone involved is on the same team, with the same goal in mind—we all need to work together to achieve success.
Ask your dermatologist how long it will take to see results
There have been times that I’ve been driving home from the office and realize I forgot to have an important part of the conversation: I didn’t explain what to expect in terms of a time frame. So be sure to ask about it during your visit. It may take several weeks to visibly see a difference in your acne—and even then, your skin may not be completely clear. When your bumps finally go away, you may still have flat round marks for a while where the raised acne bumps were—they can be red or brown in color. Those take some time for them to fade, but you’ll notice your complexion is getting better. It’s important to understand that treating acne is a marathon, not a sprint. If you give up, you can’t win the race.
James Del Rosso, D.O.
Dr. Jim Del Rosso is an internationally renowned dermatologist who has been practicing dermatology since 1986 and a member of the Acne Store Board of Dermatologists. He is Clinical Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, has published multiple peer-reviewed articles and textbook chapters, and was President of the American Acne & Rosacea Society, American Society of Mohs Surgery, and the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. He is Adjunct Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the Touro University Nevada in Henderson, Nevada. Currently, Dr. Del Rosso is Research Director of JDR Dermatology Research and practices at Thomas Dermatology in Las Vegas, Nevada and also serves as Senior Vice President of Clinical Research and Strategic Development at Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in Maitland, Florida. He served as Head of the Section of Dermatology at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine after receiving his D.O. degree from the same medical school in Athens, Ohio, interning at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, completing a dermatology residency at Atlantic Skin Disease and Skin Surgery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and completing a fellowship in Mohs micrographic surgery and cutaneous oncology at OSU.
Acne Store is coming soon! Join our mailing list for updates, exclusive content,and deals and discounts.