Do I really need to wear sunscreen every day (the answer is yes, BTW)? Does this mole look okay? What’s the moisturizer for my skin type? Regardless of what questions you have for your dermatologist at your next appointment, chances are your derm has heard them all. What they don’t hear as frequently are the questions they wish you’d ask them. Whether you’re in their office for an annual skin checkup or a laser treatment, it turns out that dermatologists actually ~do~ want you to take advantage of their time. To help you get the most out of your appointments, we asked derms to share the questions their patients aren’t asking and wish they would. Scroll through what to keep in mind before your next visit.
Could my diet be affecting my skin?
“This is a good question because a lot of times we talk about topical treatments when inflammation or breakouts [can] arise from what we are putting in our bodies. Processed or artificial sugars, dehydration and nutrient deficiencies can play a major role in skin health. The body needs the proper vitamins and minerals to rid the skin of inflammation and waste. Without them, oil glands can go into overdrive, skin can be dry and flaky, and discoloration can appear. This question could answer many issues a patient may have where topical treatments are failing. A healthy body will better support healthy skin. The AAD has done copious studies to evaluate the role of diet and acne and has found that high glycemic index foods and dairy are the culprits that are correlated with acne. Additionally, as we age, there is a process that occurs where sugar chains attach to skin proteins (in a process called glycosylation). This can cause increased sallowing and wrinkling of the skin. So, lower glycemic index diets are best.”
—Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist at the Shafer Clinic in New York City
Am I at increased risk of skin cancer?
“This is a great question and is rarely asked to me. I think that people assume they know the answer to it, so they don’t ask. I will usually let a patient know this answer when doing a skin check because I think that it is very important and can change the frequency of recommended in-office dermatologic skin checks. Though every person can get skin cancer, those who are at increased risk include people with:
- Fair skin types, especially blue eyes or red hair
- 50 or more moles
- Family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
- Personal history of skin cancer
- History of sunburn
- History of sun tanning bed use
- History of radiation therapy (usually for cancer treatment)
- Current medications or treatments that suppress the immune system
- A transplanted organ (kidney transplant, etc.)
- A history of breast cancer—personal or family
—Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Park View Laser Dermatology and Union Square Laser Dermatology
What is the best skincare routine for my skin?
“It may seem like a simple question, [but] I think it’s important that patients ask their dermatologist for guidance when it comes to skincare and what products to use at home! There are lot of misconceptions when it comes to skin and products and your dermatologist would be able to guide you in the right direction.”
—Dr. Orit Markowitz, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist
How do I know if I’m ready for Botox?
“I usually say that if you’re asking about Botox, then it’s probably time to start. Whether you’ve started to see your mother staring back in the mirror or noticed that those expression lines linger a little longer than you’d like, Botox is a great option for prevention as well as correction. In addition to softening fine lines and wrinkles, Botox also stimulates collagen production, making it an ideal way to keep the skin taut and firm.”
—Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and Founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL.
What level SPF should I wear?
“This is a great question! SPF coverage is dependent on how sensitive the skin is and sun exposure. You need at least SPF 50 if you’re planning to be active outside. The AAD guidelines state that a minimum of SPF 30 is required. For everyday wear, I suggest 30 SPF on the face, at least. This is a great preventative question that can avoid more serious skin health questions down the line.”
What can I do to keep my skin healthy?
“Overall, many people do not see the forest for the trees. They look at one specific aspect of their skin only: jowls, smile lines, brown spots, redness, eczema or acne. I believe that you need to also address the overall health of the person in order to address the specific concerns. And if given an opportunity, with a receptive patient, I love to discuss the impact of the following on overall skin health and how it relates to their specific skin issues, such as acne or rosacea. For example, diet. Are you getting enough Vitamin C in your diet or through supplementation? Vitamin C is an essential co-factor for the production of collagen; without it you cannot make new collagen. Collagen supplements may be beneficial in stimulating collagen and improving hydration of the skin and elasticity. Then there’s stress. Find ways to manage your stress as it is very clear that stress will exacerbate skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and acne. In addition, stress weakens your immune system and a weak immune system makes you more susceptible to infections and even cancer. Also, incorporate daily exercise. It strengthens your immune system, decreases stress and it increases blood flow to your skin, helping to remove toxins and deliver nutrients and antioxidants.”
What’s the best sunscreen for the time of year?
“I find that most of my patients understand the importance of wearing sunscreen, but most people don’t realize that sunscreen isn’t one size fits all. There are so many sunscreens available on the market and while many people know it’s important to find a sunscreen that works best for your skin type, it’s also important to take into consideration your climate. I live in the northeast and the sunscreen I use in the winter is not the same one I use in the summer.”
Are my current skincare products adequate to address my needs and complement my procedures?
“One of my favorite mantras is that good skincare doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. I find that many patients are using way too many products. Others are spending too much money on products that do the same thing or do nothing at all! I like helping patients to pare it down to the essentials and devise a plan that works in concert with in-office procedures that we’ve planned to achieve maximal results.”
How can I monitor moles and markings at home?
“No one is immune to skin cancer. It is helpful for patients to monitor their moles for any changes since doctors can’t ask about what they don’t know. You should check your skin monthly and be alert to changes in the number, size, shape or color of spots on your skin or sores that do not heal. Pay special attention to moles—especially moles that have recently changed, bleed or itch. This can be life-changing if a worrisome mole is found early on. It could mean the difference in how invasive removal and treatment will be.”