Some skin conditions are best helped with an expert. Here’s how to choose one…
By Anjali Mahto
From hormonal breakouts to dry, rough skin – we all have minor skin problems from time-to-time. But, when skin problems persist, they can have a huge impact on someone’s comfort, self-confidence and mental health. Psoriasis has been linked to depression and acne can greatly impact someone’s confidence. While going to your GP is a great first step in addressing any persisting problems or chronic skin conditions, the expertise of a dermatologist might just be able to relieve your symptoms – if not rid them altogether – and regain some of your self-confidence.
What exactly is a dermatologist?
You may be surprised to hear that we are medical doctors who, after medical school, specialise in dermatology before taking advanced consultant exams. So a consultant dermatologist is an expert in everything related to the skin, hair and nails and their medical health. No other doctors have the same level of expertise or training.
What can a dermatologist treat?
We are trained to diagnose and treat more than 3,000 different conditions in patients of all ages from birth to old age. These include, amongst many others, acne, eczema, skin cancer and psoriasis.
Skin, scars and age spots
Dermatologists also improve the appearance of their patients’ skin, hair, and nails, including reducing the severity of scars left by acne or skin cancer surgery, addressing skin pigmentation issues and eliminating signs of ageing, such as wrinkles and age spots.
Dermatologists use a wide range of sophisticated techniques to address these conditions, including surgery, laser and light therapy, cryotherapy, and the prescription of medicines to be applied to the skin or taken orally.
What is a cosmetic dermatologist?
A cosmetic dermatologist is a qualified dermatologist with further training in cosmetic procedures to improve the appearance of the skin such as removing harmless moles, treating sun spots or pigmentation, facial redness, and acne scarring. A cosmetic dermatologist is also able to offer anti-ageing treatments.
When should I see a cosmetic dermatologist?
If you want any form of cosmetic skin treatment then you should always see a cosmetic dermatologist. They will correctly and safely administer the many cosmetic procedures available for the skin, such as wrinkle treatments, skin fillers and chemical peels. These treatments require an expert understanding of the structure and physiology of the skin and its underlying tissues – this expertise is an intrinsic part of the medical training a dermatologist undertakes in qualifying in this discipline.
What should I look for when choosing a cosmetic surgeon?
Unfortunately, there are no rigorous laws or regulations in the UK to prevent an individual from calling themselves a dermatologist, cosmetic dermatologist, or skin doctor. It is therefore vital to do your homework and check the credentials of your treating doctor. Do not be caught out by someone pretending to be something they are not.
- Check the General Medical Council (GMC) register. All you need is the treating doctor’s name. All qualified UK doctors will be on the GMC register
- Only a doctor that has completed specialist dermatology training will also be on “specialist register” which can be checked here
- If you find your treating skin doctor is not on the specialist register, do not be afraid to ask why. Anyone who is properly trained will not mind the question
- If you are looking for an accredited dermatologist to perform a cosmetic procedure, check sites such as the British Cosmetic Dermatology Group that have GMC registered specialists listed
How do I see a dermatologist?
There are a number of methods one can see a dermatologist. The simplest way is to see your GP and request referral to a specialist on the NHS. If your GP feels this is appropriate and a condition they are unable to manage, they will refer you to your local NHS dermatology department.
If you have private healthcare, you can also request referral from your GP to a private dermatologist for review of your skin. Alternatively, if you wish to see a dermatologist for a medical or cosmetic problem, it is possible to make contact directly with their office and arrange an appointment.
Remain wary of what you read, as many ‘experts’ are often incorrectly called skin doctors or dermatologists. It is up to you to do your homework and double-check what you read!