What to expect when you see a dermatologist about your acne

I love meeting a new patient who has come to the dermatologist's office for the first time for acne. Although it has been over a decade, I still remember clearly being a teenager who was extremely self-conscious about my appearance, and frustrated with acne. I tried many over-the-counter products with no sustained results. It wasn't until several years later when I saw a dermatologist and started a regimen of prescription medications that I really felt comfortable about taking control of my acne and feeling great in my skin. I enjoy treating patients with acne because I relate to their frustrations, and also feel confident that we will be able to work together to make their skin better.

For those of you who are considering seeing a dermatologist for acne treatment, this post should help you prepare for what to expect from your first visit to a skin specialist.

First, you should have an idea of treatments you've tried for your acne, both prescription and over-the-counter, and how long you tried them for. This is important because some treatments need a long course – 12 weeks or more – before seeing results, and therefore just because it has been tried and didn't work doesn't mean it isn't the right medication for you.

You should also be prepared to talk about any problems you may have had with any treatments, such as skin irritation/dryness with a medication, or stomach upset if you were ever given antibiotics from a doctor for your acne. Knowing how your skin reacted to even over-the-counter treatments will help your dermatologist choose the best treatment for you.

Your dermatologist will examine your skin, but it is also important to let him or her know exactly what your acne is like, such as if it affects only your face versus your chest and back as well; if you get only bumps or also larger cysts and pustules; and what it looks like at its worst.

Some other basic questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • How long you have had acne?
  • Does anything make it worse (for example, menses in females or stress)?
  • Did your parents have really bad acne?

Finally, have a list of any antibiotics that caused problems for you in the past, whether it was an allergy or just a bad side effect. Antibiotics are often used for treatment of acne, and knowing off the bat which ones you can and can't take is very helpful.

And if you are a female and are pregnant or are thinking about getting pregnant in the near future, let your doctor know, because this affects what treatments are safe for you to use.

Being prepared with all of the above information will optimize your visit and help your dermatologist choose the best treatment for you.

Published on 08/17/2010 | Last updated on 12/20/2016