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How to select a dermatologist

Whether it’s rashes, wrinkles, psoriasis, or melanoma, skin issues can have a serious impact on your life. Dermatologists understand what’s causing your issue and the best way to treat it.

If you’re seeing a dermatologist for the first time or it’s been a while since your last appointment, the following tips from board-certified dermatologists can help you:

  • Find a dermatologist that’s right for you.

  • Get the most from your appointment.

  1. Look for an FAAD: These letters stand for “Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology” and tell you that the dermatologist is board certified. No one understands your skin better a board-certified dermatologist.

    A good place to find out if the dermatologist is an FAAD is to go to Find a Dermatologist on this website. If a dermatologist is board certified, you’ll see FAAD after their name.

    When visiting a dermatologist’s website, you’ll either see FAAD, something that says they’re board certified, or both.

    A word of caution about board certification. There are many types of boards and certifications. If you don’t see FAAD after your dermatologist’s name, make sure your dermatologist is board certified by one of these organizations:

    • American Board of Dermatology
    • American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology
    • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

    When you see one of these boards listed, you know you’re receiving care from a dermatologist who has passed board exams that thoroughly test knowledge, experience, and skills.

  2. Check what insurance the dermatologist accepts: If you are uncertain about insurance coverage, call your insurance provider. They are the best source for learning whether a dermatologist is in your network and if the visit is covered. They can also tell you whether treatment for a particular condition is covered.

    Note that cosmetic procedures — such as treatment for wrinkles — usually are not covered.

  3. Use these tips when scheduling your appointment: As is true for many specialists, there can be a wait to see a dermatologist. To help you get timely care, dermatologists offer these tips.

    • Make your appointment ASAP. The sooner you can make your appointment, the better. If you are scheduling a routine appointment, schedule several weeks or even months ahead of when you wish to be seen.
    • Explain your concerns. If you are worried about a particular condition or have pain, briefly explain this to the receptionist or put in it in the online form. For example, if you have a mole that is itching, bleeding, or changing (signs of possible skin cancer), be sure to mention that.

      Dermatologists try to work in patients with urgent issues as soon as possible. You may be able to speak directly with the dermatologist or his or her nurse about your concern.
    • Explain your concerns

      Dermatologists work tirelessly to keep their patients healthy and happy. They will know if your condition needs urgent care.

      Dermatologist meeting with patient who has urgent concern

    • Ask if there’s a waitlist. Many dermatologists keep a waitlist, which allows patients on the wait list to get in to see the dermatologist before their scheduled appointment if another patient cancels. If the office doesn’t keep a waitlist, check with the office frequently to see if an earlier appointment has become available.

  4. Prepare for your visit: A bit of preparation will help you can get the most out of your dermatology visit. Here’s what dermatologists recommend:

    • Find a notebook and pen to bring with you. Before your appointment, write the following in this notebook:

      • Questions you have. When you are in the office, it can be difficult to remember all your questions. Writing questions down ahead of time can ensure that you remember them all.
      • All medications, vitamins, and supplements you take. Be sure to include non-prescription medications like ones for acne or other conditions. Also include supplements and vitamins.

        It's important for your dermatologist to have information about your medications, vitamins, and supplements. It’s possible that something you’re taking is contributing to a concern about your skin, hair, or nails. Also, some medications may interact with others.
    • Keep your notebook and pen out during your appointment. Your dermatologist may offer explanations that seem complex at first, or they may use unfamiliar terms. You should ask your dermatologist to explain anything that is unfamiliar to you in simple, plain language. It can also be helpful to write down the medical names for any conditions your dermatologist may mention. That way, you can then learn more about them later.
    • Be prepared to answer questions from your dermatologist. Your dermatologist’s staff will ask what medications you are taking, so having the list in your notebook will be helpful.

      Your dermatologist will also ask you detailed questions about your medical history and concerns. For example, if you are seeking care for acne, your dermatologist will likely ask you how long you have had acne and what treatments you’ve tried.
    • Know your family medical history. Many skin conditions run in families. If a blood relative has had a particular condition, you may have a higher risk for developing that condition. That's why it's especially important to tell your dermatologist if a blood relative has (or had) skin cancer or another serious disease. If you unsure about conditions that run in your family, ask family members for details.
    • Bring a copy of lab results. If another doctor has already performed lab work or taken a tissue sample, bring a copy of the results. This can help your dermatologist to diagnose conditions, and it can, prevent unnecessary testing.
    • Do not wear makeup, nail polish, heavy amounts of moisturizer, or another skin treatment. Your dermatologist needs to see your bare skin and nails. If you need to wear makeup to your appointment, bring what you need to remove it so that you can take it off at the dermatology office.

      Do not wear makeup to your appointment

      Your dermatologist needs to be able to examine your skin clearly. Also, remove polish on your nails.

      Close-ups of two women’s faces without makeup

No one understands your skin better than a board-certified dermatologist. By partnering with an FAAD and preparing for your visit, you’ll receive expert care and get the most from your appointment.

Getty Images

Last updated: 10/5/22