How to select a dermatologist

How to select a dermatologist

Tips when seeking care

Before making an appointment with a dermatologist, it is important to consider their level of training. Board-certified dermatologists have at least eight years of medical training, if not more. They have proven their expertise by passing difficult board exams and meeting other requirements.

Board-certified: It is important to check whether your dermatologist is board-certified. If they are, the initials FAAD will appear after their name. FAAD stands for “Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.” A dermatologist’s website is often a good place to check. It will either list FAAD after their name or discuss their 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.

Insurance: 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 strictly cosmetic procedures — such as treatment for wrinkles — usually are not covered.

Booking the appointment: As is true for many specialists, there can be a wait to see a dermatologist. To help you get timely care, dermatologists offer the following tips.

  • Make your appointment early. The earlier you can book your appointment, the better. If you are scheduling a routine appointment, call 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. For example, if you have a mole that is itching, bleeding, or changing (signs of possible skin cancer), be sure to mention that. Dermatologists will 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 to explain your worries. Dermatologists work tirelessly to keep their patients healthy and happy. They will know whether your condition needs urgent care.

    Explain your concerns

    If you are worried about a particular condition or have pain, briefly explain it to the receptionist.

    Doctors talking to patient
  • Ask about cancellations. Many dermatologists keep a waitlist in case another patient cancels an appointment. Someone else’s scheduling conflict could be your lucky day. If there is no waitlist, check with the office frequently to see if an earlier appointment has become available.

Preparing for your visit

You can get the most out of your dermatology visit by doing some preparation. Consider these recommendations:

  • Write down your questions before the visit. 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.

  • Be prepared to answer questions from your dermatologist. For example, your dermatologist’s staff will ask what medications you are taking. Before your appointment, either write the names of the medications and dosages on a sheet of paper or gather the medications in one place. That way, on the day of your appointment, you can bring the paper or medications with you to your appointment. Be sure to include over-the-counter medicines for acne or other conditions. Also include supplements and vitamins. This information is important, because it is possible that something you are taking may contribute to a concern about your skin, hair, or nails. Also, some medicines may interact with others, leading to unwanted or even dangerous complications.

    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. They will ask what treatments you have tried.

  • Know your family medical history. It is especially important to describe any history of skin cancer or another serious disease. You may discover that you need to talk to family members for details. Many skin conditions have a genetic component. That is, having a family member who has had a particular condition can mean that you are at higher risk for developing the same condition.

  • Bring a copy of the 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. Also, do not apply heavy amounts of moisturizer or other skin treatments. Your dermatologist needs to be able to examine your skin clearly. Also, remove polish on your nails. If circumstances require that you wear makeup, bring whatever you need to remove it at the dermatology office.

    Do not wear makeup

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

    smiling woman
  • Bring a notebook and pen. Your dermatologist may offer explanations that seem complex at first, or they may use unfamiliar terms. You should ask your dermatologist to explain in simple, plain language. But it can be useful to write down the medical names for any conditions your doctor may mention. You can then learn more about these conditions later.

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Last updated: 8/31/21

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology


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