When it comes to skin-care advice—which, as a beauty editor, I tend to dish out a lot—“go to the dermatologist” is the tip you’ll hear most often. And while dermatologists can undoubtedly help with pretty much any and every skin, hair, and nail concern you could ever possibly have, it may not always be necessary to book an appointment with a doctor at the first sign of a blemish.
Though everyone (I repeat, everyone) should be seeing a derm at least once a year for a skin check, it’s not exactly realistic to expect everyone to seek medical help for every issue that pops up with their skin. While teledermatology has made derm visits slightly more accessible, it’s still a luxury in many ways, given the cost that’s often associated with the appointments and the fact that many places in the U.S. are still “derm deserts,” which makes finding a doctor in the first place incredibly difficult.
While we’re certainly not advising that anyone doesn’t go to a doctor for any reason (if that’s something that’s accessible to you, go right ahead!), we chatted with board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD to find out the skin scenarios that always require a trip to their offices. See below for the four things that are worth making an appointment for:
1. If your skin is inflamed in any way: If you have any kind of inflammation that isn’t going away after a day or two, go see a derm—this could mean hives, a rash, or things like rosacea or eczema. Dr. Gohara notes that “sensitive skin” is usually a euphemism for some type of inflammation, so if that’s something you’re dealing with, it’s worth making an appointment with a doctor who can help get you on the right regimen for combatting it.
2. If you’re losing your hair: Instead of relying on Instagram products to help with hair loss issues, your best bet is to talk to a doctor. There are a lot of different reasons why your hair could be falling out (Dr. Gohara jokes that she could write a book on the subject), and a derm can help you figure out what’s going on as well as come up with a treatment plan.
3. If you’ve got deep acne that’s threatening to scar: No one should be running to the derm’s office at the first sign of a pimple (… otherwise I’d personally be there every 28 days when PMS set in), but if you’re fighting off long-term cystic acne, that’s another story. “If they’re persistent and they’re leaving marks as they fade, you should see a dermatologist,” says Dr. Gohara. Derms can prescribe retinoids that are stronger than what you’re able to get over the counter, which can help ease the issues.
4. If you need a new skin-care routine: If you’re dealing with skin issues like excessive oiliness or dryness, or just aren’t happy with the state of your skin and don’t know what to do, hit up a derm for help developing a regimen. They can point you in the direction of finding the ingredients you need to treat your particular concern, and even send you to the drugstore with a shopping list to get you on the right track.
Even if you aren’t making it into the derm’s office, you can still steal their product recs. Here are the drugstore skin-care picks they recommend, plus the ones Dr. Gohara uses on her own skin every single day.