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 • Skincare  • Skincare Guides  • Breakouts Getting Worse? This is When to Start Seeing a Dermatologist

Breakouts Getting Worse? This is When to Start Seeing a Dermatologist

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Isn’t it convenient that we can just pick up our phones, type in a few words and find a brand new skincare regime online within minutes? Just click on a product, add to cart and in a puff of smoke, it arrives on your doorstep.

Convenient, yes. However, it can be easy to forget that when it comes to more persistent skin problems like acne, there are professionals who are here to help. They can offer our skin more than we can give it at home. Because, let’s be honest, sometimes it needs more than convenience.

And in my own experience with adult acne, an appointment with a derm- and a prescription for some heavy-duty skincare- can make a serious difference when you’re really struggling.

If you’re at the stage in your acne journey where you’re wondering if you should get in touch with a dermatologist, I wanted to break down what you can expect from your experience of visiting one, and how quickly you can expect to see results.

So, with help from our experts Dr Leah Ansell, board-certified dermatologist at Treiber Dermatology Associates, Noreen Galaria, board certified Dermatologist and Dr William Kwan, board-certified dermatologist at Lasky Skin Center in Beverley Hills, consider your burning questions, answered.


The 4 signs you should see a dermatologist about your acne

If you’re experiencing one or more of these, feel confident that you’re not overreacting and that a dermatologist would be happy to help.


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1. You’ve tried everything you can think of:

Different skincare brands, ingredients, formulations and product plans. It’s just not working and your patience is waning, along with your confidence. As a beauty editor of 17 years, this is the point I found myself in last year when my acne suddenly flared up.

Even my own years of experience putting together skincare routines wasn’t enough to magic together some sort of combination to make a dent in my acne and I sought a derm’s help.


2. You have particularly large or painful spots:

They feel like a bruise at first. Then they grow into big, juicy cysts that no amount of concealer can cover up because the light bounces off them. When you feel like you’re playing whack-a-mole with big spots like this, it’s time to call in a professional.


3. You’re experiencing acne-redness and scarring that just won’t fade:

Of course makeup can usually cover it up. But a dermatologist will have an idea of how to help fade it.


4. You want to try and know more about oral medications for acne:

But the internet just isn’t giving you the information you need or trust.


How can a dermatologist help?


Image – Maitepons/Stocksy


  • They learn your lifestyle and history

The purpose of a dermatologist is to look at your skin and lifestyle as a whole and dig a little

deeper. He or she will start by investigating how your skin behaves as a result and pinpoint the triggers for this behaviour.

“A dermatologist will take each patient’s history and perform an exam to best identify triggers of acne and tailor a unique treatment regimen depending on the case,” explains Dr. Ansell. “We look at dietary factors (low-fat dairy, high glycemic index foods, whey protein shakes), lifestyle factors (sports/hair products) and so many other components when we evaluate each patient.”

According to Dr Galaria, this helps to debunk confusion from outside noise too. “Nowadays there is a lot of information on social media and more and more of my younger patients are using ingredients that are not necessary and sometimes not beneficial for their skin,” she says.

“I have seen acne patients come in using ingredients that make things worse because they are following a super hydrating routine that actually clogs their pores.”


  • They prescribe stronger medication

If whatever you’re trying to combat your acne isn’t working, a dermatologist has the knowledge and power to recommend effective medication. “We have access to prescription medicines that are far stronger than what is available over the counter,” says Dr Galaria.

“So if you are really struggling with acne, we can improve it and prevent scarring much better than anything you can buy in a store.”

So what kind of medication are we talking about? Dr Kwan explains, “topical or oral medications such as antibiotics, retinoids or hormonal therapies to target the underlying

causes of acne and reduce inflammation.”


  • They can perform ‘acne surgery’

This is dependent on your type of acne and its severity. “Acne surgery is a gentle procedure to clean out deep cysts under the skin using an instrument called a comedo extractor,” says Dr Ansell.

Feel ok about needles? “They can also inject large cysts with low-potency cortisone to help reduce them,” she adds.


  • They offer a wide range of procedures

This is particularly the case when it comes to reducing scarring. “Laser therapy stimulates collagen production, which helps to fill in and smooth out acne scars,” explains Dr Kwan.

Or how about a chemical peel, which removes the top layer of skin? “It promotes new skin growth and reduces the appearance of scars,” he says.

Also, consider micro-needling. “This uses tiny needles to create controlled micro-injuries in the skin, encouraging collagen production and reducing scar visibility,” he explains.

Dermal fillers are another way to combat scarring. “This involves injecting fillers which temporarily fill in depressed scars, making them less noticeable,” he says.


How long will it take to see results?

It depends on the severity of the acne and how quickly it takes for your skin to respond to the treatment. “In some cases, improvements may be noticed within a few weeks while more severe acne may require several months of consistent treatment to see significant results,” warns Dr Kwan.

The key is to listen carefully to your dermatologist’s instructions, stay consistent and be patient. “Follow the plan diligently and attend regular follow-up appointments to monitor progress [so that your dermatologist] can make any necessary adjustments to achieve the best possible outcome,” he adds.


Image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy


How much will it cost?

The price of seeing a dermatologist varies. In the UK you can be referred to one by your GP on the NHS but this might some time. You can also be referred and visit one using private medical insurance. This could get you an appointment more quickly (although there are no guarantees).

Otherwise, prices for an initial consultation in the UK will start from around the £100 mark, and around the £250 mark in London.

In the US the average cost usually starts from anywhere between $150 and $200. In some cases, you can ask for an initial video or phone consultation which often saves a bit of money on both the appointment and cost of travel.

Follow up appointments usually cost a bit less than the initial consultation but don’t forget to factor in any procedure or treatment costs.


The takeaway

We all wish the worldwide web would suffice as our very own (virtually free of charge) dermatologist. But at some point it’s important to accept that some issues, particularly severe acne, are just meant for the professionals.

How you feel in yourself, and the health of your skin, shouldn’t be taken lightly by making a whimsical online purchase. Experiencing any of our four signs above? Then it’s time to invest some time and money into a dermatologist who can help you feel like you again.

Remember to choose one that is board certified and/or recommended, be consistent with your treatment plan and attend all follow-up appointments.


Meet the experts

Dr Leah Ansell, MD, FAAD, is a leading board-certified dermatologist at Treiber Dermatology Associates in New York. Dr Ansell’s expertise includes medical, pediatric, and cosmetic dermatology.


Noreen Galaria, MD FAAD is a board-certified Dermatologist with a laser and cosmetic fellowship and has been practising for over 20 years. She is also the CEO and Founder of Inner Glow Vitamins, a dermatologist and plastic surgeon-developed brand of skin nutraceuticals.


Dr William Kwan, board-certified dermatologist at Lasky Skin Center in Beverly Hills.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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