10 Tips to Get The Most From Your Dermatology Visit

Having a high quality doctor’s visit takes effort on my part and on yours. Here are 10 tips to get the most out of your next dermatology visit with me or any other dermatologist.

1. Write down all the questions you have and things you want to discuss with me. Be sure to list any spots you’d like me to check or any moles that have changed. Have a loved one lightly mark spots on your skin they are concerned about.

2. Know your family history: Has anyone in your family had skin cancer? What type? Patients often have no idea if their parents have had melanoma. It matters. If possible, ask before seeing me.

3. Know your history well: Have you had skin cancer? What type? If you have had melanoma, then bring the detailed information about your cancer. Your prognosis depends on how serious the melanoma was, that is its stage, 1-4. You need to know how it was treated, if it had spread, and how deep it was. The answers to these questions determines the risk of your melanoma returning.

4. If you have a rash, there are a few things I’ll need to know: Have you changed any of your medications? Soaps? Moisturizers? Cosmetics? Do you have a history of eczema? Asthma? Hayfever? Does anyone in your family have a skin disease? Take a picture of your rash at its worst with your phone; the rash might be improved by the time you see me.

5. If you are seeing me for acne, come prepared. Keep a journal of when your acne is worse. Is it around your period? When you are stressed? In summer or winter? What products or cosmetics are you using? What treatments have you tried? Have you had dryness or burning with previous treatments?

6. If you are seeing me for hair loss, then collect your hairs that fall out and count how many you lose in one day. It’s normal to lose 100-150 hairs per day. Make a list of other symptoms or health problems that you think might be related to your hair loss.

7. Always be honest with me. I’ll never judge you even if you are an avid tanner or a picker. I’m here to help, and I can only help if I know the whole story.

8. Have you read something online that you’d like to discuss with me? Print it and bring it. Sometimes patients will tell me they saw something about their disease on the web; without knowing the source, I cannot say if the information is valid or helpful.

9. Am I leaving too soon? Stop me. My time with you is yours. If you see me heading for the door, then tell me that you still have things you’d like to cover. If we are out of time, then ask me if you can set up a follow-up appointment to continue the visit.

10. Don’t leave empty handed — I’m not talking about the freebie hand lotion or drug samples. For every doctor’s visit, you should leave with printed or written instructions about what we discussed and what you should do next. Patients who receive hand-outs from their doctor are more likely to have positive outcomes.

Have you had an excellent or not-so-excellent dermatology visit you’d like to share? Do you have any tips for us?

Photo: Maggie Osterberg

There Are No Toxins in Cellulite

Last week a popular TV talk show featuring a bunch of doctors (I’m not naming names) discussed how coffee grounds can improve cellulite. They explained how rubbing coffee grounds into your skin imparts caffeine into the cellulite thereby improving the circulation and drawing the toxins out.

This is a great tip except that rubbing coffee grounds on your skin does not impart any caffeine into it, and there are no toxins in cellulite.

Cellulite is a normal secondary sex characteristic of women. It is the result of thin connective tissue in women’s skin. Massaging the cellulite (with coffee, tea, grapes, cream cheese, or chocolate frosting) pushes the fat back into the skin, temporarly improving the appearance. There is no science behind using coffee to treat this normal condition.

Scientific studies have shown, however, that carrying a wet coffee filter filled with grounds into your bathroom will burn more calories because you’ll spend 20 minutes later cleaning up the mess in your shower.

Photo: NiallKennedy

3 Summer Skin Myths

1 – Drinking water will help your dry skin.

It doesn’t. Drinking water is important to stay hydrated, but if you have dry skin you need to water the outside of your skin, not the inside. Drinking lots of water no more moisturizes your skin than taking a bath quenches your thirst.

2 – Sunscreens with sun protection factor (SPF) of 100 are twice as good as sunscreens with SPF of 50.

As you can see from the graph, there are large differences in sunscreen protection at low SPF; however, there is not much difference in protection once the SPF is at least 30, which is what most dermatologists recommend.

3 – Sweating will make my acne worse.

Sweating does not make acne worse — in fact, sweat is your natural antibiotic. Keeping tight, wet gym clothes on after a workout can clog your pores which can flare acne. So can too much sun. Cover up. Go for a run. Shower. (And if you live in the southeast in August, shower again).

Did you already know these? What skin question would you like answered? Comment here or ask me on Twitter @Dermdoc

Photo: 96dpi

5 Things You Should Know About Organic Beauty Products

“All natural. Certified organic. Made from natural ingredients. Pure botanicals. Chemical free.”

You might guess I’m standing in the farmers market. Nope. I’m in the health and beauty aisle at Target. The ubiquitous all-things-natural trend has overtaken the cosmetic industry. How do you know what is real and what is marketing hype? Here are 5 things you should know about organic beauty product labels:

1 – Labels that say “natural ingredients” or “botanicals” are not certified organic. These statements are not regulated. Most natural ingredients used in beauty products are actually modified in a lab. Truly botanical ingredients, like you’d pick in your garden, are usually unstable and would spoil like food.

2 – Natural doesn’t always mean better. Would you buy: Poison Ivy Eye-Cream? Stinging Nettles Anti-Itch Gel? The most toxic and allergy-inducing ingredients are naturally occurring substances, not manufactured ones.

3 – There are many standards of “organic.” USDA Certified Organic is the gold standard. Products with this label must be at least 95% organic and must not contain toxic ingredients. Products that are less than 95% but at least 75% can be labelled “made with organic ingredients.” If your product is not certified by the USDA, then inquire who certified it — some businesses will certify a product for a fee, which some people find improper.

4 – Organic products can still contain non-organic ingredients that are harmful. Your shampoo might be mostly organic, but it can still contain preservatives or fragrances that can cause a rash.

5 – All natural and organic beauty products are not necessarily more effective. The most potent skin care ingredients are prescription products, which are not organic.

There is value to choosing beauty products that are labelled organic — they may be better for you, and they’re probably better for the planet. Ultimately, the choice is yours. So now that you know what “organic” means on a label, at least it will be an informed choice.

Which of your products are organic? Do you think they are better? Why?

Photo: Rick Harrison