So ladies, you’re going to the dermatologist.
We all know that going to the dermatologist can be a humbling experience. It’s not always the type of appointment you look forward to, especially when you know that you might have to take off your clothes, wrap yourself in a thin paper gown, and sit in a cool room staring at four walls waiting for the doctor. And you know you are waiting for the doctor to come in and look at your body…the same body you’ve been meaning to get on to that treadmill since last month…or last year. But you have taken care of the things you can control- you made sure to shower and to shave your legs, and to wear undergarments that are pretty (yet conservative) but most especially clean and without holes. You did your hair and put on your makeup and all of the other things we generally do before we walk out the door into public.
As a dermatologist and a female, ladies, I’m going to lay it on the line with some great advice about your next visit. While all of your efforts to shave, shower and wear clean undies are much appreciated, they probably matter most because they make you feel more comfortable, which is extremely important. I’d like to give you some advice that will be very helpful in making the most of your next visit to the dermatologist. Some of these might surprise you.
1. Don’t wear any facial make-up! This is probably the most difficult one to swallow. It doesn’t matter if you are seeing the dermatologist for acne or a skin cancer check. Make-up is meant to cover things up. It covers red spots, brown spots, pimples, dark circles under the eyes. It also covers skin cancers, pre-skin cancers, abnormal moles and acne. I could go on and on, but the point is, it covers your skin- the very thing you are at your dermatologist to have checked. Most dermatologists will ask you to remove your make-up because if your dermatologist can’t see it, she can’t treat it. Understandably, there will be times that you have to come to your appointment with make-up on, for instance, if you’re coming from work. In that case, be prepared to take it off and bring your make-up with you if you need to re-apply after your appointment.
2. Take off your nail polish. Another tough one. I know that pedicures aren’t cheap, so the thought of taking off your polish before your appointment isn’t necessarily an appealing one. However, the nails can speak volumes, not only about the skin, but also about other problems that could be happening internally. You can also develop skin cancer under your nails or cuticles. Melanoma in those areas can show up as a very subtle streak of color on a nail. Those types of things will be missed if you are covering your nails with polish. So remember, ladies, take off the polish.
3. Don’t apply lotions to the skin before your appointment. You may not want anyone to see your dry skin, but we can take it- and we can treat it. Lotion can change the way a lesion appears in its natural state, making it harder to diagnose. Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, because we women usually apply lotion to freshly shaved legs, I just want to tell you, it’s okay if you forget to shave. It doesn’t bother us at all. After all, dermatologist are specialists in skin, nails and hair!
4. Leave your hair down and be prepared to have it messed at little. A full body exam includes the scalp and you can’t see the scalp without tossing the hair around a little. It also makes it difficult to see the scalp through hair that is stiff with hairspray.
5. Be prepared to fully disrobe. Some of you might feel a little uncomfortable with this, but remember, skin is everywhere. That includes under your bra, on your breasts, on your buttocks, between your buttocks and on the pubic area. Despite the fact that those areas may not have seen the sun as much as the skin on your arms and legs, you are just as likely to develop a melanoma skin cancer in those area as you are any other area. And while your dermatologist most likely won’t be putting you in stirrups for a regular skin exam, you should consider taking off your undergarments so he/she can check those areas. If it makes you uncomfortable, you can always request that the doctor’s assistant be in the room during your exam. If the thought of completely disrobing makes you uncomfortable, consider wearing that thong that you purposely left in the drawer. I can’t tell you how many times a patient has apologized to me for wearing a thong, because they considered it inappropriate at the doctor’s office. Believe it or not, it shows more skin and skin is what your dermatologist is looking at for unwanted lesions.
6. Consider leaving your jewelry at home. This one is pretty self explanatory. You would be amazed at what a watch or a large necklace can hide.
7. Don’t worry about not getting on that treadmill. Your dermatologist sees big people, little people, short people, tall people, young people, old people. We’ve seen every shape and curve that exists or that you can possibly imagine, multiple times a day. So if you’re self-conscious, put your fear aside. Your dermatologist is only looking at your skin and focusing on finding troubled areas, not one of us is judging your body, shape or size. Our concern is your health, not your physique.