A strong doctor-patient relationship can make all the difference when skin concerns pop up. If you feel comfortable with your dermatologist, you’re more likely to be honest with them about your issues, which can help them provide you with better care. This sort of trust can be especially helpful when it comes to chronic conditions that can also take a toll on your mental health, such as eczema or acne.
“You’re going to be seeing a lot of your dermatologist when you’re dealing with these types of ongoing issues, which tend to require a certain level of maintenance and regular appointments,” Corey Hartman, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, tells SELF. With all that face-time, it’s important that you feel at ease with your doctor.
“We know that conditions such as psoriasis and eczema can be correlated with increased anxiety and depression, making it more important than ever to have a relationship with your dermatologist,” Mona Gohara, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, tells SELF. 1,2 “You [should] feel like you’re not only getting a medical solution, but also some type of emotional comfort.”
All that said, finding a dermatologist who you click with and who can also deliver the empathetic treatment you deserve may be easier said than done. For starters, there really aren’t that many skin doctors out there. Dermatologists account for only about 1% of physicians in the US; it’s an extremely competitive field because the number of residency spots is limited to only about 500 per year, Tiffany J. Libby, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University, tells SELF.
Dermatologists tend to be concentrated in larger metropolitan areas as well, making the pickings even slimmer for people who live in smaller cities or rural towns, Dr. Hartman says. Still, no matter where you are or what type of access to medical care you have, you have options. Here are some of the most important things to consider as you start the search for a dermatologist you love.
1. Start with word-of-mouth recommendations.
According to Dr. Libby, getting a referral from a friend, family member, or even your primary care physician is the best place to start your hunt for the right dermatologist. “You’ll know that you can trust their opinion, unlike simply reading online reviews, which aren’t always entirely transparent,” she points out. Googling can provide you with basic information about a doctor, but turning to your PCP or other people you trust first is almost like using a matchmaker; they’ll have a better understanding of what you’re looking for and can provide more nuanced recommendations, Dr. Gohara says.
2. Take advantage of large organizations.
If you don’t have a PCP, another doctor, or anyone else you can ask for a referral, hit the internet—but be strategic. Major dermatologic societies, such as the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgeons, typically offer directories of their members, with filters that allow you to search according to geographic location or specialty, Dr. Hartman says. (That’s an especially helpful feature if you want someone with expertise in your particular skin condition. Not to mention that these directories are a foolproof way to make sure that any derm you find is credible and board-certified.)