Acne, rosacea, psoriasis, dry skin, oily skin, sensitive skin – the list goes on. You're probably thinking this info may be useful for your spotty teenager but actually, our skin changes as we get older (*and so do the mistakes we make with it).
Clinical studies in the US indicate that between 40 and 55% of the adult population age 20-40 are diagnosed with low grade, persistent acne and oily skin, with 54% of women older than age 25 have some facial acne (1).
Interestingly, research indicates that acne arising in adulthood is more likely to be inflammatory, with fewer comedones than teenage acne and lesions predominantly located around the mouth, chin and jaw-line (yay...). In fact, studies have reported a few possible reasons why adults get acne well into their 30s, 40s and 50s – like, fluctuating hormone levels, stress, family history, medicinal side effects and hair and skin care products and even undiagnosed medical conditions (2).
So when it comes to caring for your skin, are you making the right choices? No matter what your skin concern is, here's how and why a Dermatologist can help, explains our Expert and Consultant Dermatologist Justine Kluk:
What is Dermatology?
Dermatology is the branch of Medicine concerned with the health of the skin, hair and nails. Consultant Dermatologists are medical physicians with the highest training and expertise in this field.
Dermatologist education and training
In the UK, aspiring Dermatologists start by competing for a highly sought-after place at Medical School. This medical degree takes approximately 5-6 years to complete, at the end of which students receive their primary medical qualification and can start to work as a doctor. Following this, they undertake 2 years of general internal medicine training, usually in a hospital setting. During this time, they experience a number of different medical specialties to broaden their knowledge and are expected to take and pass a series of rigorous board examinations known as the MRCP (membership of the Royal College of Physicians).
Upon successful completion of this stage, doctors who are hoping to specialise in Dermatology compete again for what is known as a national training number in order to get onto a Dermatology Higher Specialist Training programme. Dermatology is one of the most popular and competitive medical specialties in the UK so only the top few applicants across the country will be accepted. This specialist training takes another 4 years on average and candidates will typically rotate through a number of hospitals to get the widest possible exposure to different skin conditions in this time. At the end of this period, a specialist examination is taken called the Specialty Certificate Examination.
If this is achieved and the doctor has also satisfied their trainers that they are safe and competent to practice independently, the doctor will be awarded a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) and be entered on the General Medical Council specialist register as a Consultant Dermatologist recognising that they are the only type of doctor with the requisite training and experience to treat patients with skin concerns that can’t be managed by a GP alone.
Some Consultant Dermatologists undertake even further qualifications, known as fellowships, if there is a particular field within Dermatology that they wish to sub-specialise in.
When you should see a Dermatologist
Anyone who has a problem or concern about their skin can benefit from the advice of a Consultant Dermatologist. Examples of reasons to see a Dermatologist include when dealing with inflammatory skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema or psoriasis, mole checks, skin cancer diagnosis and treatment to name a few. In the UK, you can see your NHS GP for advice first and they may refer you to an NHS Dermatology Department if they deem it appropriate or necessary. Appointments can alternatively be booked directly with the office of a Consultant Dermatologist for anybody who wishes to go privately.
It is important to remember that cosmetic skin concerns cannot be treated on the NHS.
How to pick the right Dermatologist for you
If you are being referred to an NHS Dermatology department, you may not have a choice as to which particular doctor you see, however, they will either be a Consultant Dermatologist themselves or be under the supervision of one.
In the private sector, there are lots of healthcare practitioners claiming to be skin experts so it’s important to do your research before booking an appointment.
Firstly, check the General Medical Council (GMC) list of registered medical practitioners to confirm that the doctor is on the specialist register so that you can be assured of their training credentials.
Next, ask friends and family (or your GP) if they have someone they can recommend from personal experience as this is a good way of filtering the options. Finally, take a look at the doctor’s website or biography to see if they have particular expertise in your condition and might be a good fit for you.
Here's to healthy skin!
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1. American Academy of Dermatology: https://www.aad.org/media/stats/conditions/skin-conditions-by-the-numbers
2. American Academy of Dermatology: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/adult-acne