For the HUNDREDTH TIME, we don’t just pop pimples and rub lotion on people.
Please stop asking us to take a "quick look" at your lumps, bumps, blemishes, and moles.
Our friends, acquaintances, and Tinder dates just can't seem to resist the urge to drop their pants in front of us to show us a "weird skin thing". Please don't, especially when we're not working and we're just trying to have a nice time. Make an appointment with us instead, and get your weird thing seen to properly.
We're not lying about the importance of sunscreen.
You really need to use it every day, especially on your face. Sun damage isn't necessarily visible to the naked eye, but if you look at your skin under a UV lamp, it tells a different story. In the US alone, melanoma kills one person every hour, so please use sunscreen correctly, and stay in shade.
Which is why we're the party poopers on holiday.
Yeah, we know that you're sick of hearing us smugly announce that "tanned skin is damaged skin" while sitting in the shade wearing Factor 100, under a giant sun hat. But if you saw the number of melanoma cases we do every week, you'd be a lot more careful too. Coppery, bronzed skin just isn't worth dying for, sorry.
Yes, we are "real doctors".
We can't count the number of times we've been asked if all we do is pop pimples and rub in lotion for a living. Nope. In actual fact, medical dermatologists treat serious medical conditions and perform operations on skin cancers including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinomas. It's heavy going.
And no, we don't just "deal with acne."
Not that there's anything trivial about acne, of course: it can seriously affect people's lives and self-esteem. But we see far more skin cancer patients than we do acne patients, as well as people with debilitating skin disorders like impetigo (pictured). We take a lot of time and work closely with the patient to try to figure out the cause of their condition (if any), and help them get it under control.
We don't just deal with skin, either.
We're also here for you if you have problems with your nails, or hair. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can grow under the nail in some cases, and psoriasis affects the nails too, causing them to thicken and break. We also deal with cases of hair loss, scalp problems like cysts, and even dandruff.
We never, ever, ever stop studying.
There are over 3,000 common and not-so-common diseases of the skin, which is quite a lot to take in. Our biggest organ is bombarded with UV rays, pollution, bacteria, fungus, and other triggering external factors that can cause havoc. Which means a lot of late nights poring over gross photos of lumps and bumps.
Some skin complaints stink to high heaven.
It's unfortunate, but it's true. Fungal infections and oozing skin often smell bad, not to mention the pus we drain from cysts and abscesses. it's all in a day's work though, so don't be embarrassed. We can always wear a mask if we need to.
And yes, we do see things that genuinely shock us.
Like people with huge, ulcerating skin infections or tumours that they've left untreated for months, leading to gangrene or necrosis. But you can't let your instinctive "fuuuuuuck" reaction show on your face, it would be unfair and unprofessional.
We're pretty damn hard to gross out, though.
We see (and squeeze) so much pus that we develop a strong stomach, which means it takes a lot to make us feel sick, to the extent that we develop a pretty good sense of humour about it all. We've even been known to eat cakes that are modelled on bursting spots, ingrown hairs, or diseased skin histology.
Your skin can reveal a lot about your internal health.
It's basically a window that shows what's going on inside the body. Vasculitis (pictured) can be a sign of an infection, lupus, an autoimmune disease, or rheumatoid arthritis. An unusual rash at the top of the feet that doesn't respond to treatment could be caused by Hepatitis C. Basically, you should always go to get checked out if you have a skin ailment that doesn't heal on its own within a couple of days.
Parasites can cause some gnarly skin issues as well.
Water-borne critters can get inside your skin. In this case, several larval parasites called cercaria have penetrated this person's foot and ankle. The "good" news (if you can call it that) is that they can't survive in a human host and so they die immediately. So try to be careful when swimming in slow-moving fresh water, always read warning signs thoroughly, and come to see us if you develop a rash.
You should use a special tool to extract blackheads
Or "comedones", as they're known in the trade. Blackhead extractor tools are easily available online, and have a thin, angled loop at one end that you can use to apply pressure evenly around the site. Using your fingers can lead to your skin becoming pinched and inflamed, and also spread infection.
Pore strips kind of work, but there's not much benefit.
In fact, if strips are too sticky, they can damage your skin when you remove them, leaving it inflamed. One alternative is to use a salicylic acid gel on your blackheads instead, as it will dissolve the oxidised mix of oil and dead skin cells that combine to make blackheads, making some disappear entirely, and loosening others.
Microdermabrasion and peels aren't long-term solutions, either. In fact, they may do more harm than good.
Microdermabrasion can certainly temporarily smooth your skin by removing superficial dead cells, but it can't make any big, deep, or lasting changes to your skin. Peels are more aggressive; if you peel too deeply you run the risk of skin damage or scarring, and make your skin more sensitive as a result.
20th Century Fox
When it comes to cleansing your face, our motto is "easy does it." Way too many people scrub too hard.
And then come to us complaining they have sore, reddened, inflamed, damaged, and irritated skin. Well, yes, because you've been abusing it! You don't need to exfoliate with rough scrubs every day, once a week is enough. Use a mild, moisturising, non-soap cleanser instead (Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is a good example) and only cleanse once or twice a day. You should also use an alcohol-free, low-acid makeup remover to remove your makeup at night, not a harsh, alcohol-based one. Witch hazel is a particularly good option.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but most DIY dermatology treatments aren't worth your money.
Things like micro-current devices that claim to use electrical impulses to give you a "non-invasive" facelift simply don't have any scientific studies to back them up, and gadgets like pore vacuums can irritate blemishes, making them worse. Instead, focus on straightforward skincare: sunscreen every morning and moisturiser day and night is a much more likely path to youthful, glowing skin.
And don't get hung up on expensive moisturisers.
Instead, look for moisturisers that contain ceramides: one of three types of lipids (fats) that help the skin to retain moisture. Ceramide-rich moisturisers are effective in treating skin conditions like eczema, although anyone with dry skin will benefit from them. Also, Vaseline works just as well if you can tolerate the greasiness.
Also, there's really no evidence to say that drinking lots of water is good for your skin.
Everyone seems to believe this myth, but there's simply no real evidence to back it up. One study by dermatologist Ronni Wolf at the Kaplan Medical Centre in Israel ran for four weeks, but despite pouring pints of H20 down their throats, the people who drank tons of extra mineral water only showed a decrease in skin density, not an increase in moisture. And their wrinkles didn't smooth out either.
Shaving hair doesn't make it grow back thicker, either.
That's another thing we often hear when we're kids, but it's just not the case at all. If it was, men with hair loss could just shave it off repeatedly and end up with a thick, bouffant mane. Shave or don't shave, it's up to you. To be honest, we recommend not shaving, as it can irritate the skin, and causes ingrown hairs.
We detest those dodgy clickbait adverts that peddle harmful or completely fictional "skin cures".
There are some seriously strange "skin care supplements" doing the rounds online, from useless sugar pills, to "berry tablets" that can allegedly cure psoriasis. They're offering false hope to people at best, and can damage or interfere with official treatment and actually harm people at worst. If we knew about "one weird tip" that could cure eczema, we'd tell you. We would love if it were that simple.
But we can often get equally unbelievable results using genuine medical methods, and it's great.
Some people have lived with severe skin diseases for years before they come to see us, and develop low self-esteem and shyness as a result. Many of our treatments work quite quickly, meaning we see improvements in just a few visits, which is really satisfying for us, and makes the world of difference to our patients.
But please, for the love of god, stop shouting this at us:
We will literally squeeze a zit at you if you do.
This post was put together with the help of a Scottish consultant dermatologist with 30 years experience in the field.