Who is your skin doctor, really?

Been a minute, folks. This most recent blogging hiatus is incredibly laughable given the fact that when asked by many friends/colleagues/acquaintances what I intended to do with my time off, “working on my blog” was my #2 response. Secondary, of course, to sleeping and reading books. For the record: I’ve read 19 and one of them was Game of Thrones which is basically 4 books in one.

In reality, it took me 3 months to not have panic attacks daily about what I was going to do next (really: my body forced me into submission with illness). Then, I decided to let myself enjoy it and take a true 3-month mental break (really: my husband told me I was starting to annoy him and that I needed to “chill TF out”). Noted. So, here I am.

But this post is important because this particular experience reminded me why I have a “platform” (lol) with which to opine about things I deem urgent in this world. Namely, everything that isn’t the news because I believe we urgently need to discover a way to blackout and wake up unscathed (and un-aged) in a better time. This has to be how Gilead happened in the Handmaid’s Tale. I know, too soon.

“…3 doctors, 3 misdiagnoses leading to 3 ill-advised prescriptions…a red, raw, and itchy 4-month long nightmare.”

Anyway, a few weeks ago I found myself due for a mole check. Now, 2017 me wouldn’t have thought this was a big deal at all but 2018 me is sour on anything related to dermatologists after suffering through a 4-month long dermatological nightmare at the beginning of the year. I won’t go into the gory details but think 3 doctors, 3 misdiagnoses leading to 3 ill-advised prescriptions for steroid creams that turned out to be the reason why my ailment exacerbated, leaving my face a red, raw, and itchy 4-month long nightmare. No, it was not fully cured by the time my wedding rolled around mid to late April.

But going to my mole checks once per year is something I believe so strongly in that I bit the bullet. I also thought maybe having new insurance and therefore being forced to switch doctors was a blessing in disguise? There had to be a doctor I trusted out there. Marco…(update: still waiting on the “Polo”).

After doing my research and finding a dermatologist that a) was accepting new patients, b) got good reviews on multiple platforms, and c) had even an iota of a chance that they would accept our new insurance (a feat!!) I landed on a woman that looked promising.

I went to see her the following week and it was pretty straightforward. A dispassionate nurse (she had a trainee shadowing her but, to be honest, it is an overly-generous excuse to offer her) took me to the room and asked me 3 questions about my skincare history:

  1. Has anyone in your family ever had skin-related cancer?
  2. Have you ever been sunburned?
  3. Have you ever had a sunburn that blistered?

Okay… so 2.5 questions if I am staying on this have no mercy route when evaluating medical professionals. To set the context, I am an ardent believer that skincare is perhaps more about what you put inside of your body than what you put on the outside of it. I have always been incredibly in touch with my body which means that I know the second something isn’t going to agree with me, both in the “get this away from me or out of me right now” and “I am going to pay for this later” scenarios. I know that certain white wines make my face hot and inflamed so I avoid them. I know that sugar is delicious for a minute but I feel sluggish and tired even just 15 minutes later. These types of reactions are my bodies defense mechanisms and listening to them has made me feel (and look) so much more vibrant. Everything going on inside of your body eventually makes its way out, and not always in the obvious ways we think.

“… skincare is perhaps more about what you put inside of your body than what you put on the outside. Everything [going in] eventually makes its way out, and not always in the obvious ways we think.”

In terms of skincare, I do believe that great products can take you a long way in achieving your skin care goals (let’s be honest, I was and still am a bit of a product junkie). You really can see incredible results. But I’ve always found that, eventually, this progress plateaus leaving your concerns not entirely addressed. Unless you are eating clean and healthy, drinking water, and limiting the preservatives and chemicals that you put in (and on) your body you won’t get where you want to be. Chemicals and processed foods = inflammation = the reason for most all illnesses in America.

With this bias in mind, I expected to be questioned a bit more about my lifestyle (water intake, eating, sleeping, exercise habits, etc.) In my opinion, these factors have everything to do with the way my skin is behaving at any given moment. And though I had higher hopes for the doctor, she didn’t go into any of that detail. As requested, she did a full body mole check and, when I offered up my own skin history including my proclivity for eczema/dermatitis/rosacea flare-ups, suggested a prescription for a face wash that literally was named after a chemical and most likely had ingredients I also couldn’t pronounce. I declined the prescription.

Now, let’s contrast this experience to when I first met my wonderful skin guru/soul sister/doctor/esthetician Kristen. I filled out a no fewer than 10-page questionnaire that went into surprising detail about not only my skin goals but in depth into my water consumption, eating habits, exercise habits, and other lifestyle factors that could be the reason for my more surface level complaints. Then, we discussed the questionnaire for a good 15 minutes before my treatment began so she had all of the necessary context.

It’s been about 7 months of regular visits with her and I have never in my entire life been happier with my skin–face and body. I haven’t had an eczema or dermatitis breakout since the events that shall not be discussed, when ordinarily I would have had at least one or two. She has educated me not only on what is going on the barrier of my skin (mites!!) but has entirely re-invigorated my clean eating mindset, pushing me to cook more and UberEats less (even when it’s “healthy”). I text her constantly with skincare questions and she has never once steered me wrong. Where in my experience a dermatologist would jump at a prescribing a medication for my concerns, she looks at the issues holistically and prescribes (pun intended) remedies like drinking green tea or avoiding too-hot baths, which is a bad habit of mine.

“…is a dermatologist really the doctor of our skin or should our estheticians adopt that sought-after title?”

Now, this isn’t to say that dermatologists aren’t necessary. They absolutely are. They are trained medically to identify early stages of cancerous growths and can be instrumental in avoiding the need for chemotherapy or other cancer treatments that unfortunately ravage far too many bodies in America. We all need to be diligent and get checked once a year, at least! I just simply wonder: for those of us with other skin complaints (breakouts, eczema, dermatitis)… is a dermatologist really the doctor of our skin or should our estheticians adopt that sought-after title?

I, for one, want my specialized doctors to take the time to really understand me and my lifestyle. I want a doctor to make me fill out a 10-page questionnaire about things seemingly unrelated to the specialty they are known for. I want a doctor to educate and bring me into the process and motivate me to influence and control my own circumstances.  

So, I hereby proclaim my esthetician as my skin doctor. She is deserving of every acclaim that title affords.