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As many as one in three Americans could be affected by some form of skin issue at some point in their lifetime. And yet, the first resource most people turn to for these issues is not a doctor, but usually at-home treatments like topical skin-care products or health supplements. That’s because dermatologists are sometimes difficult to find, depending on where you are located, and can have long waitlists in areas that are underserved.
This is where online dermatologists come in. These digital services are a form of telehealth that allows you to visit remotely with a doctor to help diagnose and treat common skin disorders. The best online dermatologists help you get to the bottom of your complexion conundrums and prescribe you oral and topical medication, as well as dispense advice on getting the issue under control. So, rather than randomly throwing your money at products and hoping they can help, signing up for one of these online dermatology services is a smarter, dare we say financially savvier, solution.
Here, we rounded up the best online dermatologists, each with their own unique benefits and appeal. Just remember: These services don’t take the place of your annual full-body skin check with an IRL dermatologist. There’s no virtual substitute for that appointment, so make sure you schedule an in-office check to help protect yourself against skin cancer.
Best Online Dermatologists of 2021
Best Overall: Dermatologist On Call
Why We Chose It: We selected Dermatologist On Call because it's the most accessible and easy-to-navigate option in more ways than one. It's available in all 50 states, offers a flat fee per visit, and doesn’t require an appointment, making it a hassle-free way to get a wide variety of skin issues diagnosed and treated.
What We Like
- Flat fee of about $75 per visit
- 24/7 access with no appointments needed
- Available in all 50 states and Washington D.C.
What We Don’t Like
- Doesn’t accept health insurance
- No app for easier interface
- Doesn’t consult with those who are pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant
Dermatologist On Call is truly the best representation of online dermatology, offering low-cost, easy-access services to (almost) everyone.
Its board-certified dermatologists are available 24/7, no appointment necessary, and you pay a flat-rate of about $75 per visit. This can be paid via credit card or from your health savings account or flexible spending account (it, unfortunately, does not accept health insurance.) The doctors on call can offer diagnosis and treatment for more than 3,000 different skin conditions, including everything from acne and eczema to suspicious moles and hair loss.
To start your visit, you create an online health profile, then describe your skin concern and upload photos. You can then choose a dermatologist in your area (they are listed out by proximity to your location) or request the next available dermatologist. Wait times for choosing a dermatologist average about three business days, while the next available appointment is within 24 hours. There is an option for a video call with the dermatologist if you live in a state where that is a requirement by law.
Once your dermatologist has diagnosed your issue, they’ll create a treatment plan for you and prescribe any medication you may need to the pharmacy of your choice. If you have questions after your appointment, you have the option to message your dermatologist up to 30 days after that first appointment for additional follow-up.
One downside: You can only address a single skin condition per visit. Meaning if you are dealing with, say, acne and melasma, you’ll have to make separate appointments to address each.
Best for Basics: First Derm
Why We Chose It: We selected First Derm because it offers a simple process, an unbeatable price, and is perfect if you want to focus on one specific issue.
What We Like
- Visits start at about $30
- Choose from an app or website interface
- No time-consuming set-up process
What We Don’t Like
- No direct interactions with your dermatologist
- No prescriptions
If you’re looking for a fast, cheap, professional intervention for your skin-care 911, First Derm should be the first online derm on your list. This service offers a quick consult to help you get to the bottom of what’s ailing you and provides a professional suggestion on how to treat it.
It’s beyond easy to use: Download the app or go to the website and take two photos of your skin problem (one close-up and one farther away). Fill out your personal details and symptoms, pay your fee (roughly $30 for a response in 48 hours, around $40 for a 24-hour turnaround, or about $60 for an eight-hour one), and then, wait for a dermatologist to review your case and send back their diagnosis. It will include a treatment plan and let you know what the potential causes may be, so you know what to avoid that may be causing your skin to freak out.
The trade-off for the price of this service is that the dermatologists don’t provide prescriptions, so if you wind up needing medicine, you’ll have to go to a doctor's office to get one, which might not save you any cash in the long run. That said, FirstDerm claims that more than 80% of the cases they see can be treated with over-the-counter medication and products.
Best for Acne: Apostrophe
Why We Chose It: Apostrophe has treating acne down to a science, with expert advice, time-tested prescription topicals, and oral medication for every step of your acne journey.
What We Like
- Specific for acne patients
- Roughly a $20 consultation fee that can be used toward product purchases
- Can get prescriptions directly from Apostrophe’s own pharmacy
What We Don’t Like
- Not available in all 50 states
- Does not accept insurance
Acne can often be difficult to manage on your own. But Apostrophe helps take some of the frustration out of this process with a service directed at patients who deal with the condition (although they also offer treatments for hair loss, rosacea, wrinkles, and eyelash growth as well).
Its dermatologists are all trained in acne care and the company has done extensive research into which topical and oral medications have the best track records for helping control breakouts. Your visit will cost you about $20 (they don't accept insurance), but that fee can be used towards your prescription costs. Your skin and medical profile are then evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist, who prescribes a regimen of topical and/or oral medications for you that can be filled through Apostrophe’s in-house pharmacy and mailed directly to you.
Topical products cost about $90 for a three-month supply, while oral medication will set you back anywhere between roughly $25 and $90 for three months' worth of drugs. Apostrophe offers all of the most popular treatments, from tretinoin and clindamycin to spironolactone and doxycycline. Unfortunately, Apostrophe is not yet available in all 50 states, so check the list of places they serve.
Best For Multitaskers: PlushCare
Why We Chose It: Plushcare is one of the most popular telehealth options available with an extremely high customer satisfaction rating. We love it because you can use it for pretty much all of your health needs, from dermatology appointments and online therapy to urgent medical issues like UTIs and colds.
What We Like
- Same-day appointments
- Can do all of your health care in one place
- App with direct messaging and video chat options that allow you to choose the most convenient contact format for you
What We Don’t Like
- Expensive compared to other options
- You have to pay a membership fee on top of the visit fee
For those that are comfortable with the concept of online health services and like the idea of having all of their basic health care needs in one place, PlushCare is a clear pick.
One of the most highly-rated telehealth options on the market, PlushCare offers an array of services that practically put an end to in-office doctor’s visits for minor health concerns. From colds and UTIs to online therapy and acne, PlushCare does it all with an intuitive interface that’s both personable and hassle-free.
Everything is done through the app, which allows you to choose your provider and make a same-day appointment via video visit. After your appointment, your doctor will prescribe any applicable medications and send them to your local pharmacy for pick-up. They can also order labs or additional tests if needed, something that is exceptionally helpful if they suspect a more serious underlying issue for your skin condition, like a severe hormone imbalance.
The app makes everything beyond easy because it integrates with your insurance provider, pharmacy, and labs to ensure all of your information is readily accessible in one place. If you have additional problems or need follow-up, you also have the option of direct messaging the doctor and their team with additional questions.
PlushCare is available in all 50 states and is affiliated with most major health plans. However, there is a membership fee in order to use it. You pay about $15 per month or roughly $99 a year, plus a fee for your visit with a doctor. If you have insurance, the fee is your co-pay, but without it, it’s about $99.
Most Convenient: DirectDerm
Why We Chose It: If you already have health insurance and are just looking for a faster way to see the dermatologist, DirectDerm gives you easy access without the wait time or fees.
What We Like
- Accepts all major insurance as well as health savings accounts and Medicare
- Consultations available online or via cellphone
- Responses back within 48 hours
What We Don’t Like
- Only available in a handful of states
- Pricey if you don’t have insurance
- Photo-based so you have to wait for a follow-up from your doctor
If your number one hurdle for not seeing the dermatologist is lack of time or not having one nearby, DirectDerm solves that issue by offering a speedy consult with a dermatologist without any lengthy sign-up processes.
Just snap a few pictures of your area of concern with a quick description, and send it off to one of their board-certified dermatologists to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan back in 48 hours or less. If you have follow-up questions or the dermatologist needs more information, you can talk to them via the website or by phone. The doctors can write prescriptions, and send them to your local pharmacy for pick-up.
DirectDerm accepts most major insurances, Medicare, and health savings accounts. If you don’t have insurance, a consultation starts at around $95. Another perk we love is that the dermatologist you are assigned to will work with you on the medication they prescribe to help identify lower-cost prescriptions with your insurance provider.
DirectDerm is only available in a handful of states, including California, Hawaii, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Oregon.
What Are Online Dermatologists?
Online dermatologists are web- or app-based platforms that connect patients with board-certified dermatologists, physician’s assistants, or nurse practitioners who can evaluate and diagnose common skin problems, provide treatment options, and in many cases prescribe medication without the need for an in-office appointment.
How Much Do Online Dermatologists Cost?
Prices for online dermatologists vary depending on whether there's a membership fee or if they take insurance. In general, if you are uninsured, you can expect to pay a little more for some services. However, since some online dermatologists don’t accept insurance, the cost for those will be the same for everyone. The picks on our list range from roughly $20 per visit to $99 for a yearly membership.
How We Chose the Best Online Dermatologists
Our top picks for online dermatologists all offer the convenience of “seeing” a doctor without having to wait months for an appointment or travel to the closest dermatologist’s office. Where they differ is in the type of experience they provide, with some offering full-service appointments through video chats and the ability to write prescriptions while others deliver a more basic approach with an emailed diagnosis, treatment plan, and over-the-counter suggestions.
We looked for online dermatologists that cover a spectrum of budgets and needs, including minor skin concerns, specific problems like acne, and more comprehensive telehealthcare. We also made sure that the majority offered options for the uninsured at affordable rates.
Finally, we checked to ensure that the turnaround time from submission to diagnosis was within a five-day timeframe, as the point of online dermatology is to offer quick and convenient access to a professional.