You’d be hard-pressed to find someone, anyone, in the beauty industry who isn’t fascinating by the job of dermatologists. From their acne-vanishing magic to their disease-preventing prowess, derms truly have the power to change (and save) lives. Ever since adolescence, we’ve considered our derms integral to not only our beauty routines but also our health. Whether helping us battle acne and hyperpigmentation or checking up on our skin’s general wellness, dermatologists seem to have all the answers.
But they are people after all, and the day-to-day role of a doctor isn’t always so seamless. Because we are deeply curious (i.e., nosy), we asked for more about what goes on behind the scenes at the derm’s office: What are the daily challenges of a dermatologist really like? What do derms experience on the job that med school didn’t prepare them for? And do they have any fascinating (or freaky) stories to share?
To find out, we got in contact with four dermatologists who laid it all out on the exam table, sharing must-know lessons and surprising anecdotes straight from the derm’s office. Keep reading to hear top dermatologists spill secrets and stories from their practice!
According to all four doctors, dermatology isn’t as straightforward as diagnosing a skin issue. Listening, understanding, and finding compassion for patients are just as important. As dermatologist Ronnie Dawood, MD, of Sublime MD divulged, “Medical school trains you to be the best you can be in your particular field, with a complementary broader expertise of internal medicine. What it does not do is train you how to be a therapist. Oftentimes I find myself assuming that role, or at least the role of ‘active listener,’ which I’m happy and, after all these years, prepared to take on.”
Strangely enough, dermatology isn’t just skin deep. Dawood goes on to say, “I’ve found that many people looking to aesthetically better their image often are striving to solve problems below the surface of the skin, as well. If the procedures I do can help someone’s peace of mind or increase their self-confidence, whether through decreasing wrinkles or sunspots via laser resurfacing or deleting a bad memory via PicoWay tattoo removal, all the better!”
I've found that many people looking to aesthetically better their image often are striving to solve problems below the surface of the skin, as well.
Strangely enough, dermatology isn’t just skin-deep. Dawood goes on to say, “I’ve found that many people looking to aesthetically better their image often are striving to solve problems below the surface of the skin, as well. If the procedures I do can help someone's peace of mind or increase their self confidence, whether through decreasing wrinkles or sun spots via Laser Resurfacing or deleting a bad memory via Picoaway tattoo removal, all the better!”
According to VI Aesthetics skincare expert and dermatologist Sonia Batra, it’s also common for dermatologists to take on a mom role, or “to balance the right amount of nagging, concern, and intimidation to convince patients to stick to their treatment plans!” she says. And like real mothers, dermatologists are human, and sometimes they can’t help getting attached to their patients.
Licensed dermatologist Esta Kronberg, MD, tells the story of how early on in her career, a young girl “with extremely severe cystic acne” came in for help. “Her self-esteem was terrible. She sat under my exam table in the corner. She would not sit on the table.” After treating her for a few months with Accutane, Kronberg saw a complete change in self-confidence. “By month three, she was sitting on my exam table, cute clothes, some makeup, no more glasses. She had on contact lenses. She was making eye contact and talking to me. I have never forgotten her, because I knew I made big difference in her life. She now had self-esteem.”
I have never forgotten her, because I knew I made big difference in her life.
Kronberg recently reconnected with the patient. “Last year she contacted me ... some 28 years later. Yes, I remembered her name and her situation and was so surprised to hear from her. She said she was a freelance writer and I had totally changed her life for the good. She wanted to share her story in print and on the internet so other people suffering in silence may find out they don’t have to suffer. She is a beautiful professional young lady now.” (No, we’re not tearing up. It’s allergies.)
We know the most important aspect of dermatology is keeping skin, our largest organ, healthy. In fact, the condition of your skin is intimately connected to internal health, and sometimes what looks like just a little rash or mole can mean something bigger. “Over the years, I’ve collected a number of cases in which someone came in for the appearance or symptoms of their skin, and it has led me to diagnose an underlying general health issue such as autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, hormone imbalances, and even cancer,” says dermatologist Sonia Batra, MD.
I’ve collected a number of cases in which someone came in for the appearance of their skin, and it has led me to diagnose an underlying general health issue … even cancer.
Batra shared a particularly unforgettable experience. “In one memorable case, a gentleman was referred to me by the emergency room for a ‘rash.’ When I examined him, only one arm was red and swollen, and rather than having a rash, this gentleman actually had a rare but very dangerous clot in a blood vessel that supplied his arm. I immediately referred him back to the emergency room for treatment of the blood clot. He and his family were very grateful.” This isn’t to scare our fellow hypochondriacs into falling into the black hole of WebMD scrolling; the moral of the story is this: Visit a dermatologist, even if you don’t think you need to. Whether it’s regularly checking your skin for sun damage or learning tips to better your skin’s health, there’s nothing to lose.
From laser treatments to extractions to injections, there are countless new ways to treat skin in the modern world. According to Nancy Samolitis, MD, dermatologist at Facile Dermatology + Boutique, it’s incredibly hard to keep up with. “It feels like a new product or advanced technology hits the market every day!” she told us. “When I was in medical school, we never could have projected this kind of industry growth. It’s my job to stay on the front lines of what’s new and to research it and test it all out myself to make sure I’m guiding my patients with reliable information and providing them with the most effective course of treatment. If only I’d learned how big Botox would be, I would have invested!"
If only I’d learned how big Botox would be, I would have invested!
To tech up your skincare routine at home, try a futuristic anti-aging device like NuFace’s White Rose Mini Facial Toning Device ($225) or a professional-grade exfoliating gadget like PMD’s Personal Microderm ($159).
Next up, read which common skin conditions can’t be cured, according to dermatologists.