When to See a Doctor for Your Acne

Health Writer

Most people treat acne with any of the multitude of over-the-counter products, after all, you have been told that acne is a temporary condition, something teens just have to put up with, or that with proper care at home, it should go away on its own. But that isn't always the case. If you are using over-the-counter products and your acne hasn't cleared up or continues to worsen, it may be time to see a dermatologist.

If any of the following pertain to you, it may be beneficial to schedule a visit with a dermatologist:

You are shy or embarrassed because of your acne. You may avoid social outings or stay away from friends because of acne. According to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, those with acne can have social, psychological and emotional problems. If you are feeling depressed or embarrassed, talk with your doctor.

_You have been using over-the-counter acne treatments but they aren't working or have stopped working._If your acne has persisted for more than four to six weeks despite using over-the-counter treatments, talk with a dermatologist about stronger, prescription strength medications.

Your acne leaves scars after the pimple has gone away. Cystic acne often require the help of a dermatologist. Cystic acne are painful, red, inflamed pimples which may leave a scar. For dark-skinned people, a spot darker than your skin may appear after the pimple is gone. Popping the pimple may cause even more scarring and permanent skin damage. Over-the-counter treatments often don't help this type of acne. A dermatologist can help by giving you medication that is right for your type of acne and which can help reduce scarring.

What Does a Dermatologist Do?

A dermatologist will look at your blemishes to determine whether you are dealing with acne or another skin condition - Rosacea and keratosis pilaris are both mistaken for acne. The doctor will also ask you questions to better understand   your skin condition, such as:

  • How long you have had acne
  • What you have done to treat it
  • Whether there is a family history of acne

Your dermatologist may prescribe medication. This may be antibiotics - either orally or topical - to help kill bacteria, or other topical treatments. For more severe acne, the doctor may recommend removal of whiteheads and blackheads or draining cysts.

Questions to Ask Your Dermatologist

No matter which treatment your dermatologist suggests, he can also provide you with information to help you care for your acne at home. Be prepared to ask questions so you understand the treatment and what to expect. You may want to ask:

  • What treatment do you recommend and why? What are the side effects of this treatment?
  • How soon should I see results from the treatment? How long will I be on this treatment?
  • How can I care for my skin at home? Is there a skin cleaner I should be using? Should I make changes in my diet?
  • Can I use make-up and, if so, what type of make-up is best?
  • Can I take steps to prevent or reduce scarring?

Your dermatologist can be a great source of information and can help you find ways to control and manage your acne. You will probably be asked to come back for follow-up visits. Be sure to follow all treatments and attend any follow-up visits to avoid your acne returning.


"Acne," Updated Sept, 2010, Staff Writer, FamilyDoctor.org

"When to See a Dermatologist," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, The American Academy of Dermatologists