What to Expect at Your First Dermatologist Visit

Seeing a dermatologist is the best thing you can do to help clear up your acne. But if you’ve never been to a dermatologist before, you're probably wondering what goes on during your first visit, and what you should expect.

Once the day of your appointment arrives, be sure your skin is clean, and try to avoid wearing makeup. This will give the dermatologist an accurate picture of your skin. 

Here are some other things you should expect on your first trip to the dermatologist.


Medical History

Dermatologist looking at young woman's skin

Charday Penn / Getty Images

Your first visit to the dermatologist begins much as a typical visit to your primary care physician. They'll ask about things like your medical history, medications, and health problems.

It’s important for your dermatologist to know your medical history so they can appropriately treat your acne. It’s all relevant, even the issues that aren’t directly related to your skin.

Before your visit, you may want to take a few steps to prepare. Write down:

The chances are good you'll get another prescription from your dermatologist, and it's important they know about your current medications to avoid any potential interactions. 


Skin Exam

Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to disrobe and put on a cloth or paper gown. If it’s the first time you’ve ever seen a dermatologist, you may be due for a full-body check for other skin problems. Suspicious moles, for example.

Although this may seem odd if you’ve made the appointment because of acne, remember that your dermatologist is there to help you with all of your skin problems, even ones you may not know about yet.


Expect to Be Respected

Dermatologists are medical professionals who genuinely want to help and have their patients' best interests at heart. That said, don’t stand for a dermatologist who:

  • Is rude or demeaning
  • Doesn’t spend any time looking at your skin and listening to your concerns
  • Gives you a hard-sell for skincare products

You should feel comfortable with this person, and your dermatologist should act professionally and respectfully.

If you're not comfortable or confident in this person, it may be time to find a new dermatologist.


Getting a New Prescription

Once your dermatologist has examined your skin and gotten all of the pertinent information, they'll likely prescribe an acne treatment medication for you. You can generally expect to leave with a prescription that day.

Make sure you understand how to use your new acne medication, know what side effects to look out for, and how to manage them. You'll also want to ask how long it will take to see improvement and what you should do if you aren’t seeing good results.


Expect More Than One Visit

It would be amazing if all you had to do was make one appointment, get medication, and never have to worry about acne again. Unfortunately, acne doesn’t work that way.

It can sometimes take a few tries to hit on the right treatment, or a combination of treatments that will work well for your acne. Don't be discouraged by these return visits.

Once you get significant results, your dermatologist will still want to see you periodically to make sure that the medication you have is working well, that you aren’t bothered too much by side effects, and to simply monitor the overall health of your skin.

Plus, you'll need to continue to refill your prescription acne medications. These don't cure acne, but instead control breakouts.

Use these subsequent visits to your advantage, both for acne treatment and beyond. This first dermatology appointment is the first step to a lifetime of healthy skin.

A Word From Verywell

Going to your first dermatology visit can seem intimidating if you're not sure what to expect. If you're prepared for your dermatology visit, you'll get the most out of your time with the dermatologist and be well on your way to clearer skin.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dermatology: What to expect.

  2. NYU Langone Health. Diagnosing acne.

  3. Smith RJ, Lipoff JB. Evaluation of dermatology practice online reviews: Lessons from qualitative analysis. JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(2):153-7. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.3950

  4. Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(5):945-73.e33. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.12.037

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Acne: Diagnosis and treatment.

Additional Reading
  • National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). What is acne? Updated August 2020.

  • Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris [published correction appears in J Am Acad Dermatol. 2020 Jun;82(6):1576]. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(5):945-73.e33. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.12.037

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.