Do I Need a Referral to See a Dermatologist?

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by Tiffany M.
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A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of skin, hair, nails, the mucous membrane, and any disorders that come along with them. They treat these areas through a consultation followed by a treatment plan that can range from a prescription to surgery. Dermatologists assist with both medical needs as well as cosmetics. Many times, it is recommended to obtain a referral prior to seeing a dermatologist to see if medical attention is required. There are many ways to obtain a referral for various reasons. To learn more information on how to get a referral, who to get a referral from, and what reasons may you get a referral for, continue reading.

How do I get a Referral?

The most common route to obtaining a referral is seeing your primary care physician (or any general practitioner). Set up an appointment with your GP to discuss medical concerns about any skin, hair, or nail treatment you may need, and they will give you options for subsequent steps. Many times, your general practitioner will offer other remedies that you can attempt prior to seeing a specialist if the case is not severe. Once you have visited your general practitioner, they will refer you to a specialized and trusted dermatologist that is in your area. 

Is the Referral Required?

No, you do not need a referral to see a dermatologist, but it is highly suggested that you do see a specialist if you have any concerns regarding your skin, hair, or nails. However, if you plan to use your insurance for a dermatology visit, many insurance providers do require a referral from a general practitioner first. Seeing a dermatologist is important if you are questioning the health of your skin, hair, or nails because they are specialized in treatments and disorders regarding this area of the body and will be the most effective practitioner in identifying an issue and treating it as effectively and quickly as possible. 

Skin Conditions that Justify a Visit

There are many existing conditions that deal with skin, hair, or nails. Whether it is a medical or cosmetic case, a consultation is necessary to identify what condition you have and what may be the best treatment for you since everyone has varying skin, hair, and nail types. Below are a few common skin conditions that frequently lead to a visit with a dermatologist. However, these are not all the skin conditions that require a consultation with the dermatologists and if you have any concerns with your skin, hair, or nails, you should schedule a consultation.


In many cases, acne is a natural condition that happens to the vast majority of people. Typically, acne can be prevented with over-the-counter skin treatment and regimen that includes face washes, exfoliators, and creams. However, if you are an adult that is struggling with acne that is not responding to over-the-counter products, it is likely that you should schedule a consultation with a dermatologist. A dermatologist can determine what treatment is best for you and your lifestyle and prescribe new acne medication. Additionally, if you have acne that is overgrown, they may need to extract it for it to go away.


Eczema is a chronic skin condition that cannot be cured completely but can be controlled with a proper treatment plan. Characteristics of eczema include red, irritated, itchy, or flaky patches of skin throughout your body. Treatment plans include ointments and lotions to prevent itchiness and irritation as well as eliminating specific skincare products to avoid eczema flare-ups. Eczema can start at any age but is more commonly seen in children and it fades away as they enter adulthood. However, it still can remain throughout the lifespan of an individual and adults can still get it later in their life despite not having eczema as a child.

Skin Damage

Whether it is for cosmetic reasons or medical reasons, many people want to reduce the aging of their skin or damage caused by the sun or other external factors. Skin damage is very common amongst people of all ages depending on their lifestyle and skincare. Dermatologists are able to treat aging and damage to the skin in various ways which can include treatments with ointments and lotions or injections. To determine which option is best for you or what type of skin damage you may be witnessing, you must first consult with a dermatologist. 

Scar Treatment

Dermatologists may help reduce the appearance of scars that result from different sources. Scars can include acne scars, scars from minor injuries, or raised scars. Typically, the treatment for these scars will be prescribed ointments and creams for daily use. However, for more severe scars or burns, the dermatologist may refer you to a plastic surgeon for optimal coverage and results.

Skin Cancer

If you have a family history of skin cancer, have light-colored hair, fair skin, or a history of blistering sunburns, you should see a dermatologist annually for skin cancer consultations. Additionally, you should consult with a dermatologist if you notice a change in appearances, such as the size or color, of any moles you have or notice any patches of itchy, raised, flaky, red, or yellowing skin. Dermatologists have special practices and diagnoses for skin cancer and will set up a treatment plan upon diagnosis. Since they are specialized in these skin conditions, they will partially or completely remove the cancerous skin tissue and examine it further for cancerous cells. 


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