February 2020

Skin problems

Skin problems can feel difficult to manage and upsetting, especially if they affect your face or are particularly visible. In some cases, you may feel like your skin problem is so severe that you have no alternative but to visit your GP.

Before you do, it’s worth noting that there are all sorts of skin problems that a pharmacist can help with, saving you (and your GP) time.

Pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals who can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicine for a variety of minor conditions and illnesses, including some skin problems.

So what exactly are these scenarios? In this post, we’ll be looking at the different skin problems that your pharmacist can help with, making life that little bit easier.


Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is one of the most common skin conditions in the UK, affecting approximately one in 12 adults and one in five children. 

There are many different types of eczema, but the most common form is atopic eczema. Eczema causes the skin to become dry, itchy, red, scaly and cracked. In more severe cases, it can also cause bleeding and weeping.

Although there is no ‘cure’, there are certain ways that you can get rid of eczema yourself, prevent eczema symptoms from developing or flare-ups from worsening.

In many milder cases of eczema, over-the-counter products (such as creams, moisturisers or shampoos) can alleviate your symptoms and improve the condition. Your pharmacist can recommend effective treatments and provide advice.

If your symptoms are more extreme, they will suggest going to your GP or dermatologist, where you can be prescribed a stronger treatment.


The severity of the condition can vary, but if you suffer from mild acne symptoms such as spots (like blackheads and whiteheads), you can speak to a pharmacist for advice.

They will be able to suggest some over-the-counter gels or creams which contain benzoyl peroxide or vitamin A, which will help to reduce these symptoms.

If you find that this over-the-counter medication doesn’t work, or you suffer from moderate to severe acne symptoms — such as pustules or cysts — then your pharmacist will suggest booking an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist to discuss your options. They may prescribe a stronger treatment that contains antibiotics, or in more extreme cases, oral medication.

Warts & verrucas

Warts and verrucas usually clear in time without the need for treatment. However, sometimes they might be particularly stubborn and take months or even years to disappear.

Although not harmful, some people may find warts (which usually appear on your hands) embarrassing, itchy or sore. If a verruca (found on the soles of your feet) is particularly big or deep, it may also feel painful, especially when walking. In situations like this, you might want to seek treatment. 

Warts and verrucas are both skin problems that your pharmacist can easily advise on, without the need to visit a doctor. They can advise on the best treatment for you, such as creams, acid-based ointment, plasters, spray, or freezing (liquid nitrogen) treatment.

Skin rashes & inflammation (contact dermatitis)

If you’re suffering from a rash, inflammation or irritation, then you can visit your pharmacist for advice. This can be quicker than waiting to be seen by your GP.

Your pharmacist will help you to establish what the possible cause of your skin problem was, such as contact with an irritating substance (such as a detergent or solvent) or an allergic reaction to something else. They will then be able to advise you on appropriate treatment (such as a cream) and possible lifestyle changes or refer you to a doctor if your rash needs to be assessed further.

The above skin problems are all things that your pharmacist can help with.

As trained medical professionals who can assess symptoms, give expert advice and suggest over-the-counter treatments, pharmacists should be your first port of call for minor or mild dermatological concerns. If it turns out that your skin condition is more serious and they are unable to help, they will then refer you to your GP or a dermatologist for further medical advice and treatment.

About the author: Scott McDougall (MPharm) is the co-founder and registered manager of The Independent Pharmacy, UK-leading independent online pharmacy. For more healthcare and treatment advice, visit their website.

Scott McDougall (MPharm)

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