The British Skin Foundation sat down with Consultant Dermatologist Dr Derrick Phillips to gain some insight in to what a Consultant Dermatologist does, how they can help you and what advice they have if you are struggling with the emotional side of having a skin condition.

Dr Derrick Phillips, Consultant Dermatologist 

What does a Dermatologist do, how do you become one, what does it allow you to do? 

A dermatologist is a medical doctor that specialises in diagnosing and treating skin problems ranging from rashes, like eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, to skin growths and skin cancers. Dermatologists have a range of tools at their disposal including creams, tablet medications, light therapy and skin surgery. To become a dermatologist you must complete 4 years of general medical training after leaving medical school, followed by a further 4 years of specialist training and three exams. 

What do you see as the link between skin and mental health?

The skin is the biggest organ in the body and problems affecting the skin can negatively impact self-perception, confidence and can lead to anxiety and other mental health concerns. As dermatologists, we are increasingly aware of the impact skin problems can have on mental health. This has certainly been influenced by the rise of social media.  

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with their mental health due to a skin condition?

Speak to your GP or dermatologist and let them know how your skin condition is affecting you. They may be able alter your treatment, if it’s not going as well as you hoped, or offer talking therapies or access to a clinical psychologist.  

Is there a relationship between how ’severe’ or visible a skin condition is and how distressed people are by it?

Skin problems affect people differently and it is not always helpful to categorise them as mild, moderate or severe as the impact of the condition may be far greater than the physical extent.  

Do skin conditions impact  “young people”’s mental health more than others?

Most skin problems are visible and therefore can be more stigmatising than other medical conditions. This can make young people feel different, isolated and lead to anxiety, negative self-perception and low mood. 

Do you think social media is putting more mental pressure on young people to have ‘perfect’ skin?

Yes, unfortunately so. Young people are constantly presented with airbrushed and edited pictures depicting perfect skin. This has the impact of skewing perception of what is normal/achievable and heightening skin anxiety. I often have to remind patients that getting the occasional spot is normal and very few people have blemish-free skin.

Do you see any recurring themes experienced by people who have skin problems? 

Most skin problems are visible and therefore can be more stigmatising than other medical conditions. This can make young people feel different, isolated and lead to anxiety, negative self-perception and low mood. 

What can someone whose wellbeing is negatively impacted by their skin, expect from an appointment with you? 

A safe space to discuss all their concerns, skin and beyond. We will discuss the skin concern; diagnose the problem and work together to create a bespoke treatment plan. I will signpost online resources, support groups and where appropriate, consider referral to a clinical psychologist trained in helping patients with skin concerns.  

Do you have any tips to help people get the most out of their appointment with you? 

The consultation is a safe space for you to tell me in your own words how your skin condition affects your life and how it makes you feel. Some people find it helpful to write down questions before the appointment, so they do not forget during the consultation. I also like to ask my patients what they would like to achieve from the consultation, so we can create realistic goals

Do you have any advice for people whose skin is affecting their mental wellbeing? 

If your skin problem is affecting your mental wellbeing, do not suffer in silence. Speak to your GP who will be able to provide psychological support and start skin treatment, alternatively, if you are already under the care of a dermatologist, let them know.

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