Dermatologists not go-to source for advice on skincare, survey shows

February 1, 2006

Dr. McMichael says patients are influenced by marketing efforts in terms of their skincare product choices.

"I think the results are consistent with what I hear," says Amy McMichael, M.D., a dermatologist and clinical associate professor of dermatology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"Patients like to think that they are experts on their own skin because they see their own skin, wash their own skin, and take care of their own skin," she says. "However, most patients are not experts. Just because you have a heart that beats doesn't make you a cardiologist."

The survey also found that American women spend an average of $336 per year on skincare products they rarely or never use. Moreover, the vast majority (88 percent) said they knew which skincare products to use for their skin type. However, 83 percent aid they were not sure which ingredients to use for anti-aging and said they need the advice of a skincare expert.

"A lot of people buy skincare products from their department store," Dr. McMichael says. "They buy products from a specialized boutique and speak to a salesperson who may not be trained in skincare. They are buying products often for promotional reasons, rather than based on scientific fact and on what their skincare needs are."

Dr. McMichael says patients are influenced by marketing efforts in terms of their skincare product choices. In particular, many celebrities are releasing cosmetic and skincare products, which may be inflated in price due to celebrity endorsement rather than proven efficacy, according to Dr. McMichael.

"The cost of the product is not always based on medical science," she says. "If the product is attached to a well-known name, the manufacturers can get away with increases in price. The products may be cosmetically elegant, but not effective."

Sun protection

The survey also found that nearly half of respondents (48 percent) say they only use sun protection seasonally, or do not use sun protection at all.

Moreover, about two-thirds of women (65 percent) said they were uncertain which ingredients would alleviate inflammation and bruising. About 10 percent had chosen an ingredient for reducing inflammation that may actually induce inflammation in some women.

"The first step that a patient should take is to protect (herself) from the sun," Dr. McMichael says. "You should wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 25. If a patient gets a reaction to the sunscreen like itching, they should see a dermatologist."

Dr. Zoe Draelos, a dermatologist, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and a Dermatology Times medical adviser, says patients often do not know what questions to ask their dermatologist, and, similarly, it's a challenge for dermatologists to inform their patients without comprehensive knowledge of patients' skincare regimens.

"Patients need to take as much information as they can with them to the dermatologist," Dr. Draelos says.

Patients are more likely to get objective information on what products they should use if they take their skincare products to their appointments, she says.