This is the story about how I learned the importance of finding a dermatologist that listens to you.

Basically, there are two main dermatologists in my town that everyone goes to. I, of course, started seeing the one my family members recommended. When I was diagnosed with atopic dermatitis at age 13, I honestly didn’t know much about what was going on; other than “apply these steroids and you’ll be fine.”

At the moment, I respected my doctor because my family always spoke so highly of him; they always said how knowledgeable and smart he was. A couple of years later, I decided I disagree.

Express what’s not working for you

My topical steroids were not working anymore and I found myself stuck in the cycle of being prescribed a stronger potency when my current one stopped working for me. I decided to stop using topical steroids as they were getting me nowhere and I went through topical steroid withdrawal.

I was 17 when I made an appointment to ask him about alternatives to steroids and he quite literally flipped out. He asked me if I was some sort of health nut. He said “that’s the problem with you young Americans. You want instant gratification!” (which was very odd to me, considering I thought the steroids were “instant gratification” because it treats the symptoms when you need them gone quickly, but doesn’t get to the root of the problem.)

I was in a flare so he asked me what products I was using on my skin. He approved of everything I told him I was using but was met with “there’s something you’re not telling me!” with a finger-wagging in my face and all.

I very clearly expressed that topical steroids were not a good fit for me because they weren’t getting me anywhere and I learned about the long-term effects of using them. Naturally, he ignored everything I said and handed me a big bag of steroid cream samples. I left his office crying because I was shocked at what just happened.

He treated me like a child and scolded me, all because I told him his treatment plan wasn’t helping me. Of course, I decided I could never go back to him after this and my mom agreed. She fully supported me. She was in the exam room when he was yelling at me and she was completely shocked herself.

Find a dermatologist that listens to you

I made an appointment with the other dermatologist in my area and it was a completely different experience. I shared my story with topical steroids and how I decided they weren’t a good fit for me and that already went through topical steroid withdrawal to get them out of my system. Except this doctor didn’t yell at me, he didn’t accuse me of lying, he didn’t degrade me for wanting more options. “Sure!” he said. “Let’s find something that works for you.”

I took a sigh of relief because honestly, I wasn’t used to this response. He gave me different options to try and told me to let him know how they worked. He told me to keep him updated so we can find a treatment plan that works for me.

Moral of the story is: It doesn’t matter how smart your dermatologist is, it doesn’t matter how many awards they have.

If they’re not going to listen to you and speak to you with respect, they don’t deserve to be your doctor. Dermatologists are not a one-size-fits-all deal. There are more options out there and it is so crucial to find a provider that works for you.

Alexis Smith

Alexis was formally diagnosed with atopic dermatitis around age 12. Years later, she created her eczema Instagram account, @eczemalove, to share her skin journey with the world in hopes she could inspire others to do the same. She has since been featured in Dove’s DermaSeries campaign, displayed on the National Eczema Association’s digital billboard in Times Square, and appeared on the cover of People Health magazine. Her mission is to normalize skin conditions and to help people feel more confident in their own skin.

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