Got a Problem With Your Skin? Which Skin Care Specialist Should You Be Consulting With?
There are many different types of skin care specialists – each with different types of training and treatment methods.
So before we take a look at what each practitioner can help you with. lets briefly discuss what a successful skin treatment must do.
A successful skin treatment that will resolve the skin disorder quickly plus work long term. It will:
1) use topical products that turn off the itch, reduce inflammation, treat hyperkeratinization, suppress fungal, yeast or bacterial or other infection, re-moisturize, repair the skin and perform numerous other activities, according to what the specific skin disorder is;
2) address the internal problems that have allowed a skin condition to take hold. This will include treating issues such as nutritional excesses and deficiencies, immune issues, inflammation, stress &/or hormonal imbalances or suboptimal digestive health. It might also include methods to control infection.
3) rectify the dietary and lifestyle habits that have resulted in internal health imbalances and suboptimal health.
So let’s take a brief look at the most common types of beauty and health practitioners, to help you decide which treatment is best for you.
These days there are numerous areas which dermatologists specialize in, for example cosmetic dermatology and anti-ageing techniques which often involve surgical procedures. Other dermatologists have specialized in skin cancer as witnessed by the multiple Skin Cancer clinics that we see in Australia.
It seems that there are fewer dermatologists sticking to the traditional treatment of chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, ichthyoses and bullous diseases. Indeed getting access to a dermatologists can be challenging, and patients can sit on a waiting list for months, whilst putting up with an unsightly or uncomfortable skin condition.
Dermatologists can order specialized testing such a histopathology whereby samples of skin are sent to pathology for analysis. Occasionally they will do immune testing also, although this may be referred to an immunologist.
A typical treatment by a dermatologist involves prescribing products produced by drug companies such as topical steroidal creams and often systemic medications such as antibiotics or other specialized drugs (such as methotrexate). They may also use techniques such as phytotherapy, laser therapy or radiotherapy.
Immunologist or allergist
An immunologist is skilled in the area of immunity. In terms of skin conditions they will sometimes order tests such a autoimmune antibodies or allergy related tests such a RAST Tests for IgE antibodies, skin prick tests and IgG antibody tests.
A beauty therapist is trained in the cosmetic area of skin care. They provide face and body treatments such as facials, cleansing, massaging, hair removal and make up. Some also perform electrolysis, laser and other treatment techniques.
A beauticians training involves anatomy and physiology of the skin and how different treatments will work to correct some skin disorders. Clients will often visit a beautician to get help with a problem skin condition such as acne, but there primary emphasis is beauty based.
Beauticians are not usually trained to treat people therapeutically however. Some will do additional training such as in massage, reflexology, hydrotherapy and aromatherapy which allows them to offer additional cosmetic services.
Beauticians are trained to treat people cosmetically and not to treat therapeutically.
Laser is often used by trained beauticians, nurses or medical practitioners to assist with the treatment of the skin. Procedures such as Laser Resurfacing may help with conditions such as acne scarring, blemishes, the reduction of wrinkles and skin irregularities. The laser can also be used to improve the appearance of warts, moles, birthmarks and sun spots. Other laser techniques help to remove unwanted hair and tattoos.
Laser therapy is of little benefit for long term resolution of skin conditions that involve imbalances within the body. For skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis an internal treatment is recommended as well as the use of specifically formulated topical agents.
Naturopaths are taught to treat people holistically and their care is especially useful when it comes to chronic health conditions. This is because the naturopath is not only trained in anatomy and physiology of the body in general, but the philosophy of naturopathy is that all disease starts with an internal imbalance. This philosophy works particularly well when it comes to helping people with skin disorders, as there are generally several imbalances within the body (e.g. digestive, dietary, nutritional, immune related) that trigger or exacerbate a pre-existing skin problem.
Unfortunately most naturopaths are not well trained in the care of skin. They tend to see only limited numbers of people with skin conditions which makes it challenging when it comes to identifying and treating different skin conditions. Naturopaths are trained to work therapeutically however, which means they have access to specific herbs and nutritional supplements that can make healthy changes to the body.
They can also order specialized testing, similar to what a medical practitioner can. Naturopaths prefer to use a Functional Pathology more than mainstream pathology however, as these companies test extensively for nutritional problems, gut related health issues, for stress, sexual hormones etc. As the name suggests, these types of test look at the things within the body that determine how the body will function. They assist the practitioner to identify underlying imbalances within the body, which if left untreated, may eventually develop into a health issue or imbalances that have caused the skin problem.
A Formulation Chemist learns about the anatomy and physiology of the skin and how to rectify or improve the appearance of the skin with various formulas and ingredients. So if for example, they are developing a product to help with dandruff, they will be familiar with the type of product that is required (e.g. a shampoo, conditioner or cream) and what sort of ingredients will have the necessary actions to reduce the scale and work on the issues that are causing the dandruff at the skins surface.
They will develop specific formulas with ingredients that fit the brief of the company they are working for. For example they can develop products made with synthetics, natural ingredients or organic ingredients. The formulas that they develop may be cosmetic or therapeutic in nature.
Formulation Chemists are trained in developing many sorts of topical products, but not products for the internal treatment of a specific skin disorder.
Who Is The Best Skin Specialist To Treat A Skin Problem?
The type of skin condition that you have will often determine who is the best practitioner to see. For example if you think you have a skin cancer, visiting a skin cancer clinic would be a wise thing to do.
The best practitioner to improve a skin condition such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, tinea, scabies, herpes or rosacea, is the one who has the ability to;
- identify a skin problem;
- develop topical products according to the findings;
- prescribe products to treat the internal imbalances;
- plus give advice about dietary and lifestyle issues.
Who is the ideal skin practitioner for these types of skin conditions?
Unfortunately the answer is – none of the above. This is not to say that each of these practitioners aren’t very skilled in their own right. The ideal practitioner however needs multiple skills to address complex skin problems.
- A dermatologist can successfully suppress a skin condition (usually short term) by prescribing topical products such as cortisone cream that quickly relieve inflammation and itching. These topical products are not generally recommended for long term use. Rarely does a dermatologist address the underlying imbalances or make recommendations around dietary and lifestyle triggers;
- The immunologist can help identify allergens, but very few people have a true allergy;
- The beauty therapist has the ability to work on the outside of the skin with cosmetic products but doesn’t have access to therapeutic products other than those that can be purchased over the counter. They are not trained in treating holistically, in the use of herbal or nutritional supplements or giving advice about diet and lifestyle;
- The laser therapist, much like the beauty therapist, is similarly not trained to treat holistically but concentrates on the external treatment of a skin condition;
- The naturopath who is very good at treating holistically to address the internal triggers, is not specifically trained in care of the skin or identifying specific skin disorders. They are however well trained in giving dietary and lifestyle advice, plus prescribing herbal and nutritional supplements to treat internal imbalances.
The founder of Healthy Skin Clinic, Vivienne Savill, identified the needs of the ‘ideal skin practitioner’ many years ago. After being exposed to a wide variety of skin conditions, the need for in-depth knowledge in many different areas, became obvious.
Although Vivienne had experience treating clients with skin conditions, the medical training as a nurse and the holistic training as a naturopath, she desired to have more knowledge around formulating topical products.
She subsequently trained as a Formulation Chemist in the Personal Care Industry, thus ensuring that she has the ability to formulate specific topical products for her clients.
We would love to help you improve the look and feel of your skin.