Why I Teach Skincare to my Patients

Based on a presentation by Ruth Tedaldi, MD

Watch the video of this Skincare Academy presentation featuring Dr. Tedaldi at https://jcad.tv/sca-ruth-tedaldi-skincare-patients/

Dr. Tedaldi is the founder of Dermatology Partners, Inc., in Wellesley, Massachusetts. 

I’m passionate about skincare. I also love educating my colleagues about skincare and the importance of in-office dispensing. Teaching our patients about skincare is important—not only in terms of patient outcomes, but also in terms of the doctor-patient relationship that you create with your patients. I believe that patient outcomes are determined not only by what you give them and which procedures you perform, but also how they feel about you.

Annual revenue in the United States skincare market is over 21 billion dollars. Dermatologists and physicians only occupy a fraction of that space. Skincare manufacturers mainly market to Millennials because they comprise the largest part of the market. However, dermatologists see patients in the Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer markets. Personally, I’m seeing many septuagenarians and octogenarians in my office, and they’re all interested in skincare. Our patients are hearing from everybody: from Sephora, from the makeup counter, from their friends. Many places that patients seek their advice and information from are not truly science based. It’s important for you, as a dermatologist, to know what they are hearing and to develop the skills to effectively educate them. 

Start with skincare

I begin every office visit with a discussion of skincare. If you do not begin with skincare, I promise you, time will run out. You’ll be talking about this little line, and that little wrinkle, and the lower lip, and your lip flip, and you will run out of time before you can discuss skincare. Sunscreen is always the base of my patient skincare education. Often, my patients ask, “Why do you begin with sunscreen?” Because if I do not start with sunscreen, the game is already over. 

Barriers to in-office dispensing

Many dermatologists do not dispense products in their offices because they’re embarrassed by “selling.” Is it embarrassing to say, “Yes, I want you to use this, and I happen to have it and sell it in my office.”? In this instance, a shift in mindset is much needed. 

I never use the word “sell.” I always use the word “educate” because that is what I’m doing. I also think it is important for us to realize that we are the experts. You are the genius bar. Connecting with your patient from the very first visit, when they come in with questions about lines, wrinkles, aging, acne, pigmentation—this is your opportunity to start the conversation about what they can do at home. You are trying to improve your patients’ outcomes. If you do a treatment like onabotulinumtoxinA or filler, but you’re not telling the patient to use complementary skincare, such as sunscreen, antioxidants, or a retinoid, that patient probably will not have a superior outcome. Patient outcomes are the glue to which you bond to your patient; your patient sees improvements, and then your patient will only want to see you. You mustn’t be embarrassed by selling skincare products because you’re really selling your education and expertise. You’re selling the fact that you are a professional in the skincare industry. I hope that this shift in mindset can help this embarrassment dissipate if that has been a limiting factor for you.

Education and Leadership

It is important that you are not the sole provider of skincare education in your office. Your staff is your army, and you must educate your staff so that they can educate your patients. Bring companies to you to educate staff with science, studies, and perceivable patient outcomes. Your patients’ knowledge base needs to be initiated by you, promoted by your educated staff, and perpetuated by establishing contact between patient visits. 

Maintaining your retail area

Make sure your retail area is not just a little cabinet in the corner of your office. Our job is to be the “genius bar” for our patients and to provide them with all possible choices, then narrow down their best selections based on education and counseling. If you’re only carrying one or two lines, I believe that’s suspicious. The best thing that you can do as a skincare expert is carry many skincare lines and be educated by the manufacturers regarding the utility of each of their products. 

In summary

In summary, if you focus on education rather than salesmanship, your days will be more enjoyable. Your office will become a center for education, choreographed by you and danced by your staff. Above all, your patient outcomes will undoubtedly improve.