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The ultimate guide to seeing a dermatologist in Singapore

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woman with acne undergoes check up

Have you always wanted to visit a dermatologist for your skin problems but never got down to it because you don’t know if your skin thing really warrants a visit to a doctor? Like many firsts, an inaugural visit to a derm can feel like braving unchartered territory and make you uncomfortable not knowing what to expect.

In this article, we tackle everything you need to know about your first visit to a dermatologist so that you’ve got your bases covered and you can feel more chill about your first ever dermatological experience.

If you’re still biting your lip unable to make up your mind on whether to see a dermatologist for your skin problems, you may want to check out our article on the signs that tell you it’s time to finally see a derm first.

But if you’ve made up your mind to visit one, read on – this article is written just for you!

“What is a dermatologist?”

A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specialises in treating the skin, hair and nails for people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly.

Derms treat problems that are more than skin deep – skin problems are often sensitive and affect touchy feely things like self-worth, self-respect and confidence. Sometimes, severe skin problems can be debilitating as the discomfort affects day-to-day life – or even life-threatening – when it comes to serious skin allergies.

“How does one become a dermatologist in Singapore?

Dermatologists in Singapore are considered specialists and they are also medical doctors certified by the Ministry of Health (MOH) with specialist training in dermatology.

To become one, it is required to complete your university medical degree before embarking on another six years of studying – mostly comprising three years of medicine training and three years specialist training in dermatology. That is ten good years of medical studies and training in total!

Note: Having a Diploma in Dermatology (Dip Derm) or a Diploma in Family Practice Dermatology (Dip FP Dermatology) does not qualify the doctor as a dermatologist.

“Should I opt for a dermatologist in the public or private sector in Singapore?”

This is such a common question for us Singaporeans whenever we’re considering a medical procedure:

Should I save money and get a polyclinic referral before seeing a derm at one of the public hospitals or should I save time and convenience and just see a derm in private practice instead?

If you opt to see a dermatologist in a public hospital, you should bear in mind that you will have to further choose between two routes: the subsidised route and the private route. The former does not allow you to choose your doctor and your doctor is likely to be a House or Medical Officer (who are new medical graduates – after all, the National Skin Centre is also a teaching hospital!) and your doctor may change with every follow up visit.

If you opt for the latter (private route), you may choose your doctor (an Associate Consultant and Consultant who are specialists) and you will see the same doctor for all your subsequent follow up visits.

Please bear in mind that regardless of the route you choose, the National Skin Centre (NSC) does not accept walk-ins and you would require a referral letter from any polyclinic in Singapore. After obtaining your referral letter, expect a wait time of 6 – 8 weeks to see a dermatologist in NSC.

Insider tip: Because the wait time is so long, your skin problem or allergy may change in appearance. Sometimes, your skin may even appear normal looking on the day of your appointment at NSC but show up again a few days later, much to your frustration. Thus, a pro tip is to take pictures of your skin problem as and when it changes in appearance. In that way, you can show the pictures to the dermatologist for treatment recommendations during your appointment even though your skin condition may appear normal or different.

If you opt to see a dermatologist in private practice, it’s super quick as the front desks should be able to book you in for an appointment on the same day. Some clinics may also accept walk-ins if their patient schedule for that day allows it. However, bear in mind that clinics in the private sector usually charge a premium and does not come with the suite of government subsidies.

“How much does it cost to see a dermatologist in Singapore?”

To see a dermatologist at a public hospital such as National Skin Centre, consultation charges would differ accordingly for the public vs private route that you will opt for. The table below summarises the cost.

Rates – Singapore CitizenRates – Singapore PR
First Consultation – Public route (subsidised, cannot choose doctor)$36.00$54.00
First Consultation – Private route with Associate Consultant for doctor$97.00$112.00
First Consultation – Private route with Consultant for doctor$110.00$126.50
First Consultation – Private route with Senior Consultant for doctor$121.00$139.10

The subsidised route can easily be 50 to 75% cheaper but bear in mind that your doctor is likely a trainee and do not have the experience of a specialist doctor. If you opt for the private route, the rates vary according to the doctor’s seniority and experience so you can take your pick.

On the other hand, the rates for seeing a dermatologist in a private clinic naturally vary but the range would be $120 to $160.

First Consultation with a dermatologist at a private clinic $120 to $160

“What do a dermatologist treat?”

Thanks to the humid tropical climate we live in, we’re all susceptible to various skin issues. The common culprit here? Oily and clogged skin. But some of us may suffer from more severe skin conditions such as skin allergies, psoriasis etc.

In general, dermatologists in Singapore can be categorised broadly into two types:

1. Medical Dermatologists. These dermatologists are specialised in diagnosing and treating more severe skin problems and diseases such as:

  • Autoimmune skin disorders
  • Acne
  • Eczema
  • Skin allergies
  • Skin cancer
  • Psoriasis
  • Hair loss
  • Stretch marks
  • Skin rashes, STDs
  • Warts, anywhere on the body including genital

2. Cosmetic Dermatologists with a focus in aesthetic/cosmetic skin treatments to improve your skin condition, such as:

  • Fractional lasers
  • Filler and Botox injections
  • Chemical peels
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Skin pigmentation removal
  • Mole removal
  • Thread lifts

In general, most dermatologists in the public hospitals focus on medical dermatology. Thus, if you’re interested to do aesthetic skin treatments, it would be more suitable to start researching on doctors and clinics in the private practice instead.

 “What should I do before I visit a derm?”

Three words – Prep for it. Not like test prep, but the idea is to be meticulous here.

For starters, note down a list of all the medications you have been using to improve your skin condition – topical and oral – to help your dermatologist plan out your best suitable treatment plan. Write down in advance all the types of creams or ingredients you feel might have irritated or helped your skin. Documenting the length of use and date of use would be helpful too. Let your dermatologist know your medical history including allergies if any.

If possible, try and take pictures of your skin problem for a period of time before seeing a derm. For example, if you have skin rashes, you could photographs to document the rash before visiting a derm.

“What to expect?”

Expect to:

  • Go back and visit regularly. For example, acne is not something that can be cured with one visit and it takes time for your derm to hit the right treatment regime for your skin.
  • Strip and put on a gown. It’s possible that your dermatologist may need to inspect the rest of your skin if he/she suspects a skin issue. It also depends on what you’re being seen for.
  • Clarify with your derm, since it’s usually a multi-step skincare regime that he/she is prescribing and sometimes doctors unknowingly default to medical jargon that may be hard for a layperson to understand. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you may have or clarify if anything was unclear to you. And don’t be afraid to start taking notes on your mobile phone if you can’t remember it all!

“How to find a good dermatologist?”

Recommendations from a trusted friend or family member is great of course, but above all, check your dermatologist’s credentials to make sure he or she is a specialist dermatologist certified by MOH, i.e. is a medical degree graduate and has undergone six additional years of training in dermatology sub-specialty. A GP in dermatology (i.e. diploma in derm) is generally not considered a dermatologist. You can easily do a quick check on the Dermatological Society of Singapore’s website.

Pro tip: Make sure your dermatologist not only specialises in treating your specific skin issue, but also your age group, so that you know your derm is extremely experienced in helping you treat your skin problem.

Since skin issues are rarely solved with one visit, find a derm whom you feel comfortable and can communicate well with. At the end of the day, working out a good treatment plan that you can follow through with sometimes take a two way street, so it’s important that you and your derm can communicate well and understand each other.

Also Read: Do anti-ageing treatments really exist? Here’s the spill

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