Given it can be a long wait to see a dermatologist, and that appointment times can be short when they eventually come around, we thought it would be helpful provide some tips to help you get the most out of your dermatology appointment:

Preparation

1.  Prepare in advance. Before your appointment, jot down details of your hair loss. Where is it on your body? (Lashes, brows, beard and all body hair counts). When did it start? How fast has it been progressing? Any physical discomfort? Any other changes in health that have coincided with your hair loss? Perhaps include some photos of any changes you’ve noticed. This will help you remember everything you want to discuss during your appointment.

2.  Bring relevant information. Bring a list of current medications, including any supplements or vitamins you’re taking. If you’ve tried any over-the-counter treatments, make sure to inform your dermatologist. Gather your family’s medical history to see if anyone in your family has alopecia (of any type), or another type of autoimmune disease. Include parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and first cousins. 

3.  Consider asking if your dermatologist has a specialist interest in hair loss conditions. Not all dermatologists have a specialist interest in hair loss and it could be that the dermatologist you are seeing does not have the expertise needed to confidently diagnose, or appropriately recommend the best course of treatment.

During

4.  Be honest and open. Your dermatologist needs accurate information to provide the best care. Be open about your haircare routine, mental health, and any concerns you may have, even if they seem minor. Remember it’s not just the physical, include the emotional impact and what that means for your wellbeing, e.g. have you stopped exercising, or going to work, or dropped out of your friendship circle.

5.  Be prepared for your dermatologist to want to examine your scalp. If you are wearing a wig or hair piece, ensure it can be easily removed for the appointment. If you typically glue your wig to your head, you will need to consider whether this can be easily removed during the appointment or if you need to consider skipping the glue on the day of your appointment.

6.  Ask questions. Don’t hesitate to ask questions during your appointment. Whether it’s about your diagnosis* or about whether a symptom is normal, or perhaps a question about your hair care routine, your dermatologist is there to help you understand and address your concerns. (*there are different types of alopecia, so make sure you leave your appointment understanding which type you have. A diagnosis of ‘alopecia’ is not a proper diagnosis. If presented with this, ask the dermatologist to confirm which type of alopecia).

7.  Take notes, or take someone with you. During your appointment, take notes on any instructions or recommendations your dermatologist provides. If you think there is a chance that you will be too overwhelmed to take in information, consider taking someone with you to your appointment who can make notes and support you. 

8.  Ask about wigs. If you think it might be helpful to consider a wig, either now or if your hair loss becomes more severe, ask your dermatologist if there is provision within your NHS Trust for help with wigs. If you know you will be wanting to discuss the option of wigs, familiarise yourself with the Charter for Best Practice for NHS Wig Provision before your appointment, and consider printing a copy of our clinician letter to take with you.

9.  Ask for signposting to local mental health support if you feel that you need it.

Closing the appointment

10.   Ensure you understand how long you will be trying the treatment for, if your dermatologist recommends a specific treatment. Make sure you know who to contact, and how, should you experience any side effects from treatment. 

11.   Don’t be afraid to repeat back what you have heard to the dermatologist to ensure you have understood it correctly.

12.   Find out when any follow-up appointment will be including how and when the appointment will be made, i.e. do you have to make it or will you get a letter, or a call?

13.   Ask if the dermatologist has interest and expertise in hair loss conditions, if you have any doubts about the advice you are receiving. If they do not, ask if it’s possible to be referred to a dermatologist who specialises in hair loss. The British Hair and Nail Society includes the details of some dermatologists who specialise in hair loss. It's not an exhaustive list but can be a good starting point. 

After

14.   Consider keeping a diary of what happens after the dermatology appointment so that you can refer back to it at the next visit.

15.   Contact the secretary at your clinic if you are not notified of the next appointment by the time the doctor outlined. 

By following these tips, you can make the most out of your dermatology appointment. Remember, your dermatologist is there to help you so don’t hesitate to communicate openly with them about your hair loss, especially including details of how your hair loss is impacting on your emotions, work, exercise and social activities.