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8 Skin symptoms dermatologists wish you wouldn’t self-treat

If you’ve ever perused the skin care aisle of your local pharmacy, you know how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking you can take care of all your skin problems from the comfort of your own home.

While it’s true that thousands of products can help with minor skin issues, these three dermatologists remind us why there are some skin problems women should never self-treat.

Dr. Alan Dattner

Holistic dermatologist and author of Radiant Skin from the Inside Out Dr. Alan Dattner is adamant that the following skin problems — even those that may not seem particularly concerning — can benefit from professional medical care. In some cases professional care may even save your life.

1. Changing moles. Run to the doctor if you notice that any of your moles are changing. A changing mole can be a sign of skin cancer and needs careful assessment. “Improper treatment can allow metastases and kill you,” warns Dattner.

2. Purple or red raised bumps that look like bruises. If your body looks bruised and battered even if you haven’t hurt yourself, you need to call a doctor. The bumps can be a sign of vasculitis, or inflammation of the vessels. In addition to unsightly bumps, vasculitis can damage organs that lie beneath the surface of your skin. The bruiselike marks are often the first signal that you need professional help.

3. Red, hot, tender infections. Your skin feels warm to the touch and tender. Do you take a wait-and-see approach? According to Dattner, you shouldn’t. Hot and painful infections — including those that don’t break the skin — can be a sign of cellulitis, which can cause severe skin damage and even death.

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Dr. Fayne Frey

While Dattner warned of many potentially life-threatening skin symptoms, dermatological surgeon Dr. Fayne Frey adds that common and relatively mild skin problems are worthy of professional attention too.

1. Cystic acne. You know those painful, aching pimples that feel like they’re emerging deep from your skin? They are, and they can be a real problem. “This is a common yet potentially scarring condition that can be remedied by experienced skin care experts,” says Frey. Avoid popping or poking these guys, as doing so will only make the condition and its scarring worse.

2. Scaly or itchy eyelids. This condition is often caused by allergies, unbeknownst to many who experience the symptom. “Patients suffer needlessly,” says Frey. “Proper evaluation and workup often lead to a cause and appropriate treatment.”

3. Itchy feet. “Patients attempt to treat themselves with over-the-counter anti-fungals with minimal response,” says Frey. Apparently itchy feet is not always due to fungus. A thorough evaluation is important to properly identify the cause.

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Dr. Zelickson

Dermatologist and founder of MD Complete skin care Dr. Brian Zelickson shares the concerns of the other dermatologists, but he adds that one of his biggest concerns is that patients often self-treat their conditions after improperly self-diagnosing.

1. Precancerous lesions. Dr. Zelickson has seen patients try to remove precancerous or cancerous lesions with an over-the-counter remedy because they misunderstood their symptoms. This mistake can cost a patient his or her life. When your skin changes or you notice a persistent lesion or scab, make your way to the doctor.

2. Allergies versus infections. Sometimes patients confuse allergies with infections. For instance, Zelickson once treated a patient who had been using antibacterial ointment on a cut for a few days. A rash appeared, which she thought was a worsening infection, so she just kept applying the ointment. She eventually appeared in the emergency department only to find that she was having a severe allergic reaction to the ointment. “Always know what you are treating and what you are using to treat the condition,” Zelickson says.

Still not sure if you should call the doc? All three dermatologists state that if any of your skin conditions don’t clear at home, you should seek professional help.

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