Cross-training for your skin

How you can benefit from seeing both a dermatologist and an esthetician

“Going to the dermatologist and going to an esthetician shouldn’t be an ‘either-or’ scenario,” says Amanda Al-Masri, vice president of spa services at Equinox. Just as yoga is great cross-training for your lifting or running routine, both skincare professionals complement each other—and need the other to maximize the impact of their areas of focus, Al-Masri explains.

If you have pain or are concerned about a medical issue, including severe rosacea, acne, or psoriasis, absolutely make an appointment with your dermatologist. They can prescribe medications and diagnose and treat myriad skin disorders. Dermatologists also perform treatments like fillers, botox, lasers, surgery, or mole removal.

But, using those invasive techniques without proper skincare is like going to the gym religiously, but eating fast food every day, says Al-Masri. An esthetician (who cannot diagnose skin conditions) seeks to improve your skin through expert advice and therapies, which can actually help put off work you’d get from a dermatologist like face lifts or injections, says Ashlyn Morris, a complex spa manager at Equinox and an esthetician. “The idea is to create a healthy organ and preserve the integrity of the skin cells.”

Estheticians can also optimize results of treatments performed at the dermatologist’s office, says Al-Masri. For example, botox will keep wrinkles at bay while targeted exfoliation treatments at the spa can help maintain your young look, says Morris. “As we get older, our skin cell cycle begins to slow down. Professional grade products can help increase that skin cell turnover, mocking the behavior of younger skin.”

While both estheticians and dermatologists can address lifestyle factors (think: what your diet looks like or how stress impacts your skin) the former are able to give the topic more attention. It's primarily an issue of time: Most spa sessions are 30 to 90 minutes while research suggests medical appointments often range from 13 to 16 minutes.

Here's where the line gets blurry: States have different regulations when it comes to who can perform certain advanced procedures like chemical peels, notes Al-Masri. If you’re considering one, touch base with both your dermatologist and your esthetician to see which environment might be best. If you have sensitive skin, perhaps a medical setting is a better bet. If you’re set on relaxing—and estheticians can legally perform the procedure you’re seeking—a spa could better.

To strive toward your healthiest skin, keep your esthetician in the loop about dermatology appointments; and keep up with both types of appointments.

How regularly you see a dermatologist depends on your skin and family history of conditions like melanoma. Currently, studies don’t suggest that routine screening for people without a history of skin cancer are effective. If you do have a history (or have atypical moles), touch base with your doctor about how oftenyour appointments should be. As for treatments like facials, aim for one every four weeks: “If you see an esthetician on a regular basis we can start noticing skin patterns, then we can build off of results,” Morris says. “If you only come in every couple of months, we basically start from zero.”