Over the past 10 years, the medical aesthetic industry has been growing at an exponential pace. Nowadays, it seems like everywhere you look there is some advertisement about a medical-grade beauty service whether it be Botox, fillers, laser, or body contouring. Social media feeds are flooded with videos and images of procedures and results, all claiming to be the next best thing. Not surprisingly, there has been an equally impressive explosion in the sheer quantity of individuals and facilities offering these services. For those of us looking for a cosmetic dermatology clinic, the enormous number of choices currently available can understandably be a bit intimidating. Here are a few tips and guidelines you can use to find the perfect match for you.

1. Narrow your search down by initially focusing on provider qualifications

You may be asking; how do I find a dermatologist that’s best for me? A not very well-known fact is that true medical aesthetic treatments can be highly complex, require an incredible level of technical skill and precision, and are often grounded in years if not decades of basic scientific and medical research. Every treatment has potential risks and benefits, much like any other medical procedure that one might undergo. Therefore, seeking out the most highly qualified provider to render you these services should be an utmost priority.

Dermatologists are the leading authorities on all things to do with skin health and beauty. In Canada, a dermatologist is an individual who has completed both medical school and specialized dermatology training (something called a “residency”) – a journey that often spans 10 years or more. At the end of their residency training, aspiring dermatologists must then take and pass a nationally certified board examination before officially being recognized as board-certified dermatologists. The only institution in Canada that has the authority to grant this certification is the Royal College of Physicians of Canada.  Thus, a true board-certified dermatologist is designated as a “Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada” or FRCPC for short. This represents the highest standard of skin knowledge in Canada and is easily and objectively verifiable by looking up an individual’s credentials on the Royal College Directory: Directory Search (royalcollege.ca)

For example, if I search for my colleague Dr. Heidi Wat simply by entering her name into the directory search, she immediately shows up as a Royal College Certified Dermatologist. Easy right? 

2. Understand their cosmetic dermatology background

So, you’ve found a provider who is a board-certified dermatologist. Great, let’s go with them!  Well…not so fast. Because let’s be honest, it’s your face (or other areas of your body) we’re talking about here – why take any chances? The second critical qualification you should look for is the dermatologist’s specialized training in cosmetic dermatology. Cosmetic dermatology is in fact an official subspecialty of dermatology. Just like some orthopedic surgeons may subspecialize in the spine, others may be experts on hips or knees. You wouldn’t want a knee surgeon to take care of your spine, would you? Similarly, although all dermatologists have a basic foundation in cosmetic dermatology via their residency training, only those select few who chose to pursue additional accredited fellowship training specifically in cosmetic dermatology can truly be called “specialists” in the field. 

A fellowship is a formal training program that lasts a minimum of 1 continuous calendar year and is recognized by an accredited authority. For cosmetic dermatology, there is actually only one accredited fellowship authority in North America and that is the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), details of which can be found at Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery Fellowship (asds.net). Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for many individuals to claim to be “fellowship-trained” on their websites and this can muddy the waters. Still, there are some telltale signs that can reveal the truth. How long did their “fellowship” last? Where was it done? With whom? Are they listed in the directory of previous fellows (Dr. Wat can be found in the year 2019-2020 whereas I appear in 2014-2015)? 

Although it takes a bit more work and research on your part, finding out the details of your potential cosmetic provider’s qualifications is an incredibly important step in maximizing the success of your treatments. Additionally, narrowing down your options with these simple objective parameters will typically result in a much shorter and more manageable list of skin specialists who you should consider seeing.

3. Schedule a dermatologist consultation

Now that you’ve whittled things down to board-certified fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologists, it’s time to schedule a “consultation”. You may be asking, what do you do at a dermatologist appointment? In medical terms, a consultation is typically the first interaction between a physician and their patient. For a cosmetic visit, this is the time that you meet your doctor and explain to them what it is you’re looking for. It’s kind of like an interview – you’re evaluating your potential physician to determine if you want to proceed with their services or not. There are several questions you might keep in mind at this stage:

  • Do you get the sense that your physician cares about you and your goals, as opposed to trying to impose their plan onto you or convince you to do more than you had originally intended?      
  • Do you get a sense of professionalism and reliability from your physician such that you have confidence that they will take care of you to the best of their ability?
  • What is the experience level of your physician? Have they treated your condition before? How many times?
  • Is your physician knowledgeable?
  • If something unexpected happens during or after treatment, is your physician committed to doing everything can to address the situation and make it right?               

These are just a few key questions that you should try to answer for yourself during the consultation process. However, ultimately the most important qualities to look for are kindness and compassion. Whether you are embarking on a new journey into medic aesthetics or have been doing treatments for years, you want to have unshakable confidence that your cosmetic dermatologist is one who will stand by your side at every step and support your aesthetic health and wellness in the best possible way.

During the consultation, it is also very important to assess the support staff (front desk reception, medical assistants, nurses) and make sure you’re comfortable with them because they will often be the ones who spend the most time with you prepping for treatments as well as when you are in between sessions.   

You should also evaluate the facility itself. Does it meet the standard you expect of a facility that will be potentially giving you delicate treatments? Is it a place you would feel comfortable being treated in?

The dermatologist appointment is your time to really dive into some of the questions mentioned above. The process should not feel rushed but should leave you with the satisfaction that all your concerns have been addressed.

4. Look for evidence of their work

The final piece of the puzzle is to evaluate the skill level of the physician you’ve selected. Of course, you have already chosen highly qualified individuals and so they should be at a certain minimum level already. But even amongst this group of individuals, there may be some who can better address your concerns than others. The easiest way to get a sense of whether or not your physician can help with your particular concern is to request that they show you examples of their work, usually in the form of before and after photography. This can be a very helpful way for you to visualize how your goals may align with their skill set.

So there you have it. Those are the 4 most important things to consider when selecting a cosmetic dermatologist. Hope that was helpful! If you are on the lookout for a cosmetic dermatologist in Vancouver, please do not hesitate to stop by the Rejuvenation clinic at Coal Harbour. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Until next time,

Douglas C. Wu MD PhD FRCPC FAAD
Director of Cosmetic Dermatology
Rejuvenation Dermatology Group