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Over 85 million Americans visit a healthcare provider for skin problems each year. Depending on your skin type, age, and overall health, it might be a good idea to see a dermatologist once a year or more if needed (Tripathi, 2018).
If this is your first time scheduling an appointment, you may be wondering: how much does a dermatologist cost? There are a lot of variables at play, but here’s a look at typical dermatology costs––plus what to expect if don’t have insurance.
How much is a dermatologist visit?
In general, a dermatologist costs more than a primary care physician. The average price is around $221––roughly 33% higher than a general healthcare visit (Rothstein, 2017).
That said, costs can change dramatically depending on factors like location, what treatments are needed, and whether you have insurance.
Dermatology costs and location
Like any business, a dermatologist can charge based on their location. Supply and demand may play a role; for example, if there are lots of skincare specialists in your area, they may charge less in order to stay competitive.
Services in wealthier areas with higher costs of living may charge more to cover rent and operating costs. Who runs a dermatology practice also affects rates. One recent study found that dermatology offices acquired by private equity firms tended to charge 3–5% more for routine medical visits (Braun, 2021).
Seeing a dermatologist is cheaper when you have health insurance. A typical copay for a dermatology visit with insurance ranges from $25–44. That’s much lower than the average $200 or more for an out-of-pocket visit (Rothstein, 2017).
Whether or not you have coverage for the appointment itself, dermatologist visits are also more likely to include out-of-pocket expenses, like specialty skincare products or medications (Rothstein, 2017).
For example, approximately 7 in 10 dermatologist visits result in prescribed or continued medications. Out-of-pocket costs for some of these prescription medications can range from $40 to over $600 (NCHS, n.d.; Steen, 2017).
Even if you have insurance, it doesn’t guarantee your dermatologist visit cost is 100% covered. For example, cosmetic procedures like Botox or wrinkle removal aren’t typically covered by insurance. Appointments, procedures, and prescriptions covered by insurance vary from plan to plan.
Type of skin condition
Finally, your specific skincare concerns can impact dermatology costs. Skin conditions that require specialized treatment often cost more. For example, out-of-pocket costs for surgically removing basal cell carcinoma may cost more than $1,900 on average, while freezing skin lesions like seborrheic keratoses could be less than $200 (Steen, 2017).
What would a dermatologist prescribe for acne?
Skin conditions that are chronic or lifelong require seeing a dermatologist more than once a year. People with atopic dermatitis (eczema), for instance, may spend anywhere from $600–1,000 or more every year on deductibles, copays, prescriptions, specialty skincare products, and more (Smith Begolka, 2021).
If you need surgery or repeated sessions for skin ailments it can drive up the cost. However, an annual skin check is typically cost-effective and is only needed once a year for most people (Johnson, 2017).
How to find a dermatologist with no insurance
If you don’t have health insurance, there are still cost-effective ways to see a dermatologist. Here are some options if you’re paying out-of-pocket or your visit isn’t covered by insurance:
- Compare costs with online tools. The American Academy of Dermatology and Skin Cancer Foundation both offer online tools so you can see average provider costs and patient reviews.
- Talk to the billing department and negotiate. Some dermatologists offer payment plans to help patients manage costs. Others have sliding scale fees for people without health insurance that may lower the cost of care.
- Try telemedicine. Because telemedicine appointments take place online, they’re often more affordable than in-person appointments. On average, a teledermatology visit is around $10–80 less than the cost of seeing a specialist in person (Wang, 2020).
- Search for free clinics in your area. While these aren’t widely available, patient satisfaction is high. In one survey, over 95% said they would use a free clinic again. Find one near you via the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics or the US Department of Health & Human Services (Hester, 2021).
- Ask for generic medications over brand names. Drug prices for skin medications tend to be on the higher end––especially brand name products. Generic medications can have lower copays and are just as effective (Li, 2018).
Who can benefit from a dermatology visit?
Even though dermatologists can be more expensive than a regular trip to the doctor, research suggests it’s more cost-effective in the long run for managing chronic skin conditions.
According to one study, adolescents with acne who saw a dermatologist reported less acne, improved quality of life, and significantly higher cost savings than those who saw a pediatrician (Davis, 2017).
How to get rid of wrinkles around your mouth
Dermatologists aren’t just seen by people with specific conditions like acne or eczema. These skin specialists are highly trained professionals who can diagnose and treat a large number of skin problems including (Rothstein, 2017; Hester, 2021):
- Seborrheic dermatitis
- Skin cancer
- Premature signs of aging, pigmentation issues, and sun damage
A common reason people visit a dermatologist is for an annual skin check. During this full-body exam, every bit of skin is examined for new moles and changes in existing mole size, color, and appearance (Johnson, 2017).
New moles or significant skin changes may suggest skin cancer. Luckily, you can help prevent it by wearing at least SPF 30 sunscreen when outdoors.
When to see a dermatologist
Experts recommend seeing a dermatologist at least once a year for a skin cancer screening if you have the following (Johnson, 2017):
- A personal or family history of melanoma
- Overexposure to ultraviolet rays (through indoor tanning or if you have blistering or peeling sunburns)
- Physical features like light skin, lots of freckles, atypical moles, and blonde or red hair
Skin cancer: types, symptoms, stages, and treatment
Even if you don’t have a history of skin cancer or another chronic condition, an annual skin check is never a bad idea. If you notice any new changes to your skin or hair––like sudden hair loss, a new dry patch or rash, or persistent acne–– schedule an appointment with a dermatologist or medical professional who can recommend one.
In the meantime, there are lots of steps you can take to prevent skin problems. Wear sunscreen every day, drink plenty of water, and follow a daily skincare routine that includes a cleanser and moisturizer. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it’s worth taking care of!
- Braun, R. T., Bond, A. M., Qian, Y., et al. (2021). Private Equity In Dermatology: Effect On Price, Utilization, And Spending. Health Affairs (Project Hope), 40(5), 727–735. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2020.02062. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33939519/
- Davis, S. A., Himmler, S., & Feldman, S. R. (2017). Cost-effectiveness analysis of using dermatologists versus pediatricians to treat mild to moderate acne. Dermatology Online Journal, 23(5). Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28537857/
- Hester, T., Thomas, R., Cederna, J., et al. (2021). Increasing Access to Specialized Dermatology Care: A Retrospective Study Investigating Clinical Operation and Impact of a University-Affiliated Free Clinic. Dermatology and Therapy, 11(1), 105–115. doi:10.1007/s13555-020-00462-z. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33175327/
- Johnson, M. M., Leachman, S. A., Aspinwall, L. G., et al. (2017). Skin cancer screening: recommendations for data-driven screening guidelines and a review of the US Preventive Services Task Force controversy. Melanoma Management, 4(1), 13–37. doi:10.2217/mmt-2016-0022. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28758010/
- Li, D. G., Joyce, C., & Mostaghimi, A. (2018). Association Between Market Competition and Prices of Generic Topical Dermatology Drugs. JAMA Dermatology, 154(12), 1441–1446. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.3798. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30383117/
- National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). (n.d.). Dermatology Fact Sheet from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/namcs/factsheets/NAMCS_2015_16_Dermatology-508.pdf
- Rothstein, B. E., Gonzalez, J., Cunningham, K., et al. (2017). Direct and indirect patient costs of dermatology clinic visits and their impact on access to care and provider preference. Cutis, 100(6), 405–410. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29360888/
- Smith Begolka, W., Chovatiya, R., Thibau, I. J., & Silverberg, J. I. (2021). Financial Burden of Atopic Dermatitis Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenses in the United States. Dermatitis, 32(1S), S62–S70. doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000715. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33323748/
- Steen, A. J., Mann, J. A., Carlberg, V. M., et al. (2017). Understanding the cost of dermatologic care: A survey study of dermatology providers, residents, and patients. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 76(4), 609–617. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2016.11.049. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28189269/
- Tan, S. Y., Tsoucas, D., & Mostaghimi, A. (2018). Association of Dermatologist Density With the Volume and Costs of Dermatology Procedures Among Medicare Beneficiaries. JAMA Dermatology, 154(1), 73–76. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.4546. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29188286/
- Tripathi, R., Knusel, K. D., Ezaldein, H. H., et al. (2018). Association of Demographic and Socioeconomic Characteristics With Differences in Use of Outpatient Dermatology Services in the United States. JAMA Dermatology, 154(11), 1286–1291. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.3114. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30267073/
- Wang, R. H., Barbieri, J. S., Nguyen, H. P., et al. (2020). Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of teledermatology: Where are we now, and what are the barriers to adoption? Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 83(1), 299–307. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2020.01.065. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32035106/
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.