How to Find a Dermatologist Who Actually Knows How to Treat People of Color

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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When it comes to skin stuff, any dermatologist is qualified to help you with whatever bump, rash, or outbreak you’re dealing with, right? Well, that’s not always the case, Janiene Luke, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor and residency program director at Loma Linda University’s department of dermatology in Loma Linda, California, tells SELF. She notes that skin conditions can appear differently for Black and brown people, and that a lot of providers aren’t trained to recognize those nuances—which can lead to misdiagnoses.1

There are few prevailing theories about why this is the case. For starters, most images used in popular dermatology textbooks feature white people.2 Dermatology residents might also lack relevant knowledge if their medical school’s staff doesn’t have experience treating people of color, or if the school is located in a city that’s mostly white, explains Dr. Luke.3 Plus, there’s a good chance that the derm seeing you won’t have dark skin themselves: Only 3% of dermatologists are Black, 4% are Hispanic, and less than 1% are American Indian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.1 This care gap is especially problematic when it comes to diagnosing and treating things like hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), eczema, hyperpigmentation, and keloids—conditions that people of color are more likely to develop.4,5 (You can read more about racial disparities in dermatology here.)

Bottom line: If you’re Black or brown, you need a dermatologist trained to give you the care you deserve. Here’s exactly how to find one.

Poll your inner circle.

When it comes to finding a knowledgeable derm, start by getting recs from your closest friends and family, Oyetewa Oyerinde, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology and director of the Skin of Color Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, tells SELF. “If someone you know and love, and who thinks similarly to you, has a really good experience with a dermatologist, it increases the chances that you might have a similar experience,” she explains.

Dr. Oyerinde suggests following up with a few questions once you get a rec: What’s the wait time like? Does the doctor take time to listen to your concerns, and do they clearly explain treatment options? “Asking about things that are important to you can help you understand if this doctor is going to be a good fit,” Dr. Oyerinde says.

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