Confession: I've had three dermatologist appointments in the past two months, which is a record even for my skin-obsessed self. When New York was first put under stay-at-home orders, my previously smooth skin erupted in a bout of what I can only assume was stress-induced acne. I took the video call with my dermatologist from my fire escape and held back tears. A few weeks and an increased dosage of spironolactone later, I met with my dermatologist for a virtual follow-up visit while seated on my bedroom floor, and she cheered when she saw my finally breakout-free skin.
And last week, I met with Orit Markowitz, the director of pigmented lesions and skin cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, via Zoom for my first-ever skin check. For my skin, if not my social life, it's been an eventful few months.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, an all-over skin self-examination should happen once per month, with an additional once per year check with a dermatologist. With stay-at-home orders keeping people at bay from their doctors' offices, some dermatologists are offering virtual skin checks, and no one is offering them with more gusto than Markowitz.
As she recently explained to Allure, "people are hunkering down and they don't realize [skin checks are] something that can be done virtually."
Marie Hayag, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, adds that skin checks, even done virtually with the guidance of a professional, can make a difference. "A self-check is an important early screening tool to recognize new lesions or changing lesions usually noticed by the patient," she says. "But a dermatologic exam is important because we usually pick up on things that the normal person wouldn't pick up on their own."
To help, Markowitz has developed a comprehensive plan to help patients of all technology comfort levels undergo a professional skin check from home.
My appointment technically started the morning before our scheduled Zoom call. "When you've just taken a shower and aren't yet dressed, that's a good time to take a peek and make sure there isn't something new [on your skin]," Markowitz tells me.
I took her advice, and spent 15 minutes in front of a floor-length mirror post-shower and sans clothes. As previously instructed, I combed over each body part individually, stopping to take photos of marks along the way. I used a blow-dryer to separate my hair into sections and examine my scalp. I used a hand mirror (or to be more accurate, the mirror inside my Urban Decay Born to Run palette) to check my back.