1. You’ve ever been in the sun.
2. You have an itch you can’t scratch.
If something on your body itches for seven days or more, it’s time to call in an expert. (Tip: Skin drama can be caused by an allergic reaction to medications, so pay attention whenever you start a new prescription.)
3. Your zits won’t budge.
It’s not unusual to have acne in your twenties or thirties, but if you’ve tried OTC products and haven’t had much success in two or three months, dermatologist Fredric Brandt says it’s time to see a pro. “They’ll evaluate the problem and determine if it’s from a hormonal imbalance or from medications you’re taking,” he says. “An in-depth consultation should tell you what’s affecting your skin both internally and externally.”
4. Your skin suddenly hates the sun.
If you’ve started to experience more sun sensitivity than usual (along with muscle aches and intense fatigue) head to a dermatologist for a biopsy and blood work; these are symptoms of systemic lupus, which needs to be managed carefully, says dermatologist Helen M. Torok.
5. Your skin has brown patches.
Melasma (a hormonal reaction to sun exposure that causes tan patches to develop on the face, often on the forehead and upper lip) is an annoying problem familiar to many pregnant women and those who take hormonal birth control. Torok says to visit a derm if your skin doesn’t respond to OTC therapies within two months. They can provide stronger bleaching agents, chemical peels, laser treatments and sunscreen that will give noticeable results.
6. You have red skin-freakouts.
Big, difficult life changes (such as losing a job or getting divorced) aren’t just tough emotionally, but also physically. They can even cause skin flare-ups, Torok says. “This may be psoriasis, so it’s best to see an expert,” she says. “It often presents itself in your 20s, and may also affect your joints and give you painful arthritis.”
7. Your self-diagnoses are wrong. (Every time.)
If you have nagging skin issues such as baggy eyes, dark spots, or chronic redness that don’t respond to products, it’s best to get professional help rather than self-diagnose yourself at the drugstore. In-office treatments and procedures such as lasers, peels and injectable fillers can make a world of difference, but you must see a derm or plastic surgeon to get them. No sketchy Botox from your neighborhood dentist, please!