Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/7/2021
You’ve probably been in the routine of getting yearly(ish) physicals with your primary care provider since your coach required it to join the junior high basketball squad. So your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight are tested early and often — but how about your skin?
Discover how much a dermatologist might cost, what insurance may and may not cover, plus ways to save money as you take care of your aging skin and keep an eye on potentially cancerous spots.
An appointment with a dermatology practitioner is not just about treating acne or helping you find effective ways to shrink your pores; although they can certainly help with that.
A dermatologist is an important part of your medical care team, and is well-versed on treating more than 3,000 conditions that affect the hair, nails and skin all over your body.
To receive a degree, a dermatologist must earn a four-year bachelor’s degree, finish four years of medical school plus a year-long internship then complete three years of residency, including 12,000 to 16,000 hours of patient time.
A board-certified dermatologist means the physician has received an additional certification beyond this schooling from the American Board of Dermatology or the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology.
After all of this training, dermatologists are ready to diagnose and treat anything from skin cancer — which is something one in five Americans is expected to develop — to wrinkles to hair loss.
Since skin cancer is so prevalent, all adults 20 and older should see a dermatologist at least once per year for a skin exam. Think of it as an annual tune-up, but instead of a tire rotation, this one involves a mole check.
Although it’s the most common form of cancer in the U.S., skin cancers have a promising survival rate if detected early. Beyond that, many visit dermatologists for skin lesions or wounds, acne, rashes, discoloration and more.
As long as they’re within your network, most health insurance plans cover the cost of a dermatologist after copays/coinsurance is paid or once your deductible is met — of course, every plan is different and it’s important to know the details of your policy before making assumptions.
Skin cancer screenings, skin biopsies, acne, infections, rashes, hives, warts, eczema, psoriasis and shingles are typically all covered by health insurance.
Even if you don’t have insurance free skin cancer screenings are available from coast to coast through the AAD’s SPOT me program.
When assessing how much a dermatologist costs, keep in mind that more cosmetic offerings, including Botox®, tattoo removal and wrinkle treatments.
Considering deductibles, these possible cosmetic procedure costs and the fact that dermatology-related prescriptions may or may not be covered by insurance, the average cost of a dermatology visit is $221, compared to $166 for a primary care physician visit, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Cutis.
If you're unsure about what is or isn’t covered, contact your health insurance provider or dermatologist.
If the cost of a dermatologist is outside of your budget, consider these potential solutions:
Use the AAD’s Find a Dermatologist or the Skin Cancer Foundation's Find a Dermatologist tools to compare average costs for providers. This will also allow you to check out patient reviews and ratings based on dermatologist or facility.
Call the dermatologist’s office to ask for any billing flexibility or payment plan options to spread out the cost. Some offer sliding scale fees for patients who don’t have health insurance, especially if you’ve already received a diagnosis during a free skin cancer screening and the screening revealed results that may be cancerous.
If the rate at your current or potential dermatologist is too high, ask them for a referral to a dermatologist or clinic that might be more affordable.
Consider a telemedicine dermatologist who fits within your budget.
Use your flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) funds; especially handy to cover dermatology costs if you haven’t met your deductible.
The best solution for any skin woes is preventing them before they arise. So slather on the SPF early and often each day, and start (or continue) with a consistent skincare routine at home.
Need help determining which products are best for you? hims can help—you can have prescription skin care that's tailored to your needs sent to your doorstep starting at $10 per month. Learn more here.
Although free skin screenings are available, the average cost of a trip to the dermatologist’s office is higher than the typical primary care appointment.
Check with your medical insurance company, if applicable, for in-network dermatologists for the most affordable dermatologist options near you.
Since the skin is the largest organ, its well being impacts nearly all other body systems. In fact, everything from depression to diabetes are correlated with skin-related issues.
As part of an overall wellness strategy, a dermatologist is a wise investment—and it need not break the bank.