10 Signs to Get Your Skin Checked ASAP, According to Dermatologists

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As we grow older, our skin undergoes many changes, and therefore it’s crucial to keep an eye out for any signs of skin cancer, as early detection can increase the chances of successful treatment. If you notice any unusual or different marks on your skin, it’s highly recommended to visit a dermatologist for a check-up as soon as possible.

  • Jody Levine, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in New York
  • Jeremy Brauer, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in New York
  • Corey L. Hartman, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in Birmingham, AL
  • Michael I. Jacobs, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in New York
  • Christopher Chu, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in Austin, TX

“Do an at-home skin check-up once a month by checking your skin from hair to toes and front to back,” says New York dermatologist Jeremy Brauer, MD, who also recommends using a handheld mirror while self-examining your body. “It’s important to visit a dermatologist to detect skin changes on all areas of your body, including areas that are hard to see,” says New York dermatologist Jody A. Levine, MD. 

“Anytime your skin doesn’t appear normal, or something has changed on the skin in a short period of time,” you should see a doctor, says Birmingham, AL dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, who explains that your skin can experience a wide range of changes. “It could be symptoms of a skin infection or something more serious, like skin cancer.” Hartman also suggests setting a calendar invite on your phone with a monthly reminder to do a self skin check.

Skin cancer, also known as melanoma, is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Luckily, it’s highly treatable if detected early. Dr. Brauer notes that patients in their early 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are at a greater risk for skin cancer. “Additionally, once you’ve had one skin cancer occurrence, you’re at an increased risk of having another one in your lifetime.” He urges one or two yearly appointments with a dermatologist, and if you see any of the changes in your skin below, book an appointment ASAP. 

Signs you should get your skin checked

Whether it’s an early sign of cancer or signaling another skin concern, these are the changes to look out for.

Changes in size, shape or color of moles or spots

Changes in color, size or shape of a mole or spot can indicate changing skin, say Dr. Brauer and Michael I. Jacobs, MD. Patients tend to notice or “focus on new moles or spots” but frequently neglect to pay attention to every detail of them, especially the changes in size, shape or color. If you see anything irregular, ragged, notched or blurred, you should see a dermatologist. 

Austin, TX dermatologist Christopher Chu, MD advises that any skin spots or moles with colors such as brown, black, blue or pink should be checked by a dermatologist. Additionally, if you notice that the borders of the mole or bump are irregular, ragged, notched, blurred or have color spreading beyond the border, share these changes with a dermatologist.

Poor healing of a scab or sore 

Poor healing of a scab or sore can be a sign of skin cancer. Dr. Brauer notes that the initial healing stage of “bleeding or crusting” is normal, but if they have a “rough or scaly red patch,” it needs to be checked by a dermatologist.  

Skin growth

Skin growth can appear as a cyst, mole or nodules that can lead to experiencing irritation, discomfort and sensitivity on the skin, says Dr. Jacobs. Nodules also form underneath the skin, which Dr. Levine describes as “solid and raised lesions of skin.” Dr. Jacobs advises having any skin growths examined by a dermatologist to confirm whether it’s a minor issue or more serious problem that requires treatment.

Unusual bumps or scabs on the scalp 

The scalp is also an important part of the skin. Dr. Brauer notes that many people check the rest of their skin but forget to “look for irregularities” in their scalp. You should see a dermatologist if you spot unusual bumps, scabs or changes in size, shape or color on your scalp. Redness, itching, and scabbing of skin on the head, especially along the hairline, can be symptoms of scalp conditions like seborrheic dermatitis.

Dry patches

If you have dry or flaky patches or on the skin that aren’t healing, Dr. Brauer notes that it’s a common sign of skin conditions that are treatable by a dermatologist. 

Persistent acne

Persistent acne can appear as deep, painful cysts underneath the skin. Those experiencing white or blackheads all over the surface of the skin or “anything larger than a pencil eraser,” should be checked says Dr. Chu.

Thinning or hair loss 

Sudden hair loss can be a sign of a major hormonal change. If you see large clumps of hair coming out when showering and brushing, or notice an overall thinner appearance of hair on your scalp with some skin showing through, Dr. Jacobs suggests seeing a dermatologist who can help you formulate a treatment plan to combat hair loss.

Nail beds 

When nail beds start changing color, it can be a sign of fungus infection. This can occur on both the tip of your finger and your toenails. Dr. Hartman notes this can lead to “itchy, painful bleeds,” and you must make an appointment to see a dermatologist right away. 


Rashes with fluid-filled blisters, draining fluid, or that are painful can indicate a systemic disease. Dr. Levine says that if you spot “red, inflamed” rashes that cause itchiness and discomfort, you should see a dermatologist to determine the cause of the rashes.


According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, five sunburns before the age of 18 can double your risk for melanoma. “Most of our UV exposure happens by early adulthood,” says Dr. Levine. If you have a family history of skin cancer, you should get your skin checked regularly. For those over 40, a yearly check-up is advised. 

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