Of course they specialize in skin care and cancer treatment, but their expertise puts them in plenty of other places you wouldn’t expect, like hair restoration or pelvic floor strengthening.
There’s a common perception that dermatologists focus solely on treating cosmetic problems like acne, rashes, wrinkles and other skin-related issues.
But dermatology extends beyond skin disorders to also manage hair and nail problems, says Dr. Lauren Boshnick, a board-certified dermatologist with Dermatology Specialists of Illinois (DSI), which has locations in Algonquin, Woodstock, Lake Barrington and Huntley.
“There are a lot of autoimmune diseases that affect the skin, too,” says Boshnick. “Yes, we treat acne and warts, but sometimes people don’t completely understand the full scope of what we do.”
Every year, there are new treatments and procedures available that can help patients with a variety of dermatological issues, says Nicole Gladchenko, a dermatology physician assistant at Mercyhealth Woodstock.
“It’s wonderful to see developments for people with dyspigmentation diseases and hair loss, and it may be a good idea to check in with your dermatology provider because there’s always research being done,” she says. “There are new innovations for several conditions, including hair loss, psoriasis, skin dyspigmentation and eczema.”
Robotic Hair Restoration
Men, listen up: Gone are the days with a smiley face on the back of your head.
Boshnick recently returned from a trip to California where she received training for a new robotic hair restoration procedure to perform at DSI.
“When you think of hair restoration, it’s mainly geared toward men because most men will suffer some degree of hair loss or male pattern baldness at some point in their life,” she says. “Women also lose hair, and it is even more devastating because it’s such a part of their identity.”
The new robotic hair transplant device allows doctors to harvest individual hairs from the back of a patient’s scalp and reinsert them in the area that most needs coverage.
“Typical male hair loss is the frontotemporal region and crown region,” she says. “Patients usually still have that trim of hair at the neck and back of the scalp. Those hairs are not sensitive to hormonal changes that cause hair loss. Doctors can put them back in areas that are most aesthetically pleasing. It’s basically rearranging hair from one area to the front. And this change becomes permanent.”
The state-of-the-art ARTAS robotic system uses a scarless technique, and the robotic assistance helps take away some of the fatigue doctors could face after reimplanting thousands of tiny hair strands, Boshnick says.
“The nice thing is, doing it with a dermatologist – people who are the skin, hair and nail experts – we really understand the anatomy of the scalp, the hair, the different types of hair loss,” she says. “Even if you’re not a candidate for this procedure, we can figure out another treatment plan that works.”
Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor
Did you know that dermatologists can also help to treat weak pelvic floor muscles? They can.
By focusing high-intensity electromagnetic energy on pelvic muscles, an Emsella device can help strengthen the pelvic floor and potentially correct urinary incontinence by “working out” the muscles, Boshnick says.
“As patients age, those muscles weaken,” she adds. “This is a non-invasive way to restrengthen those muscles.”
Patients sit on the device fully clothed while the Emsella stimulates the pelvic floor muscles in a way that’s similar to a Kegel exercise.
“But this device helps patients do 50,000 Kegels in 30 minutes, which would not be possible if you were doing it on your own,” Boshnick says.
Usually, a series of treatments are needed because, like any muscle, the pelvic muscles need to be strengthened and tightened over time.
A downside is that the procedure isn’t covered by insurance, she says.
But it does seem to have good results. The Emsella is similar to the EmSculpt, a device that helps to tighten the abs and increase core strength. The same company makes both devices, and “they’ve done studies that show the muscles hypertrophy, and they do get quite stronger,” Boshnick says.
“We started with some of these other body tightening devices and were so impressed with the improved musculature,” Boshnick adds. “Our founder, Dr. Vikram Khanna, is a father of three, so he knows it can help moms. And it’s not just women. It can help men after prostate surgery or those who have problems with their pelvic floor.
“A lot of patients are wearing incontinence pads when they get older,” she adds. “This could help them. I’m currently pregnant, and I’ll be giving it a try once this baby is born.”
Treat Skin Cancer
Finally, dermatologists have the potential to use a superficial radiation device to treat skin cancer without surgery or downtime, Boshnick says.
“People get a little scared of this one when they hear ‘radiation,’” Boshnick says. “But it just goes to the depth of skin, and it’s paired with an ultrasound machine that can visualize skin cancer cells so you can track progress throughout the radiation procedure.”
Mohs surgery – a method of treating skin cancer by removing individual layers of skin until no cancer remains – can include a rearrangement of tissue, plus downtime and healing time.
But radiation treatments are a good alternative to Mohs, especially if treatment is needed on cosmetically sensitive areas, she says.
“It can’t be done too close to the eye because we have to shield and protect the skin around it, but most places you could do a Mohs procedure on, this could be done,” Boshnick says.
This is not an option for those with melanoma, but for those with basal-cell skin cancer – which is more common – it’s a good treatment plan, with more than a 99% success rate.
“It’s a great option for the aging population,” Boshnick says. “Sometimes people have comorbidities, or they’re on blood thinners, making them poor surgical candidates with increased risk for complications. This is almost a scarless procedure. It takes multiple sessions, but the radiation just stays in the skin, which is why it’s called superficial radiation therapy.”
The procedure itself has been around for more than 30 years and was previously known as Grenz ray therapy, Boshnick says. However, a newer company has taken over the market, so patients may also hear the name Sensus or Gentlecure in relation to the low-energy X-ray radiation therapy.
“A lot of dermatologists don’t offer this treatment because it’s an expensive device to maintain,” Boshnick says, though she notes DSI has had one for several years and receives many referrals from other dermatologists in the area. “The technology has been out there a long time, and it’s a very effective treatment. It’s just hard to find a doctor who offers it.”
Preventative Care Slows Aging
With the increased popularity of the TikTok app, Nicole Gladchenko, a dermatology physician assistant at Mercyhealth Woodstock, has seen a positive increase in people seeking preventative care for their skin.
“People are now coming in for their full skin check and also asking, ‘What can I do to prevent my skin from aging or to keep myself looking as youthful as possible,’” she says. “I recommend that, if you’re going to do nothing else, just apply sunscreen to your face.”
What kind of sunscreen is best to use?
“There are so many on the market, so if you’re not using any, any sunscreen you’re willing to use is the best,” Gladchenko says.
She adds that antioxidants are great skin protectors, so finding a Vitamin C serum or retinol – which is a form of Vitamin A – should be next on your list.
But it’s important to understand that not all Vitamin C products are equal.
“Vitamin C is a very difficult molecule to stabilize, so some over-the-counter antioxidants aren’t as shelf stable,” she says. “When I go to Target, there are so many options, and it’s important to select products that have evidence-based studies that show they work.”
Another way to combat wrinkles and dark spots is an over-the-counter retinol. But if it’s not enough, ask your dermatology provider about stronger retinoids.
“Retinol is available over the counter because it’s not quite as strong,” Gladchenko says. “When you put that on your skin, it goes through two chemical reactions before the active ingredient tretinoin is working. Retinaldehyde is a slightly stronger over-the-counter retinoid that only goes through one chemical reaction.”
If these options are being tolerated daily, ask your dermatology provider for prescription tretinoin to help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
“It’s something we prescribe commonly for acne,” Gladchenko says. “A lot of parents will say, ‘Oh, I think I have that at home for my kid.’ It’s always nice to find a product that can work for acne and reduce the signs of aging.”
Women aren’t the only ones thinking about looking younger.
“I definitely think that there are men looking for a good skin care regimen as well,” Gladchenko says.
“A lot of guys don’t like putting creams and lotions on their face, but these products come in so many different vehicles. Sunscreens, for example, come in gels, sprays, lotions, creams, etc. I think for people who have tried products in the past and think, ‘I don’t like sunscreen,’ they should explore the newer options out there.”
Gladchenko also doesn’t want men – or women – to think that working with a dermatology provider to help them look, and feel, better will automatically be noticeable to others.
“It’s a misconception that if you see a dermatology provider or you have something like Botox or filler done, everybody’s going to know,” she says. “Like the popular TikTok video says, ‘Nobody’s going to know.’ You’re going to look great and feel refreshed, and people are going to ask what you’ve been doing differently to look so amazing.”