Planning For a Full Skin Exam

While you should be seeing your dermatologist annually or bi-annually for a full body skin check, it's crucial to routinely assess your own skin by conducting a full body skin exam during those periods between visits. At-home self-skin exams should be conducted once a month and are incredibly important; oftentimes we notice things about ourselves that others don't, and in between your annual skin exams you may find suspicious spots before your dermatologist does.

How Do You Do a Self-Skin Exam?

Conducting a self-skin exam is very easy. As part of your regular skincare routine, you should conduct periodic self-examinations to help identify potential skin concerns early. Follow these tips to perform a thorough at-home skin check:

1- Choose a Well-Lit Room

Select a room with good lighting. You can position yourself near a window or brightly lit mirror for optimal visibility.

2- Use a Hand Mirror

You can keep a hand mirror to view hard-to-see areas like your scalp and back. A magnifying mirror may also be helpful for closely inspecting the skin.

3- Check from Head to Toe

Begin by carefully examining your face, neck, and scalp before moving down to your chest, arms, hands, torso, legs, and feet.

4- Look for Any Changes

Pay close attention to new or changing moles and growths, irregularities in existing spots, or variations in skin color, shape, or texture. Note any suspicious or asymmetrical growths.

5- Don't Forget Nails, Palms, and Toes

Study fingernails, toenails, palms, and the spaces between toes. Fungal infections and melanoma can occur in these small and often overlooked areas.

6- Follow the ABCDEs

Monitor moles and growths for asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, large diameter (over 1/4 inch), and evolving size, shape, or color. These are key warning signs for melanoma.

Tip for First Self-Skin Exam: Follow a Body Mole Map

The first time you conduct a full skin exam, it is important to take note of any spots that you've always had, such as birthmarks, beauty spots, etc. The American Academy of Dermatology created a body mole map. that serves as a tool for marking and monitoring any and all spots over time.

What Are the Five Signs of Melanoma?

Five key things to look for on your spots that may indicate an abnormality are known as the ABCDE's of melanoma. Looking out for the following will reduce the risk of skin cancer:

A: Asymmetry
If one half of a spot on your body looks different from the other half or is not a round/oval shape.

B: Border
If a spot has a poorly defined, irregular, or scalloped border.

C: Color
If there is a variation of colors throughout the spot.

D: Diameter
If the spot is greater than six millimeters in diameter. Melanoma spots are usually larger than this size (use the diameter of a pencil eraser for reference). Nonetheless, they can be smaller when diagnosed.

E: Evolving
If the spot changes over time in color, shape or size.

Another tip for detection is to look for the "ugly duckling": if any spot or mole sticks out due to its difference in appearance compared to the rest on your body, that's a sign that it may be of concern. Take note of each spot you find on your body. It is especially important to contact your doctor or dermatologist if you find a spot that shows any of these characteristics so that any type of skin cancer can be caught early.

The Importance of Self-Skin Exams

Being proactive about at-home skin examples allows you to ensure that any concerns are addressed promptly. Partner with your dermatologist during annual skin exams to provide you with an added layer of protection and peace of mind. Your skin, often the first indicator of potential issues, deserves the attention and care afforded by routine self-skin examinations.