What is dermatology?

Dermatology is the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect the skin. Skin conditions can present at any time of life and affect people of all ages, however many conditions that persist into adulthood, such as eczema and psoriasis, begin in childhood. Many skin conditions are the result of a combination of our genes and the environment, but others can arise from common viral infections.

At the Royal Free Hospital Private Patient’s Unit (PPU) we have a dedicated team of expert dermatologists for both paediatric and adult skin conditions. Our dermatology services provide specialist advice and care to families and diagnostic testing using our state-of-the-art equipment.

Top 5 common skin conditions


Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a chronic, relapsing skin condition that can affect up to 1 in 5 children. It results in the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, drying out and becoming inflamed. This impairs the ability of the skin to act as a protective barrier. It also makes the skin very itchy, which can further damage the skin and increase risk of bacterial and viral skin infections. It most commonly affects the skin of the hands and elbow creases, but can affect any area of the body.

There is a complex interaction between genetics and environment that results in eczema. There is also an association between other atopic (or allergic) conditions such as asthma and food allergies. The mainstay of treatment involves identifying and avoiding triggers of eczema, as well as keeping the skin well moisturised. Steroid creams can also be prescribed for short-term use in flare ups of eczema. Many children grow out of eczema but it still occurs in up to 3 in 100 adults. Our team of expert dermatologists are on hand to guide patients and their families through each stage of managing eczema, through education, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.


This is a condition that involves excess growth of skin, resulting in hard, scaly patches of skin (psoriatic plaques) over areas such as the elbows, hands and knees. There are many different types of psoriasis depending on the shape and distribution of the patches, and it can also affect other parts of the body such as the scalp, nails and joints. For this reason, it is important that patients with psoriasis are managed holistically. Our dermatologists are specialists in tailoring treatment to the needs of each individual.

Acne vulgaris 

Acne is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the hair follicles and their glands. It is characterised by the excess production of skin oils (sebum) and abnormal growth of skin cells, which results in the presence of many large spots and comedones. Comedones can be described as open (blackheads) or closed (whiteheads). In more severe forms acne can also lead to painful cysts that may result in scarring of the skin. It is one of the most common dermatological conditions in the world, with around 8/10 people being affected at one point in their lifetime. Acne mostly affects the face, neck, chest and upper back. Symptoms start to emerge during adolescence and young adulthood due to hormonal changes surrounding normal puberty. The condition isn’t exclusive to adolescents and many adults also suffer with varying degrees of acne.

Acne can have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of sufferers, however our expert dermatologists have a wealth of knowledge and experience in treating even the most severe symptoms. At the Royal Free Hospital Private Patient’s Unit, our dermatology services also extend to leading medical and psychological treatment of patients to ensure the best standards of care through a multidisciplinary team approach.

Skin infections

– At the Royal Free Hospital Private Patient’s Unit we are also specialists in dealing with acute disorders of the skin. Included in this are common fungal skin infections such as ringworm, or tinea, and infestations such as scabies and headlice. We are also able to provide effective treatment for common skin problems such as warts and verrucae.

What we offer

At the Royal Free Hospital Private Patient’s Unit we pride ourselves on providing the highest quality patient care with our comprehensive approach to diagnosis and management of skin conditions. Our specialist centre for dermatology benefits from advanced diagnostic techniques including:

  • Skin prick testing and patch testing for common allergens that can trigger and worsen skin conditions
  • Blood tests to find specific antibodies for many allergens, such as pollen, wheat, egg, milk, fish and peanuts

Alongside conventional medicines used to treat common skin conditions, our team focus on empowering patients and their families through education and guidance on how to minimise the impact of skin conditions on quality of life. 

Many psychological factors such as stress, anxiety and depression are also known to have a major role in the development of some skin conditions. We understand that having a skin condition can affect an individual’s confidence and so we aim to incorporate psychological treatments alongside conventional medicines. These include managing beliefs about appearance as well as helping with habits such as itching and scratching which can impact the efficacy of conventional medicines. 

Furthermore, we provide advanced phototherapy techniques including narrow band UVB and PUVA (UV light phototherapy) to help manage complex skin conditions such as psoriasis.