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What is a Dermatologist?

  · 11 minutes read


Our skin, the body’s largest organ, serves as a protective shield, a canvas of self-expression, and a reflection of our overall health. Behind the scenes, a dermatologist, a specialized medical doctor, plays a pivotal role in ensuring the health and well-being of this vital organ. In this article, we will embark on a journey through the world of dermatology, exploring the significant responsibilities of dermatologists, the wide array of skin, hair, and nail conditions they treat, and the crucial role they play in early detection and prevention of skin cancer. We’ll also discuss when it’s imperative to consult a dermatologist, how to select the right one, and what to expect during dermatology procedures and treatments. By the end of this exploration, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of dermatology and its profound impact on our lives.

What Is a Dermatologist?

A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and preventing a wide range of skin, hair, and nail conditions. Their role in the medical field is crucial, as the skin is the body’s largest organ and plays a significant role in our overall health and well-being.

Dermatologists are trained to address a diverse array of dermatological issues, from common concerns like acne, eczema, and psoriasis to more complex conditions such as skin cancer and autoimmune disorders. They use their expertise to offer patients effective treatments, prescribe medications, perform surgical procedures, and provide guidance on maintaining healthy skin.

Dermatologists also play a key role in early detection and prevention of skin cancer through regular skin examinations. Their comprehensive knowledge of the skin’s anatomy and functions makes them vital in promoting both the health and aesthetics of the skin.

What Conditions Do Dermatologists Treat?

  1. Acne: Dermatologists offer various treatments, including topical creams, antibiotics, and advanced therapies, to manage acne and prevent scarring.
  2. Eczema (Dermatitis): They provide relief for itchy, inflamed skin by prescribing moisturizers, corticosteroids, and other therapies to control eczema flares.
  3. Psoriasis: Dermatologists offer treatments such as topical medications, phototherapy, and systemic therapies to alleviate the symptoms and reduce the severity of psoriasis.
  4. Skin Cancer: Early detection and treatment are crucial in the fight against skin cancer. Dermatologists perform skin examinations and may perform biopsies to diagnose and treat various forms of skin cancer, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
  5. Rosacea: Dermatologists can recommend topical treatments, oral medications, and lifestyle modifications to manage the redness and flushing associated with rosacea.
  6. Alopecia (Hair Loss): They help diagnose and treat hair loss conditions, such as alopecia areata, male and female pattern baldness, and telogen effluvium.
  7. Nail Disorders: Dermatologists address various nail issues, such as fungal infections, ingrown toenails, and nail psoriasis.
  8. Warts: They offer treatments like cryotherapy, laser therapy, and topical medications to remove warts effectively.
  9. Dermatitis and Rashes: Dermatologists diagnose and treat a wide range of dermatitis conditions, including contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, and drug-induced rashes.
  10. Vitiligo: They may recommend treatments like topical corticosteroids, phototherapy, and laser therapy to manage depigmentation in patients with vitiligo.
  11. Hives (Urticaria): Dermatologists provide therapies to relieve itching and discomfort caused by hives.
  12. Skin Infections: They diagnose and treat bacterial, fungal, and viral skin infections, such as impetigo, ringworm, and herpes.
  13. Moles and Birthmarks: Dermatologists monitor and, if necessary, remove atypical moles and birthmarks to prevent skin cancer development.
  14. Aging Skin: They offer cosmetic procedures like Botox, dermal fillers, and chemical peels to address signs of aging, including wrinkles and sagging skin.
  15. Scarring: Dermatologists use various treatments, such as laser therapy and surgical procedures, to minimize the appearance of scars from injuries, surgeries, or acne.

When Should You See a Dermatologist?

  1. Skin Changes: If you notice any unusual changes in your skin, such as the sudden appearance of moles, growths, or spots, or if existing moles start to change in size, shape, or color, it’s important to see a dermatologist. These could be signs of skin cancer, and early detection is crucial for successful treatment.
  2. Persistent Acne: If you have acne that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter treatments or if it’s causing scarring, a dermatologist can provide more advanced therapies to manage your acne effectively.
  3. Chronic Skin Conditions: If you have chronic skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea that are impacting your quality of life, a dermatologist can help develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms and improve your skin’s health.
  4. Unexplained Rashes or Itching: Persistent rashes, itching, or redness that doesn’t improve with over-the-counter remedies may be due to underlying skin conditions. A dermatologist can identify the cause and recommend appropriate treatments.
  5. Hair and Nail Problems: If you’re experiencing hair loss, nail abnormalities, or other issues related to your hair and nails, a dermatologist can diagnose the problem and provide treatment options.
  6. Skin Infections: If you develop a skin infection or suspect one, such as a fungal infection or herpes outbreak, a dermatologist can prescribe medications and recommend proper care.
  7. Preventative Care: Regular skin check-ups are important, especially if you have a family history of skin cancer or risk factors like excessive sun exposure. Dermatologists can perform skin cancer screenings to detect potential issues early.
  8. Cosmetic Concerns: Dermatologists also offer cosmetic procedures, such as Botox, fillers, and chemical peels, to address aesthetic concerns, including wrinkles, fine lines, and skin aging.
  9. Excessive Sweating: If you suffer from excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), a dermatologist can provide treatment options, such as botulinum toxin injections, to manage this condition.
  10. Skin Allergies: If you suspect skin allergies or sensitivities to certain products, a dermatologist can perform patch testing to identify the specific allergens causing your reactions.

How to Choose the Right Dermatologist?

  1. Expertise and Specialization: Look for a dermatologist with the appropriate expertise for your specific needs. Some may specialize in medical dermatology, while others focus on cosmetic procedures. If you have a particular skin condition, such as acne or psoriasis, seek a dermatologist experienced in treating that condition.
  2. Board Certification: Ensure that the dermatologist is board-certified, which indicates that they have met rigorous educational and training standards. Board-certified dermatologists have a higher level of competency.
  3. Location and Accessibility: Consider the location of the dermatologist’s office. Opt for one that is conveniently located, as this will make it easier for you to attend appointments and follow-up visits.
  4. Patient Reviews and Recommendations: Reading patient reviews and testimonials online can provide insights into the dermatologist’s reputation and patient satisfaction. Additionally, seek recommendations from friends, family, or your primary care physician.
  5. Communication and Comfort: It’s essential to feel comfortable with your dermatologist and to have open, clear communication. The dermatologist should take the time to listen to your concerns and explain treatment options thoroughly.
  6. Insurance Coverage: Check whether the dermatologist accepts your health insurance. Understanding your coverage can help you manage the cost of your visits and treatments more effectively.

Dermatology Procedures and Treatments: What to Expect?

  1. Skin Biopsy:
    • Purpose: Skin biopsies are performed to diagnose various skin conditions, including suspicious moles, rashes, or skin cancers.
    • Procedure: The dermatologist will typically numb the area with a local anesthetic. Then, they will remove a small sample of skin for examination. There are different biopsy techniques, such as punch biopsies or shave biopsies, which the dermatologist will choose based on the situation.
    • Aftercare: After the procedure, you may have a small wound that requires care to prevent infection. Results from the biopsy can take some time to come back.
  2. Chemical Peels:
    • Purpose: Chemical peels are used to improve the appearance and texture of the skin, addressing issues like fine lines, acne scars, and uneven pigmentation.
    • Procedure: The dermatologist will apply a chemical solution to the skin, which will exfoliate the top layer. The strength and type of peel used will depend on your specific skin concerns. During the procedure, you may experience a stinging or burning sensation.
    • Aftercare: After a chemical peel, your skin will be sensitive and may peel or flake as it heals. Sun protection and gentle skincare are essential during the recovery period.
  3. Laser Therapy:
    • Purpose: Laser therapy is employed to treat a variety of skin concerns, including tattoo removal, hair removal, and the reduction of acne scars or wrinkles.
    • Procedure: During laser therapy, a specialized laser device emits targeted light energy to the skin. The sensation can vary from a slight discomfort to a sensation akin to a rubber band snapping against the skin, depending on the type of laser used and your pain tolerance.
    • Aftercare: After laser therapy, you may experience redness, swelling, or mild discomfort. Specific aftercare instructions will be provided to minimize potential side effects.

Dermatologist vs. Esthetician: Understanding the Difference

Dermatologists and estheticians serve important roles in skincare, but they have distinct differences in their qualifications, scope of practice, and the services they offer. Here’s a clarification of the key differences between these two professionals:


  • Medical Doctors: Dermatologists are medical doctors who have completed extensive medical training, including medical school, a residency in dermatology, and often additional specialization.
  • Licensed to Diagnose and Treat Medical Conditions: Dermatologists are licensed to diagnose and treat a wide range of skin conditions, including medical issues like skin cancer, psoriasis, eczema, and more.
  • Prescribe Medications: They can prescribe medications, including antibiotics, topical treatments, and even oral medications, to address skin problems.
  • Perform Medical Procedures: Dermatologists can perform medical procedures such as skin biopsies, mole removal, and surgical interventions.


  • Skincare Professionals: Estheticians are skincare professionals who have completed training in skincare and beauty services, typically through a cosmetology or esthetics program.
  • Focused on Skincare and Beauty: Estheticians primarily offer non-medical skincare and beauty services, including facials, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and waxing.
  • Not Licensed for Medical Diagnoses: Estheticians are not qualified to diagnose or treat medical skin conditions. They focus on improving the appearance and health of the skin through non-medical treatments.
  • Collaboration with Dermatologists: Estheticians may collaborate with dermatologists, providing complementary services in a spa or clinic. They can help clients maintain healthy skin and manage common skincare concerns.

Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection

Skin cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, but early prevention, detection, and screening play a significant role in reducing its impact. Here’s an emphasis on these key aspects of skin cancer management, along with information on self-examinations and the ABCDEs of melanoma:

Skin Cancer Prevention:

  • Sun Protection: Protecting your skin from the sun is paramount. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hats, and seek shade during peak sun hours.
  • Avoid Tanning Beds: Tanning beds emit harmful UV radiation and increase the risk of skin cancer. Avoid their use.
  • Regular Self-Examinations: Examine your skin regularly for any unusual moles or growths. Early detection is crucial for effective treatment.
  • Stay Informed: Educate yourself about skin cancer risk factors, including family history, fair skin, and excessive sun exposure. Understanding your risk can help you take appropriate precautions.

Skin Cancer Early Detection:

  • Regular Dermatologist Check-ups: Schedule annual skin cancer screenings with a dermatologist, especially if you have risk factors or a history of skin cancer.
  • Self-Examinations: Perform monthly self-examinations to check for any changes in your skin. Use the ABCDE rule for assessing moles and growths:
    • A (Asymmetry): One half of the mole is unlike the other half.
    • B (Borders): The edges of the mole are irregular, blurred, or poorly defined.
    • C (Color): The mole has varied colors or has changed in color over time.
    • D (Diameter): The mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser (about 6mm).
    • E (Evolution): Any change in size, shape, color, or elevation of the mole or growth.

If you notice any of these changes in a mole or growth, it’s essential to promptly consult a dermatologist. Early detection allows for more successful treatment outcomes.


In summary, this exploration of dermatology highlights the pivotal role of dermatologists in preserving skin health. From diagnosing common conditions to detecting skin cancer early, dermatologists prove indispensable in healthcare.

Covering a spectrum of conditions, from acne to skin cancer, dermatologists employ diverse treatments, showcasing their broad impact on patient well-being.

The article advises when to consult a dermatologist, emphasizing proactive skin health management. Practical tips on choosing the right dermatologist and insights into dermatological procedures offer transparency.

The distinction between dermatologists and estheticians is clarified, emphasizing the specialized medical training of dermatologists and the collaborative nature of their relationship with estheticians.

Lastly, a focus on skin cancer prevention emphasizes proactive measures, empowering readers to prioritize their skin health.

In essence, this exploration urges readers to appreciate the crucial role of dermatologists in preserving both the aesthetics and health of our skin. Regular consultations with qualified dermatologists emerge as fundamental for overall skin well-being.

Rachel Trippier picture

Rachel Trippier

Rachel is the Founder's Associate at

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