The term "cosmetic dermatologist" often causes confusion. To understand this term, it helps to know that all dermatologists receive training in:
- Medical dermatology: Diagnose, treat and prevent diseases that affect the skin, hair and nails.
- Dermatopathology: Diagnose diseases that affect the skin, hair and nails by removing a sample and examining the sample with a microscope.
- Surgical dermatology: Treat diseases that affect the skin, hair and nails by using a surgical procedure.
- Cosmetic dermatology: Treat the skin, hair or nails using a treatment that is meant to improve a patient's appearance rather than treat a disease.
Many dermatologists practice all of the above in their practice. Examples of treatments dermatologists perform that fall into the area of cosmetic dermatology include:
- Surgery to diminish acne scars.
- Injecting fillers and botulinum toxins to give an aging face a more youthful appearance.
- Laser surgery to diminish or remove small veins, age spots, tattoos and wrinkles.
Cosmetic dermatologist. This dermatologist is injecting a filler to give her patient a more youthful appearance.
Because of their unique training, dermatologists have the medical knowledge and skills necessary to safely perform many cosmetic procedures.
What it takes to become a cosmetic dermatologist
One can practice cosmetic dermatology by becoming a dermatologist. To become a dermatologist requires many years of education. A person must successfully complete:
- College, earning a bachelor's degree.
- Medical school, becoming a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO).
- Internship, 1 year.
- Residency program in dermatology, at least 3 years.
After becoming a dermatologist, some doctors choose to continue their medical education. This advanced education is called a fellowship. A fellowship in procedural dermatology or cosmetic/aesthetic dermatology provides advanced surgical training.
A fellowship in procedural dermatology usually takes one year to complete. It includes training in medical and cosmetic surgery. During this fellowship, a dermatologist may develop advanced skills in:
- Mohs (pronounced "moes") surgery, specialized treatment for skin cancer.
- Reconstructive surgery to treat wounds caused by surgery to remove skin cancer.
- Injection of fillers and botulinum toxins.
- Sclerotherapy (treatment for veins).
- Chemical peels.
- Hair transplantation.
- Tumescent liposuction (removes small amount of fat while the patient remains awake).
- Laser surgery.
Because dermatologists know so much about cosmetic surgery, they have made important contributions to this area of medicine. Dermatologists developed:
- Tumescent liposuction, which greatly improves patient safety.
- A way to transplant hair that gives patients a natural-looking hairline.
- Advances in the use of many lasers.
- Improvements in the use of fillers and botulinum toxins.
Doctors who do not receive training in cosmetic procedures during their residency also offer cosmetic procedures. Even aestheticians offer cosmetic procedures. It is important to know that the quality and safety of the procedure depends largely on the skill of the person performing the procedure. To learn more about cosmetic treatment, visit: