A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions that can affect the appearance and health of the skin, hair, and nails. The field of dermatology has two main branches: cosmetic and medical. Cosmetic dermatology focuses on enhancing the appearance of the skin, hair, and nails. Some of the many aesthetic issues that a dermatologist can treat include blemishes, deep skin creases, excess facial or body hair, loss of facial volume, skin discoloration, spider veins, visible blood vessels, and skin wrinkles.
Medical dermatology focuses on improving the health of the skin, hair, and nails. Some of the many medical issues that a dermatologist can address include alopecia, acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, rashes, rosacea, skin cancer, and warts.
Aesthetician vs. Esthetician
In addition to dermatologists, aestheticians and estheticians provide skin care services. Many people use the terms “aesthetician” and “esthetician” interchangeably, but there is a key difference between the two. Aestheticians are licensed professionals who work in a clinical setting, often alongside a dermatologist, and provide medical skin care treatments, such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Estheticians are also licensed professionals, but they usually work in spas and salons and provide cosmetic skin care treatments, such as facials and makeup applications.
What Are Cosmetic Dermatology Treatments?
Cosmetic dermatology treatments are designed to rejuvenate the skin and provide a more radiant and youthful appearance. A dermatologist can provide cosmetic and skin enhancement services that are fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such as:
A chemical peel is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure used to smooth and refresh the skin on the face, neck, or hands by improving the appearance of the following:
- Fine lines and wrinkles caused by aging or sun damage
- Mild acne
- Superficial scarring
- Skin discolorations, such as age spots, freckles, and sunspots
- Dark patches (melasma) caused by pregnancy or birth control pills
- Rough skin and scaly patches
- Overall dullness
After the treatment area is thoroughly cleansed to remove excess oils, a safe chemical solution is applied to cause a controlled injury. As a result, a sunburn-like reaction will occur, causing the skin’s outer layer to eventually peel away and reveal a new layer of skin that has a better tone and texture.
Chemical peels can vary widely in strength and penetration. A dermatologist or aesthetician can suggest an appropriate formulation based on the condition of the skin and the goal of the treatment.
SkinPen microneedling is a minimally invasive, chemical-free cosmetic treatment that can rejuvenate the skin by encouraging collagen production. It is particularly well suited for improving the appearance of acne scars and neck wrinkles.
The treatment is delivered with a SkinPen, the first FDA-cleared microneedling device, which has several tiny needles at one end. The needles microscopically penetrate the skin to create controlled micro-injuries, which trigger the body’s natural wound repair processes. As the perforation channels close and the healing cascade begins, collagen-producing fibroblasts and growth-promoting properties will invade the treatment area. Newly formed collagen and elastin fibers will then bolster the skin and make it more supple.
Diamond Tip Microdermabrasion
Diamond tip microdermabrasion is a gentle exfoliating treatment that can be used to brighten a dull complexion. The treatment is delivered via a handheld wand that has a rough, diamond-dust-coated edge, which is methodically stroked across the face to buff off and suction away dead skin cells. In addition to cleaning and extracting impurities from the skin’s pores, the suction can stimulate collagen production, which can make the skin look smoother and more youthful.
Depending on the sensitivity of the skin in the treatment area, the roughness of the diamond tip and the strength of the suction can be adjusted. For instance, reduced suction is often used around the eyes and on the neck.
Dermaplaning is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that can be used to improve the appearance of pitted skin, acne scars, fine lines, or a dull complexion. This exfoliation treatment can also be used to remove soft, light hairs from the face or neck. Using a special instrument that has a small blade (similar to an electric razor), a dermatologist or aesthetician will gently shave away the surface of the skin to reveal a new layer of smooth, firm, and undamaged skin.
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What Does Medical Dermatology Involve?
Medical dermatology focuses on diagnosing and treating health conditions that can cause skin issues, such as melanoma. Even though medical dermatology treatments can improve unwanted cosmetic effects, their primary focus is addressing the medical concern that is causing the effects.
Skin Cancer Prevention
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States. The best way to prevent it is to promptly discuss any unusual skin changes with a dermatologist and to have a professional skin check performed yearly. This is important because when detected early, skin cancer is highly curable.
Dermoscopy is an effective skin cancer screening technique that allows a dermatologist to closely examine the skin’s structures, colors, and patterns. Using a dermatoscope—a handheld device that provides both powerful illumination and a high level of magnification—the dermatologist can thoroughly evaluate a suspicious skin lesion in terms of its symmetry, uniformity, pigment distribution, borders, and ulceration. As such, dermoscopy can aid in the diagnosis of:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Seborrheic keratosis
Other Diagnostic Tests
Other diagnostic tests commonly used by medical dermatologists include:
- Punch biopsies
- Shave biopsies
- Excision biopsies
- Skin cultures
- Skin allergy patch testing
- Wood’s lamp examinations
The results of these tests can be used to confirm or rule out a diagnosis, such as skin cancer or a fungal skin infection. Additionally, Mohs surgery can be used to both test and treat skin cancer.
Some common procedures performed by medical dermatologists to remove or treat skin lesions (benign and cancerous) include:
- Cryotherapy – Extreme cold is applied to freeze and remove abnormal tissues.
- Curettage and cautery – A skin lesion is scraped off with a blade, then heat is applied to seal the blood vessels and stop the bleeding.
- Cyst excision – A small sac under the skin is “peeled out” through an incision.
- Electrodesiccation – An electrical current is delivered via a needle-shaped electrode to heat the skin and remove a lesion.
- Phototherapy – The skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light for a set amount of time to calm immune cell activity and reduce inflammation.
- Skin tag removal – A blade or pair of surgical scissors is used to cut off a skin growth.
Talk With a Dermatologist
If you would like to discuss cosmetic treatments and dermatology treatments with a dermatology specialist, contact Florida Medical Clinic at 813-751-0777 to request an appointment at our Tampa Palms office, which is conveniently located at 17401 Commerce Park Boulevard.
About Lisa M. Diaz, DO, FAAD
Dr. Diaz is a board-certified dermatologist who practices all aspects of dermatology, including cosmetic, medical, surgical, general, and pediatric dermatology. Her clinical interests include dermoscopy, skin cancer surgery, and cosmetic dermatology procedures.