Your skin is one of the largest organs in your body.
It helps regulate body temperature. It’s your first line of defense against infections and disease. It protects your body and communicates with you about your overall health.
Dermatologists are medical doctors whose specialty is skin, hair, and nail health.
What Do Dermatologists Do?
Throughout your life, a dermatologist may be called on to treat your body from head to toe.
The first thing a dermatologist will do is diagnose the problem.
Conditions often have similar symptoms. One condition could be mild and easily treated, while the other could signal a bigger problem such as heart disease, an autoimmune disorder, or diabetes.
Even a non-threatening skin, hair, or nail disorder can reduce the quality of life. Hair loss, eczema, acne, aging skin, and scars can also lead to emotional distress.
What Conditions Do Dermatologists Treat?
Board-certified dermatologists treat conditions that fall into broad categories.
These include routine skin maintenance as well as diagnostic and preventive exams. They also treat skin injuries and burns, hair loss, chronic skin conditions, signs of aging, and skin cancer.
Here are some of the diagnostics performed by dermatologists:
- Actinic keratoses to prevent melanoma
- Chronic skin disease
- Allergy testing
- Skin irritation and itching
- Skin and nail infections
- Abnormal or sudden changes in the skin
And here are some of the conditions treated with medications and/or procedures by dermatologists:
- Melanoma and other types of skin cancer
- Chronic skin disorders including rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, and acne
- Skin rashes and irritations
- Hives and itching due to allergic reactions
- Severe itching and eczema skin lesions
- Skin and nail infections including warts, fungal nail infections, and athlete's foot
- Itching due to eczema
- Fungal nail infections and other nail disorders
- Ingrown nails and ingrown hair
- Dandruff and other scalp problems
- Varicose and spider veins
- Moles and skin tags
- Cosmetic treatments to slow the aging process
- Hair loss
- First, second, and third-degree burns to minimize scarring
- Skin wounds
- Skin discoloration
- Abnormal dryness
- Reduce the appearance of wound or surgery scars, acne scars, and stretch marks (may involve scar revision surgery)
Here are some of the areas in which dermatologists are educated:
- Hygiene and skin care practices to improve skin health
- Symptoms and treatment of chronic skin diseases
- Skin cancer facts
In addition to these, dermatologists also understand risk factors associated with certain skin conditions. For example, psoriasis patients are more likely to develop high blood pressure and diabetes.
While they treat the skin condition, the dermatologist will monitor other disease markers to catch underlying conditions in the early stages.
The Difference between Dermatologists and Estheticians
Dermatologists and estheticians are skin care professionals with different areas of expertise and different services.
Dermatologists specialize in the health of the skin, hair, and nails. All services and procedures are done with health in mind. Dermatologists may also perform cosmetic dermatology procedures to improve the skin’s appearance or to improve a patient’s quality of life.
Estheticians specialize in improving the appearance of skin, especially aging skin. They provide mild chemical peels, facials, microdermabrasion, waxing and sugaring, body scrubs, masks, body wraps, makeup application, eyelash extensions, and eyebrow tinting.
All 50 states require that estheticians be licensed. Some also obtain national certification through the National Coalition of Estheticians Associations (NCEA). Estheticians do not practice medicine and so they do not prescribe medications or perform any invasive cosmetic procedures such as dermal fillers, micro-needling, or injections.
Medical aestheticians, on the other hand, have more training than estheticians and often work alongside dermatologists or cosmetic surgeons to offer pre-and post-surgical skin care and minimally invasive procedures, including tattoo removal and laser hair removal.
Training and Qualifications for Dermatologists
Given the incredible variety and complexity of conditions that affect the body's exterior, dermatologists have to be well-versed in many areas of medicine.
Before they can begin practicing, dermatologists go through extensive training that lasts more than a decade, including the following:
- A bachelor’s degree
- Medical Doctorate degree, and a medical doctor (MD) license
- A year-long medical internship
- Three years of residency training in dermatology with 12,000 to 16,000 hours of patient care while working alongside a medical expert
- Advanced training in a specific area of dermatology. Specialized training could include pediatric dermatology or Mohs surgery
Becoming a board-certified dermatologist requires passing the board exam. This challenging exam tests the theoretical and practical knowledge and skills the dermatologist has acquired throughout their training as a specialized medical doctor. In the US, these boards include the American Board of Dermatology and the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology.
Board-certified dermatologists are permitted to add ‘FAAD’ to their title (Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology).
Board-certified dermatologists may prescribe oral or topical medications and perform dermatological procedures.
Alternative treatments, including red light therapy, also help treat skin ailments. While being suitable for a variety of surface-level skin conditions like acne, red light therapy also stimulates the mitochondria, leadin to a healthier skin profile overall.
It's also a popular choice for those who prefer to avoid excessive dependence on pharmaceutical medications or who want to explore alternatives to surgery.
Types of Procedures that Dermatologists Perform
Dermatologists provide treatment for fine lines and wrinkles, acne scarring, or sun damage.
These may include Botox, micro-needling, deep chemical peels, dermal fillers, and laser therapy to resurface the skin.
They also perform procedures such as laser hair removal and scar revision to improve a patient’s quality of life. In some cases, they remove and biopsy actinic keratoses.
Surgical dermatologists perform Mohs surgery to remove skin cancers and surgery to treat damaged veins.
Common Dermatological Solutions
For cosmetic issues like acne scars, dermatologists may perform laser resurfacing or chemical peels. They can also administer Botox injections and dermal fillers. Red light therapy may be used to treat chronic diseases of the skin including acne, psoriasis, and rosacea.
Dermatologists may recommend or prescribe a variety of over-the-counter or prescription medications to treat skin conditions. These can include antibiotics, anti-itch creams, steroids, and more.
Dermatology Subspecialty Fields
The field of dermatology has specialty fields, including the following:
Dermatopathologists specialize in both dermatology and pathology, which is the study of disease diagnosis. They perform skin biopsies to determine the presence of skin cancer cells.
A specialist performs Mohs surgery to treat skin cancer. Mohs surgery is ‘microscopically controlled,’ meaning that the surgeon can see the exact boundaries where a patient’s cancer ends.
Mohs surgery involves the careful removal of thin layers of tissue one at a time at the site of visible cancer until no more cancer cells are visible under a microscope.
Osteopathic dermatologists identify symptoms related to a potentially dangerous underlying condition.
Pediatric dermatologists treat skin issues in children and adolescents up to age 18, as well as hair and nail problems.
While all dermatologists can treat children, a pediatric dermatologist is usually called in for the diagnosis of suspicious birthmarks and mole removal.
The role of cosmetic dermatologists is to make their clients look good. Aesthetic procedures include Botox and dermal fillers to minimize fine lines and wrinkles, and peels or laser therapy to reduce acne scarring.
Reasons to See a Dermatologist
There are a number of circumstances in which it might be a good idea to get the opinion of a board-certified dermatologist, including the following.
- If there are any changes in moles or birthmarks
- Dry, scaly patches
- A persistent and itchy rash or hives that don't respond to OTC medications or go away
- Varicose veins and spider veins
- Changes in skin feel, color, and/or texture
- Persistent irritation or dryness
- Persistent redness
- Acne that doesn't respond to OTC products or dietary and lifestyle changes
- Scars that are causing emotional distress, pain, or loss of mobility
- Nail disorders such as fungal infections, ingrown nails, changes in nail color, ripples in nails, or nail clubbing.
- Warts, herpes, athlete's foot, and other infections
- Hair loss
- Signs of aging including age spots (or sun spots); fine lines and wrinkles, loose, papery, and sagging skin
- Burns that are too severe to treat at home
Red Light Therapy for Dermatological Treatment
Red light therapy is becoming an important part of dermatological treatment. It is best known as an effective treatment for signs of aging, but it has many more applications.
This natural, non-invasive and no-touch treatment has been successful in treating skin, hair, and nail conditions including reducing psoriasis scales, reducing the redness of rosacea, soothing ezema, clearing up acne, speeding up skin wound healing, reducing the appearance of stretch marks, softening scars, restoring hair growth, treating fungal nail infections, healing cold sores, reducing the appearance of spider veins, and more!
Check out this in-depth article on the many ways that red light therapy benefits the skin.
Many skin conditions presented to dermatologists have an underlying root cause related to an inflammatory response from the body. The key to improving health and wellbeing is based in preventing and treating inflammation. With proper lifestyle choices and use of proven natural and non-invasive modalities, such as PlatinumLED’s photobiomodulation therapy lights, you can live your best life.
Functional Medicine Doctor of Physical Therapy Dr. Alayna Newton, PT, DPT, FAFS
Red Light Therapy: BIOMAX Series
Regular in-clinic red light treatments can be expensive and inconvenient. But now, you can get the same benefits affordably and in the comfort of your home.
Given the wide variety of applications for red light therapy, you’ll get the most value with a medical-grade, high-energy LED light therapy panel.
The BIOMAX series features a combination of blue, red, and near-infrared wavelengths. The panels also now allow users to turn specific wavelengths on and off, including R+, NIR+, and the 480nm blue lights.
Meanwhile, the SaunaMAX Pro is specifically designed for use during home-sauna treatment.
The blue light traces are known to be more effectatious at treating surface-level skin conditions, whereas red light treats them as well by stimulating the mitochondria underneath the skin.
BIOMAX panels are medical-grade, FDA-cleared devices that feature the highest light energy output in their power class. Don’t be surprised if these are the devices you see at your dermatologist’s office!
Many dermatologists are embracing the holistic approach to skincare and overall health using red light therapy.