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The Difference Between Cosmetic, Medical, and Surgical Dermatology By Peter David Wendt

In the broadest sense, dermatology is the study and treatment of skin. However, not all dermatologists specialize in the same areas, nor do patients all need to go to a general dermatologist for the best results. The three major types of dermatology are considered to be cosmetic dermatology, medical dermatology and surgical dermatology. This article will seek to define each of the three types and explain what kind of work each type of dermatologist might practice every day.

Cosmetic Dermatology: This type of dermatology deals primarily with the aesthetic side of skin. Rather than delving into skin care for medical reasons like skin cancer or rashes, cosmetic dermatologists are focused on how the skin looks. Patients often go to cosmetic dermatologists to get rid of unsightly blemishes, uneven skin tone or anti aging remedies. Generally, these procedures are not covered by average health insurance policies as they are not medically necessary. However, for many people seeing a cosmetic dermatologist can greatly increase their quality of life.

Medical Dermatology: This branch of dermatology is perhaps the opposite of cosmetic dermatology. While appearance may play a small role in the field of study, the primary reasons to go to a dermatologist are because of medical conditions which manifest themselves in the skin, such as skin cancer or lupus. Medical dermatologists may also deal with patients who have rosacea, sun damage, painful rashes and more. Because this type of dermatologist treats valid medical problems, health insurance should cover the majority of costs for patients. It is often recommended for people to visit a medical dermatologist regularly even if there are no obvious problems in order to check for increased risks of skin cancer.

Surgical Dermatology: Just as the name implies, surgical dermatology refers to the treatment of skin conditions through the use of surgical methods. In some cases the surgery may be entirely for cosmetic purposes, and so it will overlap with cosmetic dermatology. This applies to surgeries like facelifts or hairline restructuring, which can be performed in some cases by dermatologists rather than plastic surgeons. It is much more common, however, for surgical dermatology to refer to the treatment of skin cancer through Mohs surgery. Mohs is a recent surgical development that can treat skin cancer with very high success rates, and requires a dermatologist to be specially trained in the technology.


Although cosmetic dermatology, medical dermatology and surgical dermatology are all distinct, different practices, they often overlap in treatment. A woman who visits her dermatologist for treatment for a painful rash, for examples, might need both medical and cosmetic help to reduce the pain and eliminate the unsightly skin condition at the same time.

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The Difference Between Cosmetic