What are dermatologists?

Dermatologists are skin care doctors who have expertise in the care of normal skin, and in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the skin, hair, and nails. In addition, dermatologists are knowledgeable in the management of cosmetic disorders of the skin (such as hair loss and scars).

What do dermatologists do?

Dermatologists often perform specialized diagnostic procedures related to skin conditions. These doctors use treatments including:

  • Externally applied, injected, and internal medicines
  • Ultraviolet light therapy
  • A range of dermatologic surgical procedures
  • Cosmetic procedures such as chemical peels, sclerotherapy (used for conditions like varicose veins) and micro-dermabrasion (a procedure to exfoliate the skin)

Dermatologists might have training and experience in areas such as electrosurgery (surgical use of high-frequency electric current for cutting or destroying tissue), cryosurgery (which involves freezing tissue), laser surgery, and excision surgery (involving removal by cutting) with appropriate closures (including skin grafts).

Training of dermatologists

After earning a medical degree and completing an internship, a dermatologist receives three more years of specialty training and then takes a comprehensive examination administered by the American Board of Dermatology. Many dermatologists have general practices and see patients with all types of skin concerns. Some dermatologists gain additional training and expertise in specific areas of dermatology, such as pediatrics, surgery, or cosmetics, and go on to have practices specializing in these areas. With this background and knowledge, dermatologists are dedicated and qualified to diagnose and treat a wide variety of skin, hair, and nail conditions.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/17/2019.


  • American Board of Dermatology. . Accessed 3/19/2019.What is a dermatologist (https://www.abderm.org)
  • Habif TP. Dermatologic Surgical Procedures. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 27.

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