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.


American Board of Dermatology. What is a dermatologist. www.abderm.org Accessed January 12, 2011.

Walter B. Shelley, E. Dorinda Shelley"dermatology" The Oxford Companion to Medicine. Stephen Lock, John M. Last, and George Dunea. Oxford University Press 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Cleveland Clinic.16 January 2011 www.oxfordreference.com

Habif TP. Dermatologic Surgical Procedures. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 27.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/9/2011...#12165