Medical vs. Cosmetic Dermatology

Considering seeing a dermatologist and wondering if you should see a medical or cosmetic one? All medical dermatologists have a level of extensive training that allows them to provide superior cosmetic dermatology treatments. A board-certified dermatologist has spent four years after getting their medical degree doing a residency in an academic dermatology department. 

What is Medical Dermatology?

Medical dermatology is a field that focuses on any disease that happens to the skin. These skin diseases can be categorized into:

Medical dermatology involves everything you can think of that the human body creates on the skin, such as:

  • Cancer
  • Warts
  • Pustules
  • Lumps
  • Bumps
  • Rashes
  • Moles

Medical dermatologists are experts in genetics as well. There are a whole host of rare genetic skin conditions, but as a board-certified dermatologist, you are familiar with these disorders and how to recognize them… since they were all featured on your board exam! 

Many of these conditions are a mouthful, like ectodermal dysplasia, but a medical dermatologist know how they occur, the genetic and molecular basis of these diseases, and what treatment is available. 

A medical dermatologist also has surgical experience. Dermatologists know how to do cutaneous surgery. They know how to remove skin cancer and other benign lesions such as lipomas and cysts. They also know how to operate and surgically repair the skin.

What is Cosmetic Dermatology?

Medical dermatology is the basis of dermatology training in this country. Most academic institutions emphasize medical and surgical dermatology training in residency. Cosmetic dermatology makes up a small part of dermatological training in residency. Most dermatologists in training must seek cosmetic training outside their residency program. 

Cosmetic dermatology involves all the areas of skin cosmesis. For example, 

  • Chemical peels
  • Injectables such as Botox and fillers
  • Laser medicine and surgery
  • Microneedling
  • Some surgeries, such as blepharoplasty or threads

Cosmetic dermatology requires a basis in medical dermatology. When you treat the skin with a laser, for example, you must understand how the tissues respond to light, heat, and thermal injury. This understanding is critical to positive outcomes and safe treatments. 

Cosmetic dermatology and medical dermatology are interrelated because a solid foundation in how skin rejuvenation works on a basic molecular level makes you a better cosmetic dermatologist. 


Why See a Dermatologist?

We have seen a rise in skin experts on Instagram, social media, and the internet. There are many people who claim to know what skin products do to the skin, what lasers do, and what treatments are right for different types of people. However, without a fundamental understanding of skin tissue pathology, treatments, and therapies can lead to adverse events and poor outcomes. 

Board-certified dermatologists are true skin experts, and besides medical school and a graduate degree in medicine, they spent an additional four years working full-time to understand skin and tissue pathology. Their expertise in medical and cosmetic dermatology is superior. Not only do they understand everything that happens to the skin, but they can also manage poor outcomes because they are experts in wound healing. Dermatologists understand the basis and totality of skin pathology. 

Take the Next Step

If you have questions about medical or cosmetic dermatology, we encourage you to schedule a private consultation today at ZENA Medical in Newport Beach, California. Our doctors, nurse practitioners, skin care specialists, and expert injectors will ensure your outcome is optimal and safe. Call us at (949) 269-8198 or fill out our convenient contact form on We look forward to meeting you!


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