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differences between medical and cosmetic dermatology

Cosmetic Dermatology, often called the science of skin, hair, and nails, is a field of medicine that delves into the intricacies of the body’s largest organ — the skin. Dermatologists are medical professionals specializing in diagnosing various skin conditions, including common issues like eczema and acne, and more complex diseases like melanoma and autoimmune disorders, and providing invasive and non-invasive treatment options.

The word “dermatology” originates from the Greek word “derma,” meaning skin, and “logia,” meaning study or discourse. As such, dermatology encompasses studying, diagnosing, and treating skin, mucous membranes, hair, and nail diseases. This branch of medicine dates back centuries, with early records of dermatological practices found in ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Earliest Record of Dermatology

Geronimo Mercuriali’s work “De Morbis Cutaneis” (On the Diseases of the Skin), completed in 1572, holds a significant place in the history of dermatology as one of the earliest scientific treatises dedicated specifically to studying skin diseases. Mercuriali, a physician and scholar from Forlì, Italy, made important contributions to the understanding and classification of dermatological conditions during the Renaissance period.

De Morbis Cutaneis provided a comprehensive overview of various skin diseases known at the time, offering descriptions, classifications, and treatment recommendations based on empirical observations and scholarly sources. Mercuriali drew on the medical knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman physicians and contemporary medical texts to compile his treatise.

Now that you know who placed the stepping stone for treating skin diseases, let’s take a look at the two most common dermatologist fields:

The Difference Between Cosmetic Dermatology & Medical Dermatology

Medical Dermatology


Medical dermatology primarily focuses on diagnosing and treating conditions affecting skin, hair, and nails. These conditions include acne, eczema, and psoriasis on a small scale and more serious diseases like skin cancer and autoimmune disorders such as lupus.

Patient Population

Medical dermatologists typically see patients of all ages and backgrounds who are dealing with various dermatological conditions. They often treat patients with chronic skin conditions that require ongoing management and care.

Procedures and Treatments

Medical dermatologists perform various procedures and treatments, including:

  • Skin biopsies to diagnose skin cancer or other conditions.
  • Prescribing medications such as topical creams, oral antibiotics, or immunosuppressants.
  • Phototherapy for conditions like psoriasis.
  • Surgical procedures for removing skin cancers or abnormal moles.
  • Providing education and counseling on skincare and disease prevention.

Insurance Coverage

Many medical dermatological procedures and treatments are covered by health insurance, especially those deemed necessary for diagnosing and managing medical conditions.

However, coverage limitations, copayments, and deductibles may apply depending on the specific insurance plan and the nature of the procedure or treatment.

Training and Credentials

Medical dermatologists undergo extensive medical training, including medical school and residency in dermatology. They may also pursue further specialization through fellowships in areas such as dermatopathology or Mohs surgery.

Upon residency completion, dermatologists can pursue board certification through the American Board of Dermatology (ABD). Board certification demonstrates a dermatologist’s proficiency in medical dermatology and is obtained by passing rigorous written and oral examinations.

Continuing Medical Education (CME)

Board-certified dermatologists must participate in continuing medical education activities to maintain their certification and stay updated on the latest advancements in dermatology.

List of Treatments Covered Under Medical Dermatology

  • Topical Medications
  • Oral Medications
  • Phototherapy
  • Biologic Therapies
  • Skin Biopsies
  • Cryotherapy
  • Electrosurgery and Curettage
  • Excisional Surgery
  • Intralesional Injections
  • Patch Testing
  • Skin Cancer Treatments
  • Wound Care and Dressings
  • Hair Loss Treatments
  • Infectious Disease Management
  • Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disorders
  • Pediatric Dermatology Treatments
  • Chronic Disease Management

Cosmetic Dermatology


Cosmetic dermatology primarily focuses on enhancing your skin’s appearance. It also includes treatment options for hair, and nails through non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures. These procedures are often elective and performed to address aesthetic concerns rather than medical conditions.

Patient Population

Cosmetic dermatologists typically see patients who are seeking treatments to improve their appearance, address signs of aging, or enhance certain features. Patients may seek cosmetic dermatology services for procedures like Botox injections, dermal fillers, laser treatments, or chemical peels.

Procedures and Treatments

Cosmetic dermatologists offer a variety of procedures and treatments designed to improve the appearance of the skin and address cosmetic concerns, including:

  • Botox and dermal filler injections to reduce wrinkles and restore volume.
  • Laser treatments for skin rejuvenation, hair removal, or tattoo removal.
  • Chemical peels to improve skin texture and tone.
  • Microdermabrasion to exfoliate the skin and reduce signs of aging.
  • Cosmetic surgery procedures such as eyelid surgery or liposuction.

Insurance Coverage

Cosmetic dermatological procedures are typically considered elective and are not covered by health insurance. Patients generally pay out of pocket for these treatments. The cost of these procedures varies depending on the type of treatment, geographic location, provider expertise, and other factors.

Training and Credentials

Cosmetic dermatologists are also trained as medical doctors but may undergo additional training or fellowships specifically focused on cosmetic procedures. They may also have certifications or memberships in organizations like the American Academy of Cosmetic Dermatology.

After medical school, individuals interested in cosmetic dermatology can pursue a residency in dermatology, similar to medical dermatology. However, additional exposure to cosmetic procedures during residency may vary depending on the program.

Continuing Education

Cosmetic dermatologists engage in ongoing education to stay abreast of the latest cosmetic procedures, trends, techniques, and technologies. This may involve attending conferences and workshops or pursuing additional certifications in specific cosmetic treatments.

List of Treatments Covered Under Cosmetic Dermatology

  • Botox Injections
  • Dermal Fillers
  • Laser Hair Removal
  • Chemical Peels
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Laser Skin Resurfacing
  • Injectable Lip Augmentation
  • Non-Surgical Facelift
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy
  • Thread Lift
  • Cosmetic Tattooing (Micropigmentation)
  • Body Contouring
  • Scar Revision
  • Hand Rejuvenation
  • Eyelash and Eyebrow Enhancements
  • Cellulite Reduction
  • Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery – Blepharoplasty (Eyelid Surgery), Liposuction, and Fat Grafting

Final Word

While medical and cosmetic dermatology are branches of dermatology, they offer something different. Where medical dermatology addresses skin, hair, and nail conditions, cosmetic dermatology focuses on enhancing appearance through elective procedures. Both specialties play important roles in helping patients achieve healthy and beautiful skin.

At Suncoast Skin Solutions, you are in the hands of skilled professionals who are passionate about skincare. Our dermatologists have years of experience and are leaders in the field, thanks to the latest advancements in dermatology. Our clinic has state-of-the-art equipment to ensure you receive the highest quality of care. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and start your transformation. Call 844-7863-376.

SunCoast Skin Solutions Dermatology offices are located in Tampa / Hillsborough, St. Pete / Pinellas County, Brandon, Lutz, Winter Haven, Largo, Hudson, Leesburg, Jupiter, Lecanto, Riverview, Brooksville, Clearwater, Ocala, Palm Harbor, Daytona Beach, Sarasota, Punta Gorda, Seminole, Jacksonville, (Inverness, Port Charlette, Port Saint Lucie coming soon), Florida. Contact us at 1-844-786-3376 or click here.