What is a Dermatologist?

Dermatologists are physicians who have specialized knowledge and training to care for patients of any age with diseases and conditions of the skin.  Dermatologists treat conditions that range from life-threatening skin cancers and drug reactions; to life-disrupting conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne; as well as skin changes associated with aging.

There are more than 3,000 diseases of the skin.  Most doctors who are not dermatologists have only one or two months of dermatology education and clinical experience during medical school and residency.

In contrast, board-certified dermatologists have years of specialized training in diseases of the skin, hair and nails and mucous membranes.  To become a dermatologist, you must complete four years of college, plus four years of medical school; then you must complete a year of internship, three years in specialized dermatology training (residency), then pass certifying examinations verifying one’s knowledge of the field, and actively participate in continuing certification activities.

In their three years of residency training, dermatology residents learn how to recognize and diagnose skin diseases in adults and children, how to biopsy and interpret the microscopic presentation of skin disease, how to surgically and medically treat skin diseases (such as skin cancer and rashes) as well as normal skin aging (including Botox, fillers, and age spots).

Some dermatologists focus their practice on specific areas. Physicians who have completed their three years of general dermatology training may continue for an additional year to specialize in pediatric dermatology, in an area focused on skin cancers -- micrographic surgery and dermatologic oncology, or in dermatopathology.

For more details, see: FAQs for the Public

Some of the 3,000 skin conditions and diseases that Dermatologists diagnose and treat:

  • Skin cancers
  • Rashes and hives
  • Itchy, flaky skin, including eczema and psoriasis
  • Open sores and blisters of the skin and mouth
  • Skin findings associated with internal diseases
  • Moles
  • Birthmarks
  • Acne and rosacea
  • Warts and molluscum
  • Skin infections caused by bacteria, fungus, yeast, and other organisms
  • Cysts and other abnormal bumps and bulges on the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal nails
  • Discolorations of the skin
  • Skin changes associated with aging
  • Inherited skin conditions