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The two sides of Dermatology—Clinical and Cosmetic

Dermatology is the study of health conditions that affect the skin, nails, hair and membranes. It involves research, diagnosis and management of the health conditions that are concerned with this area of health care. This branch of medical science deals with skin as a whole, including its structure, various functions and the diseases associated with it.

A dermatologist treats patients that have disorders, benign or malignant related to the above mentioned external areas of the body (skin, hair and nails). They are specialists in diagnosing and treating any issues related to skin and also cosmetic issues such as skin aging, damage from the sun, and other skin conditions such as skin cancer.

How common are skin diseases?

Skin is the largest organ of the body and it covers approximately 90% of the human body. Its main purpose is to protect the internal organs, provide warmth to the body and protect it against harsh UV rays of the sun and harmful chemicals and toxins of the environment. With the increase in pollution, there has been an alarming rise in the skin diseases. It is estimated that approximately 15% of all the doctor visits are to a dermatologist or skin related. At one point of time, everyone is affected by some or the other skin disease, whether an infant, child, adult or elderly.

What are the most common skin diseases?

Some of the most common skin disorders include:

What involves a dermatologist’s training?

The various courses in dermatology are offered only to licensed doctors who are looking to build a career in dermatology or cosmetology or the ones who are currently practicing in a different field but have a special interest in dermatology.

An individual who has the degree of MBBS/ DVD or MD can take up a post graduate diploma in medical cosmetology which is a 2 year course and is a full time diploma. The students have to work for a complete period of 2 years in the department of dermatology. They get to closely watch and learn the different procedures of cosmetic dermatology.

The students get to deal with various medical conditions, both medical and surgical that are associated with skin, nail and hair. This helps them to develop competency in treating different patients with different skin conditions.

Is the role of dermatologists changing?

There is a lot of action happening in dermatology and the dermatologists should be prepared for all the technological advancement that is happening in the industry. Thus, it would not be wrong to say that the role of dermatologists is changing with the changes in technology and also the medical advancement that is happening much faster now. In the coming future, it is expected that there will be smarter algorithms that will help the dermatologists make much faster and accurate diagnosis and thus provide the best treatments as well.

Different types of Dermatology

Dermatology has been broadly divided into two different types:

Clinical Dermatology

The specialty medicine that deals with skin diseases and its treatments is called clinical dermatology. It encompasses the various health conditions associated with skin, hair and nails and their potential treatments.


Skin is the largest organ of the human body that covers approximately 90% of the body. The main function of skin is to protect the body against any kind of infections or alarm the body against any kind of senses such as smell, pain or touch. Its other functions include protection against the harmful UV rays of the sun, maintaining blood vessels and sweat glands that are responsible for regulating the temperature of the body and protecting the skin against any kind of harmful chemicals and toxins that are present in the environment. Apart from performing several functions medically, skin is also responsible for reflecting one’s age, gender, race, and overall health.

Clinical dermatology has treatments for several skin conditions such as skin infections, rashes, and itchy skin to even skin cancer.

  • Acne: One of the most common skin issues among adolescents and young adults is acne which is also the number one reason for which patients visit a dermatologist. Even though the health condition is common, it is individualized to the patient and needs a different customized approach for everyone. Acne does not just affect the skin; it affects the self-esteem of an individual.
  • Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis: Eczema is another common skin condition that is prevalent among young children, barely out of their puberty. The main symptom of the condition is intense itching that leaves behind a rash. Skin that is dry and sensitive is more prone to Eczema and needs constant care and attention. Eczema is a common condition that is treated by the dermatologists on a daily basis.
  • Itchy Skin: While itchy skin might look like an ordinary health condition, it can have devastating results that adversely affects the quality of life. It is a common problem that is treated by dermatologists on a day to day basis. The condition can be a result of several mechanisms and there is no specific cause of the disease. This often makes it difficult to treat. But an experienced dermatologist will thoroughly evaluate the condition and then offer a treatment plan. It is medically called ‘Pruritus’.


Hair is formed of Keratin, an insoluble protein that forms the main structure of hair and nails. It helps to protect the skin, keeps the body warm and also protects the eyes (eyelashes and eyebrows) against any potential harm or injury. Hair replenishes itself and is considered a barometer of one’s health. They are also an indicator of age, gender and race of an individual.

Clinical dermatology has some advanced treatments to treat the different kinds of hair problems ranging from dandruff to unexplained hair loss. Most of the hair problems can be reversed completely if they are treated well in time.

  • Alopecia: Alopecia is a medical condition where there is rapid hair loss. When there is excessive shedding or thinning of hair it is regarded as abnormal Alopecia needs immediate medical attention. Hair does not just provide mere functions of insulation, sensation or protection, rather it is much more than that and it affects one’s self-esteem and social life. Thus, it is important to treat conditions such as Alopecia at an early stage so they can be easily reversed.
  • Dandruff: The other common medical condition associated with hair is dandruff. It is medically called Seborrheic dermatitis and its common symptom is itching. The condition is common with infants, adolescents and adults alike and directly affects the scalp. Face and chest can also be affected indirectly. While dermatologist can easily treat this condition, a medical evaluation is suggested as the symptom of dandruff is associated with other medical conditions as well.


Even nails are made of Keratin. There are several diseases of the nails such as infections and nail fungi that are a result of improper hygiene, wrong methods of nail trimming, unhygienic manicures and pedicures or even wearing tight shoes! Often nails are also affected by medical conditions such as Cancer or Diabetes.

Most of the medical conditions associated with nails can be completely cured and reversed, if treated early, thanks to Clinical Dermatology!

Treatments covered under Clinical Dermatology

Following treatments are made available under Clinical Dermatology:

  • Acne
  • Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin cancer
  • Skin infections
  • Skin rashes
  • Warts
  • Dandruff
  • Hair problems
  • Hives
  • Rosacea
  • Scar management
  • Pediatric dermatology
  • Excessive sweating
  • Common skin growths
  • Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

Cosmetic or Aesthetic Dermatology

Complementing the clinical dermatology, Cosmetic or Aesthetic dermatology is all about improving and enhancing the appearance of skin, hair and nail cosmetically, artistically and aesthetically. As opposed to clinical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology is very rarely considered a medical necessity but it still helps to eliminate the major concerns of medical dermatology. According to a research, approximately 12 billion cosmetic procedures were performed in the year 2011 right from the privacy of a physician’s office.

Some of the popular treatments that are performed under cosmetic dermatology are meant to provide deep cleansing, rejuvenating, refreshing, and restoring texture and tone of skin. They also work to reduce much visible skin imperfections such as scars, acne, skin tags, moles, birth marks, stretch marks, age spots, lines, wrinkles, Melasma and skin discoloration.

Skin Tightening

There are several cosmetic dermatology programs such as microdermabrasion, dermal fillers and chemical peels that are designed to tighten sagging facial and body areas. This helps to get a desired look or transform a present one.

Anti-aging products

There are medical based anti-aging skin care products that are designed specifically to reduce the ill effects of sun damage and premature aging. These products, also known as cosmeceuticals, have a higher concentration of medical grade ingredients and help to maintain a healthy and youthful skin. All these products are well researched that ensures stability and safety and also these are pharmaceutically formulated.

It is worth mentioning here that there are several factors that contribute to skin damage and premature aging and that can be controlled too. These are smoking, pollution, exposure to sun, lack of hygiene, using ineffective and sub-quality skin-care products and extreme weight gain or weight loss.

Vein Treatments

Vein treatments are also very popular in cosmetic dermatology. Varicose, spider and bulging veins are often very painful and unsightly and they can be easily treated using the laser treatments with the help of specialized lasers. The procedures used to treat these conditions include laser technology or sclerotherapy that uses a saline solution.

Laser Hair Removal

Lasers are considered the most effective surgical tools that are present today. They have been used for more than 40 years now to treat several health conditions associated with skin, hair and nail. Some of the most popular ones include treating conditions such as acne, brown spots, birth marks or laser hair removal.

Laser hair removal is the second most popular procedure that is done using lasers, after skin correction.

Puffy Eyes

Cosmetic dermatology also makes use of ‘Botox’. It is a purified protein that is used in various procedures to reduce wrinkles and result in a youthful, rejuvenated and younger looking skin. Botox has been approved by FDA to be used in multiple medical conditions that involve eyes, bladder, muscles, headaches and problem of excessive sweating. Cosmetic dermatology offers cure for puffy eyes using Botox.

Now days, it is quite easy to get started with the cosmetic treatments. You need a consultation with a medical professional who will evaluate your medical condition and then present the various cosmetic options that are available. The different needs and desires of the patients are studied and a custom plan is designed to suit their requirements. Apart from the medical staff, Aestheticians are also present during a skin care program.

 Some of the benefits of cosmetic procedures (minimal) are:

  1. They cost very less
  2. They take very little time
  3. There is very minimal or no risk involved
  4. The patient gets immediate results
  5. The procedure can be done in several stages
  6. There is a flexibility of options
  7. There are very few follow ups
  8. They can be fine tuned easily
  9. They require office based appointments

Treatments covered under Cosmetic Dermatology

  • Cleansers
  • General skin care
  • CoolSculpting
  • Laser therapy
  • Laser treatments
  • Skin Rejuvenation
  • Skin care products
  • Sunscreen
  • Volumizers
  • Facial, waxing etc.
  • Hair transplantation
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Kybella treatment
  • Therapy for spider and Varicose vein
  • Masters in Dermatology
  • Diploma in Clinical dermatology
  • Diploma in Cosmetic science
  • American board of Aesthetic medicine
  • American board of laser surgery

List of Few National and International Diploma courses and degrees in Cosmetic Dermatology

Best Medical and Pharmacy Programs in the World Today

King’s College London

Harvard College

UCSF School of Medicine

UW Medicine

The Johns Hopkins University

Stanford Medicine

University of Cambridge

Columbia University Irving Medical Center

UCL Medical School

UT Southwestern Medical School

David Geffen School of Medicine

Societies & Associations in India

Cosmetic Dermatology Society India

Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (IADVL)

International Master Course on Aging Science (IMCAS)

Societies & Associations in UK

British Association of Dermatologists

The Primary Care Dermatology Society

European Dermatology Forum

British Medical Laser Association

Indian Dermatology Online Journal

Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology

Indian Journal of Dermatology