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What is a Dermatologist?

A Dermatologist is a medical doctor who has sub-specialised in skin disease; ranging from inflammatory conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, to skin cancers such as melanoma. There are over 2000 recognised skin conditions, so accurate diagnosis is crucial to successful management and pattern recognition is key to a Dermatologist’s role! 

What does a Dermatologist’s job usually involve?

The skin is the largest organ in the human body, and is often the first or most visible presentation of underlying disease. Dermatologists therefore liaise with many other medical and surgical specialists on a regular basis as many conditions overlap the various specialties. Most Dermatologists work (at least part time) in a hospital setting seeing patients in the outpatient clinic who have been referred in by their GP. They also see inpatients on the wards who may have new or concerning acute skin conditions whilst in hospital such as a serious drug allergy rash. Most Dermatologists also practice skin surgery and carry out procedures such as skin biopsies and mole removals (excisions).

What is the most common condition a Dermatologist sees?

Skin cancer (mole or lesion checks) makes up the majority of referrals from GPs. Other non-cancerous common conditions include: atopic eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, acne and urticaria.

Do Dermatologists treat children?

Yes the UK curriculum for a Dermatology specialist doctor includes paediatric dermatology as a compulsory element, therefore all UK trained Dermatologists will have successfully completed a certain amount of experience working in paediatric clinics seeing skin disease in children. In the hospital setting, Dermatologists look after the skin of all ages from newborn babies to the elderly.

What is the difference between a Dermatologist and a Cosmetic/Aesthetic doctor?

Whilst both have completed medical degrees at university to obtain their primary medical qualification, a Consultant Dermatologist has undergone further medical training (minimum 6 years) specialising firstly in internal general medicine (2 years) to qualify as a Member of the Royal College of Physicians, followed by a further 4 years of dermatology specific training in the specialist setting to become an expert in skin disease. This culminates in the Specialty Certificate Examination in Dermatology before becoming a Consultant. An Aesthetic doctor may have come from any medical or surgical background and will have completed courses in the specific cosmetic-focussed treatments that they wish to practice. 

Do Dermatologists practice cosmetic procedures/treatments?

Yes Dermatologists often treat cosmetic concerns (eg. anti-wrinkle treatments) but only in the private sector as this is not covered by the NHS in a hospital setting.  A Dermatologist’s primary role is to treat disease of the skin but most practice a holistic approach to address all the patient concerns which may include a cosmetic element. Some skin diseases such as acne and rosacea may be deemed to have a cosmetic element, but are recognised skin conditions for which treatment is available on the NHS.