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Health Care Providers: Dermatologists

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What Is Dermatology?

Dermatology (derm-uh-TOL-uh-jee) is the medical specialty focused on preventing, diagnosing, and treating diseases and problems of the skin, hair, and nails.

What Is a Dermatologist?

A dermatologist (derm-uh-TOL-uh-jist) is a doctor who helps people take care of their skin, hair, and nails. They diagnose and treat problems when they do happen.

Why Would Someone Need One?

Dermatologists diagnose and treat such skin and hair problems as: 

They might:

  • do an annual dermatology screening (to check for melanoma and other problems)
  • prescribe medicine or lotions
  • do phototherapy (medical treatment with lights)
  • take skin cultures (checking for germs that can infect skin or nails)
  • do biopsies to check for cancer
  • do pulsed dye laser treatment (on warts, port wine stains, hemangiomas, scars, etc.)

What Is Their Training?

A dermatologist's training usually includes:

  • 4 years of pre-medical education at a college or university
  • 4 years of medical school — a medical degree (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree
  • 1 year of training in an internship (usually internal medicine)
  • 3 years of training in a dermatology residency program

They may do a fellowship in a subspecialty such as pediatric dermatology or dermatopathology. A “fellow” is a doctor who undergoes more specialty training after completing medical school and a residency.

Good to Know

Dermatopathology is a subspecialty of dermatology. Dermatopathologists are doctors with expertise in dermatology and pathology. They diagnose conditions by studying skin samples, such as from a biopsy.

Date reviewed: September 2022