Glowing Skin, Healthy You: The Role and Expertise of Dermatologists

Dermatologists diagnose and treat diseases involving the skin, hair, and nails. They also perform cosmetic procedures.


They can help you eliminate a persistently itchy rash that won’t respond to over-the-counter treatments. They can also treat enlarged veins on your legs, called spider veins, by injecting foam or a unique solution into the dilated veins and removing them. To learn more, visit

The skin-the body’s largest organ-shields us from many external threats. But, like any other part of the body, the skin can also present health issues. Some of these are minor, but others signal serious problems. For example, a pesky rash may indicate an allergy or the presence of herpes or shingles. A scaly or patchy appearance or a change in the size or shape of a mole could be melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

In addition, some dermatological conditions can be difficult to diagnose because they can’t be detected by a physical examination alone. A physician’s trained eye, however, can spot these symptoms and determine their causes. The most common conditions that a dermatologist treats include psoriasis, eczema and rosacea; fungal infections such as ringworm, impetigo and tinea versicolor; and precancerous skin changes called actinic keratoses.

The good news is that most of these conditions aren’t life-threatening. They can usually be managed with medication and proper skin care. In fact, some can even be cured if they’re caught early. However, if left untreated, some may progress to serious complications, such as the formation of skin tumors or severe infection.

While researchers and patients have long recognized the psychosocial impact of dermatological conditions, a recent study found that psychological intervention is still rarely available to those with dermatological diseases. This is surprising because the study’s authors cited several studies showing that psychosocial intervention can improve HRQoL in dermatological disease patients. The authors suggest that more attention needs to be paid to this area in the future.

Skin Cancer

A dermatologist can treat skin cancer, which occurs when errors (mutations) in skin cells cause them to grow out of control. These mutations may be caused by sun exposure, which is why the American Cancer Society recommends regular self-examinations and monthly visits to a dermatologist.

A typical skin check involves a head-to-toe visual exam with special attention to hard-to-see areas, such as behind the ears and on the back of your neck. The doctor might also use a dermoscope to see your skin’s under layers. If a spot looks different, your dermatologist will take a sample of the suspicious area and send it to a lab for testing. A biopsy can be painful, but you’ll receive a local anesthetic before the procedure starts.

Once the results are in, your doctor can make a diagnosis. The type of skin cancer can determine the treatment you receive, which might include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgical removal. Some skin cancers are more aggressive than others, so a biopsy is important to detect them early.

In addition to treating skin cancers, dermatologists perform other medical and cosmetic procedures. For example, they can help diminish spider and varicose veins with sclerotherapy. They also inject Botox and fillers into wrinkled and sagging skin to reduce their appearance.

During a skin exam, your dermatologist will check the size, shape and color of your spots and growths. They’ll also look at the surrounding skin for signs of cancer, such as changes in texture, bleeding or itching. A melanoma lesion should be looked at immediately, as it’s the most serious type of skin cancer. The most common sign of a melanoma is a change in the mole’s shape, color or elevation. A melanoma can also have notches or be uneven in size.

If your dermatologist suspects a melanoma, they may use a punch biopsy or electrodesiccation to remove the lesion. These procedures remove the skin-deep layer and may be followed by laser surgery or Mohs surgery to ensure that all cancerous tissue has been removed. They may also prescribe medications that kill cancer cells or help your immune system fight the disease.


A pimple, also called a spot or zit, develops when sebaceous glands (oil glands) become overactive and lead to clogged pores, leading to red, inflamed lesions filled with pus. Acne is most common during adolescence due to hormonal changes, but can happen at any age. If left untreated, severe acne can lead to permanent scarring.

Pimples appear most often on the face, neck, shoulders and chest because those areas have more oil glands. They can also occur on the eyelids (styes), buttocks, ears, scalp, armpits or external genitals. Pimples aren’t just embarrassing, but they can affect a person’s mental health. They can cause anxiety and depression, and can interfere with normal social interactions. If you have pimples that affect your self-esteem, it’s important to seek treatment.

There are many treatments for pimples, including over-the-counter (OTC) cleansers and creams that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to help prevent clogged pores and kill bacteria. A healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains may also help reduce the frequency of acne breakouts.

It’s important to avoid squeezing pimples because doing so can cause inflammation and lead to scarring. Also, never use pimple-popping tools; those should only be used by a medical professional, such as a dermatologist or a licensed medical aesthetician. Using these tools too hard can draw blood and hurt the skin, causing inflammation and making the pimple worse.

People with a family history of acne are more prone to it, but hormonal fluctuations and the type of bacteria (P. acnes) present are the most likely culprits. While dietary changes are sometimes recommended as part of acne treatment, it’s unclear whether they actually have any impact on the disease. However, it is a good idea to try them as a complement to proven acne treatments. In some cases, a dermatologist may prescribe oral medications such as antibiotics or birth control pills to reduce the severity of acne. These medicines can also help prevent scarring. If these don’t work, a dermatologist may recommend laser treatments to help improve appearance. These treatments typically involve a series of sessions over the course of a few months and are usually performed by a licensed medical aesthetician.

Hair Issues

Hair problems can occur for a number of reasons. One is called anagen effluvium, which occurs when cancer medications shut down healthy hair follicles and cause hair to fall out rapidly. This condition usually reverses after the chemotherapy ends, and dermatologists can prescribe medications to help your hair grow back more quickly. Hair loss can also result from autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata and discoid lupus erythematosus, and from inflammatory skin diseases like folliculitis decalvans.

Some people pull on their hair to relieve stress, a habit called trichotillomania. Dermatologists can prescribe medication to stop this problem, which affects about 1 in 50 people.