Difference between Cosmetic Dermatology and Medical Dermatology

Difference between Cosmetic Dermatology and Medical Dermatology


At Skin Care Research, we conduct clinical trials in both medical dermatology and cosmetic dermatology. Potential study participants often wonder what’s the difference between the two. 

So, in this autumn blog, let’s discuss the differences. That way you’ll have a better idea of what clinical trials could be of interest to you. 

What is a dermatologist? 

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in the skin, the largest organ of the human body. Dermatologists also treat diseases involving the lips, nails, mouth, and even the hair. 

Most people think of a dermatologist when it comes to having their skin checked for the signs of skin cancer or when a teenager is dealing with serious acne. But today dermatologists often also provide chemical peels and Botox injections. 

What is medical dermatology? 

Medical dermatology involves medical problems with your skin. Skin cancer is the most serious issue, and it’s recommended that adults see a dermatologist once a year for a skin cancer screening. Medical dermatologists are trained to spot suspicious lesions that could be basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or melanoma. Often, at least with small lesions, the same dermatologist will remove the lesion, whether to provide a biopsy or to fully remove it. 

Some dermatologists have also received specific training in Mohs’ surgical methods. Mohs’ surgery removes rings of skin surrounding a skin cancer lesion. The outer edges of these rings are immediately tested for the presence of cancer cells before the patient incision is closed. If cells are still present, more tissue is removed, and the sample again tested. This is continued until the edges are clear. This makes Mohs’ surgery nearly perfect in removing all of a skin cancer. 

Medical dermatologists also treat myriad skin conditions: eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, cysts, warts, rashes, moles, and other skin issues. 

Medical dermatology is covered by insurance. 

What is cosmetic dermatology? 

Cosmetic dermatology doesn’t work with skin diseases or growths. It instead focuses on the aesthetic problems of the skin. These include smoothing wrinkles, treating hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), tightening sagging skin, addressing age spots and pigmentation issues, shrinking large pores, improving poor skin texture, and anything else about the aesthetic appearance of the skin. Cosmetic dermatologists provide dermal filler (Juvederm, Restylane, etc.) and neuromodulator (Botox, etc.) injections, Kybella injections (to shrink double chins), laser and intense pulsed light treatments for skin tightening, laser skin resurfacing, and other treatments. 

Cosmetic dermatology is treated as “elective” and is typically not covered by insurance. 

Are you interested in one of our medical or cosmetic dermatology clinical trials at Skin Care Research? Call us at (561) 948-3116 to see if you’re eligible.