When Should You See a Medical Dermatologist?

Did you know that there are different specialties within the field of dermatology? Some dermatologists specialize in what's known as cosmetic dermatology — treatments aimed primarily at enhancing or changing a person's appearance. Other dermatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating medical conditions related to the skin, hair, and nails. It's not always easy to determine which type of dermatologist to see. For some conditions, like acne, you really could see either type. However, if you're dealing with any of the following problems, you're best off seeing a medical dermatologist.

Yellow Nails

Yellow nails may seem like a cosmetic problem. However, in most cases, the yellowing is caused by a fungal infection of the nails. As such, you really should see a dermatologist who focuses on medical disorders. They're more likely to be able to diagnose the specific type of fungal infection you're dealing with and prescribe a product that will treat it effectively. They may also recommend more advanced treatments, such as removing the affected nail to directly treat the nail bed.


Rosacea is a skin condition that causes redness, puffiness of the nose, and tiny pimples. It is not just a cosmetic issue, although people are often most concerned about how it impacts their appearance. Rosacea is a complex condition that doctors are still working to understand. It seems to have both a bacterial and an autoimmune component, and some even think it may be caused or worsened by tiny skin mites. A medical dermatologist will help you find the treatment that works best for you, which may require a little trial and error.

Abnormal Moles

Some moles look strange but are pretty harmless. Others may look okay, but may in fact be cancerous. If there's a skin lesion you're at all worried about, look for a medical dermatologist. They tend to be the most informed and knowledgeable about skin cancer. They also tend to have established, professional relationships with oncologists, or doctors who treat cancer. If you are found to have skin cancer, then your dermatologist and oncologist will generally work together to treat you. The earlier you get both of these professionals on board, the better. 

If you're dealing with any of the issues above, look for a dermatologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating medical conditions. But don't be too worried. If your dermatologist thinks you'll be better served by a different medical professional, they can give you a referral.