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Dermatologist vs. Cosmetologist: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 17, 2024
A dermatologist is a medical doctor specializing in skin health and disorders, while a cosmetologist is trained in beauty treatments like hair, makeup, and skincare.

Key Differences

Dermatologists are medical professionals who diagnose and treat skin diseases and conditions. Cosmetologists, in contrast, focus on beauty services including hair styling, makeup, and general skincare.
To become a dermatologist, one must complete medical school and specialized training in dermatology. Cosmetologists go through vocational training, focusing on beauty techniques and treatments.
Dermatologists are qualified to perform medical procedures, prescribe medications, and treat serious skin conditions. Cosmetologists provide aesthetic services like facials, haircuts, and manicures, but they don't treat medical conditions.
Dermatologists address issues like acne, psoriasis, skin cancer, and allergies. Cosmetologists enhance appearance, working in salons, spas, and the entertainment industry.
Dermatologists play a critical role in health care, focusing on the largest organ of the body, the skin. Cosmetologists contribute to the beauty and wellness industry, helping clients with cosmetic appearance.

Comparison Chart

Primary Focus

Skin health and disorders
Beauty treatments and appearance


Medical degree and dermatology residency
Vocational training in cosmetology

Services Offered

Medical treatments, surgeries, prescriptions
Hair styling, makeup, skincare services

Types of Conditions Treated

Acne, skin cancer, infections
Aesthetic concerns, hair and skin care

Work Environment

Clinics, hospitals
Salons, spas, entertainment industry

Dermatologist and Cosmetologist Definitions


A dermatologist is a doctor specializing in skin health.
The dermatologist diagnosed her skin rash as eczema.


A cosmetologist is trained in beauty services like hair and makeup.
The cosmetologist did her hair and makeup for the wedding.


Dermatologists are trained to diagnose skin cancer.
A dermatologist can conduct a biopsy to check for skin cancer.


Cosmetologists provide skincare treatments in salons.
The cosmetologist offered a facial treatment for glowing skin.


Dermatologists manage complex skin disorders.
The dermatologist is treating his severe psoriasis.


Cosmetologists work with clients to enhance their appearance.
The cosmetologist suggested a new hairstyle for her.


Dermatologists treat skin diseases and perform skin surgeries.
The dermatologist performed a procedure to remove a mole.


Cosmetologists often specialize in areas like hair coloring or nail art.
She is a cosmetologist known for her creative nail designs.


Dermatologists prescribe medications for skin conditions.
The dermatologist prescribed a cream for her acne.


Cosmetologists are skilled in various beauty techniques.
The cosmetologist gave a workshop on modern makeup trends.


The branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the skin.


The study or art of cosmetics and their use.


A person who is skilled in, professes or practices dermatology.


A person who advises people (normally women) on cosmetics and other beauty treatments; a beautician.


One who discourses on the skin and its diseases; one versed in dermatology


An expert in the use of cosmetics.


A doctor who specializes in the physiology and pathology of the skin


An expert in the use of cosmetics


How long does it take to become a dermatologist?

It typically takes about 12 years – undergraduate, medical school, and residency.

Do dermatologists perform surgeries?

Yes, they perform surgeries for skin conditions and cosmetic reasons.

Can cosmetologists prescribe skincare products?

They can recommend over-the-counter products but can't prescribe medications.

Can cosmetologists diagnose skin diseases?

No, diagnosing medical conditions is outside their scope of practice.

What's the difference in training for dermatologists and cosmetologists?

Dermatologists undergo medical training, while cosmetologists complete vocational beauty training.

What conditions can a dermatologist treat?

Dermatologists treat conditions like acne, eczema, skin cancer, and more.

Where do cosmetologists typically work?

They work in salons, spas, and sometimes in the film and fashion industries.

Do dermatologists work with hair and nails?

Yes, as they are parts of skin health, dermatologists can treat hair and nail issues.

What is the scope of practice for a cosmetologist?

Their scope is limited to beauty and cosmetic services.

What services do cosmetologists offer?

They offer hair styling, makeup application, manicures, and skincare treatments.

Can dermatologists conduct skin cancer screenings?

Yes, they are trained to conduct screenings and biopsies for skin cancer.

What skin conditions require a dermatologist?

Chronic or severe conditions like psoriasis, severe acne, and skin infections.

Can cosmetologists offer anti-aging treatments?

They can provide cosmetic anti-aging services but not medical treatments.

How do dermatologists treat skin allergies?

They may prescribe medications and advise on allergen avoidance.

Do cosmetologists need a license to practice?

Yes, they typically need a state-issued license.

Do dermatologists offer cosmetic treatments?

Yes, they offer treatments like Botox, fillers, and laser therapy.

Are cosmetologist services covered by insurance?

Generally, no, as they are considered cosmetic.

Can a dermatologist help with cosmetic scars?

Yes, they can offer treatments to reduce the appearance of scars.

Can cosmetologists treat acne or eczema?

They can offer skincare advice, but treatment of these conditions is the purview of dermatologists.

Are dermatologists medical doctors?

Yes, they are licensed physicians specialized in skin health.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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