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Dermatologist vs. Cosmetologist — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on March 20, 2024
Dermatologists are medical professionals specializing in skin health and diseases, while cosmetologists focus on beauty treatments for aesthetic enhancement.
Dermatologist vs. Cosmetologist — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Dermatologist and Cosmetologist


Key Differences

Dermatologists are medically trained to diagnose and treat skin diseases, including complex conditions like eczema and psoriasis. On the other hand, cosmetologists provide beauty services such as hair styling, makeup, and skincare, mainly for cosmetic purposes.
While dermatologists perform medical procedures like biopsies and surgical treatments, cosmetologists offer non-medical services like facials, hair treatments, and manicures, enhancing appearance.
Dermatologists require extensive medical education, including a medical degree and specialized residency, highlighting their expertise in skin health. Cosmetologists, whereas, typically complete vocational training and state licensure exams focused on aesthetic practices.
Patients seek dermatologists for medical skin issues, potentially life-threatening like melanoma, whereas cosmetologists are chosen for beauty and grooming needs, emphasizing personal style and maintenance.
Dermatologists might prescribe medication and recommend lifestyle changes for skin health, while cosmetologists may suggest cosmetic products and routines to improve one's appearance.

Comparison Chart


Medical degree + specialized residency
Vocational training + licensure exams


Medical treatments for skin conditions
Beauty services (hair, makeup, skincare)


Skin health and diseases
Aesthetic enhancement and grooming


Surgical treatments, biopsies
Facials, hair treatments, manicures


Patients with skin issues
Individuals seeking beauty and grooming services

Compare with Definitions


Focuses on diagnosing and treating skin conditions.
A dermatologist can treat severe acne with prescription medications.


Specializes in cosmetic treatments for hair, skin, and nails.
A cosmetologist might style hair for special events.


Can perform medical and surgical procedures.
Dermatologists remove moles and skin tags through minor surgical procedures.


Provides aesthetic services like facials and makeup.
Cosmetologists offer makeup application services for weddings.


Deals with complex skin diseases like melanoma.
Dermatologists use advanced imaging to detect skin cancer early.


Aims to enhance personal appearance.
A cosmetologist can give a client a complete makeover.


Requires a medical degree and residency in dermatology.
After medical school, dermatologists complete a residency focusing on skin diseases.


Suggests beauty products and routines.
A cosmetologist might recommend a skincare routine tailored to the client's skin type.


Can prescribe medications for skin issues.
A dermatologist might prescribe antibiotics for bacterial skin infections.


Requires vocational training and state licensure.
Cosmetologists attend beauty schools to learn various beauty techniques.


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

Common Curiosities

Can a dermatologist prescribe medication?

Yes, as medical doctors, dermatologists can prescribe medications for skin conditions.

What education is required to become a dermatologist?

Dermatologists must complete a medical degree followed by a specialized residency in dermatology.

What services do cosmetologists offer?

Cosmetologists offer services like hair styling, makeup application, and skincare treatments.

Can cosmetologists treat skin diseases?

No, cosmetologists are not licensed to treat skin diseases; they focus on aesthetic and beauty treatments.

Is a referral needed to see a dermatologist?

Depending on healthcare policies, a referral from a primary care physician may be required to see a dermatologist.

Can cosmetologists provide medical advice?

Cosmetologists are not qualified to provide medical advice; their scope is limited to beauty and cosmetic services.

Are dermatological treatments covered by insurance?

Many dermatological treatments, especially for medical conditions, are covered by insurance, but coverage varies by policy.

How do dermatologists and cosmetologists differ in their approach to skin care?

Dermatologists focus on medical health and treatment of skin diseases, while cosmetologists focus on aesthetic and beauty treatments.

Can dermatologists help with cosmetic procedures?

Yes, some dermatologists also specialize in cosmetic procedures like botox and fillers.

Do dermatologists perform surgeries?

Yes, dermatologists can perform surgical procedures to treat skin conditions or remove lesions.

What should someone expect during a first visit to a dermatologist?

A first visit may include a comprehensive skin examination, discussion of medical history, and possible treatment plans for any identified conditions.

Do cosmetologists need to be licensed?

Yes, cosmetologists must be licensed, which typically involves completing vocational training and passing state licensure exams.

What kind of skin conditions can dermatologists treat?

Dermatologists can treat a wide range of skin conditions, from acne and eczema to skin cancer.

What's the difference between a cosmetology school and medical school?

Cosmetology schools focus on beauty treatments and techniques, while medical schools provide comprehensive education in medicine, including dermatology.

Can cosmetologists cut hair?

Yes, hair cutting is a fundamental skill taught in cosmetology programs.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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