Um, Should You Be Seeing a Dermatologist For That?

Know when to ditch the spa and head to the doctor's office.


Be good to your face – you only get one. | Shutterstock

The business of skincare is filled with people telling you what to do with your face, but since the FDA does not regulate cosmetics (and skincare falls under cosmetics) how do you know if your products are safe  –  or even working, for that matter? Navigating the aisles of creams, serums, cleansers, oils, masks and peels — all of which promise youth and radiance — can be scary and overwhelming. That’s why when there’s an issue with your skin, it’s good to turn to the pros: dermatologists and aestheticians. Confused about who to see when? We’ve got you covered.

As laid out in full by this article, the main difference between derms and aesties (yes, that’s actually a term used in the beauty industry) is that dermatologists are doctors and aestheticians are not. Aesthetician schools require a specific number of credited hours — the requirement varies from state to state — plus a major license test (except Connecticut; apparently there’s no regulation there, yikes), while becoming a certified dermatologist requires at least six years of med school and residency.

Therefore, you guessed it, derms can write prescriptions for heavy-duty acne treatment medicines, as well as perform intensive laser treatments for scarring, skin resurfacing, color correction, etc. You should see a dermatologist for issues like psoriasis, eczema, anything pussing or festering (seriously, go), and yearly skin cancer screenings.

But aestheticians are not to be overlooked, as most people do not need invasive, medical-grade treatment for their skin. If you’re looking to clear up blemishes, brighten dull skin or hydrate those dry areas, head to the spa. Aestheticians study the skin at a cellular level, and are generally well-versed in non-prescription remedies, like natural botanicals and oils which can be used to treat many common skin issues. You can even find topical laser treatments at spas to lift, tone, and resurface your face.

The holy grail of skincare? Medical spas, which combine the expertise of your dermatologist with all the creature comforts of a spa. Here, derms and aesties work together to diagnose and treat all skin issues, making med spas something of a one-stop shop for any problem you’re facing.

And if med spas don’t sound like your thing, ask your dermatologist which ingredients are best for your skin, and let your aesthetician know. This way you can treat your face with products far gentler than prescription-grade while staying on the right path for your skin.