A cosmetic dermatologist is a physician specializing in treatments which aim to restore the appearance of aged or damaged skin. While in its goals her work can bear similarities to that of a plastic surgeon, typically a cosmetic dermatologist administers only treatments requiring a minimal amount of surgical intervention. Some of the most common procedures performed by this type of physician are Botox® injections, chemical peels, scar erasure, and laser hair removal.
Many people enlist the expertise of a cosmetic dermatologist to conceal the skin’s natural aging process, particularly its tendency to wrinkle. Thus a common function of her job is administering Botox®, a bacteria-derived toxin that inhibits the muscular contractions that can lead to facial wrinkles. During a Botox® treatment, the dermatologist uses a fine needle to inject small amounts of the toxin into the wrinkle-causing muscles, effectively paralyzing them for a period of approximately three to six months. While it is fairly quick, this treatment requires a high level of skill from the dermatologist, who must place her injections so they do not significantly alter the patient’s facial expressions.
Another regular function of the cosmetic dermatologist is giving chemical peels. These treatments speed the breakdown of old layers of skin and can diminish the appearance of acne scarring, fine lines, and discoloration. To administer a chemical peel, the doctor applies an acidic solution to the patient’s face. Over a period of several days the patient’s outer layer of facial skin then peels away, revealing the fresh skin beneath. As overexposure to the chemical agent can severely aggravate the skin, the dermatologist must exercise precision when administering a peel.
Cosmetic dermatologists also commonly treat the scars that can arise from injury or from skin conditions like acne. There are a number of possible treatment options for scar improvement and the most suitable course depends on the nature of a patient’s scar. Common procedures include using a laser to smooth the appearance of the scarred skin, lifting pocked skin with small surgical instruments, and injecting a filling agent like silicone to plump up depressed skin areas.
Laser hair removal is another regular facet of the cosmetic dermatologist’s job. During this procedure, she applies a small laser to the area where a patient wishes to eliminate hair growth. The laser disperses a high amount of heat to that area’s hair follicles, damaging them and thereby discouraging hair growth. Often this procedure must be repeated over several visits before noticeable results are achieved.