How to Know If You Should See an Esthetician or a Dermatologist

Aug 28, 2020

In a perfect world, our skin would be all of the following at all times: clear, glowing, and healthy. However, until that world actually exists, we must figure out how to make our skin happy on our own—and when to call in the big guns if necessary, like a dermatologist or an esthetician.

If you've ever gotten a facial or an eyebrow wax, you've probably seen an esthetician. And if you've ever gotten a skin check, you've probably seen a dermatologist. But what exactly does each one do? And when should you see one over the other?

Luckily, seeing either one will usually help you improve the quality of your skin in some way, but there are a few instances in which it really pays to see one or the other. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the qualifications for dermatologists and estheticians, and when you ought to visit each.

Sometimes, you should definitely go straight to the derm.

For the record, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded in 2016 that there isn’t enough evidence for those without symptoms to get a full body skin cancer screening every year. But you should definitely talk to a dermatologist if you notice anything that might be a symptom, such as a mole that’s large or evolving, and the AAD recommends screening yourself to make sure you know what’s normal for you.

There are certain other issues that can only be addressed by a dermatologist. Specifically, deep and painful acne lesions, cystic acne, acne that’s already started to scar, redness, or anything that’s scabbing and crusting would warrant a visit to your derm, Dr. Chapas says.

Additionally, anything that hasn’t already been diagnosed—rashes, dryness, sensitivity, and brown spots, chiefly—should be seen by a derm first, Carolyn Jacob, M.D., a clinical instructor of dermatology at Northwestern University, tells SELF. Even if all you want to do is get rid of it, she says the risks involved with seeking out a quick fix before knowing exactly what you’re dealing with are far too great.

If you have a new brown spot, for instance, you’ll want to check with a dermatologist before getting it addressed by an esthetician. Instead of a harmless freckle or acne-related dark spot, it could be a melanoma, Dr. Jacob explains. A cancerous mole is addressed very differently and could be deadly if left untreated.

If you’re looking for pampering or routine maintenance, an esthetician can help with that.

As Dr. Jacob puts it, esthetic procedures like facials and extractions can be soothing, relaxing, and downright fun parts of one’s skin-care routine.

Even though an esthetician won’t be able to offer treatments for severe or medical skin conditions, they may be able to improve the appearance of your skin overall. Anyone who’s simply looking for glowier skin (read: thoroughly moisturized, exfoliated, massaged, and calmed) will probably be best served at an esthetician’s office, Dr. Chapas says.

Once you’re squared away with any diagnoses you need and have your derm on call in case you notice any changes in your skin, you can go forth and enjoy a monthly facial at your favorite spa with ease.

Estheticians and dermatologists can—and do—work together.

It’s possible that an esthetician may refer you to a dermatologist, and vice versa. Warfield explains that, technically, estheticians are not allowed to treat any diseases of the skin. So, if they notice a lot of sun damage on the top of a client’s ear, for example, they can educate them on the importance of sun protection, but they will need to recommend that the client go see a derm for further evaluation.



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