What is dermatologic surgery?
Dermatologic surgery is the practice of dermatology that specializes in surgical procedures and minimally invasive treatments to improve the health, function and appearance of your skin.
Who is a dermatologic surgeon?
A dermatologic surgeon is a board-certified physician who specializes in skin surgery.Their primary focus is on the health and beauty of your skin – from head to toe. Nearly all dermatologic surgeons perform both medically necessary and cosmetic surgery procedures to maintain the health, function and appearance of your skin.
Dermatologic surgeons are pioneers in the research and development of many of today’s most effective therapeutic and cosmetic skin care solutions. For example, the art and science of procedures for the treatment of skin cancer, aging and sun-damaged skin, unwanted hair, varicose veins, scars, undesirable body fat, hair loss and more were investigated and refined by dermatologic surgeons.
What can dermatologic surgeons do for you?
Dermatologic surgeons specialize in the use of surgical and non-surgical skills and methods for diagnosing and treating various skin, hair, nail and vein conditions, including benign growths, skin cancers, aging skin, unwanted fat, excess hair and varicose veins. As experts on living skin cells, dermatologic surgeons are uniquely qualified to employ a range of corrective and preventive techniques to keep skin healthy, vibrant and youthful-looking. In fact, dermatologic surgeons are responsible for the development and refinement of many of today’s therapeutic and cosmetic surgery procedures.
Great strides in minimally invasive techniques and today’s advanced technologies now enable dermatologic surgeons to achieve medically effective and cosmetically elegant results. Procedures are typically less intense, safe and heal more quickly than ever before. Further, treatment is usually performed in the physician’s office, which translates to added convenience and cost-effectiveness.
What are the common treatments used in dermatologic surgery?
Anti-aging and cosmetic approaches
Skin rejuvenation techniques include topical products applied to the skin, botulinum toxin, brow lifts, chemical peels, dermabrasion, eyelid surgeries, laser treatment, liposuction, microdermabrasion, mini face lifts, neck and jowl treatments, and soft-tissue fillers.
Age spots and birthmark correction
With laser and light-based technologies and chemical peels, dermatologic surgeons have dramatically advanced the treatment of birthmarks and age spots, medically referred to as benign vascular and pigmented lesions. They can now successfully treat birthmarks of virtually every size, type and color on all parts of the body with or without scalpels in an out-patient setting.
Chemical peels are beneficial in the treatment of wrinkles around the eye and mouth, skin discoloration and age spots as well as dull skin texture and mild acne scars. The procedure involves the application of a special chemical solution to remove outer layers of aged, discolored and irregular skin. Fresh skin is then generated, which is usually smoother, less wrinkled and more even in color. Dermatologic surgeons pioneered chemical peeling procedures more than 50 years ago and have perfected a range of peeling techniques and solutions.
Dermabrasion is a resurfacing procedure where the skin is mechanically smoothed to achieve a rejuvenated appearance. It is used to treat scarring, remove tattoos and minimize age spots, wrinkles and certain types of skin growths.
Hair loss and restoration
Dermatology is the only medical specialty that focuses on the biology of hair, studying the causes and treatment of hair loss. Having invented hair transplant procedures back in the 1950s, dermatologic surgeons are trained in a combination of techniques to produce the best results. These include hair restoration treatment using standard, mini and micro-grafts; scalp reduction for extensive balding; scalp extenders or tissue expanders; scalp lift and scalp flaps.
Laser hair removal
Laser and light-based technologies have revolutionized the therapeutic and cosmetic practice of dermatologic surgery. By penetrating the melanin in the hair shaft and disabling the hair follicle, long wavelength lasers and pulsed light sources can effectively remove unwanted hair from the face, underarms, back, legs and bikini area on patients of just about all skin types. Laser hair removal also can successfully treat inflamed and bumpy skin caused by ingrown hair.
Laser resurfacing and skin rejuvenation
Laser resurfacing is a cosmetic solution for skin with significant sun damage, wrinkles, acne scars, freckles and age spots. This technique removes the top layers of skin as it gently smoothes and precisely contours the skin surface. Non-ablative (non-wounding) skin rejuvenation is an ideal treatment for those with mild to moderate aging and sun-damaged skin. Non-ablative lasers and light-based devices bypass the top skin layers to stimulate collagen production and tighten underlying skin without patient downtime.
Liposuction using local anesthesia
With the bottom layer of skin made up of fat cells, it is no wonder cosmetic dermatologic surgeons have extensive experience in performing liposuction to remove unwanted or excess body fat. In the 1980s, they introduced the concept of using local anesthesia, often referred to as tumescent liposuction, which allows the physician to perform the procedures in the office with increased safety and superior cosmetic results.
Neuromodulators (botulinum toxin)
First introduced in the U.S. by a dermatologic surgeon in 1991, botulinum toxin injections are used primarily to paralyze certain facial muscles which cause frown lines, crow's feet and other wrinkles. It works by relaxing the underlying facial muscles and that help form wrinkles, an effect that lasts for three to four months. It also is used to improve neck lines and control excessive sweating.
Whether as the result of acne, a skin disease like chicken pox, stretch marks or trauma to the skin, there are several therapeutic and cosmetic dermatologic remedies to improve the appearance of scars. High-tech lasers, dermabrasion, punch grafts and chemical peels are some of the more common treatments developed or refined by dermatologic surgeons for scar improvement.
Dermatologic surgeons are the unrivaled specialists in the diagnosis, removal, closure and overall treatment of skin cancer. From Mohs micrographic surgery to simple biopsy and excisions as well as preventive laser therapy of pre-cancerous growths, dermatologic surgeons can control and effectively treat skin cancer with early detection.
Skin disease management: Acne, psoriasis, rosacea and vitiligo
Advances in laser technology spearheaded by dermatologic surgeons provide new treatments for chronic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, rosacea and vitiligo. These and other skin disorders, which a mere 10 years ago required extensive and invasive surgery or were simply resistant to treatment, can now be successfully managed.
Soft-tissue augmentation (fillers)
Dermatologic surgeons have developed and tested various natural and synthetic substances to give skin a smoother and more pleasing appearance. Collagen is one of several widely available injectable wrinkle fillers used to “erase” lines, fill and plump furrows and hollows in the face, and enhance the definition of the lips. Certain scars and skin depressions also respond well to soft tissue fillers.
Several types of laser systems may be used to eliminate tattoos, depending on anatomic location, size and ink color. The laser beam targets the pigment in the skin and mechanically breaks it down. The body then naturally removes the pigment and the tattoo fades. Non-laser techniques also are effective for tattoo removal. Most tattoos require multiple treatments for thorough removal.
There are a number of treatment options that minimize or remove the varicose or spider vein, most typically on the face or legs, so its function can be quickly taken over by healthy veins. Procedures include: laser surgery or pulsed light therapy, sclerotherapy (injection of a solution to collapse the vein), ambulatory phlebectomy (vein is removed via a series of tiny incisions along the path of the enlarged vein).
On the horizon
Dermatologic surgeons continue to pioneer new research and treatment options. Consult your dermatologic surgeon to learn about the newest procedures and techniques for the health and beauty of your skin.