Healthy Skin: Why to Choose a Dermatologist Versus a Salon or Spa

Jager Weatherby on 1 Aug 2014 at 12:00pm

Written by Nashville dermatologist
Michael H. Gold, MD


Your skin is the largest organ on your body and there are a lot of choices when it comes to determining who should care for it. Think about all the options we have when deciding where to go to get information and how to best protect ourselves from the harmful effects of the sun.

For starters, we can’t go to the grocery store or the local pharmacy without seeing countless of products all claiming to be the best thing to heal our damaged skin or reverse the signs of aging. How many grocery store clerks or pharmacy attendants actually know about skin and how to care for it? Not many that I have come across when I’ve been walking the aisles checking out the hot new items they think can actually make a difference.

Department Stores

Department Store
Of course, you can always go to the department stores; I certainly have fun when I meander over to the cosmetics counters. However, the majority of people who work at these counters are trained by the companies they represent to sell whatever they can, no matter if the products are clinically effective or not. Most of the time they don’t have the knowledge base to know what any of their own products can do or, more likely, not do in the real world of skincare. As with anything, there are occasional exceptions to the rule. Once in a while I encounter someone who’s very knowledgeable, and those are the ones I want to come work for me at some point.

MORE: Is Your Medspa or Laser Center Safe?

Salons and Spas

Salons and Spas
Let’s move on to beauty salons and spas, which have become very popular in recent years as places to purchase skincare products. (After all, it seems so convenient to get your anti-aging serum at the same place you highlight your hair.) Unfortunately, very few people who work at these places are experts, knowing little more than what they’ve been told to tell you in an attempt to get you to buy product. I’m amazed when they try to sell me their skincare, even when they know I’m a dermatologist and own a medical spa. But then again, every so often there’s a great aesthetician — and again, I want them working for me.

Laser Centers and Medical Spas

What about those laser centers that have popped up all over the country? Who runs these? Most “medical” spas are not associated with dermatologists, but have a medical director overseeing the operations. However, let’s check the qualifications of some of these medical directors — what are their specialties? Some might be emergency room surgeons, some are anesthesiologists, some may be psychiatrists, and some could be OBs who now think they’re the experts in skincare. What are their qualifications?

Board-Certified Dermatologists

Board Certified Derm
Board-certified dermatologists spend years learning about your skin and other related areas. They’re the experts in diseases of the skin, hair, and nails (and know more about this realm than any other group out there). They spend at least three years post-medical school — and following an internship in medicine or pediatrics — learning what makes up your skin, what causes diseases, and the kind of the havoc that the sun can wreak.

They know how to best use lotions, light sources, lasers and peelers to repair this damage and prevent new harm from occurring. Many may sell skincare products, but for the most part, these are well-studied cosmeceutical agents that have true science behind them — science that dermatologists understand better than any other medical specialty out there.

MORE: Find a board-certified dermatologist near you

As my wife once told me, “If I wanted my OB to tell me what skincare to use, or where I needed Botox, why didn’t she do a dermatology residency and actually learn these skills” Why is she not comfortable doing what she’s trained to do?”

Michael H. Gold

Dr. Michael H. Gold is a dermatologist based in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn more at

Photo credits:
Some rights reserved by Christiana Care; Some rights reserved by George Goodman; Some rights reserved by the US Navy; Some rights reserved by Vancouver Laser; Some rights reserved by Christina Care