As long as people have walked the Earth, they have had problems with their skin and have sought ways to solve those issues. The ancient Egyptians made records of using arsenic to treat skin conditions, and documentation has shown that Cleopatra herself swore by milk baths to sooth and soften the skin. It has also become known that the Greeks and Romans used a combination of herbs to lighten their skin and decrease wrinkles, and Turkish men and women used fire to exfoliate.
As early as the late-1500s the actual field of dermatology came into existence, and its doctors began working to medically treat the skin and its related diseases. Today the science has spread to include cosmetic issues involving the skin as well as the scalp, nails and even hair.
Geronimo Mercuriali of Forli, Italy, was responsible for the very first work, “On the Diseases of the Skin,” dedicated to the science of dermatology in 1572. The actual field of medical dermatology possibly came about with Jean Astruc in the late 1600s and early 1700s. The first school of dermatology was at the Hospital Saint-Louis in Paris around 1800, and the first textbooks and atlases on skin conditions were published at the same time.
As far as America is concerned, medical dermatology became prevalent in the 1800s. Dermatologists began using chemical treatments to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and scars. Doctors began using cryosurgery to remove lesions from the skin, and advanced to electrosurgery in 1909. The early 1900s also saw science evolve in the areas of transplantation of hair and even early forms of liposuction. Acne scars were treated by peels as early as 1900, and they become increasingly popular during the 1950s and 1960s. Dermabrasion was introduced in the 1970s, and alpha-hydroxy acid was used as a peel starting in the 1990s.
Many of today’s most successful procedures actually began in ancient times. Egyptian doctors used sandpaper to smooth scars on the skin, and dermatologists took up a similar practice of using a sandpaper-like material and motorized dermabrasion to improve the appearance of skin. The ancient Egyptians also liked to use sunlight to treat disorders, and the treatment was used in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe to help psoriasis and eczema. Lasers were developed to harness the power of light in the 1950s, and are now used to help remove hair, lesions, tattoos and more.
Today medical dermatology is a rapidly-growing industry that can hardly keep up with all of the new advances in the science. It is a science and medical practice that will never become obsolete.