Skin Care and Cosmetic Surgery Glossary

Abdominoplasty: A surgical procedure done to flatten your abdomen by removing extra fat and skin, and tightening muscles in your abdominal wall. This procedure is commonly referred to as a tummy tuck.

Acne: A skin condition characterized by the excess production of oil from sebaceous glands in which the pores become blocked with dead skin cells

Acne scar: Scars due to severe acne. They can range from deep pits to scars that are angular or wavelike in appearance.

Age spots: Small flat pigmented spots that are most often seen on areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun over a period of years. Age spots usually occur after the age of 40 and are common on the face, hands, and arms.

Albinism: An inherited disorder in which there is no pigmentation in skin, hair or eyes, due to the absence of melanin, the substance that gives skin its color

Alopecia: The complete or partial loss of hair

Autologen: A material used in lip augmentation to produce a look of fuller lips. Autologen is derived from your own skin and then injected into the lips.

Azelaic acid: A naturally occurring substance found on normal skin that can be used in skin care products to treat mild acne

Benzoyl peroxide: An antibacterial medication used to combat the bacteria that aggravates acne

Beta hydroxy acid: An oil-soluble exfoliant derived from fruit and milk sugars that is commonly found in skin-care products. Beta hydroxy acid is used to treat wrinkles, blackheads, and photoaging. Salicylic acid is an example of a beta hydroxy acid.

Blepharoplasty: A primarily cosmetic surgical procedure of the upper or lower eyelids. The procedure involves the removal of excess skin, and sometimes muscle or underlying fatty tissue.

Breast augmentation: A surgical procedure done to increase breast size

Botox: A substance derived from botulinum toxin that works by preventing nerve impulses from reaching the muscle, causing the muscle to relax

Brow lift: A surgical procedure in which the skin of the forehead and eyebrows is tightened to eliminate sagging eyebrows or correct frown lines between the eyebrows

Chemexfoliation: See chemical peel.

Chemical peel: A process in which a chemical solution is applied to the skin to remove dead skin cells and stimulate the production of new skin cells. This process is also called a chemexfoliation.

Cholasma: See melasma.

Collagen: The major structural proteins in the skin that give the skin its strength and resilience

Copper peptide: A common ingredient found in skin care products, copper peptide is used to promote and produce collagen and elastin in the skin.

Contracture scar: A type of scar in which a permanent tightening of skin occurs, often in response to a burn. This type of scar may affect the underlying muscles and tendons, limiting mobility and possibly damaging the nerves.

Crows feet: The fine lines found around the eyes, caused by muscles that attach to the skin. They can be made worse by sun exposure; however, smoking also contributes to their formation.

Debriding: The process of removing dead or devitalized tissue prior to reconstructive or cosmetic surgery

Depilation: The removal of hair

Dermabrasion: A surgical procedure in which a patient's skin, scarred from acne, pox, or other causes, is sanded down to remove the top layers. The skin then heals with a smoother surface.

Dermalogen: A product derived from human donor tissue that is used in lip augmentation to produce a look of fuller lips

Dermatitis: An inflammation of the skin caused by an allergic reaction or contact with an irritant. Typical symptoms of dermatitis include redness and itching.

Dermatologist: A doctor who specializes in the treatment and diagnosis of skin and skin-related problems

Dermis: The middle layer of the skin, the dermis is a complex combination of blood vessels, hair follicles, and sebaceous (oil) glands. Here, you'll find collagen and elastin. The dermis is also where wrinkles occur.

Deviated septum: A condition in which the septum (the wall inside the nose that divides it into two sides) is crooked or off-center. The condition is commonly treatable with surgery.

Eczema: A skin condition characterized by itchy, irritated, inflamed skin. Eczema comes in many forms and can be triggered by a variety of factors, including allergies, environmental factors, or family history. The raised, inflamed skin can appear anywhere on your body, including your face, legs, arms, or neck.

Elastin: A protein found with collagen in the dermis that is responsible for giving structure to your skin and organs

Electrolysis: A hair removal procedure in which a small electric current is used to destroy the hair follicle

Ephelides: See freckles.

Epidermis: The outer layer of the skin. The epidermis is also the thinnest layer, responsible for protecting you from the harsh environment. The epidermis is made up of five layers of its own: stratum germinativum, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum, and stratum corneum.

Exfoliate: To remove the top layer of skin. Chemical peels and dermabrasion are examples of methods in which the skin is exfoliated.

Eye lift: See blepharoplasty.

Face lift: See rhytidectomy.

Fascia: A sheet or band of connective tissue that surrounds muscle, bones, and organs. This tissue can be harvested from the patient or a human donor to be used in surgery.

Freckle: A light or moderately brown spot that appears on the skin as a result of exposure to sunlight. Freckles are most common in people with fair complexions.

Grafting: A procedure in which healthy skin and/or muscle is removed from one area of the body to another area damaged by disease or injury

Hemangioma: A type of birthmark characterized by concentrations of small blood vessels. They are commonly referred to as strawberry marks and often decrease in size or disappear after a few months or years.

Hypodermis: The fatty layer of skin, home of sweat glands and fat and collagen cells. The hypodermis is responsible for conserving your body's heat and protecting your vital inner organs.

Hyperpigmentation: A skin condition in which there is excessive pigmentation, often seen as dark spots on the skin such as café-au-lait spots

Hypertrophic scar: A raised and red scar, similar to a keloid scar, but different in that it stays within the boundaries of the injury site

Hypopigmentation: A skin condition in which there is a lack of pigmentation

Keloid scar: A type of scar that continues to grow beyond what is needed at the site of an injury. This type of scar is caused by too much collagen forming while the skin is being repaired. The tendency to develop keloid scars is genetic.

Keratin: The fibrous structural protein in your skin, hair, and nails

Kojic acid: A skin treatment product derived from a fungus. Studies have shown that it is effective as a lightening agent and in inhibiting the production of melanin.

L-ascorbic acid: L-ascorbic acid is the only form of Vitamin C that the body or skin can use as far as topical treatments are concerned. Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that has been proven to stimulate the synthesis of collagen.

Lentigines: See age spots.

Lip augmentation: A procedure done to improve deflated, drooping, or sagging lips, correct their symmetry, or reduce fine lines and wrinkles around them. This is often done through injections or implants.

Lipoplasty: See liposuction.

Liposuction: A cosmetic procedure in which a special instrument called a canula is used to break up and suck out fat from the body. This procedure is also known as lipoplasty.

Macrodactyly: A condition that affects children in which the fingers or toes grow abnormally large

Macular stain: A small birthmark that is often nothing more than a small, mild, red blemish on the skin. Many of these will disappear by age two.

Mammoplasty: Any reconstructive or cosmetic surgical procedure that alters the size or shape of the breast

Mastectomy: The surgical removal of part or all of the breast

Mastopexy: Also called a breast lift, this procedure removes excess skin in order to lift up sagging or drooping breasts.

Melanocytes: A pigment-producing cell found in the skin, hair, and eyes that gives them their color

Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma can spread rapidly and can be fatal if not treated or detected.

Melasma: A condition in which pigmentation of the cheeks of the face darkens into tan or brown patches. This condition occurs in half of all women during pregnancy.

Micropigmentation: A form of tattooing commonly used to apply permanent makeup by injecting iron oxide pigment into the middle layer of your skin (dermis)

Neoplasm: A tumor

Nevus flammeus: See port-wine stain.

Otoplasty: A surgical procedure done to correct misshaped or protruding ears

Photoaging: The changes that occur to the skin due to exposure to the sun. This includes wrinkles and age spots.

Port-wine stain: A type of hemangioma characterized by a mark on the skin that resembles the rich red color of port wine. Port-wine stains are caused by an abnormal concentration of capillaries. This type of birthmark is also referred to as nevus flammeus.

Ptosis: The drooping of a body part, especially the eyelids or the breasts

Retinol: A derivative of Vitamin A commonly found in many skin care creams

Rhinoplasty: A cosmetic procedure used to enhance or change the appearance of the nose. Rhinoplasty is commonly referred to as a nose job.

Rhytidectomy: Commonly called a facelift, this surgical procedure is done to eliminate the sagging, drooping, and wrinkled skin of the face and neck.

Rosacea: A skin disease of unknown causes that causes an array of symptoms, including redness and puffiness on several areas of the face, including cheeks and nose. Rosacea cannot be cured, but treatment should be sought since the condition can worsen over time if not treated correctly or promptly.

Salicylic acid: See beta hydroxy acid.

Sallowness: A term used to describe a yellowish color of the skin

Sebaceous glands: The glands of the skin that emit oil into the hair follicles

Septoplasty: A surgical procedure done to improve the flow of air to your nose by repairing malformed cartilage and/or the bony portion. The procedure is often performed along with a rhinoplasty.

Sclerotherapy: A medical procedure used to eliminate varicose veins and "spider veins." During the procedure, an injection of a solution (generally sodium chloride) in placed directly into the vein.

Spider vein: A widened vein that can be seen through the surface of the skin. These are generally smaller and closer to the skin than varicose veins.

Stratum corneum: The outermost layer of the epidermis

Subcutaneous: A term referring to below the skin

Sun protection factor: Commonly seen on suntan ingredients as SPF, the sun protection factor is the amount of the protection a suntan product provides. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection.

Suture: The stitches used to hold tissue together or to close a wound

Tretinoin: A prescription drug related to vitamin A, used to treat acne and other skin disorders

Varicose vein: Enlarged veins found near the surface of the skin. They often look like cords and appear twisted and bulging.

Vitiligo: A condition in which smooth white patches appear on the skin due to a loss of pigment-producing cells

Winter itch: A condition in which the skin becomes irritated due to a loss of moisture. Winter itch is common in the winter when the air is drier, thus its name.


This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit or This document was last reviewed on: 7/10/2017