Cosmetic Surgery Glossary

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on September 18, 2023
8 min read

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

Acne: A skin condition characterized by the excess production of oil from sebaceous glands in which the hair follicles become plugged.

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

Age spots: Small, generally 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 age 40.

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 that can be used in skin care products to treat mild acne.

Benzoyl peroxide:medication used to combat the bacteria that aggravate acne.

Beta hydroxy acid: An oil-soluble exfoliant that is commonly found in skin-care products. Beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) is used to treat wrinkles, blackheads, and photo-aging.

Blepharoplasty: A primarily cosmetic surgical procedure that reduces bagginess from lower eyelids and raises drooping upper eyelids. The procedure involves the removal of excess skin, muscle, and 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 in the forehead.

Cellfina: A minimally invasive, FDA approved procedure that treats the structural cause of cellulite by severing the bands beneath the skin which causes the puckering.

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 it strength and resilience.

Copper Peptide: A common ingredient found in skin care products, copper peptide is used to promote the production of 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. They are often caused by sun exposure. Smoking can also contribute to their formation.

Debriding: The process of removing dead or devitalized tissue before reconstructive or cosmetic surgery.

Depilation: The removal of hair.

Dermabrasion: A surgical procedure in which a patient's upper layers of skin, scarred from acne, pox, or other causes, is frozen and then removed using a high-powered rotating brush.

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 and well as hair and nail diseases.

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 wall inside the nose that divides it into two nostrils – called the septum -- is not located in the middle of the nose where it should be. 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 the face, legs, arms, or neck.

Elastin: A highly elastic protein found with collagen in the dermis that is responsible for giving structure to the skin and organs, and allows tissues to resume their shape after stretching or contracting.

Electrolysis: A hair removal procedure in which chemicals or heat is used to destroy the hair follicle.

Ephelides: 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."

Facelift: See "rhytidectomy."

Fascia: A type of connective tissue used in lip augmentation to produce fuller lips. This product is made from human donor tissue.

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 or muscle is moved from one area of the body to another that's 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 disappear after a few months or years.

Hypodermis: The fatty layer of skin, home of sweat glands and fat and collagen cells. It is attached to the dermis by collagen and elastic fibers. The hypodermis is responsible for conserving your body's heat and protecting vital inner organs.

Hyperpigmentation: A skin condition in which there is excessive pigmentation that's often seen as dark spots on the skin.

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: This dominant protein is the skin's main material, occurring also in hair and nails. Keratin is what makes skin rigid.

Kojic Acid: A skin treatment product derived from a fungus that works as a lightening agent and inhibits the production of melanin.

L-ascorbic acid: L-ascorbic acid is a form of Vitamin C.

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 cannula 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.

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

Mastectomy: The surgical removal of part of or the entire 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 be fatal if not detected and treated.

Melasma: A condition in which pigmentation of the cheeks and forehead darken 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 the skin (dermis).

Neoplasm: A tumor.

Nevus flammeus: See "port-wine stain."

Otoplasty: A surgical procedure done to correct misshapen or protruding ears.

Photo-aging: The changes that occur to the skin due to sun exposure. This includes wrinkles, sallowness (yellowing), and age spots.

Port-wine stain: A type of birthmark 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. Unlike a hemangioma, it does not improve over time.

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 chronic inflammatory skin disease of unknown causes with an array of symptoms, including redness and puffiness on several areas of the face that include the cheeks and nose. Rosacea cannot be cured, but prompt correct treatment can keep it from getting worse over time.

Salicylic acid: See "beta hydroxy acid."

Sallowness: A term used to describe a yellowish color of the skin due to damage caused by ultraviolet radiation known as photodamage.

Sclerotherapy: A medical procedure used to eliminate varicose veins and "spider veins." During the procedure, an injection of a solution is placed directly into the vein.

Sebaceous glands: The glands of the skin that emit oil.

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

Spider vein: A widened vein that can be seen through the surface of the skin.

Stratum corneum: The outermost layer of the epidermis.

Subcutaneous: A term referring to below the skin.

Sun protection factor: Commonly seen on sunscreen packages as "SPF," the sun protection factor is the amount of UVB burning rays protection a sunscreen product provides. In  general, the higher the SPF, the greater the protection.

Suture:Stitches used to hold tissue together or to close a wound.

Tretinoin: A prescription drug derived from vitamin A used to treat acne and other skin disorders.

Ultherapy: This minimally invasive procedure is used on the eyebrow, neck, chin, and even chest area to tighten and lift, improving lines and wrinkles. It is the first FDA approved procedure to use ultrasound.

Varicose vein: An enlarged, twisted vein found near the surface of the skin.

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.