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Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Glossary

Considering cosmetic surgery in San Francisco? Here are some terms you might come across, as you educate yourself:

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acne – a skin condition characterized by the excess production of oil from sebaceous glands in which the hair follicles become plugged.

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

alopecia – the complete or partial loss of hair.

alpha hydroxy acids – Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from foods, such as fruits and milk, and can improve the texture of skin by removing layers of dead cells and encouraging cell regeneration.

anesthesia – lack of a normal sensation brought on by an anesthetic drug.

anomaly – a health problem or feature not normally present in a healthy individual; a deviation from the normal.

antioxidant – an unstable, but benign, molecule that preferentially couples with free radicals, thereby neutralizing them. Antioxidants most commonly found in skin care include forms of vitamins A, C and E as well as green tea, coenzyme Q-10 and idebenone.

ascorbic acid -vitamin C; an antioxidant and stimulant of collagen synthesis by skin cells (fibroblasts). Can also have skin lightening effect in certain preparations. Only L-ascorbic acid (as opposed to D-ascorbic acid) is effective.

ascorbyl palmitate -fat-soluble vitamin C derivative. Good antioxidant but less effective than vitamin C for stimulating collagen synthesis.

asymmetry – lacking symmetry; parts of the body are unequal in shape or size.

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 agent found in topical acne medications.

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 (also called eyelid lift.) – a procedure in which the physician surgically removes excess fat, muscle, and skin from both the upper and lower eyelids to redefine the shape of the eye.

Botox® Cosmetic – a substance derived from botulinum toxin that works by preventing nerve impulses from reaching the muscle, causing the muscle to relax.

buccal fat pad – buccal fat pads are located above the jawline near the corner of the mouth. They can be removed in individuals with excessively round faces to give a more contoured look, sometimes referred to as the “waif look.” However, plastic surgeons warn that, in some individuals, removal of the buccal fat pads can lead to a drawn, hollow-cheeked look as aging progresses.


cannula – a hollow tube attached to a high-vacuum device used to remove fat through liposuction. The plastic surgeon manipulates the cannula within the fat layers under the skin, dislodging the fat and “vacuuming” it out.

cellulite – ellulite is the dimpled-looking fat that often appears on the buttocks, thighs and hips. While there is no treatment that will eradicate this problem, aesthetic plastic surgeons are exploring new techniques which may improve the condition. One method is to cut the fibrous tissue that binds the fat down in these areas and creates the lumpy appearance, and then to inject fact withdrawn from elsewhere in the body to smooth out the unevenness. Another technique, called the cellulite lift, surgically removes excess skin and fat, leaving a thin scar that may extend around the full circumference of the abdomen but is placed discreetly within bikini lines.

chemical peel – fine lines and wrinkles around the mouth and on the forehead and cheek areas may be improved with a wide range of skin treatments. A chemical peel solution is applied to the entire face or to specific areas to peel away the skin’s top layers. Several light to medium-depth peels can often achieve similar results to one deeper peel treatment, with less risk and shorter recovery time. Peel solutions may contain alpha hydroxy acids, tricholoracetic acid (TCA) or phenol as the peeling agent, depending on the depth of peel desired and on other patient selection factors.

chin augmentation (mentoplasty) – chin augmentation can strengthen the appearance of a receding chin by increasing its projection. The procedure does not affect the patient’s bite or jaw. There are two techniques: one is performed through an incision inside the mouth and involves moving the chinbone, then wiring it into position; the other approach requires insertion of an implant through an incision inside the mouth, between the lower lip and the gum, or through an external incision underneath the chin.

cleft lip – an abnormality in which the lip does not completely form. The degree of the cleft lip can vary greatly, from mild (notching of the lip) to severe (large opening from the lip up through the nose).

cleft palate – occurs when the roof of the mouth does not completely close, leaving an opening that can extend into the nasal cavity. The cleft may involve either side of the palate. It can extend from the front of the mouth (hard palate) to the throat (soft palate). The cleft may also include the lip.

Coenzyme Q10 – The energy producing unit of our body cells, CoQ10 is capable of improving the antioxidant capacity of stratum corneum and decreasing the amount of free radical damage in nonstressed skin.

Collagen – the main supporting fiber located within the dermis, gives strength and provides structure. You cannot replace lost collagen by simply applying it to your skin due to its large molecule size. However, topical collagen can act as a moisturizing agent.

collagen injections – collagen is an injectable protein that can be used to treat facial wrinkles. Patients to be treated with collagen should first be tested for any allergic reaction. The results of collagen injections are not permanent, and treatments must be repeated periodically to maintain results.

computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) – a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.

congenital – present at birth.

congenital anomaly – a health problem present at birth (not necessarily genetic).

contractures – an abnormal condition of a joint caused by a loss of muscle fibers or a loss of the normal flexibility of the skin.

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

cosmetic plastic surgery (Also called aesthetic plastic surgery.) – one type of plastic surgery performed to repair or reshape otherwise normal structures of the body, primarily to improve the patient’s appearance and self-esteem.

craniofacial – pertaining to the head (skull) and face.

crows feet – the fine lines found around the eyes. They are often caused 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 procedure that removes fine wrinkles and/or minimizes scars on the skin; involves the surgeon utilizing a high-speed rotating brush to remove the top layer of skin. The size and depth of the scars, as well as the degree of wrinkling, determine the appropriate level of skin that will be surgically sloughed.

dermalogen – a product derived from human donor tissue that is used in lip augmentation to produce a look of fuller lips.

dermaplane – a plastic surgery technique used to treat deep acne scars with a hand-held instrument called a dermatome.

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.

dermatome – an instrument that resembles an electric razor and has an oscillating blade that moves back and forth to evenly “skim” off the surface layers of skin that surround the craters or other facial defects.

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 not located in the middle of the nose where it should be. The condition is commonly treatable with surgery.


earlobe reduction – a simple, 30-minute procedure, earlobe reduction can be performed in a plastic surgeon’s office or at the same time as a facelift operation. The earlobe should not comprise more than 25 percent of the total length of the ear. In cases where it exceeds this dimension, an L-shaped wedge is cut away; the earlobe edges are brought together and sutured.

ectropion – turning outward of an edge; generally refers to a rare condition of the eyelid in which the lining of the eyelid is exposed.

elastin – a fiber within the dermis similar to collagen, gives support and “snap” to the skin. In topicals, it cannot penetrate the skin, but does have moisturizing effect.

endoscope – small, flexible tube with a light and a lens on the end used to look inside an organ or cavity, or space.

endoscopy – procedure in which a lighted viewing instrument (endoscope) is used to look inside a body cavity or organ to diagnose or treat disorders.

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.

estriol – Proven in clinical trials to decrease pore size and depth of wrinkling in the skin of postmenopausal women as well as being a potent antioxidant in skin

exfoliate – to remove the top layer of skin. Chemical peels and dermabrasion are examples of methods in which the skin is exfoliated


facial implant – cosmetic plastic surgery to change the shape of the chin, cheek, or jaw. This procedure is typically done to enhance certain facial features, or to bring a certain aspect of the face into proportion with the rest of the facial structures.

fat injections – fat withdrawn from one body site can be injected into another — for example, to smooth lines in the face or build up other features such as the lips. In most cases, a percentage of injected fat is resorbed by the body, and the procedure must be repeated. Injection of fat to enlarge the breasts is a dangerous procedure and is not recommended because of the possibility of dense scarring that may seriously hinder accurate interpretation of both breast self-exams and mammograms.

flap surgery – one type of surgery that involves transporting healthy, live tissue from one location of the body to another – often to areas that have lost skin, fat, muscle movement, and/or skeletal support. There are several different types of flap surgery methods that may be utilized, depending upon the location of the flap and the structures that need to be repaired.

forehead lift – the surgical removal of excess fat and skin, as well as a tightening of the muscles in the forehead area. It can correct sagging brows or deep furrows between the eyes. It is often done in conjunction with a facelift in order to create a smoother facial appearance overall.

free radical – an unstable molecule that uncontrollably mutates healthy cells with which it comes in contact. Over time, this rampant mutation hastens the aging process and may lead to any number of diseases, including cancer, atherosclerosis, and/or degenerative neurological diseases.

free radical scavengers – another term for antioxidants.


green tea – a condition in which the male’s breast tissue enlarges. Gynecomastia literally means “woman breast.” This increase in tissue usually occurs at times when the male is having hormonal changes, such as during infancy, adolescence, and old age.

gynecomastia – a condition in which the male’s breast tissue enlarges. Gynecomastia literally means “woman breast.” This increase in tissue usually occurs at times when the male is having hormonal changes, such as during infancy, adolescence, and old age.


hematoma – blood that collects under the skin or in an organ.

hydroxyapatite granules – hydroxyapatite granules are a bone substitute made from coral that can be used to enhance facial contours, such as forming more prominent cheekbones. The substance also has reconstructive uses in craniofacial surgery.

hyaluronic acid – often used in conjunction with vitamin C products to assist in effective penetration. Hyaluronic acid (also known as a glycosaminoglycan) is often touted for its ability to “reverse” or stop aging. The substance occurs naturally (and quite abundantly) in humans and animals, and is found in young skin, other tissues, and joint fluid. Hyaluronic acid is a component of the body’s connective tissues, and is known to cushion and lubricate.

hydroquinone – skin pigmentation lightening agent; a maximum of 2% is sold over the counter; higher concentrations available by prescription.

hydroxyapatite granules – hydroxyapatite granules are a bone substitute made from coral that can be used to enhance facial contours, such as forming more prominent cheekbones. The substance also has reconstructive uses in craniofacial surgery.

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.


idebenone-Idebenone is a variation of CoQ10 and supplies all of the same benefits as CoQ10 plus some distinct advantages based on its more complex chemical structure. Though very similar in chemical make-up to CoQ10, idebenone offers extra powerful anti-oxidant properties making it a more effective “free radical quencher” resulting in less cell and tissue damage.


JUVÉDERM Injectible Gel– an injectable dermal filler made with cross-linked hyaluronic acid used to soften facial wrinkles and augment lips.


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 your skin’s main material, as well as in hair and nails. Keratin is what forms the rigidity of your skin.

kojic acid – a skin treatment product derived from a fungus that studies have shown 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.

lactic acid – alpha hydroxy acid used in dermatology to hydrate and smooth dry, flaking skin. May occasionally be used in high concentrations as a chemical peel.

lasers – lasers are effectively used to treat many conditions. They are used to remove unwanted facial or body hair, fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, as well as to eliminate surface blood vessels on the face or body that become reddened and enlarged due to various lifestyle choices.

lip lift – a technique that surgically lifts the corners of the aging mouth can eliminate the pronounced droop and unhappy facial expression that often develops with advanced age. By cutting away small diamonds of skin just above the corners of the mouth, the vermilion (border of the lips) is raised into a slight smile.

liposomes –

lip lift – a technique that surgically lifts the corners of the aging mouth can eliminate the pronounced droop and unhappy facial expression that often develops with advanced age. By cutting away small diamonds of skin just above the corners of the mouth, the vermilion (border of the lips) is raised into a slight smile.

lip reduction – to reduce the lips, a small strip of the mucosa (the lining of the lip) is surgically removed to narrow the lips to the desired proportion. The small scars on the outside of the lips are barely noticeable.

liposuction – a procedure that removes excess fat through a suctioning process. Although liposuction is not a substitute for weight loss, it is a way of changing the body’s shape and contour.


malar (cheekbone) augmentation – the cheekbones may be built up by placing an implant over them. This is usually performed through an incision within the mouth, but it may be done through a lower eyelid or brow lift incision.

maxillofacial – pertaining to the jaws and face.

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 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).


nanospheres – active ingredient delivery system; micro-reservoir particles of porous polymers that have a special structure permitting high absorption and timed release of the agents into the skin.

nasal – relating to the nose.


otoplasty (ear surgery) – a type of cosmetic plastic surgery procedure aimed at setting prominent ears closer to the head, or reducing the size of larger ears.


photoaging – the changes that occur to the skin due to exposure to the sun. This includes wrinkles and age spots.

plastic surgery – the surgical specialty that deals with the reconstruction of facial and body tissue that requires a reshaping or remolding due to disease, a defect, or disorder – in order to approximate a normal appearance or to repair working ability.

platysma – the muscle which, when tight and firm, gives the neck underneath the chin and jawline its youthful contour. The platysma muscle can be tightened during a facelift or as a separate procedure.

ptosis – the drooping of a body part, especially the eyelids or the breasts.



reconstructive plastic surgery – one type of plastic surgery that is performed on abnormal structures of the body that may be caused by trauma, infection, developmental abnormalities, congenital defects, disease, and/or tumors. This type of surgery is usually performed to improve function, but may also be performed to approximate a normal appearance.

Retin-A – Retin-A cream or lotion may be applied to enhance the overall texture of the skin and is often prescribed as a pre-treatment prior to a facelift or chemical peel.

retinal – form of vitamin A; fat soluble; less effective than tretinoin; relatively unstable. May irritate skin in high concentrations.

retinol – This is a derivative of vitamin A, and you will see that a lot of skin care products contain retinol. Retinol’s stronger counterpart is tretinoin, which is the active ingredient in Retin-A and Renova. If your skin is too sensitive to use Retin-A, retinol is an excellent alternative. Here’s why skin responds to skin care products with retinol: vitamin A has a molecular structure that’s tiny enough to get into the lower layers of skin, where it finds collagen and elastin. Retinol is proven to improve mottled pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, skin tone and color, and your skin’s hydration levels. You may also hear about retinyl palmitate. This falls into the same family as retinol, but if the skin care product you choose contains retinyl palmitate, you will need to use more of this product than one that contains retinol to get the same effect.

retinyl palmitate – (also known as Vitamin A Palmitate); ester of retinol combined with palmitic acid, considered a more stable alternative to retinol or retinal for normalizing the skin’s texture and helping smooth out fine lines. Less irritating than retinol.

retinyl palmitate polypeptide- water soluble formulation of Vitamin A. -x- water soluble formulation of Vitamin A.

rhinoplasty (also called nose job) – the surgical repair of a defect of the nose, including reshaping or resizing the nose. Rhinoplasty may be performed to change the size of the nose, change the shape of the nose, narrow the nostrils, and/or change the angle between the nose and lips. Rhinoplasty involves the resculpting of the bone and cartilage.

rhytidectomy (also called facelift.) – a surgical procedure that involves the removal of excess facial fat, the tightening of facial muscles, and the stretching of facial skin – to approximate a smoother, firmer appearance. The procedure takes place on either the face, neck, or both.

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.

scar – the body’s natural way of healing and replacing lost or damaged skin. A scar is usually composed of fibrous tissue. Scars may be formed for many different reasons, including as a result of infections, surgery, injuries, or inflammation of tissue.

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.

sebaceous glands – the glands of the skin that emit oil into the hair follicles.

septoplasty – the surgical correction of defects and deformities of the nasal septum (the partition between the nostrils).

skin grafts – a skin graft may be used to cover skin that has been damaged and/or is missing. This surgical procedure involves removing healthy portions of skin from one part of the body to restore normal appearance and/or function to another portion of the same body. The location where the skin is removed is called the donor site. There are various types of skin grafts that may be utilized, depending upon the size and location of needed skin.

SMAS – the superficial musculoaponeurotic system (SMAS) is a layer of tissue that covers the deeper structures in the cheek area and is in continuity with the superficial muscle covering the lower face and neck, called the platysma. Some facelift techniques lift and reposition the SMAS as well as the skin.

sodium laurel sulfate – used in most cleansers and soaps; acts as a surfactant, offers good foaming qualities; a known skin irritant, but contrary to popular misconceptions, does not cause cancer.

spider vein – widened vein that can be seen through the surface of the skin.

stratum corneum – the outer most 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.


tissue expansion – a surgical procedure that involves inserting a balloon-like device (called an expander) under the skin. The expander then slowly secretes liquid into the area to be repaired to actually stretch and expand the skin. This serves the function of “growing” extra skin to repair nearby lost or damaged skin.

titanium dioxide – broad spectrum physical UV blocker, helps block both UVA and UVB wavelengths of light.

tretinoin – a prescription drug related to vitamin A used to treat acne and other skin disorders.



varicose veins – twisted, widened veins caused by swollen or enlarged blood vessels. The blood vessels have enlarged due a weakening in the vein’s wall or valves.

vitamin A– used to increase collagen production, a wrinkle fighter and an exfoliant. Also used to control acne. Many derivatives available (including retinol, retinal, tretinoin, etc.) to accommodate different skin types.

vitamin B – increases blood circulation and tissue repair.

vitamin C– known for its anti-oxidant and healing properties. When derived as L-ascorbic acid, it boosts collagen synthesis by fibroblasts and is a vital water soluble antioxidant both systemically as and topically. Studies have shown that vitamin C helps to minimize fine lines, scars, and wrinkles.

vitamin E– also known as Tocopherol primarily serves the body as an antioxidant. Fat soluble as opposed to water soluble.

vitamin K- used for its redness reduction properties.





zinc oxide– A compound of zinc and oxygen, zinc oxide is a mild antiseptic and anti-irritant. When added to sunscreens, it physically prevents UV light from reaching the skin. It is also the key active ingredients in diaper rash creams.

Have questions regarding cosmetic surgery San Francisco? Call The Maas Clinic at (415) 567-7000 for more information.

It is never too late, To be what you might have been.- George Eliot