To care for your skin, it helps to know the lingo of dermatology conditions, treatments, and beauty products. Here is the essential glossary to help you get clued in.
By Eleanor Roberts, PhD Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Acne conglobata: Type of acne in which interconnected nodules are located beneath the surface of the skin.
Acne mechanica: Acne caused by exposure to heat, covered skin, pressure, or repetitive friction.
Acne vulgaris: The most common type of acne, associated with blackheads, whiteheads, papules, and pustules, commonly referred to as pimples or zits.
Actinic keratoses: Precancerous growths that can appear red, thick, and rough; usually found on sun-damaged skin.
Age spots: Flat, brownish patches on the skin caused by sun exposure and perhaps aging; also known as “liver spots.”
Alopecia: Unusual hair loss, most often on the scalp.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs): Exfoliating ingredients derived from fruit and milk sugars and used to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and age spots.
Antioxidants: Vitamins A (including beta carotene), C, and E, thought to repair and protect skin cells by neutralizing damaging free radicals.
Atopic: When an antibody present in the skin makes someone more likely to experience allergic reactions.
Basal cell carcinoma: Type of skin cancer that forms at the base of the epidermis of the skin and usually does not spread to other parts of the body; associated with long-term overexposure to the sun.
Benzoyl peroxide: Topical acne treatment that kills acne-causing bacteria.
Blackhead: A clogged pore usually filled with hardened oil and dead skin cells; the tip is visible at the pore opening.
Blepharoplasty: Cosmetic procedure to remove excess fat and skin from around the eyes.
Chemical peel: Chemical solution applied to the skin to remove damaged outer layers.
Dermabrasion: Procedure in which a rotating brush is used to abrade, or remove, the outer surface of the skin.
Dermatitis: Inflammation of the skin.
Dermis: The middle layer of the skin.
Eczema: Inflammatory response in the skin that can lead to redness, itching, and scaling.
Epidermis: The outer layer of the skin.
Exfoliate: To slough off the outer layer of skin cells.
Follicle: A shaft in the skin through which hair grows.
Isotretinoin (Accutane and other brand names): Oral vitamin A-based medication used to treat severe acne.
Laser resurfacing: Laser procedure to remove signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
Melanin: A chemical in the body that gives skin and hair their unique color.
Melanoma: Life-threatening form of skin cancer that usually develops in an existing mole.
Mole: Pigmented skin lesion also known as a nevus.
Noncomedogenic: A product not likely to clog pores and cause acne lesions.
Papule: Acne lesion that appears as a small, red bump on the skin.
Photo-aging: Skin damage that results from prolonged overexposure to the sun.
Phototherapy: Artificial ultraviolet (UV) radiation treatment for some skin diseases.
Plaque: Raised, but relatively flat, patch of skin.
Psoriasis: Skin condition characterized by red, raised, scaly patches.
Pustule: Inflamed acne lesion containing pus.
Retinoids: Derivatives of vitamin A used to treat a variety of skin conditions.
Rosacea: Skin condition characterized by prominent spider veins and sometimes swelling.
Sclerotherapy: Treatment that reduces the appearance of varicose veins and spider veins by injecting them with a special solution.
Sebaceous glands: Oil-producing glands in the skin that are attached to hair follicles.
Seborrheic dermatitis: Scalp condition associated with itching and flakiness (dandruff) that can also occur on the face.
Skin biopsy: Diagnostic procedure in which a portion of the skin is removed for examination in a laboratory.
Spider veins: Small reddish or purplish sunburst-shaped veins under the skin.
Squamous cell carcinoma: Type of skin cancer that forms in outer layers of the skin, capable of spreading to other parts of the body, and associated with long-term overexposure to the sun.
Subcutis: The layer of fat beneath the skin.
Telogen effluvium: Hair loss that is temporary, often related to stress, illness, or recent childbirth.
Topical: A product applied on the skin.
Tretinoin: Topical retinoid used to treat acne by unclogging pores; also used to lessen signs of photo-aging.
Ultraviolet light: The sun’s UVA and UVB rays that can cause both skin damage and skin cancers.
Urticaria: Raised reddish, itchy areas, also called hives.
Varicose veins: Large blood vessels that appear as blue bulges beneath the skin; may be associated with swelling, pain, and other symptoms.
Whitehead: Closed acne lesion caused by a clogged hair follicle.