A what? A vital glossary of key terms and phrases in medical aesthetics, to help you understand what is going on.
These are facials with added extras, which sit somewhere in between old-style pampering salon facials and actual tweakments. They might involve deep-cleansing using a mechanised device, or add some lightweight laser, microneedling or LED light to the treatment, to give your skin greater benefit. You can read more about advanced facials on this page.
An inclusive term for medical specialities that focus on improving cosmetic appearance.
The technical term for the non-surgical procedures that we call tweakments. A useful reminder that these are actually medical procedures
Alpha hydroxy acid (AHAs)
A type of chemical compound found in skincare that loosens the ‘glue’ between skin cells allowing the dead skin cells to shed revealing a smoother skin. Popular in both skin peels in clinic and for home use. Key AHAs include glycolic and lactic acid.
BBL – Brazilian Butt Lift
What most people think when they hear the term BBL is of a bum-enhancing procedure where fat is injected into the backside to make it more curvy. It sounds colloquial, almost casual, but it’s an operation that should only be done by plastic surgeons as it has a high complication rate – and a death rate of one in 3,000 (that’s around 30 times higher than for any other cosmetic procedure). For several years, elite surgeons such as the BAAPS (the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons) refused to carry out these procedures, but are now offering them, with careful safety protocols.
BBL Broadband Light
Broadband light is described as a superior version of Intense Pulsed Light (see below for more about that).
Using dermal fillers not to counteract the signs of ageing, but to deliberately enhance your beauty by improving your existing looks (think Kardashians, think Love Island). ‘Beautification’ is being directly marketed to younger patients to and to me that’s a bit scary.
Aka the ‘wow factor’. We make up our minds about how people look in the blink of an eye as we register their face. Improving the contours of a face with tweakments enhances that ‘blink impact’ in a more fundamental way than make-up.
An injectable anti-ageing treatment which is sometimes referred to as a ‘moisture jab’ or ‘injectable moisture’. These are runny gels made from hyaluronic acid which, placed just beneath the skin by a needle, hydrate the skin and act as a ‘biostimulator’ to improve skin elasticity, firmness and hydration. See ‘Injectable Moisturisers‘.
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
A condition where people become obsessed with a minor physical flaw – or something they think is a flaw, which no one else can see. There’s more of it than is healthy in the tweakments world.
As we age, the structure of our bones begins to wear away – a process known as resorption. In the face, this results in a softer jawline, larger eye sockets and the impression that the mouth is collapsing inwards.
Carbon laser facial
Also known as the Hollywood Peel. A liquid containing carbon is painted onto the skin, which grabs onto dirt in the pores, then a laser is used to zap the carbon, and the grime, oil and pollution with it. Scary-sounding – and noisy – but great for tightening pores and leaving skin glowing.
Meaningless term, often used by people who aren’t dermatologists at all. How can you tell? Learn to check a practitioner’s qualifications on the relevant website – the GMC for doctors, dermatologists and surgeons, the NMC for nurses, and the GDC for dentists.
These are one of the essential components of the natural fats or lipids that are found in the skin (the others are essential fatty acids and cholesterol). As a cosmetic ingredient, they help improve moisture levels and reinforce the skin’s natural barrier.
A procedure that smooths and improves the texture of the skin by removing the outermost layers of skin by applying a peel solution to induce a controlled injury to the skin.
Collagen is the structural protein that gives our skin its strength. Our skin-collagen levels start dropping from our mid-twenties onwards, so collagen ‘banking’ involves building up our collagen supplies, either with skincare or with tweakments, to future-proof our skin.
The word cosmeceutical is a combination of ‘cosmetic’ and ‘pharmaceutical’ and it denotes a cosmetic product with bioactive ingredients that have medical benefits. That all sounds really impressive, and many cosmeceuticals give great results in the skin, but it’s not a term that is recognised in law, nor are manufacturers of cosmeceuticals required by law to prove that their products perform as they claim… which means that, yes, plenty of so-called cosmeceuticals won’t actually benefit your skin all that much.
A qualified medical doctor who has completed additional training in dermatology to assess and treat the skin cosmetically.
A qualified doctor who performs non invasive or minimally invasive procedures to alter or enhance the physical appearance.
A qualified medical nurse who has completed additional training and has qualified to assess and treat the skin cosmetically. Many aesthetic nurses are also nurse-prescribers, which means that they are qualified to prescribe prescription-only products such as toxins.
A surgeon who has undertaken further training and is qualified to perform operations or invasive medical procedures to change the physical appearance for cosmetic rather than medical reasons.
A non-invasive body contouring system that freezes fat cells to reduce their volume and is used for the reduction of localised fat deposits.
A substance that helps to absorb fat and works by destroying fat cells where it is injected into the body for localised fat reduction. See ‘Fat-Dissolving Injections’, below.
An exfoliating treatment carried out by a doctor or aesthetician where a surgical scalpel is used to gently scrape off any dead skin cells on the surface of the skin along with the vellus hair (ie peach fuzz).
A doctor who has completed additional specific training and has gained specialised qualifications to treat skin diseases. There aren’t that many consultant dermatologists in the UK. Cosmetic dermatologists have a greater focus on treating the skin for cosmetic improvement, than simply on managing skin diseases. If you’re considering seeing someone who calls themselves a dermatologist, bear in mind that ‘dermatologist’ is not a protected term, meaning that people can call themselves a ‘dermatologist’ or ‘celebrity dermatologist’ without any specialist qualification. Fully qualified dermatologists will be recognised as such on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council – you can check on this link to the GMC.
A gel which is injected through the skin (the dermis) to add volume or structure to the area where it is injected. Most dermal fillers are made from hyaluronic acid gel; others are made from substances such as poly-l-lactic acid which stimulate the growth of collagen, to replace lost volume in the face or body. You can read more about dermal fillers here. Much to the despair of reputable aesthetic practitioners, in the UK, dermal fillers are still not categorized as medicines, so anyone can legally obtain them and inject them into anyone else. Be warned. And read my Staying Safe page.
A facial involving thorough examination and treatment of the skin, which is less pampering and more rigorous than most beauty-salon facials. Expect painstaking extractions, a light chemical peel and possibly red light therapy.
The time after an aesthetic procedure when the skin is healing and you may not be able to carry out your normal activities. Sometimes referred to as ‘social downtime’, ie time when you may not want to show your face to your colleagues or your nearest and dearest.
Not a thing just yet, but possibly the future. There are already places in the States that are making injectable procedures seem very casual and everyday, all millennial-pink and drop-in appointments. Could it happen here? Watch this space
Electrical muscle-stimulating facial
A microcurrent facial delivers safe, painless, low-level electrical impulses to strategic locations under the skin to firm and tone the facial muscles.
Placing small injections of a chemical called deoxycholate into fatty tissue dissolves everything around it. You can read more about fat-dissolving injections here.
The less technical name for Cryolipolysis. A non-invasive body contouring system that freezes fat cells to reduce their volume and is used for the reduction of localised fat deposits. You can read more about fat-freezing here.
A surgical fat transfer is a cosmetic treatment to collect fat cells from one part of the body and inject them into another. The aim is to collect from an area where there is plenty of fat (stomach, thighs) and use it to smooth or increase the size of another area. You can read more about fat transfer here.
Fillers (dermal fillers)
Injectable fillers are gels most often made from hyaluronic acid, that are injected into the skin to replace lost volume, smooth the skin or to help sculpt the face. You can read more about dermal fillers here.
Usually described as High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), this treatment involves concentrated ultrasound energy is delivered below the surface of the skin by a handheld device to stimulate skin rejuvenation, collagen production and to lift and tighten the skin.
Typically derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is part of the alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) family and is an ingredient in skin care used for effectively exfoliating the outermost layer of dead skin cells to reveal fresher skin. It is also often used in products designed to treat scarring, discolouration and signs of ageing.
The technical term for the stiffness-quotient of a filler. Ie, for a firmer filler to resculpt the jaw, you want one with a high g-prime. Just so you know.
High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), this treatment involves concentrated ultrasound energy is delivered below the surface of the skin by a handheld device to stimulate skin rejuvenation, collagen production and to lift and tighten the skin.
HA stands for hyaluroic acid, which is what most dermal filler gels are made from. These HA pens are devices sold online that blast tiny blobs of hyaluronic acid gel (like filler) into the skin, wherever you choose to use it. Not as safe as they’re billed. If that gel gets shot into a tiny blood vessel and blocks it, you’re in trouble.
Imagine placing a long-lasting hydrating serum just beneath the surface of the skin… Tweakments of injectable moisturiser (brands include Profhilo, Volite, Skinboosters and Sunekos) are hugely popular because they place small amounts of hyaluronic acid into the skin, where it not only hydrates, but encourages the skin to remodel itself from within, so you get fresh, glowing, firmer skin without any added volume. You can read more about injectable moisturisers here.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)
A type of light therapy used to treat age spots and to reduce unwanted hair growth on the face and body. Not the same as laser – laser light is more powerful, and strikes to a very precise depth in the skin. IPL has a more ‘scattergun’ effect with its wavelengths. You can read more about IPL here.
Person keen to have filler treatment to sharpen up their jawline. See also Texas Jaw.
A powerful narrow beam of concentrated light which strikes at a specific depth in the skin, depending on its wavelength. Can be used lightly to brighten the skin, or heavily to strip away pigmentation and everything else in between. ‘Laser’ stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation (always a good one to have up your sleeve for a pub quiz).
A facial that will involve the use of a laser to treat the skin to reduce facial wrinkles and skin irregularities such as blemishes or acne scars.
LED Blue Light Therapy
LED blue light is shone onto the skin from a canopy that hovers over the face. Blue light denatures the p.acnes bacteria that provoke acne, so a course of treatment can greatly reduce active acne.
LED light mask
Popular home-use devices to strengthen the skin and boost its radiance, which deliver red and near infra-red LED light into the skin, to calm inflammation and boost collagen production. Much lower powered than salon light treatments but yes, they work, if you use them often enough.
LED Near Infrared light therapy
LED near-infrared light, again shone onto the skin from a canopy or delivered via a moulded mask, is a great skin-booster. It offers the collagen-boosting effects of red light (see below) but travels more deeply into the body and can stimulate bone tissue, too. It can also lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and has a positive effect on the body’s feel-good hormones.
LED Red Light Therapy
LED red light treatment, from a canopy or mask as above, penetrates the skin and is absorbed the cells to stimulate the growth of more collagen. A course of treatment can help treat a range of conditions from wrinkles to rosacea.
Dermal fillers used for increasing the volume of the lips.
Procedure to make the upper border of the upper lip kick out a bit and be more prominent, done by reducing the strength of the muscles around the lip with toxins. Ridiculous, yes, but it’s a thing.
Procedures and products used to increase the volume of the lips such as dermal fillers, lip glosses or suction.
A procedure where a fine filament of a substance that stimulates the growth of collagen is threaded – with a needle – through the outline of the lip. Yes, urgh. It’s similar to the old lip implants of 15 years ago that were dropped for being problematic. Don’t go there.
A minimally invasive procedure where a series of superfine injections of vitamins, minerals and amino acids are delivered into the skin to nourish and rejuvenate while also stimulating the production of collagen and elastin.
Microdosing (of toxins. Aka ‘Baby toxins, or filler)
Using tiny amounts of product. Good for nervous newbies terrified of looking frozen or hamster-cheeked, though the results will be minimal and won’t last long.
A minimally invasive treatment in which tiny punctures in the skin are made using micro-fine needles to trigger the body’s wound healing process, stimulating collagen and elastin production.
Non-surgical nose job
Injecting fillers into strategic points of the nose, to straighten its profile and improve proportions. Works like magic in the right hands. Seek out a nose surgeon who also does non-surgical work for this. It’s not as simple as the experts make it look.
The process that creates new collagen within the skin. Many tweakments – including laser, ultrasound, radiofrequency and needling — aim to kick-start neocollagenesis.
A nurse with qualifications to prescribe medicine. Cosmetic nurses with the ability to prescribe can prescribe toxins as well as administer them.
Perception deception, or Perception drift
The longer you spend looking at extreme or improved images, say, filtered faces, or enhanced lips – the more it warps your perception. It’s not just psychological; this actually makes a temporary physiological change in the brain, like being drunk, skews your perception and makes you less happy with your own image. New research coming out on this soon.
Phi and ‘golden proportion’
This mathematical ratio of 1:1.6 determines what we see as beautiful. It holds true in art, architecture, care design – and also in many aspects of the human face. The width of the face compared to the length; the height of the top lip compared to the lower lip, and so on. Expert tweakment practitioners aim to move our facial proportions towards these ideals. Who’s the nearest example of perfection? Bella Hadid, closely followed by Beyonce.
A treatment offered by non-medical specialists which zaps the skin with tiny burns (see Plasma Skin Tightening, below) in order to tighten it as it heals. Of dubious value.
Plasma Skin Tightening
Tiny blasts of ‘plasma energy’, like miniature lightning bolts, are used to vaporise tiny holes in the skin causing the skin to burn, contract and then to heal itself by producing fresh collagen. To read more about plasma skin-tightening, click here.
The concept is that if you start early with toxins and skin-tightening treatments, the wrinkles won’t get a chance to settle in, so you’ll age more slowly. True, but it also tends to make people overly anxious about the (perfectly normal) onset of any signs of ageing.
The proper term for a tweakment. Or rather a tweakment is a non-surgical cosmetic medical procedure.
A qualified surgeon who has taken further qualifications in a surgical speciality involving the restoration, reconstruction or alteration of the human body and face.
A skin tightening aesthetic technique that uses radio-frequency energy to heat tissue and stimulate collagen production in the skin in order to improve the appearance of fine lines and loose skin. Sometimes described as a technology that ‘shrink-wraps’ the skin.
As above but treatment uses lower levels of radiofrequency energy to firm and tone the skin on the face. The best-known brand of radiofrequency facial is the Venus Freeze.
When you start worrying that you don’t look as good IRL as you do in your (filtered, online) selfies. And you go to a doctor asking ‘Why don’t I look like this?’ and show them a filtered selfie, and they have to point out that you never actually looked like that…
Skin conditioning injections
Pinprick injections of a fluid form of dermal filler made from hyaluronic acid. Provides deep hydration within the skin. Also known as the moisture jab. Brands include Profhilo, Volite and Skinboosters.
Skin peeling facial
Facial that involves a not-too-challenging facial peel, to exfoliate and brighten the skin.
Skin peels aka chemical peels
A technique used to improve the skin’s appearance usually on the face or hands which uses a chemical solution that is applied to the skin that causes it to exfoliate and eventually peel off revealing smoother, clearer skin. Read more about skin peels here.
‘Snatched’ jaw or the Texas Jaw
A much-requested procedure where filler is injected along the edge of the jaw and under its corners to give a clean, sharp, youthful-looking jawline. Needs to be done with care — you want to end up looking like Angelina Jolie, not Desperate Dan.
A dermal filler that works to not only immediately correct wrinkles but also stimulates the body’s own natural collagen to have a long-lasting, natural-looking result. Unlike most fillers which are made from hyaluronic acid, stimulating fillers are made with substances such as polycaprolactone (a bioabsorbable material that is also used in sutures for surgical stitches) or poly-l-lactic acid, that slowly gets absorbed by the body but in the meantime works to stimulate collagen growth.
The grooves that sit between the lower eyelid and the cheeks. They create a hollow at the junction between the lower eyelid and cheek.
A minimally invasive, rejuvenating treatment that uses specialised dissolvable surgical threads to physically lift sagging skin on the face and body. The threads are inserted into the face (most commonly across the cheeks), then pulled tight to lift the tissues. There are cones along the length of the threads which hold the tightened skin tissue in its new position. The threads take three months to dissolve, during which time they stimulate the growth of new collagen around them.
Tiny blood vessels which are visible through the surface of the skin and look like fine, red wiggly lines. Also known as spider veins or broken veins they are caused by a backup of blood and are purely a cosmetic problem. Easy to treat with Intense Pulsed Light or laser.
Triangle of Youth
If you drew a triangle on the key points of a young face, you have the wider points across the cheeks, tapering down to the chin. In an older face, that triangle is reversed, with the apex at the nose, and the two lower points on the corners of the jowls, as the face loses volume and everything drifts south. Most tweakments are working to try to return things to the original, youthful, triangle.
A colloquial word for a non-surgical cosmetic medical procedure designed to enhance the appearance. Non surgical cosmetic procedures such as toxins, fillers, lasers, thread-lifts, and skin peels
When dermal filler is injected too close to the surface of the skin, a bulge of filler can be seen through the skin and looks blue-ish when the light hits it. That’s the Tyndall effect.