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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Dermatology Dictionary: Glossary of Terms

Updated: Apr 21

Dive into the world of dermatology with our extensive glossary, designed to provide clarity on the myriad of terms used by skincare professionals.

Ideal for medical practitioners, students, and anyone with a keen interest in dermatology, this guide ensures you're well-equipped to understand and engage with skin health discussions.

Every term is meticulously defined, providing a rich and comprehensive resource.


Table of Contents

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z



  1. Acne: A common inflammatory skin condition resulting in pustules and cysts, predominantly on the face, back, and chest.

  2. Atopic Dermatitis: A chronic skin disorder causing dry, itchy inflammation, often associated with allergies.

  3. Actinic Keratosis: A precancerous skin growth caused by sun exposure.

  4. Alopecia: Hair loss from the scalp or body.

  5. Angioma: A benign growth consisting of small blood vessels.

  6. Abscess: A collection of pus within the skin, usually painful.

  7. Acne Rosacea: A chronic skin condition causing flushing, redness, and pimple-like bumps on the face.

  8. Acne Vulgaris: The medical term for common acne.

  9. Adipose: Related to or resembling fat found under the skin.

  10. Albinism: A genetic condition characterized by a lack of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.


  1. Basal Cell Carcinoma: The most common form of skin cancer, typically caused by sun exposure.

  2. Benign: Non-cancerous.

  3. Biopsy: The removal of a small piece of tissue for examination under a microscope.

  4. Blister: A small pocket of fluid within the upper layers of the skin.

  5. Botox: A drug made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, used to treat wrinkles and hyperhidrosis.

  6. Bulla: A large blister.

  7. Birthmark: A benign irregularity on the skin, present at birth or appearing shortly afterward.

  8. Blackhead: A type of acne characterized by the appearance of dark spots on the skin.

  9. Blepharoplasty: A surgical procedure to correct deformities of the eyelids.

  10. Boil: A painful, pus-filled bump under the skin caused by infected hair follicles.


  1. Cellulitis: A bacterial skin infection causing redness, swelling, and pain.

  2. Comedo (plural Comedones): A hair follicle clogged with oil and dead skin cells, resulting in blackheads and whiteheads.

  3. Contact Dermatitis: A skin rash caused by contact with a certain substance.

  4. Collagen: A protein that provides structure and elasticity to the skin.

  5. Cicatrix: The medical term for scar.

  6. Cryosurgery: A procedure using extreme cold to destroy abnormal tissue.

  7. Cuticle: The skin at the base of a nail.

  8. Cyanosis: A bluish skin discoloration due to poor circulation or inadequate oxygenation of the blood.

  9. Cyst: A closed sac under the skin filled with fluid or semisolid material.

  10. Chloasma: A skin condition characterized by dark, discolored patches, often due to hormonal changes.


  1. Dermatitis: Inflammation of the skin.

  2. Dermis: The middle layer of skin, containing blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue.

  3. Dysplastic Nevi: Atypical moles that can develop into melanoma.

  4. Dermabrasion: A procedure using a rapidly rotating device to remove the outer layers of the skin.

  5. Dermal Filler: Substances injected beneath the skin to reduce wrinkles and add volume.

  6. Dermatosis: A general term for skin disease.

  7. Dermatologist: A medical doctor specializing in skin, hair, and nail disorders.

  8. Dermatomycosis: An umbrella term used for describing superficial fungal infections of the skin

  9. Dermatophytosis: A fungal infection of the skin, hair, or nails.

  10. Dermatomyositis: An inflammatory disease marked by muscle weakness and a distinctive skin rash.

  11. Dermis: The second layer of the skin under the epidermis.


  1. Eczema: A term for several different types of skin swelling characterized by itching and redness.

  2. Erythema: Redness of the skin.

  3. Exanthem: A widespread rash usually occurring in children.

  4. Edema: Swelling caused by fluid accumulation in the body’s tissues.

  5. Epidermis: The outermost layer of skin.

  6. Erysipelas: A bacterial infection in the upper layer of the skin.

  7. Excision: The process of cutting out; surgical removal.

  8. Exfoliation: The removal of dead skin cells from the skin's surface.

  9. Electrodesiccation: A procedure that uses an electrical current to remove specific skin lesions.

  10. Epilation: The removal of hair by the roots.


  1. Folliculitis: Inflammation of the hair follicles.

  2. Fissure: A small tear in the skin.

  3. Furuncle: A boil; painful, pus-filled bump under the skin caused by infected hair follicles.

  4. Fibroma: A benign tumor made up of fibrous or connective tissue.

  5. Flush: A sudden reddening of the face or neck.

  6. Freckle: A small, brownish spot on the skin, often becoming more pronounced through exposure to the sun.

  7. Fungus: A type of germ that lives on all of us; certain conditions can cause fungal overgrowth, leading to infections.

  8. Frostbite: Injury to the skin caused by freezing.

  9. Furrow: A groove or wrinkle in the skin.

  10. Fibrosis: The thickening and scarring of connective tissue, usually due to injury.


  1. Granuloma: A small area of inflammation due to tissue injury.

  2. Gangrene: Death of body tissue, usually caused by a lack of blood flow.

  3. Genital Warts: Warts on the genital and anal areas caused by a virus.

  4. Graft: Healthy skin that is moved from one area of the body to another.

  5. Groove: A long, narrow, linear depression in the skin.

  6. Glycolic Acid: An alpha hydroxy acid used in exfoliation and chemical peels.

  7. Glabrous Skin: Skin on the body that is naturally hairless, such as the palms of the hands.

  8. Granulation Tissue: New connective tissue and blood vessels that form on the surfaces of a wound during the healing process.

  9. Grains: A term sometimes used to describe very small units of measure for medication.

  10. Gumma: A soft, non-cancerous growth resulting from the tertiary stage of syphilis.


  1. Hyperpigmentation: Darkening of the skin.

  2. Hypopigmentation: Lightening of the skin.

  3. Hirsutism: Excessive hair growth in women in areas where hair is normally minimal.

  4. Hemangioma: A benign tumor of blood vessels, often forming a red or purple birthmark.

  5. Herpes Zoster: Also known as shingles; a painful rash that occurs as a result of reactivation of the chickenpox virus.

  6. Hyperkeratosis: Thickening of the outer layer of the skin.

  7. Hypertrophic Scar: An enlarged scar remaining within the boundaries of the original lesion.

  8. Hidradenitis Suppurativa: A chronic skin condition featuring lumps in places such as the armpits or groin.

  9. Hematoma: A collection of blood outside of a blood vessel, causing swelling and pain.

  10. Hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating.


  1. Ichthyosis: A family of genetic skin disorders characterized by dry, scaling skin.

  2. Impetigo: A highly contagious skin infection that causes red sores on the face.

  3. Inflammation: A localized physical condition in which part of the body becomes reddened, swollen, hot, and often painful.

  4. Intertrigo: A rash that occurs in the folds of the skin.

  5. Intradermal: Within the layers of the skin.

  6. Isotretinoin: A powerful drug used in the treatment of acne.

  7. Irritant Dermatitis: Skin inflammation caused by a substance that irritates the skin.

  8. Insect Bites and Stings: Reactions to the bite or sting of an insect.

  9. Infection: Invasion and multiplication of germs in the body, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites.

  10. Itch: An uncomfortable sensation on the skin that causes a desire to scratch.


  1. Junctional Nevus: A type of mole that occurs when melanocytes accumulate at the dermo-epidermal junction.

  2. Juvenile Plantar Dermatosis: A skin condition that affects the soles of the feet in children.

  3. Jock Itch: A fungal infection of the groin area.

  4. Jaundice: A yellowing of the skin and eyes, typically a sign of liver disease.

  5. Junctional Melanocytic Nevus: A type of benign melanocytic nevus found predominantly in children and adolescents.

  6. Jessner’s Solution: A chemical peel solution used to rejuvenate facial skin.

  7. Juvederm: A dermal filler used to fill in wrinkles and add volume to the skin.

  8. Janeway Lesions: Non-tender, small erythematous or haemorrhagic macular or nodular lesions on the palms or soles only a few millimeters in diameter that are associated with endocarditis.

  9. Juvenile Xanthogranuloma: A type of skin disorder that is most common in children and young adults, characterized by the appearance of reddish or yellowish, rounded bumps on the skin.

  10. Jessner’s Lymphocytic Infiltrate: A rare skin condition that causes red and scaly skin patches.


  1. Keloid: A raised overgrowth of scar tissue that develops at the site of a skin injury.

  2. Keratosis Pilaris: A common skin condition characterized by small, rough bumps on the skin.

  3. Keratoacanthoma: A type of benign, fast-growing tumor that appears on sun-exposed skin.

  4. Keratin: A type of protein found in the skin, hair, and nails.

  5. Keratosis: A growth of keratin on the skin or on mucous membranes.

  6. Kaposi Sarcoma: A type of cancer that causes patches of abnormal tissue to grow under the skin, in the lining of the mouth, nose, and throat, or in other organs.

  7. Keratolysis Exfoliativa: A common skin condition that results in the peeling of the soles of the feet.

  8. Koebner Phenomenon: A condition where skin lesions appear on lines of trauma.

  9. Keratinocyte: The predominant cell type in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin.


  1. Lichen Planus: A condition marked by itchy, swollen bumps on the skin or in the mouth.

  2. Lupus: An autoimmune disease that affects the skin, joints, and other parts of the body.

  3. Lentigo: A small, clearly defined, darkened spot on the skin.

  4. Lesion: Any abnormal damage or change in the tissue of an organism.

  5. Lipoma: A benign, soft tumor made up of fat tissue.

  6. Lichenification: Thick, leathery skin, usually the result of constant scratching and rubbing.

  7. Laser Resurfacing: A procedure that uses a laser to improve the appearance of skin or treat minor facial flaws.

  8. Lentigo Maligna: A type of melanoma that occurs on sun-damaged skin.

  9. Lymphoma: A type of cancer that starts in the lymphatic system.

  10. Lupus Erythematosus: An autoimmune disease that affects the skin and other organs.


  1. Melanoma: The most serious type of skin cancer.

  2. Moles: Growths on the skin that are usually brown or black.

  3. Melasma: A condition in which brown patches appear on the face.

  4. Macule: A flat, distinct, colored area of skin.

  5. Malignant: Cancerous.

  6. Mastocytosis: A disorder that occurs when too many mast cells accumulate in the skin and/or internal organs.

  7. Mycosis Fungoides: The most common form of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

  8. Milia: Small, white bumps that appear on the skin.

  9. Melanocyte: A type of cell in the skin that produces melanin.

  10. Molluscum Contagiosum: A viral skin infection that results in round, firm, painless bumps.

  11. Mongoloid Spot or Mongolian spot: It is a benign, blue-gray birthmark often found in infants,


  1. Necrosis: Cell death in the skin, often due to injury or disease.

  2. Nevus: A general term for a mole or birthmark.

  3. Nodules: Large, solid, painful lumps beneath the skin’s surface.

  4. Nummular Dermatitis: A chronic, pruritic, inflammatory dermatosis characterized by round or oval plaques.

  5. Nail Dystrophy: Abnormalities in the structure and function of nails.

  6. Nanotechnology: The use of extremely small particles for diagnostic and therapeutic applications in dermatology.

  7. Necrobiotic Xanthogranuloma: A rare skin condition characterized by the presence of red or yellowish nodules or plaques.

  8. Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis: A fibrosing disorder that affects the skin and internal organs, associated with exposure to gadolinium-based contrast agents.

  9. Neurodermatitis: A chronic skin condition that causes itchy skin.

  10. Nevocellular Nevus: A benign growth of melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin.


  1. Onychomycosis: Fungal infection of the nails.

  2. Onycholysis: The separation of a nail from its bed.

  3. Onychoschizia: Splitting of the fingernails.

  4. Ochronosis: A bluish-black discoloration of certain tissues, seen in alkaptonuria.

  5. Oral Lichen Planus: A chronic inflammatory condition affecting mucous membranes inside your mouth.

  6. Osteoma Cutis: The presence of bone within the skin.

  7. Onychogryphosis: Thickening and increase in curvature of the nail.

  8. Onychorrhexis: Longitudinal ridging or splitting of the nail plate.

  9. Osteodermia: Hardness and immobility of the skin, seen in scleroderma.

  10. Onychoptosis: Periodic shedding of one or more nails, in whole or part.


  1. Psoriasis: A chronic autoimmune condition causing red, scaly patches on the skin.

  2. Pustule: A small, inflamed, pus-filled lesion.

  3. Papules: Small, raised, solid bumps on the skin.

  4. Phototherapy: A treatment for skin conditions using UV light.

  5. Pigmentation Disorders: Conditions like vitiligo and melasma, where the skin loses or gains pigment.

  6. Pemphigus: A group of autoimmune blistering diseases of the skin and mucous membranes.

  7. Porphyria: A group of rare disorders that can cause nerve or skin problems.

  8. Pruritus: Medical term for itching.

  9. Panniculitis: Inflammation of the subcutaneous fat layer.

  10. Pyoderma Gangrenosum: A rare skin condition that causes painful ulcers.


  1. Quiescent: Inactive or dormant; often used to describe lesions that are not currently inflamed.

  2. Queyrat's Erythroplasia: A type of squamous cell carcinoma in situ found on the penis.

  3. Quincke’s Edema: Another term for angioedema, a swelling of the deeper layers of the skin, often around the eyes and lips.

  4. Quickening: A term used to describe the first time a pregnant woman feels the fetus move.

  5. Quinacrine: An antimalarial drug also used in dermatology to treat lupus and other conditions.

  6. Q-switched Laser: A laser that emits energy in short bursts, used to remove tattoos and pigmented lesions.

  7. Quality of Life: A term used to refer to a patient’s general well-being, including their mental, social, and physical health.

  8. Quorum Sensing: A system of communication between bacteria that can play a role in the development of acne and other skin conditions.

  9. Quadrantectomy: A type of breast-conserving surgery that might be used for melanoma or other skin cancers that have spread to the breast tissue.

  10. Quartz: A type of crystal used in some types of laser treatments.


  1. Rosacea: A chronic skin condition causing facial redness and small, red, pus-filled bumps.

  2. Rash: A general term for a temporary skin eruption.

  3. Rejuvenation: Skin treatments that aim to restore a more youthful appearance.

  4. Retinoids: A group of medications derived from vitamin A.

  5. Rhinophyma: A form of rosacea affecting the nose.

  6. Ringworm: A fungal skin infection not caused by a worm.

  7. Rituximab: A medication used to treat certain autoimmune diseases.

  8. Rubella: A viral infection that can cause a skin rash and joint pain.

  9. Rubeosis: Redness of the skin or other organs.

  10. Radiodermatitis: Skin damage due to exposure to radiation.


  1. Seborrheic Dermatitis: A skin condition causing scaly patches, red skin, and dandruff, primarily on the scalp.

  2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A form of skin cancer arising in the squamous cells, characterized by red, scaly, or crusted skin.

  3. Sunburn: Damage to the skin caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

  4. Skin Tags: Small, benign growths of skin.

  5. Scleroderma: A group of autoimmune diseases that cause the skin and connective tissues to harden.

  6. Scabies: A contagious skin infestation caused by a tiny mite.

  7. Shingles: A viral infection that causes a painful rash.

  8. Sebaceous Cysts: Noncancerous, small bumps beneath the skin.

  9. Solar Lentigines: Sun spots; flat brown spots caused by sun exposure.

  10. Sporotrichosis: A fungal infection that can cause skin ulcers.


  1. Tinea: A fungal skin infection, also known as ringworm.

  2. Telangiectasia: Small, widened blood vessels on the skin.

  3. Tumor: A lump or growth that may be benign or malignant.

  4. Topical Steroids: Medications used to reduce skin inflammation.

  5. Tinea Versicolor: A fungal infection that causes small, discolored patches of skin.

  6. Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis: A severe skin condition involving the death of skin cells and mucous membranes.

  7. Trichotillomania: A disorder characterized by the urge to pull out one’s hair.

  8. Tuberous Sclerosis: A genetic disorder that causes noncancerous tumors to form in many parts of the body.

  9. Tyrosinase: An enzyme involved in the production of melanin.

  10. Tattoo Removal: Procedures used to remove tattoos, including laser treatments.


  1. Urticaria: Hives; an outbreak of swollen, pale red bumps on the skin that are often itchy.

  2. Ulcus Cruris: Venous leg ulcer.

  3. Umbilicated: Having a small depression resembling the navel.

  4. Uveitis: Inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, which can be associated with skin diseases.

  5. Ultraviolet Radiation: A type of light that can cause skin damage, including sunburn and skin cancer.

  6. Urethritis: Inflammation of the urethra, which can be associated with certain skin conditions.

  7. Ulcer: A sore on the skin that may not heal.

  8. Ungual: Relating to the nails.

  9. Uroporphyrin: A compound involved in the body’s production of heme, which can be associated with certain skin conditions when not properly regulated.

  10. Ulcus Vulvae Acutum: A rare and acute ulcerative condition of the female genitalia.


  1. Vitiligo: A condition in which the skin loses its pigment cells, resulting in discolored patches.

  2. Vasculitis: Inflammation of the blood vessels, which can affect the skin.

  3. Varicose Veins: Swollen, twisted veins that are visible under the skin.

  4. Vascular Birthmarks: Birthmarks caused by blood vessels close to the skin’s surface.

  5. Vellus Hairs: The fine, soft hairs on the body.

  6. Vesicles: Small fluid-filled sacs on the skin.

  7. Verruca: Another term for a wart, caused by a virus.

  8. Vitamin A Derivatives: Compounds derived from vitamin A, used in skincare products and medications.

  9. Venous Ulcer: An open sore caused by poor blood flow in the veins.

  10. Vitiligo: A condition in which the skin loses its color in patches.


  1. Wart: A small, rough growth resembling a cauliflower or a solid blister, typically caused by a virus.

  2. Wrinkles: Lines and creases that form in the skin, often due to aging.

  3. Wood’s Lamp: A diagnostic tool that uses ultraviolet light to examine the skin.

  4. Wheals: Raised, red, itchy bumps on the skin, often seen in hives.

  5. Whitehead: A type of acne lesion that forms when dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria become trapped within a pore.

  6. Wound Healing: The process of repairing after injury.

  7. Weeping: Oozing of fluid from the skin, often seen in eczema.

  8. Wart Removal: Procedures used to remove warts, including cryotherapy, laser treatment, and topical medications.

  9. Wen: Another term for a sebaceous cyst.

  10. Whorled Nevoid Hypermelanosis: A rare skin condition characterized by swirling patterns of hyperpigmentation.


  1. Xerosis: Medical term for dry skin.

  2. Xanthelasma: Yellowish patches around the eyelids caused by cholesterol deposits.

  3. Xeroderma Pigmentosum: A rare genetic condition that impairs the skin’s ability to repair DNA damage, leading to an increased risk of skin cancer.

  4. Xanthoma: A skin condition characterized by fatty growths beneath the skin.

  5. X-linked Ichthyosis: A genetic disorder characterized by dry, scaly skin.

  6. Xanthogranuloma: A benign skin tumor that often appears in infancy or early childhood.

  7. Xeroderma: Another term for dry skin.

  8. Xanthelasma Palpebrarum: Yellow plaques on the eyelids associated with lipid disorders.

  9. X-linked Recessive Disorder: A genetic condition that is passed down through the maternal line and primarily affects males.

  10. Xanthine: A compound used in some medications for respiratory conditions that can sometimes cause skin reactions.


  1. Yellow Nail Syndrome: A rare condition characterized by yellow, thickened nails and frequent respiratory infections.

  2. Yeast Infection: An infection caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the skin, also known as candidiasis.

  3. Yaws: A tropical infection of the skin, bones, and joints caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum pertenue.

  4. Yolk Sac Tumor: A rare, malignant tumor of cells that line the yolk sac of the embryo.

  5. Yolk Sac Carcinoma: Another term for yolk sac tumor.

  6. Youthful Skin: Refers to skin that appears smooth, plump, and free from wrinkles and other signs of aging.

  7. Yellow Skin: This can refer to jaundice, a condition caused by excess bilirubin in the blood.

  8. Yeast: A type of fungus that can cause skin infections.

  9. Ylang-Ylang Oil: An oil used in aromatherapy and skincare products, sometimes causing allergic reactions.

  10. Yttrium: A chemical element used in certain laser treatments for the skin.


  1. Zinc: An essential mineral that plays a crucial role in wound healing and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.

  2. Zoster (Herpes Zoster): Also known as shingles, it is a viral infection that causes a painful rash and is caused by the varicella-zoster virus.

  3. Z-plasty: A surgical technique used to improve the functional and cosmetic appearance of scars.

  4. Zyderm: A form of collagen used in dermal fillers to treat wrinkles and fine lines.

  5. Zinc Oxide: A compound used in various skin creams and ointments for its protective, soothing, and healing properties.

  6. Zinc Pyrithione: An ingredient used in shampoos and other skin products to treat dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

  7. Zoon’s Balanitis: An inflammatory condition of the head of the penis, often seen in uncircumcised men.

  8. Zoonotic Disease: A disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans, some of which can affect the skin.

  9. Zein Test: A diagnostic test used to detect the presence of certain proteins in the skin.

  10. Zinc PCA: A skin-conditioning agent used for its anti-aging and moisturizing properties.


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