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Commonly Used Medical Aesthetics Terms


  • All
  • Anatomy
  • Practice Roles
  • Procedures/Treatments

What’s the difference between aesthetic and plastic? Or the difference between aesthetic and cosmetic?

On Spark, we use language that aligns with many professional and medical boards. Before exploring the glossary, here are a few key terms that may stand out to you as different.  

1.  Aesthetic vs Cosmetic:

While it may seem purely semantic, the fundamental difference between aesthetic and cosmetic is that the term aesthetic encompasses the philosophy and approach to the assessment, judgment, and treatments/procedures that go into meeting a patient’s aesthetic goals.1 Cosmetics are defined as items with mild action on the human body for the purpose of cleaning, adding to the attractiveness, altering the appearance, or keeping or promoting the skin or hair in good condition.2

2.  Medical Aesthetician vs Esthetician:

Medical aestheticians and estheticians perform different roles and have different licensing requirements. The primary difference is that medical aestheticians perform medical skin procedures, whereas estheticians perform skin cleaning and cosmetic procedures. Medical aestheticians are generally required to get training in areas like anatomy and physiology, while esthetician training is usually focused on specific procedures and devices. Of course, licensing and certification requirements vary by state, and there might be overlap.3

Whether you’re brand-new to the field or an existing healthcare provider looking for a new job, this useful resource can help you understand more about Medical Aesthetics.

  1. 1. Accessed August 22, 2022
  2. 2. Accessed August 29, 2022
  3. 3. Accessed August 22, 2022

Aesthetic Injector

Qualified medical professional with formal education, licensing, certification and training in proper techniques, knowledge of facial anatomy, and familiarity with the safety risks and benefits of injectable products. Work with patients and provide full assessment of their needs to ensure understanding of procedures planned. Aesthetic Injectors can work in a variety of practices, such as a dermatology or plastic surgery office or a med spa. They are knowledgeable of the products' use, efficacy, and safety profile and refine their skills through continual training, mentorship, and shadowing of an experienced injector.

While requirements vary by state, typically Aesthetic Injectors must be licensed as an MD, DO, RN, APRN, NP, or PA.

Visit Licensing and Certification for more information.


Aestheticians are licensed professionals who provide skincare services and beauty treatments, such as facials, makeup applications, and hair removal through waxing. Depending on your state and licensing laws, aestheticians can also provide micro needling, dermaplaning, or microblading.

Visit Licensing and Certification for more information.


Aesthetics, also known as Esthetics, in this context differs from the Medical Aesthetics industry as it is the overall application of various techniques to the epidermal layer of the human body. Application of esthetic techniques may include, but is not limited to, facial steaming, exfoliation, waxing, pore cleansing, extraction, and chemical peels. The practice of "Aesthetics" can include cosmetology services but specifically excludes diagnosis, prescription medications/treatments, or any other service, procedure, or therapy that requires a license to practice dermatology or any other profession or branch of medicine.

Barrier Function

The ability of the skin to prevent penetration by microorganisms and chemicals that might otherwise damage tissue or enter the circulation. The skin also reduces water loss from the body.

Basal Cell Layer

Innermost layer of the epidermis that continuously produces new cells. This layer also includes melanocytes, which produce melanin, which gives the skin its brown color and also protects the skin from the sun’s UV radiation.

Body Contouring Technician

Specialist trained in body contouring through fat freezing, radiofrequency, or electromagnetic therapy where fat is heated to eliminate stubborn pockets of fat and contour different areas of the body. 

Depending on state licensing and certification laws, body contouring must be performed by a licensed medical professional or delegated to a licensed technician who is properly trained and supervised.

Breast Augmentation

Cosmetic surgery procedure to increase breast size and enhance breast shape, typically through the placement of silicone or saline breast implants.

Breast Lift

Restores breasts by removing excess, stretched out skin, and reshaping the breast tissue for improved breast shape, projection, and symmetry.

Breast Reconstruction

Surgical procedure that restores the form and shape of the breast, following mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery. Reconstruction can be performed through the use of breast implants, reconstruction the breast using patients own skin, fat, and muscle or a combination of the methods.

Breast Reduction

Cosmetic surgery procedure that reduces the size and weight of large, heavy breasts by removing excess breast tissue, fat, and sagging, stretched skin, for smaller, lighter, and firmer breasts.

Brow Lift

Cosmetic surgery procedure, also known as forehead lift, which removes excess sagging skin on the forehead and repositions underlying muscles and tissues to correct a heavy, sagging brow, eliminate deep furrows to the upper one-third of the face.

Calcium Hydroxylapatite

Mineral commonly found in human teeth and bones which can be used for wrinkle filling by suspending the particles in a gel-like solution that is then injected in the face or hand.

Chemical Peel

Chemical peels involve removing the top layers of the skin with a chemical solution in order to reveal smoother younger skin.

A chemical solution is applied to the skin to cause it to blister and peel, revealing a new layer of skin; treatment is used to improve the appearance of the skin, reducing lines, wrinkles, age spots, and other problems.

Chin Enhancement

Cosmetic surgery procedure, also called genioplasty, that alters the contours of the chin, neck, and jawline through the placement of an implant around a patient’s existing chin bone to augment the size and shape of the chin. Chin enhancement can also be provided through use of fillers which produce volume and stimulate hyaluronic acid or collagen production that can lessen the appearance of sagging, baggy skin.


A fibrous protein that is the main component of connective tissue in the body. It is the most plentiful protein in the skin, making up 75-80% of the skin, and is responsible for warding off wrinkles and fine lines.


A dermatological surgical procedure using a rotating instrument that sands the skin, reducing scarring and some wrinkles. This procedure requires intense pre- and post-operative care.

Dermal Filler

Material designed to help temporarily fill certain moderate to severe facial wrinkles and folds. Most common materials are collagen, Hyaluronic acid, Calcium hydroxylapatite, and Poly-L-lactic acid.


A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in conditions involving the skin, hair, and nails. Dermatologists have extensive training, going to school for 12 years or more to learn to diagnose and treat more than 3,000 diseases of the skin, hair, and nails as well as cosmetic concerns. Dermatologists also help patients with cosmetic concerns, including addressing issues with their aging skin, treating wounds caused by surgery to remove a skin cancer, helping to diminish acne or other scars, or helping patients restore a healthier appearance.

Schooling: Four years of college to earn a bachelor’s degree and four years of medical school to become a medical doctor

Internship: A year-long internship

Residency: Three years of residency, working alongside experienced doctors and completing 12,000 to 16,000 hours of treating patients

Fellowship: Advanced training length of time depends on the particular area of focus

Visit Licensing and Certification for more information.


Makes up approximately 90 percent of the thickness of the skin and gives the skin its plumpness. This layer contains the blood vessels, lymph vessels, hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, nerve endings, collagen, and elastin.


A flexible, stretchy protein found in skin and connective tissue. Responsible for giving structure to your skin and organs.


This is the outermost layer of the skin and protects the body from the environment and contains our sensory nerves.

Eyelid Lift

Individualized cosmetic surgery that can address sagging skin, smooth wrinkles, reduce puffiness, and correct other signs of aging around the upper and lower eyelids.


Cosmetic surgery that removes excess, sagging skin to lift and tighten the deep facial tissues on the lower face and neck.

Facial Nerve

Facial nerve is responsible for facial expression and further divides into five branches: temporal, zygomatic, buccal, marginal mandibular, and cervical.

Fat Grafting

Fat grafting (also called “fat transfer” or "fat injections") uses patients’ own fat, usually extracted from the abdomen or inner thigh, to fill in irregularities and grooves elsewhere, including nasolabial folds.

Front Desk Associate a.k.a. Receptionist

Provides administrative and scheduling assistance in healthcare facilities, like doctors’ offices, med spas, and hospitals. Is often the patient's first contact with the practice, who engages with the patient by answering phones, booking appointments, and welcoming the patient into the office. Ensures excellent customer service and sustains a positive patient relationship through follow-ups and scheduling next appointments. Plays a role in setting the tone for the visit and the overall experience from beginning to end. Depending on practice, also known as Receptionist.


Cosmetic surgery that removes excess fat and glandular tissue to sculpt a flatter, firmer, and more contoured chest through liposuction and excision.

Hair Transplant

Hair transplants restore hair to areas of the scalp that are bald or have thinning hair.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance found in your body. High concentrations are found in soft connective tissues and in the fluid surrounding your eyes. It's also in some cartilage and joint fluids as well as skin tissue. It is extracted and reformulated and now has become one of the most popular kind of injectable fillers.


Innermost layer also known as the subcutis that consists of fat and collagen cells and serves as an insulator and protector of vital organs.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a light treatment that penetrates the second layer of skin (the dermis)—without harming the top layer of skin—to soften wrinkles and remove pigmentation, including age spots, freckles, sun damage, and broken blood vessels in three to six sessions.

A device that emits broadband light to improve the look of the skin or remove unwanted hair.

Laser Hair Removal

Laser hair removal or hair reduction involves using lasers to remove unwanted hair on the face or body.

Laser Skin Resurfacing

Skin treatment that uses highly concentrated beams of light energy to remove damaged outer layers of skin to improve skin’s tone, texture, and appearance.

Laser Technicians

Skincare specialists who focus on performing laser treatments including laser hair removal, tattoo removal, and reductions in age spots or freckles. Technicians may also offer related skin treatments, like skin tightening, skin resurfacing, and skin rejuvenation. Since using laser technology for medical purposes can be dangerous, technicians must be trained in laser safety.

Laser technician certifications depend on state licensing and certification laws with many states requiring a medical doctor, or a physician assistant or registered nurse under the supervision of a medical doctor to perform the procedure.

Marketing Coordinator

Professionals who coordinate all the marketing activities and initiatives of a practice to ensure patients, new and incoming, are aware of upcoming promotions, latest industry trends, and appointment reminders. Possible responsibilities may include: creating a marketing strategy and calendar, communicating with patients through social channels or a practice's website deploying promotional campaigns/advertising, managing social media channels through content creation (patient testimonials, procedures offered, and promotions), creating and sending email blasts to patients, conducting market research for the practice, and evaluating current trends to keep practice and advertising campaigns up to date. Depending on the individual practice, the Marketing Coordinator can be responsible for the practice's social media channel or a Social Media Coordinator can focus specifically on the social media channels.

Medical Aesthetics

Medical Aesthetics is the practice of performing medical procedures to help achieve the patient’s aesthetic goals. Many aesthetic procedures are quick, minimally invasive, and have little downtime.

Some examples of Medical Aesthetic procedures are:

  • Facial Injectables
  • Chemical Peels
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Laser Treatments
  • Body Contouring
  • Treatment of Cellulite
  • Cosmetic Surgery

Medical Assistant

Essential support workers who provide both clinical and administrative support for physicians and other healthcare providers. Possible responsibilities may include: prepping procedure room, checking-in patients and assessing their medical history during the beginning of consultation, confirming pre and post treatments. They are cross-trained to perform administrative and clinical duties to provide overall patient satisfaction.

Depending on state licensing and certification laws, medical assistants should have a CMA or RMA degree or certificate. 

Visit Licensing and Certification for more information.

Medical Director

A Medical Director of a Medical Aesthetics practice is a trained physician who provides supervision and oversight of the medical treatments provided under the authority of a Medical Director’s license to ensure that patients are treated to the standard of care required. The Medical Director typically oversees the operations of a healthcare facility and assumes medical responsibility of the patients and procedures in the practice. Depending on the state, a Medical Director is typically required to have experience or specialty in Medical Aesthetics, and they may also be required to have financial ownership. Please research your state’s regulations for more details.


A substance that gives the skin, hair, and eyes their natural color.


Cells located deep in the epidermis that produce melanin.


Microdermabrasion mechanically exfoliates skin for a smoother, brighter, more even-toned complexion in which practitioners use a hand-held device with microcrystals to gently buff away the top layers of skin.

A cosmetic procedure in which tiny crystals under high pressure are sprayed on the face. This buffs away the outer layer of skin, eliminates fine lines, and improves the look of the skin.


Botulinum neurotoxin is an FDA-approved prescription treatment that is administered via intramuscular injection.


Provides patient assessment through objective data with subjective experience of a patient’s biological, physical, and behavioral needs. Ensures that every patient receives the best possible care. In the United States today, nursing roles can be divided into three categories by the specific responsibilities they undertake: Registered nurses (RN), Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRN), and/or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), also known as Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs). Additionally, Aesthetic Nurses are registered nurses with specialized training in aesthetic and cosmetic services. They’re qualified to provide a wide variety of services to patients, including photo facials, injection of neurotoxins and dermal fillers, tattoo removal, dermabrasion, and nonsurgical body contouring among others.

Potential Schooling:

  • Undergraduate Diploma in Nursing
  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two-year degree offered by community colleges and hospital-based schools
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BS/BSN) is a four-year degree offered at colleges and universities
  • Graduate degrees offer additional routes to advancing the expertise of registered nurses

Visit Licensing and Certification for more information.

Nurse Practitioner

Healthcare providers that assess patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests, counsel on a variety of procedures, perform those procedures, and care for patients as they recover. In Medical Aesthetics, they’re qualified to provide a wide variety of services to patients, including photo facials, injection of neurotoxins and dermal fillers, tattoo removal, dermabrasion, and nonsurgical body contouring, among others. 

Potential Schooling:

  • Master's or doctoral degree program and have advanced clinical training 
  • Didactic and clinical courses prepare nurses with specialized knowledge in preferred specialty
  • Must have initial professional registered nurse, RN, degree
  • RN licensure is a prerequisite to receive a Nurse Practitioner, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (NP, APRN) license 
  • RN licensure and APRN licensure are not always held in the same state; some states require an RN will upgrade his or her status from RN to APRN licensure

Visit Licensing and Certification for more information.

Office Manager

Oversees all aspects of the medical aesthetics practice with the exception of direct patient care and is responsible for making sure that the administrative aspects of the office runs smoothly. Responsibilities may include: hiring, managing and scheduling all practice staff, building patient relationships by handling patient concerns and supporting patients with pre- and post-procedure care and administrative forms, purchasing inventory, verifying all aspects of insurance for patients and the practice, and ensuring the practice adheres to the latest regulations. Depending on practice, also known as Practice Manager.

Papillary Layer

Provides nutrients to the epidermis and also assists with thermoregulation.

Patient Care Coordinator

Guides patients through their overall office journey from beginning to end to help put patients at ease and help support overall patient satisfaction throughout their treatments. Oversees patient check-in pre- and post-procedure, ensures forms are filled out correctly, guides patient to treatment room, and reaches out to patient following procedure to confirm patient is following any procedure protocols as well as answer questions.

PDO Threads

Polydioxanone threads are temporary sutures that are used to pull the skin back slightly and lift and tighten facial tissue as well as provide collagen stimulation to treated areas. PDO threads are made of biocompatible material that absorbs into the body allowing for reduced recovery time in comparison to facelifts.


Daily sunscreen applications can reduce appearance of fine wrinkles and help prevent dyspigmentation.

Physician Assistant

Handles many of the functions of a fully trained doctor in the absence of a doctor and exercises autonomy in medical decision making. All PAs work under the ultimate supervision of a licensed physician, who is responsible for all decisions made regarding patient care. If certified, PAs can perform cosmetic injections as well as provide diagnostic, therapeutic, surgical, and preventative care under the supervision of a physician or surgeon. 

Schooling: Bachelor’s Degree and approximately four and a half years of healthcare experience prior to entering a PA program.

Surgical: Graduation from an ARC-PA accredited surgically focused PA Program OR Completion of a surgical residency for PAs (after attending PA school) OR On the job training (after graduating from an ARC-PA accredited Program)

Visit Licensing and Certification for more information.

Plastic Surgeon

A plastic surgeon deals with the repair, reconstruction, or replacement of physical defects of form or function involving the skin, musculoskeletal system, craniomaxillofacial structures, hand, extremities, breast and trunk, external genitalia or cosmetic enhancement of these areas of the body. Cosmetic surgery is an essential component of plastic surgery. The plastic surgeon uses cosmetic surgical principles both to improve overall appearance and to optimize the outcome of reconstructive procedures.

  • Special knowledge and skill in the design and surgery of grafts, flaps, free tissue transfer and replantation is necessary. Competence in the management of complex wounds, the use of implantable materials, and in tumor surgery is required.
  • Plastic surgeons have been prominent in the development of innovative techniques such as microvascular and craniomaxillofacial surgery, liposuction, and tissue transfer. Anatomy, physiology, pathology, and other basic sciences are fundamental to the specialty.
  • Competency in plastic surgery implies an amalgam of basic medical and surgical knowledge, operative judgment, technical expertise, ethical behavior, and interpersonal skills to achieve problem resolution and patient satisfaction.

Platelet Rich Plasma

Isolates powerful growth factors and proteins from patients’ own blood and reinjects it into skin to jump-start natural rejuvenation.

Poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA)

Man-made biodegradable dermal filler that stimulates skin to produce new collagen.

Reticular Layer

Thicker, inner layer and assists with providing both structure and elasticity.

Retinoid Therapy

Prescription retinoid treatment is used to improve fine lines/wrinkles, hyper/hypopigmentation, and age spots.


Nose reshaping surgery that alters the shape, size, and symmetry of a person’s nose through the reshaping of the nasal structures, including bone, cartilage, and skin.

Sales Associate/Consultant

Responsible for recommending a practice's products or services by understanding the industry and practice offerings, creating excellent sales pitches, meeting new patients and fostering good relationships to maintain future sales.

Skin Resurfacing

Any of several approaches to improve skin texture, tone, wrinkle appearance, and discolorations by promoting new collagen and epidermal growth. Chemical peels, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, and laser procedures are skin-resurfacing techniques.

Squamous Cell Layer

Located above the basal layer, it is the thickest layer on the epidermis that produces keratinocytes, which in turn, create keratin (a tough protein that makes up skin, hair, and nails).

Stratum Corneum

Outermost layer of the epidermis and is where the cell turnover process takes place. Complete cell turnover occurs every 28 to 30 days in young adults, and 45 to 50 days in elderly adults.

Topical Antioxidants

Help reduce skin damage from UV radiation and free radicals. Common treatments include Vitamin C and ferulic acid among others.

Trigeminal Nerve

Trigeminal nerve stimulates the chewing muscles that do influence the shape and proportions of the face but don’t play a role in causing wrinkles.