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COVID-Inspired Lexical Innovations in Aesthetics


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the aesthetic specialty operates in many ways. Now, it’s also shaping words.

If all of the experts who made predictions for aesthetic trends for 2020 knew there was a pandemic coming, what would they have said instead? And how would those trends hold up to where we are now?

The world since then has been tipped on its head, and coronavirus has swarmed its way into our lives, leaving us with handfuls of unknowns and very little hope for consistency.

Now, months into the trials and tribulations brought on by COVID-19, new trends and terms have wiggled their way into the forefront, creating much needed levity, direction, and connection within the specialty.

From acronyms such as WFH (work from home) to metaphors, neologism and lexical innovations like “backne” and “tweakments,” the aesthetic specialty is no stranger to using altered language to enhance communication or add a tinge of humor to an otherwise glum situation.


Maskne, a play on mask and acne, has become the go-to word to describe the skin irritation that can arise from consistent mask wearing.

Masks cover both the nose and mouth completely, and sit snug to the face, which can cause friction. The strings of the mask can also exert pressure on the skin, causing skin breakage. Re-usable masks require washing with detergent, which can cause irritation.

The shorthand has dominated media, giving the public an easy way to convey the irritation or acne popping up on the chin or lower face and how to treat it.


An unlikely pairing, the use of face masks has seen the resurgence of the word “smizing,” meaning to smile with the eyes. The word, first coined by Tyra Banks on a 2009 episode of “America’s Next Top Model,” has since been in the vocabulary of every then-teenager who watched the show when it originally aired. Moving on from its roots however, “smizing” has taken its place as a way to show emotion through the eyes while wearing a mask.

The Tele-Health Connection

Along with these new terms defining the relationship between COVID-19 and the aesthetic specialty, the overnight boom in tele-health has created a much-needed connection for physicians and patients unable to meet in person due to stay-at-home orders, quarantine precautions or risks for the immunocompromised.

While the option for tele-health was available to many physicians pre-pandemic, it took practices shutting down and subsequent health and safety requirements to show its true value for appointments that didn’t need to be face-to-face.

With many people still working from home, combination treatments to limit time outside the house have become increasingly popular. Patients are also more likely to accept treatments that require additional downtime.

In an article for Aesthetic Authority, Dr. Joel Cohen, M.D., explains that after his practice was closed for seven weeks due to the pandemic, the patients who historically routinely came in for maintenance treatments were asking for more targeted procedures to get them back on track, even with the additional downtime required.

Despite the many changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the aesthetic specialty has stayed strong, a relief to many in practice, and is continuing to provide patients with safe, relevant, effective treatments, now with a couple new helpful terms in their back pockets.

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