'Computer Face,' 'Banana Roll': Old Wrinkles Get New Names

Some say slang is useful in the cosmetic realm; others call it a marketing ploy.

October 7, 2010, 5:51 PM

Oct. 8, 2010— -- Do you sit squinting at a computer most of your day? Ask a cosmetic surgeon, and he or she might say that sooner or later you'll suffer from "computer face."

This unfortunately named condition supposedly is caused by working in front of a screen for many hours a day. Let it go too long, and you may get 'turkey neck' -- loose skin around the jaw and chin -- along with wrinkles around the forehead and eyes.

"Computer face," it turns out, is just the most recent of many slang terms on a long list of not-so-pretty descriptions of our body's imperfections.

Take "banana roll" -- an unflattering reference to the excess fat under the buttocks.

"Marionette lines" are deep creases that stretch from the mouth down to the jaw line.

"Frown lines" or "elevens" refer to the wrinkles between the eyebrows, and "smoker's lines" are those creases that border the lips, supposedly from the trademark pucker that comes along with smoking a cigarette.

While none of these expressions are considered legitimate medical terminology, new words and phrases constantly are popping up in the cosmetic surgery lexicon to describe wrinkles here, extra fat there.

Computer face is only the newest term to come about -- though some doctors already support adamantly the idea of its existence.

Dr. Michael Prager, a cosmetic surgeon based in London, told the Daily Mail: "The women I am seeing at the moment have only been using computers at work for the last decade or so. But women in their 20s have grown up with them and use them for every single task. It will be completely different for them and I think the problem is going to become much, much worse. In another 10 years, they could be looking quite awful."

Other physicians, however, aren't so convinced that these words are useful to patients.

Cosmetic Surgery Slang: Useful or Not?

Dr. Susan Albers, an eating disorder and body image clinical psychologist at Cleveland Clinic, said she often sees patients who are interested in plastic surgery -- and she tried to steer away from these new labels.

"When patients come in and use slang expressions for plastic surgery, I always try to bring it back to medical terms to reemphasize that it's a serious medical procedure," Albers said. "Otherwise, these expressions underplay the seriousness of it."

And Dr. Mark Berman, president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, said there exists a hidden agenda behind amusing new names for the same old problems.

"It's a shame because the public thinks they're getting something different and new, but in reality it's all about marketing," Berman said. "Doctors can be the greatest spin artists out of anyone because we can take the knowledge we know, that many others don't, and put a twist on it, and the public doesn't know the difference."

Marketing indeed may be stronger than ever in the $1.9-billion cosmetic surgery industry in the United States. A survey conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery found that more than 17 million cosmetic surgery procedures were performed in the United States in 2009.

"Like any business, a lot of entrepreneurial things are going on in medicine," said Berman. "Some doctors have gone to business school and recognize that edge in cosmetic surgery. It's all about winning the marketing game."

Or is it? Some industry insiders said using terminology like "marionette lines" takes the fear factor out of surgeries for many patients.

"I think these terms are great because they take away the mystique of the procedure being too technical, surgical and serious," said Catherine Maley, president of Cosmetic Image Marketing, a company that creates marketing strategies for cosmetic physicians. "If patients use certain expressions and that's how they think of the procedure, then the doctor should go ahead and use, or at least acknowledge, the surgery in those terms."

When Cosmetic Surgery Slang Goes Too Far

Dr. Stephen Greenberg, director of New York's Premier Center for Plastic Surgery, agreed the use of such vernacular may be helpful to those who could benefit from a nip or tuck.

"When something is termed like that, it makes people feel less alone, like it's a common thing and there are ways to treat it," Greenberg said. "It makes people accept it and want to look into the procedures further."

But some terms may be more acceptable than others. Maley said she had not yet heard of the terms "computer face" or "banana roll."

"It could be a generational gap," she said. "If a doctor used that kind of jargon on me, a 52-year-old baby boomer, he would alienate me.

"I've never heard of 'banana roll,'" she said, "but that just sounds insulting."

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