Expressions of Emotion in Dermatology

beauty is only  skin deep -1by Valencia Long, MBBS and Leonard J. Hoenig, M.D.

The whole gamut of human emotion has found its way into the dermatologic lexicon. A rash looks “angry” when it is inflamed. Other times, a dermatitis that oozes and exudes fluid is described as “weeping.

Cosmetic dermatology often deals with “frown lines” that are furrows that form over one’s brow as the skin ages and which remind us of scowling, a facial expression of displeasure. “Laugh lines”, also called “smile lines”, occur along the nasolabial folds and with aging can grow in length and depth.

Perhaps the most common emotion that is expressed in dermatology concerns love. Pain, and the most gentle acts of love, are described as “tenderness”. Love’s pin, described by J.G. Love in 1944, defined the localization of the tenderness to an area the size of a pinhead was suggestive of glomus tumor. “Kissing” lesions including nevi and ulcers are common and may be found on the penis, and in Paederus dermatitis.2 The nevus simplex is the “angel’s kiss” or “stork bite” found on infants’ faces and necks. Heart shaped lesions are plentiful in dermatology – and may be seen in seborrhoeic keratoses, melanocytic nevi and even pseudo-lymphomas arising from heart shaped tattoos.

The rose is a popular symbol of love, and widely inspires dermatological terms. The rosette is a popular sign used to describe the histological appearances of interstitial granulomatous dermatitis and peripheral neuroblastomas, clinically in linear IgA disease and dermoscopically in squamous cell carcinoma. Pigmented fungiform papillae of the tongue appear dermatoscopically as rose petals. Varicella zoster infection manifests as “dew-drops on a rose petal”, roseola infantum is caused by a human herpes virus, and typhoid fever produces rose spots.

Dermatology is truly a specialty that is inseperable from emotion and symbolism. From “frown lines” to “laugh lines”, the range of human emotions are writ in the weathered lines of our faces. They deepen with time and lengthen with heartache. Our faces tell our stories.

1, Love JG. Glomus tumors: diagnosis and treatment. Proc Staff Meet, Mayo Clin. 1944;19:113–6.

Author Bios:
Dr Valencia Long is a young doctor looking to enter specialty training in dermatology. Since graduation, she has written some papers in dermatology and enjoys exploring the art in the specialty. To her, dermatology is a kind of passion, that she wakes up to every morning, that she loves, and that she is. Dermatology to her is a person, a loved one – one she has never ending conversations with, every single day. Email Dr. Long.

Dr. Leonard Hoenig is an internist in private practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida. He is married with 4 children. After graduating SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Dr. Hoenig completed his residency training at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Dr. Hoenig has served on the faculties of the University of South Florida College of Medicine and the University of Miami School of Medicine. He has written articles about the history of medicine for a number of medical journals.

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One comment on “Expressions of Emotion in Dermatology

  1. Yoon Cohen on said:

    Thank you for sharing such a delightful piece of essay in Dermatology. I wish you all the best with your journey in this specialty, Dr. Long. I can see your real passion and dedication.