Skin Care Glossary

Skin Care Glossary

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


ACIDIC

Having a pH ("potential hydrogen") less than 7. The skin’s barrier, or acid mantle, is naturally slightly acidic, with a pH hovering around 4.5 to 5.5. When it drops out of range, skin becomes prone to breakouts and irritation.

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

Long used in emergency rooms to treat alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses, this form of carbon— found in cleansers, masks, toothpastes, health drinks — has been specially treated to increase its absorbency, allowing it to sponge up dirt and oil from pores (or toxins from the stomach when taken internally).

ADENOSINE

Present in all living organisms, this molecule plays a critical role in regulating blood flow and providing cells with usable energy. When applied topically, the ingredient can restore skin by smoothing and firming the skin, repair sun damage, and relax wrinkles.

AGAR

Is a jelly-like substance, obtained from red algae. It is typicallu used as a thickener in makeup, skin-care products, and shampoo, this gelatinous, algae-derived sugar molecule also has mild antioxidant benefits.

ALCOHOL (SD ALCOHOL)

Undrinkable ethyl alcohol has many uses in skin care. It delivers other ingredients into the skin and drives them deep down into the skins layers. In toners and acne products, it can help dissolve oil and temporarily tighten pores. When added to certain moisturizers, like gel-based lotions, it makes them  more plyable and and helps them dry faster on the your skin.

ALFALFA


The leaf and seeds of this plant are used for skin health. Alfalfa is full of carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that is vital for the health of the skin, hair, and nails. Alfalfa is also full of necessary trace minerals, vitamin K, chlorophyll, and amino acids.

ALGIN

Is a type of carbohydrate found in brown seaweeds.This soothing, water-absorbing algae extract is commonly added to thicken hair- and skin-care products and to help makeup glide on smoothly.


ALKALINE

 Alkaline also known as "basic" — the opposite of acidic. Having a pH ("potential hydrogen") greater than 7. When skin is too alkaline — as a result of eating the wrong foods or using the wrong products — it gets dry, irritated, inflamed, and more prone to wrinkling.

ALLANTOIN

Can be found in many plants such as chamomille or sugar beet and is known for its soothing properties.  This chemical moisturizes and encourages cell turnover and great for those with sensitive skin.

ALOE BARBADENSIS (ALOE VERA)

This herb is famous for its gel, which is used to heal minor burns. Its promotion of rapid cell regeneration helps to heal wounds, rashes, fungal infections, and all types of skin problems, especially dry skin. Aloe vera can be made into a juice drink.

ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS (AHAS)

Are a group of natural acids found in foods or plants. These chemicals loosen the top layers of skin cells. Alpha hydroxy acids are most commonly used for skin conditions such as dry skin, aging skin, acne.

ALPHA LIPOIC ACID

Is a natural chemical that's in every cell, this fatty acid found in all cells in the body.. As an antioxidant, it attacks free radicals throughout the body. It has exfoliating potential ability and  enables your skin cells to shed effortlessly and naturally.

AMINO ACIDS

The building blocks of the proteins that make up collagen and elastin. Some amino acids can be absorbed from the skin and may aid in tissue repair and regeneration to.help restore them.

ANTHOCYANINS

A class of flavonoids, depending on their pH, may appear red, purple, blue or black. These pigments are thought to protect against inflammatory diseases and free-radical damage.

ANTIOXIDANT

Are compounds that inhibit oxidation. They protect from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and environmental aggressors like UV and pollution.

ARBUTIN

Is a glycoside, that is extracted from the bearberry plant. This complexion-brightening antioxidant is known to be a natural skin- lightener. It helps with correcting hyperpigmentation issues such as age spots and melasma.

ARGAN OIL

Is packed with omega fatty acids, vitamin E, and linoleic acids. This fast-absorbing, vitamin E-rich extract moisturizes without clogging pores, reduces the appearance of fine lines, smooth hair, and strengthen nails.

ARGININE

Is  an amino acid that is used in cosmetics and personal care products to protect the skin from free radicals.


ARNICA (ARNICA MONTANA)

Is an herb also known as  wolf's bane, that has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, its inherent flavonoids can help strengthen blood vessels to reduce leakage. Applied topically (as a gel or ointment) or taken orally (in low-dose homeopathic tablet form), it's been shown to help reduce the bruising and swelling associated with certain surgeries and cosmetic injections.

ASCORBIC ACID

Also known as l-ascorbic acid, this topical form of antioxidant vitamin c brightens the skin, increases collagen production, and stems free-radical damage, making it a popular ingredient. (See Vitamin C)

ASTAXANTHIN

A naturally occurring carotenoid (yellow, orange, or red pigment), found in  trout, microalgae, yeast, and shrimp. Studies have shown that long-term supplementation with astaxanthin may help slow skin aging via its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.


AVOBENZONE

A chemical found in sunscreens, it absorbs UVA rays to reduce their penetration into the skin, but does not protect against UVB rays.

AZELAIC ACID

It's a naturally occurring acid found in grains such as barley, wheat, and rye.  Used in topical acne treatments, synthetic versions help kill bacteria living in pores while reducing inflammation. It's also used to lighten melasma patches and other hyperpigmented areas.

AZULENE

Is an organic compound and an isomer of naphthalene.It soothes and cleans skin after waxing, while helping to prevent ingrown hairs.

 

B

 

BENTONITE

Is an absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate clay consisting mostly of montmorillonite. This absorbent clay is derived, most often, from weathered volcanic ash. Rich in antibacterial minerals, it’s commonly used in “purifying” or “detoxifying” cleansers and masks, as it pulls pollutants.


BETA CAROTENE

Its a red-orange pigment found in certain fruits and vegetables, especially carrots.  It is a carotenoid and antioxidant. The human body converts beta carotene into vitamin A (retinol). It is said that it can protect the body from free radicals. 

BETA GLUCANS

Long-chain sugar molecules found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, algae, lichens, and grains, such as oats and barley. Powerful humectants and soothers, they can strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier and stave off bad germs.

BETA HYDROXY ACID (BHA)

These chemical exfoliants can smooth fine lines, even pigmentation, and penetrate deeply into pores, dissolving sticky plugs of sebum and dead skin. One of the most common BHAs, salicylic acid, is found in many acne washes, creams, and peels.

BIOCELLULOSE

Is an ultra thin, natural fiber often used for sheet mask material, this biodegradable, bacteria-derived fiber is known for its unparalleled moisture retention and snug fit, both of which help drive active ingredients into the skin.


BIOTIN

Also known as vitamin H. It is known to promote hair and nail growth.

BISABOLOL

Is a terpene found in cannabis that is also commonly produced by the chamomile flower.This floral-scented chamomile extract has been used topically as a moisturizer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial for centuries.

BLACKHEAD

Is a type of skin blemish that forms when the sebum (oil) draining from a pore becomes blocked by a clump of dead skin cells. Its color results from the sebum's pigment, which darkens when exposed to air.


BROAD SPECTRUM

A term for sunscreens proven to defend against both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) radiation.

BROMELAIN

Is a protein-digesting enzyme mixture derived from the stem, fruit, and juice of the pineapple. It is known to  brighten and even out skin tone.

BURDOCK ROOT

This herb can also be drunk as a tea or used as a compress for skin problems such as acne and eczema. It soothes boils, bruises, warts, and canker sores.


BUTYLENE GLYCOL

Is a small organic alcohol used as solvent and conditioning agent. This form of alcohol that draws water from the air, making it a lightweight moisturizing agent.

C

 

CANNABIDIOL (CBD)

It is a strand of cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis sativa plant. This oil is mainly for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and moisturizing properties. The THC has been removed, so it cannot give you a "high".


CARNOSINE

This naturally occurring amino-acid pairing quells damaging inflammation, glycation, and free-radical activity, and levels of it in our bodies decline with age. Some research indicates that oral supplements and topical creams containing it can stave off premature wrinkling, collagen breakdown, and thinning of the skin.

CARROT SEED OIL

Carrot seed oil is the essential oil extract of the seed from the carrot plant Daucus carota. It helps to balance skin's moisture and also conditions hair. 

CASEIN

A protein found in mammalian milk that may contribute to acne in certain people.


CELLULITE

Affecting up to 90 percent of women (due to estrogen and genetics), cellulite occurs when fat cells swell and push through the tight, fibrous tissue bands (or septa) walling them in, creating a dimpled or lumpy appearance. Only about 10 percent of men suffer cellulite, as their septa is constructed differently, and better able to contain fat cells to prevent bulging.

CERAMIDES

Are  a family of waxy lipid molecules. They are lipids that help form the skin's barrier and help skin retain moisture

CETYL/STEARYL ALCOHOL

Is a chemical, is known as an emulsifier used to help prevent creams from separating into oil and liquid.


CHOLESTEROL

One of the three main lipids (or fat molecules) comprising the skin barrier, it helps prevent water loss to keep skin moisturized and functioning properly.

CITRIC ACID

Found in many fruits, the antioxidant alpha hydroxy acid acts as a natural preservative. When used in peels, masks, and washes, it brightens and exfoliates the upper layers of the skin, encouraging new collagen formation.

COLLAGEN

This protein makes up 80 percent of the skin, and its fibers give skin its firmness and strength. Collagen naturally breaks down over time, but certain ingredients, such as retinol and peptides, can stimulate new collagen production.

COMEDONE

A  general term for a pore, or hair follicle, that's blocked by sticky dead skin cells and the sebum that can't drain properly.

 

D

 

DECYL GLUCOSIDE

Is a coconut-derived surfactant that is  plant-derived, biodegradable, and gentle for all hair types. 

DIHYDROXYACETONE (DHA)

Is a natural carbohydrate that is derived from sugar beets or cane sugar and is a key active ingredient for natural self-tanners.

DIMETHICONE

Is a chemical ingredient derived from silicone, that is used to improve texture and make skin care products smoother.

DMAE

is short for dimethylaminoethanol, it is produced by the human brain. There are some claims that it can cause skin-tightening.

DOUBLE CLEANSE

A Korean ritual of using a cleansing oil in tandem with a water-based face wash to thoroughly dissolve and remove oil-based makeup, sunscreen, and pollutants.

 

E

 

ELASTIN

Stretchy structural proteins that allow skin to snap back into its original position when it is poked or pinched.

ELLAGIC ACID

Is a natural phenol antioxidant found in numerous fruits and vegetables, such as pecans, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, walnuts, dark-colored grapes, and red wines, and possesses antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.

EMOLLIENT

Any ingredient that increases water levels in the epidermis. It is also known as a moisturizer.

EMULSIFIER

Chemicals such as cetyl alcohol that bind together ingredients in skin-care products. It is also known as a stabilzer.

EPIGALLOCATECHIN GALLATE (EGCG)

The main active component of green tea, this anti-inflammatory polyphenol has been shown to reduce sun damage and slow signs of aging by neutralizing free radicals.

ERYTHRULOSE

A berry-derived sugar that slowly and subtly darkens the skin. It’s typically used in conjunction with DHA to deliver a longer-lasting, more natural-looking glow.

 

F

FERULIC ACID

This plant-derived antioxidant reduces sun damage and helps stabilize vitamins C and E in skin-care products.

FEVERFEW

A plant extract, it reduces redness, fights free radicals, and calms inflammation.

FLAVONOIDS

While they're present in all plants, this class of antioxidant phytochemicals is especially abundant in deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables, along with coffee, nuts, and seeds.

FRAGRANCE

A generic term for natural and/or synthetic compounds used to scent products. Synthetic fragrance is the main cause of allergic reactions to skincare products.

FREE RADICALS

Highly unstable molecules created in the body by sunlight, cigarette smoke, and pollution that latch onto and damage cells in ways that can lead to roughness, sagging, and wrinkling.

FRUIT ENZYMES

Typically sourced from papaya, pineapple, and pumpkin, they break down the keratin proteins comprising dead skin cells, offering a mild form of exfoliation.

G

 

GLABRIDIN

A chemical found in the root extract of licorice, this skin-brightening antioxidant inhibits pigment production in the skin.

GLUCOSAMINE

Found throughout the human body, the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory ingredient has long been used as an oral supplement to relieve arthritis.


GLYCERIN

It's a humectant, that pulls moisture from the atmosphere to hydrate skin. Commonly used in moisturizers and hydrating cleansers, this is an inexpensive ingredient.

GLYCOLIC ACID

An alpha hydroxy derived from sugar, it dissolves the gluelike substance between skin cells, aiding in exfoliation and improving skin texture. It's commonly used in high-end products, such as cleansers, creams, and peels.

GOJI EXTRACT

Derived from a small fruit native to Asia, it's rich in zinc, fatty acid, and antioxidants. Taken orally or applied topically, the ingredient claims to slow the signs of aging and fend off environmental damage to skin, though there have been no large clinical studies on humans.


GRAPE-SEED OIL

This hydrating ingredient's high fatty acid and antioxidant content makes it a popular addition to moisturizers, wrinkle creams, and hair-care products.

GREEN TEA

Extracted directly from green-tea leaves, this potent antioxidant fights free radicals and quells inflammation. It's typically used in face creams and lotions.

 

H

 

HEMP SEED OIL

Pressed from the seeds of industrial hemp plants, this supercharged moisturizer packs vitamins, minerals, and  essential fatty acids.

HORSETAIL


Horsetail, whose other name is cola de caballo, used to be used as an exfoliant and probably still is in someplace. An astringent, horsetail is full of silica that supports the suppleness of the skin. It can be drunk in tea but is often dried, powdered and made into a poultice to put on the skin. It can also be added to a warm bath.

HYALURONIC ACID

A sugar molecule found naturally in the skin it increases the skin's moisture and prevents water loss.

HYDROLYZED COLLAGEN

Found in beauty supplements and drinks aiming to plump and hydrate the skin, these collagen proteins have been broken down into smaller peptides to make for easier absorption into the bloodstream.


HUMECTANTS

This class of moisturizing ingredients pulls water from the atmosphere into the top layer of the skin.


HYPERPIGMENTATION

Often triggered by UV light exposure, a wound, illness, hormonal changes, or certain drugs, darkening of the skin might appear as a uniform tan, melasma (patches of discoloration), or an isolated acne scar.

 

I

 

INGESTIBLE

The common term for any oral beauty aid — pills, drinks, powders, and the like.

INJECTABLE

Any substance capable of being injected into the body. In the cosmetic realm, it refers mainly to neuromodulators, fillers, and fat dissolvers.

IRISH MOSS


Yes, this is Carrageenan, that additive that thicken, emulsify, and preserve foods. But, when applied to the skin Irish moss acts as a demulcent, which means it soothes inflamed or irritated skin.

J

 

JELLY /GEL (EE)

Is a moisturizer that is water-based, that are lightweight in texture and easily absorbed into skin.


JOJOBA OIL

Is the liquid produced in the seed of the Simmondsia chinensis plant, a shrub. It penetrates skin to hydrate without clogging pores.

 

K

 

KAOLIN

Is a a clay mineral that draws out impurities and absorbs excess oils without causing inflammation or redness.


KERATOSIS PILARIS

Is a common skin condition that consists of red bumps that appear on arms and legs. As a result of the skin producing too much of a protein, called keratin.

KOJIC ACID

Is made  from several different types of fungi. In addition to being a skin lightener, it is known for it's antimicrobial properties.

L

LACTIC ACID
Is an organic acid, derived from fermented milk,this alpha hydrozy acid exfoliates dead skin cells and is gentle enough for people with sensitive skin or rosacea.

 

LICOCHALCONE

Is a chalconoid, a type of natural phenol. This molecule is found in licorice-root extract, licochalcone has the ability to both soothe inflammation and help control the production of oil in the skin.


LYCOPENE

Is a bright red carotenoid found in tomatoes, watermelon, carrots and even papayas. This antioxidant can help with your overall health along with the appearance of skin.

M

 

MARULA OIL

Made from the fruit of the African marula tree, this fast-absorbing oil boasts natural essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and flavonoids.


MELANIN

Is a general term for a group of natural pigments found in most organisms. A pigment that gives hair, skin, and eyes their color; patches of excess melanin can cause dark spots.


MELANOMA

The worst skin cancer, it develops in pigment-producing cells, most commonly on the upper back, trunk, head, neck, and lower legs.

MELASMA

A skin disorder characterized by brown patches of pigment usually on the forehead, cheeks, and chin.

MENTHOL

Originally derived from mint plants, this cooling agent is found in some lip balms, toners, and shave gels, mainly in synthetic form.


MICELLAR WATER

A mix of purified water, hydrators (like glycerin), and low doses of mild surfactants, The idea is that it works like a magnet in attracting  makeup, oil, and dirt when used on your face.

 

MICROBIOME

Is a collection of material of all the microbes - bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses essential microorganisms living in and on our bodies.

O

OAT STRAW

Oat straw is the stem of the oat plant while it’s still green and its sap is milky. It is a
great source of silica and calcium and has been used for hundreds of years for skin problems and to correct imbalances in blood sugar. Oat straw is most often made into tea or extracts and added to food to increase energy and reduce anxiety.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

Can be found in fish- herring, mackerel, wild salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, and olive oil, these essential fatty acids maintain the function of cell membranes throughout the body, preserving cells' ability to take in nutrients, dispose of waste, and hold onto water.

 

P

 

PANTHENOL

A B vitamin that moisturizes and strengthens both skin and hair.

PAPAIN

Is a proteolytic enzyme extracted from the papaya plant. skin-dissolving enzyme It is used as a gentle exfoliant in certain cleansers, masks, scrubs, and peel to remove dead skin cells that can clog pores.

 

PARABENS

Is a class of preservatives used to protect cosmetics against the growth of bacteria and fungi. These controversial ingredients — including methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben are believed to disrupt hormone functions.


PETROLATUM

Is a mineral oil jelly derived from  petroleum. This, this thick, odorless, and colorless substance coats the skin to hydrate and prevent water loss and is used in standard moisturizers. It can clog pores and cause acne in those who are prone.

PEPTIDES

Are a short chain of amino acids. Tiny protein fragments that promote collagen growth and help repair skin. (See Amino Acids)

PH

Is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of water. Water has a neutral pH of 7. The optimal skin pH level is between 4.7 to 5.75.

PHTHALATES

Are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. These common plasticizers, are used some nail polishes to increase flexibility and in some shampoos and cleansers to carry fragrance.

POMEGRANATE

Extracts of this fruit are rich in antioxidants help  in keeping bacteria and other infections away. 

PROBIOTICS

Stains of live beneficial bacteria that can be ingested through fermented foods and supplements, or applied topically  to improve gut and skin health.

PROPOLIS

Is a  special compound called pinocembrin, a flavonoid that acts as an antifungal. Used for centuries to heal wounds, this honeybee-made resin has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory powers.

 

R

 

RETINOIDS

This is the catchall phrase used to describe all vitamin A derivatives used in skin care to reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen.

RETINOL

Is a derivative of vitamin A used in in products to fight aging and stimulate the turnover of skin cells and increase collagen production.

ROSACEA

A skin disorder marked by persistent redness, easy flushing, broken blood vessels, and pimples on the nose and cheeks primarily.

ROSEHIPS

This is the fruit of the rose plant. Extremely rich in vitamin C, it is an all-purpose tonic. It can be taken as a tea, as capsules, as part of a mask or in a facial. It also makes an excellent jelly.

ROSEMARY

The aromatic leaves of this herb tone the skin and are especially good for the hair. It stimulates hair follicles and is said to put off the graying of the hair and baldness when used as a shampoo.

 

S

SARSAPARILLA ROOT

Use the oil of this root externally to heal skin conditions that feature itching and scaling such as eczema and psoriasis. It also is used to treat ringworm, athlete’s foot, acne, and other inflammatory skin conditions.

SERUM

Is a skin care product that contains high concentrations of active ingredients. They  are usually clear, gel-based or possibly liquid, they tend to be less thick than a moisturizer. 

SHEET MASKS

Made from paper, cotton, biocellulose (plant fiber), or hydrogel, and imbued with skin care ingredients that  are shaped to fit the face or other parts of the body.

SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES)

Is a liquid surfactant used in high foaming cleaners. It is is derived from SLS .It can be an irritant for people with sensitive skin.

SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS)

Is a liquid surfactant used in high foaming cleaners as well. However it is believed to strip the skin of its natural oils which causes dry skin, irritation and allergic reactions.

SOY

Is a natural, potent antioxidant, restoring, and soothing agent for skin that is derived from soybeans. 

SPIRULINA

This micro-algae is bought as a dried powder and can be sprinkled on food or mixed with drinks. It is a great source of chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and proteins. Its ability to cleanse the blood and help circulation promotes skin health.

STEARYL ALCOHOL

A fat that binds together the ingredients and thicken and stabilize cosmetic products.

SULFATES

Are detergents, or surfactants,cleansing agents used to remove dirt and oil and are responsible for creating lather. There are seveal varieties, some are synthetic, others are derived from natural sources, like coconut or palm oil. All types have the potential to dry and irritate the skin.

SULFUR

A natural element used in acne products, it kills bacteria, reduces inflammation, and dries out skin cells to clear pores.


T

 

TITANIUM DIOXIDE

A mineral in sunscreens that shields the skin from UVA and UVB rays.


TRICHLOROACETIC ACID (TCA)

Is a chemical and  key ingredient in chemical peels used to treat sun damage and hyperpigmentation. TCA promotes shedding of the outermost layer of dead skin cells, allowing new cells to rise to the surface in the days following treatment.

TURMERIC

Turmeric is derived from the rhizome of a plant that resembles the ginger plant. In a compress, turmeric is used to heal injuries and skin lesions. When it is eaten, it cleanses the blood. This also contributes to the health of the skin.

 

U

 

UVA RAYS

The wavelength of ultraviolet light that leads to signs of aging by destroying existing collagen and elastin within the skin and undermining the body's ability to create more of each.Also known as the Cancer causing rays.

UVB RAYS

The high-energy wavelength of ultraviolet light that leads to darkened pigment in the form of sunburns, freckles and age spots.

 

VITAMIN C (ASCORBIC ACID)

An  antioxidant that boosts collagen production and inhibits pigment formation. Like many antioxidants, it's an unstable molecule that can break down quickly when exposed to light and air. Common derivatives, like ascorbyl palmitate and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, tend to be more stable than pure ascorbic acid but slower acting.

VITAMIN E (TOCOPHEROL)

Is a group of eight fat soluble compounds that include four tocopherols and four tocotrienols.This moisturizing antioxidant is effective at combating against free-radical damage.

W

WATER

Deionized, distilled, or purified, it's often used to deliver other ingredients into the skin.

 

Y

YELLOW DOCK ROOT


Drunk as a tea or taken in capsule form, this mildly astringent root is rich in iron and can build and cleanse the blood. This makes it a good choice for skin conditions. Yellow dock root is also used in formulas to treat psoriasis and eczema.

 

Z

ZINC OXIDE

A mineral sunscreen that prevents UVA and UVB light from entering skin and doing damage.