Glossary

A

 

Acetone

Acetone is a colourless, drying solvent found in many nail polish removers.

 

AHA

Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of acids which can be natural or synthetic. They affect the outer layer of the skin, encouraging exfoliation and cell turnover, as well as acting as a humectant which boosts skin hydration.

 

Alcohol

Alcohol in skin care can be ‘bad’ and ‘good’. ‘Bad’ alcohols (e.g. ethyl alcohol) have a low molecular weight and can be drying and sensitizing to the skin. Whereas ‘good’ alcohols (e.g. cetyl alcohol) have a higher molecular weight and have emollient properties.

 

Antioxidants

Skin-loving nutrients which can protect the skin by combatting free radicals, protecting the skins’ DNA and reducing premature ageing of the skin.

 

Aspartic Acid

Aspartic acid is a naturally occurring amino acid that decreases with age. Adding aspartic acid into your skincare regime helps with thin, ageing skin.

 

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is a yeast extract which can chemically exfoliate skin and unclog pores without irritating those with more sensitive and redness-prone skin. It also helps prevent hyperpigmentation.

 


B

 

Benzoyl Peroxide

An anti-bacterial ingredient commonly used in acne-fighting products. Benzoyl peroxide concentrations range from 2.5-10%, however, higher percentages can cause irritation and flaking.

 

Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

There is only one BHA – this is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid penetrates deep into pores and dissolves the ‘glue’ holding sebum and dead skin cells together.

 

Biotin

Biotin is also known as vitamin H. It is often taken as a supplement to support the growth and health of hair, nails and skin.

 

Butylene Glycol

Butylene Glycol is a lightweight formula which can be used to help increase the penetration of other ingredients on the skin. It is also used as a solvent, making other ingredients mix better, and as a humectant, drawing water molecules from the environment to the skin.

 


C

 

Ceramides

Ceramides help hold skin cells together to form a protective barrier from the environment and keep skin supple and healthy. They are useful for ageing, damaged and dry skin types.

 

Cetyl Alcohol

Cetyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol which is used as an emollient in skincare, as well as to create a smooth finish in other products.

 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a saturated fat which is extremely emollient and reparative on the skin. However, it also has a very high comedogenic rating and so is not suitable for acne-prone or oily skin.

 

Comedogenic

A term used to describe a product which clogs pores.

 


D

 

Dimethicone

Dimethicone is a type of silicone which is commonly used as an effective moisturiser and forms a protective barrier on the skin.

 


E

 

Emollient

Emollients are substances which form a protective film over the skin to help retain moisture levels and soothe dry or damaged skin.

 

Emulsifier

An emulsifier is a chemical that helps bind two other products together.

 

Ethanol

Ethanol (aka ethyl alcohol) is another name for alcohol.

 


F

 

Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid is an antioxidant which can stabilise and improve the results of vitamin C and E, as well as protect the skin from sun damage.

 

Fragrance

‘Fragrance’ is an umbrella term for compounds used to scent products and is a common allergen in skincare.

 

Free Radicals

Free radicals are unstable molecules with an unpaired electron. They are damaging as they try to gain another electron from your skin and this damages your DNA and speeds up the ageing process.

 


G

 

Glycerin

Glycerin is an inexpensive humectant which is commonly used to make moisturising skin care products.

 

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) and works as a chemical exfoliant. It gently exfoliates the top layer of skin, bringing new skin to the surface. It is commonly used for dull, dry and ageing skin.

 


H

 

Humectant

Humectants pull moisture towards them. In humid conditions they can greatly help to hydrate the skin, however, in drier environments, they can actually pull the moisture out of your skin.

 

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule which our bodies produce naturally. It can hold up to 10,000 times its own weight in water and so can make our skin hydrated, youthful and glowing.

 

Hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is a formula which works to reduce hyperpigmentation in certain areas and lighten dark spots.

 

Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is when the skin produces too much melanin in certain spots. This causes these patches to look darker than your natural skin tone and your complexion to look uneven. This can be a result of many factors, including sun damage, acne, melasma, etc.

 

Hypoallergenic

A phrase for products or ingredients that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. This, however, is not moderated and brands do not have to meet certain standards to put this on the label.

 


I

 

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

IPL is a technique which pulses wavelengths of light at the skin to address issues such as unwanted hair, wrinkles and skin hyperpigmentation.

 


J

 


K

 

Keratin

Keratin is a protein that makes up the building blocks of your hair, skin and nails.

 

Keratosis Pilaris

The small red bumps commonly found on the back of the arms and legs, caused by the build-up of keratin in the hair follicles.

 


L

 

L-Ascorbic Acid

L-ascorbic acid (also known as ascorbic acid) is the only bio-available form of vitamin C. It is water-soluble and offers collagen-stimulating benefits, as well as being an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.

 

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid (derived from milk) is one of the gentler AHA’s which is suitable for exfoliating and softening more sensitive skin types.

 

Lanolin

Lanolin is a thick, emollient substance derived from sheep’s wool. It is incredibly moisturising properties and is added to a lot of products to make them silky and smooth.

 

Linoleic Acid

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 essential fatty acid, also known as vitamin F. It is used as a thickener and emulsifier in cosmetics, as well as having skin restorative properties.

 


M

 

Melanin

Melanin is the colour pigment in hair, skin and eyes.

 

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is also known as paraffin oil, paraffinum liquidum and liquid petroleum. It is an inexpensive, odourless and colourless oil, derived from petroleum, which is widely used as a moisturising ingredient in skincare and cosmetics. It sits on top of the skin and helps to prevent moisture loss, however, it does clog pores so should be avoided on acne prone skin.

 


N

 

Niacinamide

Niacinamide is the active form of vitamin B3. It is an anti-inflammatory product which helps build the skin’s tolerance, so can be beneficial to use with harsher ingredients (e.g. Retinoids). It is also great for reducing hyperpigmentation, useful for acne marks and rosacea.

 

Noncomedogenic

A term used to describe a product which does not clog pores.

 


O

 

Omega Acid

Omega Acids help reduce inflammation of the skin, protect and repair the structure of the skin’s barrier and intensely moisturise.

 

Oxybenzone

A chemical sunscreen which absorbs UVB rays.

 


P

 

Parabens

Parabens are preservatives which are used in cosmetics to prolong its shelf-life. They have some effects similar to that of oestrogen, however, it is safe in small amounts (e.g. up to 0.3%).

 

Paraffin

Paraffin is a derivative of petroleum. It is commonly used as a cheap method to thicken products and make the skin feel moisturised. While it feels smooth on the skin, it isn’t actually hydrating the skin and can also clog the pores.

 

Paraffinum Liquidum

Paraffinum Liquidum is the Latin name for mineral oil.

 

Peptides

Peptides are chains of amino acids which make up the building blocks of the protein in our bodies. They can have anti-ageing, soothing and restoring effects on the skin. However, they can easily become unstable in certain environments.

 

Petrolatum

A purified product that is derived from petroleum. Petrolatum coats the skin which seals in moisture and protects the skin from external irritants.

 


Q

 


R

 

Retinoid

Retinoid is a vitamin A derivative which is beneficial for ageing skin and acne. It has many functions including increasing cell turnover, stimulating the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, unclogging pores and reducing pigmentation. Always use an SPF with retinoids.

 


S

 

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) and works as a chemical exfoliant. It can penetrate deep into pores and dissolve the bonds between skin cells which may be clogging them. It is commonly used for acne and rosacea and is most effective at a concentration of 0.5-2%.

 

Silicone

Silicone is a thick and slippery formula made up of large molecules that cannot penetrate the skin. It is usually used in primers to sit on the skin and smooth out any fine lines and wrinkles. Usually listed as Dimethicone or Methicone on ingredients lists.

 

SPF

The sun protection factor (SPF) refers to how well a product protects you from the sun’s harmful UVB rays.

 

Stearyl Alcohol

Stearyl alcohol is a fatty ‘good’ alcohol which is non-drying, acts as an emollient and helps combine ingredients together in products.

 

Sulfates

Sulfates are detergents which cut grease, lift dirt and cause products to lather. They can cause redness, itching and dryness to those with sensitive skin. Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are the most common sulfates used in cosmetics.

 

Surfactant

This is short for ‘surface active agent’. Surfactants cut through grease and help dirt wash away, however they can be very drying and irritating on some skin types.

 


T

 

T-Zone

The T-Zone consists of the forehead, nose and chin and is generally the oiliest part of the face as these areas have a greater number of oil glands.

 


U

 

Urea

Urea is a humectant which hydrates and exfoliates the skin.

 

UVA

Ultraviolet A rays are long-wave rays which penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays. They mainly cause tanning, skin damage and premature ageing.

 

UVB

Ultraviolet B rays are short-wave rays from the sun. They cause more visible damage to the skin, such as freckles, sunburns and ageing, as well as being the main culprit for skin cancer.

 


V

 

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an anti-ager which comes in the form of retinol or retinyl palmitate. It is a potent vitamin which encourages cell turnover, reducing fine lines and pigmentation.

 

Vitamin B3

Also known as Niacinamide, vitamin B3 strengthens the protective barrier on your skin and reduces hyperpigmentation. It is great for sensitive and acne-prone skin types.

 

Vitamin B5

Provitamin B5, also known as Panthenol, deeply hydrates the skin and also works to protect and heal any skin damage.

 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is anti-inflammatory, stimulates collagen and is an antioxidant, which protects the skin from free radicals in the environment. The most effective and common form of vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid.

 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant which helps fight free radicals, helps protect skin against UV radiation and prevent premature ageing of the skin. It is great for sensitive and dry skin as it is hydrating and soothing. Also known as tocopheryl acetate.

 

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is the vitamin responsible for blood clotting. When applied topically to skin it can strengthen the capillary walls and therefore reduce dark circles under the eyes.


W

 

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is a mild astringent (tightens body tissues) which can act as a natural toner. It has shown some great anti-inflammatory effects however over-use can cause dry and irritated skin.

 


X

 


Y

 


Z

 

Zinc Oxide

Zinc oxide is an extremely effective physical sunscreen, which forms a layer over the skin which reflects UVA and UVB rays. It is very good for sensitive and acne-prone skin types.