Skincare Glossary


The three factors in acne breakouts are oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, and if any of these factors are out of balance, breakouts can occur. Acne is more likely to take place on the skin when experiencing stress, hormonal changes, excess oil production, and slower cell turnover with aging.

Active Ingredient

Over The Counter (OTC) actives are ingredients regulated by the FDA. Examples are Sun Protection Factor (SPF), Benzoyl Peroxide, Hydroquinone, Sulfur, and Salicylic Acid. The FDA requires that these ingredients submit to and successfully pass clinical testing and subscribe to labeling standards including usage instructions and benefit claims.


There are different types of alcohol used in cosmetics for different reasons. SD Alcohol stands for 'specially denatured' alcohol, which is designed especially for cosmetics use to evaporate quickly, leaving the active ingredients on the skin's surface. Fatty alcohols are made from fatty acids and can be used as emollients, thickeners, or carrying agents for other ingredients. They attract water to keep moisture in the skin and can repel water to form a protective skin barrier. They also create a creamy texture.

Algae (Seaweed)

Algae is used in skincare to help support natural collagen, reduce visible wrinkles, and ensure moisture balance in the skin. It is considered by some to be the world's most basic yet complete food. Both in the diet and in skincare products, algae can provide vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids and fatty acids that are important for maintaining healthy and youthful skin.

syn: Pullulan, Pepha Tight, Pepha-Tight, Microalgae, Micro Sea Algae, Algae Extract, Seaweed Extract, Kelp, Sea Kelp

Alguronic Acid

Alguronic Acid is exclusively found in Algenist skincare products and is produced by microalgae. Its unique properties create visible skincare results. It has been shown to support natural collagen and elastin, and boost skin renewal to even skin tone and texture.

syn: Algae Exopolysaccharides

Aloe Vera

Aloe is one of the oldest recognized botanicals with skincare benefits such as soothing and cooling the skin (including for after-sun use) and providing lightweight hydration. Drinking aloe vera juice is a popular practice because of the belief that it provides minerals, amino acids, and vitamins.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) loosen the "glue" that attaches dead skin cells to the surface of the skin; they also support natural hyaluronic acid to boost hydration and can help to reduce the appearance of surface pigmentation and enhance radiance, and to smooth texture. The most commonly used AHAs are Glycolic and Lactic Acid.

syn: AHA, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Tartaric Acid, Malic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Lauryl Lactate, Cetyl Lactate, Myristyl Lactate, Mandelic Acid, Gluconolactone, Fruit Acid

Alpha Lipoic Acid (Thioctic Acid)

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA or Thioctic Acid) is used skincare to energize 'tired' skin in the same way it helps the body to make the most of energy sources. It lessens the appearance of redness, enlarged pores, and surface imperfections. It is called the "universal antioxidant" as it is water and fat-soluble, making it easily absorbed and utilized by the body. It also greatly enhances the antioxidant benefits of Vitamins C and E. Dietary sources include dark leafy veggies like kale, collard greens, spinach, as well as broccoli, yeast and red meat.

Amino Acid

In skincare, amino acids are either used on their own to promote hydration and resilience, or strings of amino acids can be joined to form peptides. Peptide technology has evolved and as a result, there are many different peptides that offer a variety of beauty benefits. One example of a popular amino acid in skincare is Arginine.


Antioxidants combat environmental stressors (free radicals) that can damage the skin. For example: Lemon Juice (containing the antioxidant Vitamin C) squeezed on an apple slice will help prevent the apple from turning brown. A "cocktail" of antioxidants can enhance the protective benefits of a product. Vitamins A, C, E energize each other and work better when used together than they would separately.


Arbutin is a plant-derived antioxidant which can help to promote an even skin tone. Mulberry and Bearberry are natural forms of arbutin used in skincare.

Argan Oil

Argan Oil has been used by Moroccan women for centuries for beauty benefits. It works well for all skin types as an emollient ingredient that is rich in fatty acids which strengthen the natural protective barrier of the skin.

Avobenzone (Parsol 1789)

Avobenzone is often listed by the trade name Parsol 1789. This is one of the most utilized sunscreen ingredients in the world, because it absorbs the full spectrum of UVA rays.

syn: Parsol® 1789, PARSOL® 1789, Parsol 1789

Avocado Oil

Avocado Oil is used in skincare as it has been shown to visibly minimize sun damage, as well as restore suppleness. Adding avocados to your diet is not only a great-tasting way to get Essential Fatty Acids and Vitamins A, D and E, consuming their nutrients can also prove beneficial in maintaining healthy, radiant, soft skin.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is derived from yeast and is used in skincare typically to help promote an even skin tone (especially when used with glycolic acid).

BB Cream

The "BB" in "BB Cream" stands for "Beauty Balm" or "Blemish Balm", a concept originally created by dermatologists from Germany and Korea to address the needs of delicate and post-procedural skin. These 5-in-1 perfectors contain treatment ingredients to address various skin concerns, moisturize dry and dehydrated skin, camouflage uneven skin tones, redness, and blemishes, prime the skin by filling in uneven texture and pores, and provide SPF sun protection.

Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO)

Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO) is a very effective Over the Counter (OTC) topical acne treatment, fighting acne-specific bacteria. Most retinoids negate the effect of BPO, so use BPO and retinoids in rotation for best results. A best practice with this ingredient is to incorporate it slowly (every other night) into your skincare routine, as skin can adjust to tolerate BPO gradually. This may minimize the potential for redness and dryness when using BPO.


Beta Glucan is used in skincare to help bind moisture to the skin and provide antioxidant protection. It can promote natural collagen as well as skin turnover to help minimize visible wrinkles.

Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

Salicylic (Beta-Hydroxy Acid or BHA) works to control excess oil production and reduces the stickiness of oil that clogs pores and contributes to breakouts. A true acne-fighting multi-tasker, salicylic also gently exfoliates the skin's surface.

See Salicylic.

Blackhead (Comedone)

Blackheads can affect all skin types; they are often common for oily and combination skin especially. A blackhead (comedone) is a pore with oil trapped with dead skin cells. When the air oxidizes the oil, it darkens to create the 'black' color. Keeping the skin and pores free of debris with the help of salicylic acid or other exfoliation methods can be helpful for this concern.


Ceramides are lipids (fats) that represent about 50% of the skin's outer structure, which is in place to provide a barrier between you and the environment. Ceramides are used in skincare to help the skin to retain water, and to improve the barrier function of the skin. The healthy barrier function ceramides create also minimizes visible fine lines and keeps the skin supple and firm.

Cetyl Alcohol

There are different types of alcohol used in cosmetics for different reasons. SD Alcohol stands for 'specially denatured' alcohol, which is designed especially for cosmetics use to evaporate quickly, leaving the active ingredients on the skin's surface. Fatty alcohols are made from fatty acids and can be used as emollients, thickeners, or carrying agents for other ingredients. They attract water to keep moisture in the skin and can repel water to form a protective skin barrier. They also create a creamy texture.

See Alcohol.


Collagen partners with elastin in your skin to create a smooth texture, structural integrity, and a healthy youthful appearance. Environmental and genetic aging reduce collagen and elastin over time. Collagen is used in skin care to help to create a veil of moisture on the skin's surface, which visibly reduces the appearance of wrinkles.

Combination Skin

Combination skin can seem to have two different skin types-normal to dry on the cheeks or in isolated parts of the face, oilier and breakout-prone in the T-Zone. It is the most common skin type, and many products are formulated with the needs of combination skin in mind. Try customizing by using a cleanser for normal to dry skin to avoid stripping the skin of moisture and follow with a lotion for combination to oily skin for lightweight hydration. Spot treating with masks and exfoliants can help achieve healthy balance.

CoQ10 (Ubiquinone)

CoQ10 in skincare protects lipids and proteins from oxidation and increases the effectiveness of other antioxidants. Meat, fish, avocado, and vegetable oil are great sources of dietary CoQ10.

syn: Ubiquinone, CoQ10, Co-Q10, Coenzyme Q-10


Silicone is derived from sand and is used in cosmetics to provide an aesthetically pleasing formula, especially in serums and moisturizers. There are different grades of silicone, and cosmetics-grade silicones create an elegant, silky, and spreadable texture in skincare products. Silicone is a desirable ingredient because it can deliver the active ingredients in the product and immediately smooth the look of imperfections. Silicones prevent moisture loss, and their properties make them porous (allowing the skin to breathe) as well as resistant to air.

See Silicone.

Dry Skin

Dry skin may often feel tight after cleansing, so creamy cleansers and/or cleansing oils are a great choice for this skin type. Supplementing with and eating omega 3's can be helpful for dry skin. Avoid extreme weather conditions, drink plenty of water, and use a humidifier to help ease dry skin concerns. Try layering a hydrating mask on overnight to wake up to well-moisturized, glowing skin.


Elastin allows your skin to expand and 'bounce-back' and is used in skincare to draw water into the skin as well as support the skin's flexibility. Sun exposure damages the network of elastin fibers in the skin over time, making sunscreen vitally important to the protection of elasticity in skin resilience.


Encapsulation is a targeted delivery system that envelopes a key ingredient in a thin film, similar to a bubble. This protects the integrity of the ingredient and is an effective means of enhancing absorption of both water-soluble and fat-soluble ingredients. It can make active ingredients more tolerable, minimizing sensitivity while maximizing potency. Liposomes, microcapsules and nanosomes are examples. 


Enzymes dissolve surface skin cells for better product absorption and at the same time enhance skin compatibility. Enzymatic exfoliation is a favorite method for fresh, glowing, skin. Look for the 'Three P's': Papaya, Pineapple, and Pumpkin, which are frequently used in skincare.

syn: Papaya, Papain, Pineapple, Bromelain, Pumpkin, Cucurbita Pepo

Essential Fatty Acid (EFA)

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are needed for healthy, radiant, and soft skin. EFAs can't be produced by the body; dietary sources and supplements as well as skincare containing these ingredients are helpful in promoting nourished, supple skin. Great dietary EFA sources are fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.

syn: Carthamus Tinctorius, Safflower, Rosa canina, Rose Hip, Rosehip, Acai, Açaí, Euterpe Oleracea, EFA, Omega-3, Omega-6, Black Currant, Prunes Amygdalus, Borage, Borago officinalis, Linseed, Flaxseed, Linum Usitatissimum, Flax Seed, Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis, Alpha-Linolenic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Sea Buckthorn, Seaberry, Hippophae rhamnoides, Hemp Seed, Cannabis sativa, Rapeseed, Canola, Brassica napus, Sesame, Sesamum indicum, Wheat Germ,Triticum vulgare, Sunflower, Helianthus Annuus, Meadowfoam, Limnanthes Alba, Apricot, Prunus Armeniaca, Camelina, Camelina sativa, Camellia, Camellia oleifera, Crambe, Crambe abyssinica, Macadamia, Macadamia Ternifolia, Sweet Almond, Prunus dulcis, Coconut, Cocos nucifera, Black Cumin, Nigella sativa, Shorea stenoptera, Illipe, Theobroma cacao, Cocoa, Astrocaryum Murumuru, Mangifera indica, Mango, Citrullus lanatus, Watermelon, Prunus Domestica, Plum, Rubus idaeus, Raspberry, Oryza Sativa, Rice Bran, Passiflora, Maracuja, Maracujá, Passion Flower, Attalea speciosa, Orbignya oleifera, Babassu

Essential Oils

Essential Oils are plant-derived, lightweight, and easily absorbed. Different varieties of essential oils achieve unique beauty benefits to increase radiance, balance oil, support natural circulation and for some, they enhance a sense of well-being. These potent oils are combined with suitable companion carrier oils in products for topical use.

Fermented Ingredients

Fermentation helps purify, refine and enhance bioavailability of the ingredients, so products are more readily accepted and absorbed by the skin. This allows the product to work with the skin and not against it, improving the skin's natural functions to make it brighter, stronger, and more resilient. Fermented ingredients are a growing trend in food and are thought to improve digestion and allow the body to better soak up food nutrients.

Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid is an antioxidant from plants and is very effective partnered with Vitamins C and E to increase the efficacy and enhance stability of the formula.

Free Radicals

Free radicals are some of the biggest culprits of environmental aging, reducing the integrity of collagen and elastin in the skin, as well as decreasing the skin's natural rejuvenating abilities. Antioxidants protect against free-radical activity to promote skin's defenses.


Gluten is a protein derived from wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. There are some cosmetics products labeled as gluten-free. If you are interested in these products look for statements like 'gluten-free' or 'no gluten' on the product package label. Because of periodic changes in product ingredient formulations and sources, for the most up-to-date information the recommended practice is to contact brands directly regarding the gluten-free status of their products.


Glycerin is used in skincare as an emollient, slip agent, and humectant that absorbs moisture from the air and draws it into the skin. It is also enhancing the spread ability of cosmetic products. It has been studied and used extensively in skincare for its compatibility with other ingredients.

Glycolic Acid

See Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs). Glycolic Acid is the most commonly used Alpha Hydroxy Acid, as it is considered by most to be the best functioning and useful of all AHAs. Glycolic 'unglues' dead skin cells and enhances exfoliation. This improves the look of enlarged pores, acne scars and surface pigmentation, creating a luminous complexion.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid is a key ingredient in many skincare products for all skin types, both for its moisture-retaining benefits as well as its ability to deliver other active ingredients like Vitamin C to the skin. It can attract up to 1,000 times weight in water from moisture in the air. It is also used in anti-aging skincare to plump the skin with moisture, reducing the appearance of fine lines.

syn: sodium hyaluronate, hyaluronic acid


A highly effective ingredient for lightening dark spots and inhibiting melanin production. The FDA allows a maximum of 2% hydroquinone in Over-The-Counter cosmetic formulations. It is important to minimize sun exposure and protect the skin with SPF when using any skin-lightening product.


Hyperpigmentation is characterized by dark spots and/ or larger dark patches. Heredity and sun exposure are both very important in the role of pigmentation. Since darker skin produces more melanin, it is also more prone to hyperpigmentation. Sun damage, inflammation, skin injuries (including post-acne inflammation), as well as hormonal changes, can contribute to dark spots. Products that treat hyperpigmentation address excess melanin, and exfoliating products like Alpha Hydroxy Acids help to break up surface pigment to promote an even skin tone. Make sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and limit your sun exposure to best maintain brightening results.

Jojoba Oil

From jojoba plant seeds, jojoba oil is similar to the skin's natural oil. It is easily absorbed and works with the natural lipids in the skin, preventing water loss to soften the skin. It is very stable and is frequently found in moisturizers, lipsticks, and shampoos and conditioners.

syn: Simmondsia chinensis, Isopropyl Jojobate


Keratin is a protein found in skin, hair, and nails, and so is often a featured ingredient in products that aim to fortify the outermost layer of skin, smooth and strengthen hair, and protect and nourish nails.

Kojic Acid

Kojic Acid is used in skin care to promote an even-toned, radiant complexion. It can help support the body's natural ability to combat excess melanin. It's often sourced from mushrooms or as a by-product of fermented rice in sake.

syn: Kojic Acid Dipalmitate


A term used to reference natural pigments found in skin, hair, and areas of the eye. Helps protect skin from UVB damage.


Nanotechnology in skincare formulations improves delivery, stability, and enhances efficacy of key ingredients. The most common types of nanoparticles used in skincare are the physical sunscreen ingredients Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. Nanotechnology enhances sun protection formulas and gives these sunscreen formulas a more elegant feel and undetectable look on skin.


Niacinamide supports the barrier function of the skin and natural ceramides, to minimize visible redness and prevent dehydration. It can increase skin energy and promote a youthful glow, improving the look of dark spots and large pores.

syn: Nicotinamide, Nicotinic Acid Amide, Myristyl Nicotinate

Normal Skin

Ideally balanced, normal skin typically has an even complexion and refined pores. Normal skin types should focus on protection from environmental stressors including the sun to maintain its happy condition.


Octinoxate (also known as Octyl Methoxycinnamate) is the most widely used UVB sunscreen ingredient. It is often combined with Zinc Oxide for UVA/ UVB Broad-Spectrum protection.

syn: Octyl Methoxycinnamate


Octisalate aka Octyl Salicylate is typically combined with other SPF ingredients to further increase the UVB value and protection from sunburn.

syn: Octyl Salicylate

Oily Skin

Oily skin is characterized by being oily all over; pores are more visible and consistently over-produce oil leading to blackheads, whiteheads, and blemishes. Fine lines and wrinkles are less likely to appear until the skin progresses to a Combination skin type with age. Certain cleansing oils can work surprisingly well for this skin type, and products with salicylic acid help to reduce excess oil and shine. Hyaluronic acid, aloe, and glycerin tend to be good balancing ingredients for this skin type to look for in a moisturizer.


Olive oil and one of its key elements, squalene, is beneficial for dry skin because of its fatty acid content. It is an excellent carrier oil for essential oils used in skincare and can increase the skin's ability to retain moisture. Olive has historically been a renowned dietary staple for its health and beauty benefits.

syn: Olea Europaea, Olive Oil, Olive Leaf Extract


Oxybenzone is known to be an effective sunscreen for both UVA and UVB rays. It is also used to maintain the efficacy of sunscreen ingredients and may be added to ensure the optimal performance.

syn: Eusolex 4360, Escalol 567


Parabens are synthetic preservatives used to inhibit bacteria and microbes from growing in products. They are very stable and highly efficacious. They have a long history of use and are commonly found in foods, pharmaceuticals, as well as personal care products.

Parsol 1789

Avobenzone is often listed by the trade name Parsol 1789. This is one of the most utilized sunscreen ingredients in the world, because it absorbs the full spectrum of UVA rays.

See Avobenzone.


Peptides are used in skincare for promoting firmness and minimizing visible signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles, and dark spots. Peptide technology is based on creating and manipulating chains of amino acids and proteins, and this technology has quickly evolved to address multiple skincare concerns.

syn: Argireline


Petrochemicals are used in cosmetics to improve texture and spreadability, and can help to form a protective barrier, promoting a restored lipid layer. Cosmetics-grade mineral oil, petrolatum, and paraffin are commonly used in skincare products. Common examples are lip balms and hand creams designed to prevent chapping.

pH Factor

pH refers to the level of acidity or alkalinity of an ingredient, product or the skin. Our skin is naturally acidic and can range from 4.4 to 5.6. The pH factor of skincare products is scientifically adjusted to work with specific ingredients to achieve desired benefits.


Phthalates may be used to stabilize, emulsify and increase viscosity, and to dissolve, suspend, and bind other ingredients.


Thousands of cosmetic ingredients have been created using polymer science. Polymers protect and control the delivery of key ingredients. Polymer means "many parts" and does not indicate any specific formula; examples of natural polymers are polysaccharides, rubber, and cellulose.


Protein is found in all living cells and is an important element in hair, skin, and nails. Wheat, soy and milk protein are commonly used proteins in skincare. Amino acids combine to form proteins and peptides, and different combinations are formulated to address various concerns. Proteins such as collagen and keratin fortify skin, hair and nails, contributing to the health of skin and hair and promoting strength.

syn: Wheat Protein, Milk Protein


Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A. Retinoids serve all skin types and many skin concerns well. Finding the right retinoid for your needs can help in improving cell turnover, reducing visible lines, minimizing enlarged pores, and promoting an even skin tone. For beginners, it can be helpful to start by using the retinoid every third night and gradually increase the frequency of use as your skin adjusts. Retinoids can make skin more photo-sensitive, so use a UVA/ UVB broad-spectrum sunscreen daily.

syn: Retinyl Palmitate, Vitamin A, Retinyl Acetate

Salicylic Acid (BHA)

Salicylic (Beta-Hydroxy Acid or BHA) works to control excess oil production and reduces the stickiness of oil that clogs pores and contributes to breakouts. A true acne-fighting multi-tasker, salicylic also gently exfoliates the skin's surface.


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