Skin Care Glossary

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL – 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).

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.

ALKALINE – Having a pH greater than 7. Alkaline substances are also known as “basic” — the opposite of acidic. 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.

ALPHA HYDROXY ACIDS (AHA) – These chemicals loosen the fluid that binds surface skin cells together, allowing dead ones to be whisked away. This “glue” becomes denser as we age, slowing down the natural cell-turnover process that reveals younger skin — making AHAs a particularly useful ingredient in fine line-fighting creams and cleansers. Mandelic Acid in the Glow Exfoliant is AHA.

ALPHA LIPOIC ACID – This fatty acid found in all cells in the body contributes to skin’s smoothness. It dissolves in both fat and water, enabling it to penetrate well into all parts of skin cells.

AMINO ACIDS – The building blocks of the proteins that make up collagen and elastin — substances that give the skin its structural support. Aging and a combination of external factors (including UV light and environmental toxins) reduce the level of amino acids in the body; creams containing amino acids may help restore them.

ANTIOXIDANT – Any ingredient that reduces free-radical damage to the skin.

ASCORBIC ACID – aka l-ascorbic acid, this topical form of antioxidant vitamin C brightens the skin, increases collagen production, and stems free-radical damage. Like many antioxidants, it’s an unstable molecule that can break down quickly when exposed to light and air. We use stabilized sodium Ascorbyl phosphate on our Clarifying serum.

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 is salicylic acid in our Glow Exfoliant.

BROAD SPECTRUM – A term for sunscreens proven to defend against both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) radiation. Passing the FDA’s broad-spectrum test shows that a product provides UVA protection that is proportional to its UVB protection. “Scientific data demonstrated that products that are ‘Broad Spectrum SPF 15 [or higher]’ have been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging when used with other sun protection measures, in addition to helping prevent sunburn,” states the FDA website.

CALAMINE – Used to treat itching and minor skin irritations, this pink liquid is a mixture of zinc oxide and ferric oxide. This is an ingredient in our Calming Cleanser

CERAMIDES – Naturally occurring in sebum these fats hold together the cells of the epidermis to reinforce the skin’s protective barrier. Found in Barrier Booster Moisturiser.

CETYL/STEARYL ALCOHOL – Fatty alcohols that stabilize creams and cleansers and create a silky feeling.

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 (including Matrixyl), can stimulate new collagen production. The most abundant protein in the human body, it makes skin thick, strong, and smooth. Laser treatments and retinoids build it up; UV rays and free radicals tear it down.

COMEDONE – A broad term for a pore, or hair follicle, that’s blocked by sticky dead skin cells and the sebum that can’t drain properly. When the follicle remains open, the sebum’s pigment darkens from air exposure, forming a blackhead. When P. Acnes bacteria invade the clogged pore, the resulting inflammation creates a whitehead.

EMOLLIENT – Any ingredient that increases water levels in the epidermis. Synonym: moisturiser.

EMULSIFIER – Chemicals such as cetyl alcohol that bind together ingredients in skin-care products.

FRAGRANCE – The generic term for natural and/or synthetic compounds used to scent products. Blends are typically considered trade secrets and can contain numerous ingredients (mainly oils and alcohols), none of which have to be revealed on the label. Fragrance is the number-one cause of allergic reactions to skin-care 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.

GLYCERIN – a humectant, meaning it 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 acid derived from sugarcane, 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.

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.

HYALURONIC ACID – A sugar molecule found naturally in the skin, it increases skin’s moisture content and prevents water loss. It can hold 1,000 times its weight in water and is typically found in expensive creams and serums. We use Sodium Hyaluronate, a smaller molecular size than hyaluronic acid making it especially penetrative.

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

JOJOBA OIL – Similar in structure to skin’s natural oil, it penetrates skin to hydrate without clogging pores.

KOJIC ACID – This skin lightener, especially popular in Japan, has been proven to be effective at blocking the production of new melanin in the skin, but it can also cause skin irritation when used in higher concentrations.

MANDELIC ACID – Derived from bitter almonds, this oil-soluble alpha hydroxy acid dives deep to clear pores; its large molecular size keeps it from penetrating too quickly and causing irritation. One of the main ingredients in Glow Exfoliant.

MICELLAR WATER – A mix of purified water, hydrators (like glycerin), and low doses of mild surfactants, these no-rinse liquid cleansers attract makeup, oil, and dirt when swiped over skin with a cotton pad. They’re mild enough for sensitive and acne-prone complexions.

NIACINAMIDE – A form of vitamin B3, it strengthens the skin’s outer layers, improves elasticity, and curbs redness and irritation. One of the main ingredients of Clarifying Serum.

OXYBENZONE – Also known as benzophenone-3, this chemical sunscreen absorbs mainly UVB rays, which is why it is combined with UVA-absorbing filters to create broad-spectrum sunscreens.

PARABENS – preservatives used to protect cosmetics against the growth of bacteria and fungi. These controversial have been shown to possess weak estrogen-like properties, but the FDA deems them safe when used at very low levels (.01 to .3 percent) in cosmetics.

PEPTIDES – Tiny protein fragments that promote collagen growth and help repair skin.

SERUM – A skin-care product that contains high concentrations of active ingredients and claims superior penetration of the skin’s surface when applied.

SQUALENE – Rich in fatty acids and antioxidants, this natural moisturizer is made by the skin, but diminishes with age. For skin-care purposes, it can also be derived from olives, rice bran, wheat germ, sugarcane, or palm trees.

SQUALANE – created by hydrogenation of squalene. Due to the complete saturation of squalane, it is not subject to auto-oxidation. We use squalene derived from sugarcane in our Barrier Booster Moisturiser.

SULFATES – These cleansing agents remove dirt and oil and are responsible for creating lather.

SURFACTANTS – Used as oil-dissolving detergents, emollients, and foaming agents in cleansing products.

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

TRICHLOROACETIC ACID (TCA) – A 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.

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. The rays cause skin cancer, and they are also generated in tanning beds. They are constant throughout the year, which is why sun protection should be worn daily regardless of season.

UVB RAYS – The high-energy wavelength of ultraviolet light that leads to darkened pigment in the form of tanning, freckles, and age spots — plus, of course, sunburns. They are strongest in summer months.

ZINC OXIDE – A mineral in sunscreen that prevents UVA and UVB light from entering skin and doing damage.


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