Natural Beauty Glossary

Glossary of Natural Beauty Terminology


Look here for a quick definition of some key terminology you may come across that relates to natural and organic beauty products.
A
Agro-Ingredient
Any plant, animal or microbial product derived from agriculture, aquaculture or wild collection/harvest.
Alpha hydroxy acids
Exfoliating acids that can come from fruits, milk or sugar cane. Lower strengths appear in skincare products to treat fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and dull skin. 
Antioxidants
Protective ingredients that prevent free radicals from damaging and aging the skin; these include vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, pomegranate, idebenone and alpha lipoic acid. See also: free radicals.
B
Biodegradeable
Biodegradable waste is a type of waste that can be degraded by living organisms into substances that are not harmful for the environment.
C
Certified
Product whose compliance with a given standard has been validated by an independent certification body
Collagen
This protein is naturally found in the skin, and works with another protein — elastin — to support the skin’s structure and prevent it from sagging. Collagen gives skin its youthful appearance and keeps it plump and supple. With age, collagen production slows down and skin starts to sag, develops lines and wrinkles and gets drier.
Colorant
Substances which are exclusively or mainly intended to colour the cosmetic product, the body as a whole or certain parts thereof.
D
Dermis
The skin’s middle layer and the location of collagen and elastin, as well as oil glands. See also: epidermis, hypodermis
E
Elastin
A protein found in the skin that helps it bounce back after being stretched and prevents skin from sagging. While most formulas focus on boosting collagen, retinoids may affect elastin as well as collagen.
Emollients
These are softening and soothing ingredients, which include: lactic acid, shea butter, petrolatum, lanolin, petrolatum, cyclomethicone, dimethicone copolyol, glyceryl stearates, propylene glycol linoleate, silicone, mineral oil and plant oils.
Epidermis
the outermost layer of the skin, which is where dead skin cells are shed. Melanin — the pigment that determines skin color — is also produced here. See also: dermis; hypodermis
Essential Oils
Concentrated liquids containing aroma compounds from a specific plant. Generally extracted by distillation, they are used in perfumes and cosmetics for their fragrance and treatment properties. They can also act as natural preservatives.
Exfoliation
This process removes dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. Some exfoliants use physical beads or particles to scrub off dead skin cells, while others use chemical ingredients like enzymes or alpha hydroxy acids to dissolve and break up dead cells.
F
Free Radicals
Unstable molecules that try to steal electrons from stable molecules, creating a chain of other unstable molecules that can damage the skin, leading to wrinkles and aging skin. Environmental factors like pollution, UV rays, smoke and pesticides all contribute to create skin-threatening free radicals. See also: Antioxidants
G
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's)
Organisms created via a technology where DNA molecules from different sources are combined to create a new set of genes. For example, GMOs are responsible for modifying plants to be more resistant to pests or require fewer pesticides or bear more fruit.
H
Humectants
Ingredients designed to draw water from the dermis to the epidermis. They also draw moisture from the surrounding atmosphere into the skin when humidity is above 70 percent. Humectants, thereby, prevent dryness, cracking, chapping, irritation and skin build-up. Common humectants are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, propylene glycol, sorbitol and urea.
Hypoallergenic
Products with this label are thought to be less likely to cause allergic reactions and irritations.
Hypodermis
Subcutaneous tissue that makes up the skin’s bottom layer. It’s the skin’s protective layer and the location of hair follicles. See also: Epidermis; dermis.
L
Lactic Acid
An alpha hydroxy acid that’s produced from milk, and has both moisturizing and exfoliating properties. It’s found in many over-the-counter and prescription moisturizers. See also: Alpha hydroxy acids
Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS)
An organized group that's focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice.
Lipids
Proteins that dictate the texture and look of your skin, depending on their organization.
M
Mineral Makeup
Makeup generally made from natural minerals that have been crushed into a silky powder and are ideally formulated without preservatives, talc, oil, waxes, and fragrance, making it appropriate for all skin types and recommended for those with sensitive and/or acne- and rosacea-prone skin.
Mineral Oil
A petroleum-based ingredient used in skincare products and makeup for more than a century. It creates a barrier wall to prevent water loss from skin, and has a moisturizing effect. However, it may clog pores or cause acne for some individuals.
Moisturizer
A Gels, lotions or creams designed to hydrate the skin by building up skin’s barrier to better retain water. Available for different skin types, moisturizers can be oil-based or water-based, with common ingredients like petrolatum, dimethicone, glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
N
Natural
.
Noncomedogenic
These labels mean that products don’t appear to clog pores or cause breakouts — an ideal choice for oily or acne-prone skin. However, everybody reacts differently to ingredients, so be aware that these labels are not 100 percent reliable.
O
Organic
Agriculture that’s conducted according to standards that minimize the use of fertilizers and chemical pest control. Products and ingredients derived from organic agriculture support the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality.
P
Parabens
Chemical compounds used as preservatives in personal care and beauty products to extend shelf life by preventing the growth of fungi, mold and bacteria.
Permanent Makeup
Uses tattooing to apply permanent color to the skin to resemble makeup.
Petrochemicals
Petroleum derivatives such as petrolatum, mineral oil, paraffin, and propylene glycol that are commonly used in beauty products—particularly in lip balm and gloss.
Phthalates
Industrial chemicals that are most often used in fragrances, nail polish, and hairspray that make scents and colors last longer.
Pore Extractions
A process performed by an esthetician or other skincare specialist that removes blackheads and other impurities that can build up in the pores.
R
Rosacea
A chronic skin condition that causes inflammation, redness, red lines (called telangietctasias), swelling or pimples across the forehead, chin, cheeks and nose. Rosacea most often affects adults between the ages of 30 and 50 and individuals with fair skin.
S
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
A surfactant that commonly appears in shampoos, soaps and other products because of its abilities to create lather and lift away dirt, oil and other impurities from hair and skin. Despite criticisms that SLS is dangerous, it is considered safe for use in cosmetic products.
Stretch Marks
Bands, stripes or lines on the surface of skin that are caused by rapid growth or certain diseases. Stretch marks occur most often on the breasts, hips, thighs, buttocks and around the abdomen.
Subcutaneous tissue
The skin’s protective bottom layer. See also: Hypodermis
T
Titanium Dixide/dt>
A mineral that shields skin from ultraviolet rays by blocking them. It commonly appears in sunblocks, and doesn’t irritate the skin.
U
UVA and UVB rays
Ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are invisible waves of energy from the sun that cause skin damage, sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer.
V
Vitamin A
A powerful and well-researched skincare ingredient that effectively prevents and reverses signs of aging and acne. It neutralizes free radicals, stimulates collagen synthesis and accelerates cell turnover. Food-wise, being deficient in vitamin A can also affect the skin because this vitamin is vital for normal cell functions. A deficiency in vitamin A can make a person susceptible to dryness, wrinkles and sensitive skin.
Vitamin B
A group of vitamins — such as niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, biotin and folic acid — that provides cells with energy for metabolism and other functions. Vitamin B deficiencies may result in greasy and scaly skin, dryness or irritation, lackluster locks or poor hair growth. Vitamin B is found in many foods, such as grains, cereal, rice and green vegetables, and in supplements. When found in skincare formulas, vitamin B can hydrate and exfoliate the skin. Specifically, a form of niacin, niacinamide has a variety of benefits, including diminishing dark spots, hydrating the skin and repairing UV damage.
Vitamin C
An antioxidant that counteracts harmful free radical effects, decreasing skin damage, and boosts collagen to reduce the look of lines. While it has great benefits, vitamin C is notoriously unstable. When vitamin C is exposed to oxygen, it breaks down, loses its potency and can even create damaging radicals. Look for more stable derivatives of vitamin C, such as ascorbyl palmitate.
Vitamin E
Another antioxidant that strengthens the lipids that compose skin cell barriers, protecting them from free radicals and UV damage and enhancing vitamin C’s antioxidant powers. Vitamin E may also prevent vitamin C from oxidizing and spoiling when the ingredients are combined.
Z
Zinc Oxide
A mineral that treats minor skin irritations, including diaper rash, mild burns and chapped skin. Zinc oxide is also commonly used in sunblocks because it blocks or reflects ultraviolet rays, and doesn’t irritate the skin. See also: Titanium dioxide

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