Beauty Glossary

Beauty Glossary


Active Ingredient

Active ingredient is the generic term for a substance in a cosmetic (or pharmaceuticals and other products) that is biologically active – that is, it performs a specific function of benefit upon use. The rest of the ingredients in a product that simply act as a carrier for the active ingredient(s) are called inactive ingredients. In some countries, listing an active ingredient on a cosmetic has to adhere to strict guidelines e.g. in the USA, it must adhere to specific regulations mandated by the FDA.

Aftershave Lotion

Aftershave Lotions are products intended to be used by men after they have finished shaving. These products typically contain alcohol to freshen the skin and a moisturizer to soften the skin.


A substance that triggers an allergic reaction on a person’s skin who is sensitive to this specific ingredient.


The term for natural and synthetic ingredients that are used to help prevent free radical and environmental damage to our skin. Ingredients include vitamins E and C, grape seed extract, coenzyme Q10, and green tea. Understanding the benefits of antioxidants against the damage caused by free radicals is so important; there is a huge amount of research conducted worldwide into antioxidants.

BB Cream

BB stands for blemish balm or beauty balm and is a cream makeup product. Promoted as an all-in-one facial product to replace serum, moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunblock (if it has an SPF). It can be worn alone as a tinted moisturizer, or as a regular foundation.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Bacteria-fighting ingredient found in skincare products to treat acne.

Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

Oil-soluble substance that targets acne and blackheads by exfoliating deep into pores. Generally less irritating than alpha hydroxy acid; works best for acne prone skin.


Part of the B complex vitamin, also known as vitamin H, it aids in cell growth and production of fatty acids, promoting healthy hair, skin and nails.


Plant-derived ingredients in skincare products, haircare and cosmetics.

Broad-spectrum Sunscreen

Product that protects against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.

CC Cream

“Color correcting” makeup and skincare hybrid similar to BB cream but with anti-aging, spot-reducing and tone-balancing properties.


Colorants are not only contained in facial cosmetics and hair rinses, but are in almost every product that has a “jazzy” color and is not transparent. Colorants must be specified as ingredients in cosmetics with their Cl (= Color) number. Colorants approved for use in the cosmetics industry have been compiled in a positive list.

Combination skin

Combination skin tends toward dryness on the cheeks and around the eyes while being oily in the t-zone (nose, forehead, chin).


If something is comedogenic, it means that it contains ingredients that will block the pores and this could lead to blemishes and acne.


Concealers are products that are intended to conceal or cover up skin imperfections on the face. They typically work by applying color to the skin or through other effects such as the reflection of light or the shininess of the skin. They can be applied using a brush, cloth or spray and are typically used in conjunction with Foundations. Concealers contain ingredients that apply color where it is needed in a precise and controlled manner.


The technique of using shading and highlighting on areas of the face to define, disguise or emphasise features. Also used to subtly change the perceived shape of a feature.

Dry skin

Dry skin is characterized by a lack of moisture, resulting in tightness and even flaking. It may lack elasticity, with accentuated fine lines and wrinkles.


A process of cleaning the face/skin using a gentle abrasive product that removes the loose dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, leaving the newer skin cells underneath. An exfoliator that uses round beads (like jojoba) is good for faces and the décolleté as it doesn’t scratch your skin.


Foundations are creams, lotions or powders used as a base for facial makeup. They can be used to color the face and to conceal blemishes to produce an impression of health and youth. Foundations contain ingredients that apply color and/or powder to the skin in a precise and controlled manner.

Foundation Primer

Water- or silicone-based cream or lotion that creates a smooth, even surface for makeup and improves wearability.


Fragrances, hair dyes and preservatives are often responsible for allergies. Fragrance allergies are quite a long way up on the allergy hit list. It is not easy for those who suffer from a fragrance allergy or who have very sensitive skin. Fragrances are to be found in many products. Even some toilet paper is “improved” by adding fragrant substances. An allergic reaction to a perfume is relatively easy to detect: you will see a reaction to a fragrance where you sprayed perfume on your skin. Typical allergic reactions include itching, flaking and small blisters. If your skin has an allergic reaction to a perfume, you should change fragrance.

Free Radical

A term used to describe atoms, molecules or ions with unpaired electrons and free radicals play an important role in a number of biological processes. However, the same free radicals can participate in unwanted side reactions, causing cell damage which contributes to illness, cancers, and ageing. Antioxidants are a major way to slow the impact of free radicals, hence the wide range of cosmetics containing antioxidants such as vitamin C to help combat ageing and environmental skin damage from free radicals.

Glycolic Acid

A sugar cane derivative, this alpha hydroxy acid is a master exfoliating ingredient in anti-aging and anti-acne skincare.

Glycolic Peel

A chemical peel, usually performed by an aesthetician but also available in milder at-home treatments, that exfoliates the outer layer of dead skin cells, diminishing fine lines and brightening skin tone.


A genetically modified organism, or GMO, is an organism that has had its DNA altered or modified in some way through genetic engineering. In most cases, GMOs have been altered with DNA from another organism, be it a bacterium, plant or animal; these organisms are sometimes referred to as "transgenic" organisms.


Liquid or powder makeup containing light-reflecting ingredients, such as mica or micronized crystals, to accentuate features and give skin a natural-looking glow.

Hyaluronic Acid

Water-binding ingredient that hydrates and plumps the skin and is a naturally occurring carbohydrate in our bodies that diminishes with age.


Inhibitor of melanin production and known as one the most effective ingredients for reducing and possibly eliminating brown spots and hyperpigmentation.


A term that refers to the darkening of an area of skin due to the abnormal excessive production of melanin (the pigment that contributes to skin color).


Term for products that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction.


Liquid or powder makeup containing light-reflecting ingredients, such as mica or micronized crystals, to accentuate features and give skin a natural-looking glow.


Desert plant extract high in vitamin E, providing natural skin soothing and conditioning properties.


Protein family that makes up skin, hair and nails; an ingredient in hair products and treatments to smooth, straighten and fight frizz.

Lash Primer

Base coat for mascara, often with nourishing and conditioning properties, that helps bind mascara to lashes for longer wear. Also can be worn alone for a glossy finish.

Lip Stain

Liquid or water-based gel, typically containing alcohol, that leaves a saturated wash of long-lasting color.


Microplastic refers to any type of tiny, solid plastic particle or fiber found as litter in oceans and other waterways. Plastic microbeads are a primary type of microplastic. Microbeads are purposely developed to be tiny so they can be used as ingredients in products for a wide variety of purposes, from industrial boat cleaning and paints to rinse-off personal and skin care products.

Mineral Make-up

Cosmetics mainly comprising minerals like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, mica and iron oxide; usually free of dyes, preservatives and fragrance.


Moisturizers are products that are intended to hydrate the skin. Another related topic of interest includes Parabens. They also increase the water content of the skin, giving it a smooth appearance. They also provide a barrier against the loss of water from the skin. Moisturizers contain special ingredients that help to replace the oils contained in the skin or to protect against the loss of moisture from the skin.


If something is non-comedogenic, it is safe to use on oily and acne prone skins, as it won’t block the pores and cause more problems. Non-comedogenic products are generally oil free.

Normal skin

Normal skin displays a smooth texture and a clear surface, with fine pores. There are no visible blemishes, greasy patches or flaky areas.¨

Oily skin

Oily skin is shiny and thick, often with enlarged pores. Oily skin is prone to blackheads and other blemishes.


Term for products with at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients, excluding water and salt.

Palm Oil

Grown only in the tropics, the oil palm tree produces high-quality oil used primarily for cooking in developing countries. Palm oil is a small ingredient in the U.S. diet, but more than half of all packaged products Americans consume contain palm oil—it’s found in lipstick, soaps, detergents and even ice cream. Global production of and demand for palm oil is increasing rapidly. Large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation values have been cleared to make room for vast monoculture oil palm plantations. This clearing has destroyed critical habitat for many endangered species—including rhinos, elephants and tigers.


Parabens are widely used substances. They kill off micro-organisms which is why they are used in cosmetics and foodstuffs as preservatives. They are used to preserve creams, lipsticks, soaps, sunscreen, depilatory creams and other beauty care products. Parabens do not lose their preservative characteristics when spread on the skin and can thus cause allergies.


Preservatives in cosmetics that increase shelf life; FDA-approved at low levels (0.01 to 0.3 percent).


Skin sagging, wrinkles and sunspots resulting from exposure to the sun’s UVA rays that penetrate deep into the dermis and damage collagen fibers.


Skin sagging, wrinkles and sunspots resulting from exposure to the sun’s UVA rays that penetrate deep into the dermis and damage collagen fibers.

Pre-Shave Lotions

Pre-Shave Lotions are products intended to be used by men immediately prior to shaving. These products typically contain an astringent, which causes bristles to lift up from the skin's surface, facilitating a close shave. Pre-Shave Lotions are most frequently used with electric shavers but they can also be used when wet shaving.


Derivative of vitamin A and milder form of retinoic acid; widely considered the most important ingredient in anti-aging skincare.

Salicylic acide

Used topically to treat acne by reducing swelling and redness and unplugging skin pores; also treats skin conditions like psoriasis by loosening dry or thickened skin.

Sensitive skin

Sensitive skin frequently reacts with redness, itching, burning or dryness to certain cosmetic products.

Serum / Face Serum

Oil- or water-based product with high concentration of active ingredients, including nutrients, ceramides, glycerin and vitamins, that penetrates deep into the skin.

Shaving Creams

Shaving Creams are products intended to be used by both women and men for an effective shave. These products are usually dispensed as an aerosol foam or gel that produces a lather when rubbed on the skin. Shaving Creams typically contain ingredients that help lubricate the skin so that the razor can work effectively.


Sun protection factor, a measurement of how well a sunscreen protects skin against the sun’s UVB rays.


Products that do not contain sulfates, which lift dirt and create lather in shampoos. Often recommended for fighting frizz and extending the benefits of chemical treatments like hair color and keratin.


Products that filter a percentage of the sun’s rays, depending on their Sun Protection Factor of SPF.


Applied after cleansing to balance skin’s pH, remove excess dirt or oils, and help subsequent products penetrate skin.


Ultraviolet A. Less intense than UVB but much more prevalent and more penetrating through skin. These long-wave rays are the main rays in tanning, and the main reason for skin damage associated with photoaging.


Ultraviolet B. Strongest during summer, these short-wave rays are the chief culprit behind sunburn, freckles and sunspots, and play a key role in skin cancer and premature skin aging.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A also goes by another name, retinol. Retinol is an antioxidant, and thus can reduce free-radical damage that causes skin to look and act older.

Vitamin B

A water-soluble vitamin that is a potent antioxidant to fight free radicals. It can increase collagen production, reduce skin discolorations, strengthen skin’s barrier, enhance skin’s repair cycle ,and reduce inflammation.

Vitamin C

Powerful antioxidant that helps prevent free radical damage.

Zinc Oxide

Natural skin protectant mineral in ointments, creams and powders to treat dryness and irritation, as well as in sunscreens to shield UVA and UVB light.

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