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The Skincare Dictionary


The vast and varied world of skincare, one of the most common forms of marketing is the old “impress vaguely” method. While every person who sees an ad for a product or treatment may not know what the product or treatment is, or why it’s good or bad, they can still be affected by marketing techniques that employ positive, thrilling language — i.e., “this moisturizer is the best in the game!”. This is why it’s important to read up on the different terms and ingredients that you may encounter in the skincare industry


. Being knowledgeable about your skincare and treatments can help unmask some fakers, put your money in places that will actually benefit you, and help you avoid useless or harmful products.

This is why we created The Skincare Dictionary, a list of fifty commonly-found ingredients and technical terms, to help you decode the language of the skincare industry and understand what you’re looking at on every label and advertisement.

As you probably know, we’re a holistic esthetics company, devoted to caring for your skin with a clean, natural, whole-body approach — that said, not all of the ingredients and treatments on the list below are ones that we’d recommend for your skin. However, knowing what they are can help you grow an awareness of their pervasive influence in the skincare industry, and so we provide these definitions to you free of bias or extra advice. Keep reading to learn more, and call us for a consultation if you’d like a highly personalized, holistic skincare assessment!

The Skincare Dictionary

  1. Antioxidants – substances present in lots of fruits and vegetables, including Vitamins A, B, C, and E, that fight a


ging by protecting the skin from free radicals.

  1. Ceramides – substances that bind molecules in our skin together to help retain moisture.

  2. Collagen – the protein found in our connective tissues that is essential for elasticity and youthful skin, can be consumed in bone broths.

  3. Epidermis – the surface layer of the skin, the one we can see.

  4. Exfoliation – the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, either at home or via professional treatment.

  5. Fine lines – small lines on the surface of the skin, usually developed due to repetitive motions like smiling or squinting.



  1. Free radicals – normal yet unstable molecules that can damage other molecules and instigate premature aging.

  2. Glycolic acid – a type of AHA thought to help exfoliate the skin and potentially remove evidence of sun damage.

  3. Hyaluronic acid – a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan found throughout the body’s connective tissue, can be applied to moisturize and plump the skin by drawing water into it.

  4. Hyperpigmentation – dark spots on the skin due to sun damage, chemical damage, aging, hormonal challenges, or post-acne marks.

  5. Moisturizer – any product marketed as a solution to skin dryness.

  6. Niacinamide – a form of vitamin B3 that is said to boost collagen production in the body.

  7. Peptides – small proteins that help the skin retain moisture.

  8. pH balance – the measurement of how acidic your skin is on a scale of 1-14, with a normal skin pH resting around 5.

  9. Retinol – a powerful form of Vitamin A that has anti-aging and anti-acne effects.

  10. Salicylic acid – a plant hormone used to treat flaky or congested skin.

  11. Sebum – the oily substance produced by the skin to naturally moisturize.

  12. SPF – a measurement of sunburn protection, with SPF 30 being the recommended minimum to apply daily.



  1. Sun damage – damage to the skin inflicted by prolonged sun exposure, including burns, dark spots, dryness, and more serious conditions such as melanoma.

  2. Toner – a product designed to cleanse the skin on a surface level, reduce the appearance of pores, and reduce visible oil.

  3. Acne – an inflammation or infection of the skin’s pores leading to unsightly and/or painful bumps on the skin.

  4. AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) – a chemical exfoliant.

  5. BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) – a chemical exfoliant.

  6. Barrier function – the way that your skin regulates what passes in and out of it, in terms of moisture, bacteria, etc. A healthy barrier function results in clear skin.

  7. Cleanser – a product designed to remove excess oil, dirt, and pollution from the skin.

  8. Comedones – a closed skin or hair pore that may appear as a textured bump on the skin, usually in clusters.



  1. Dermis – the layer of the skin below the epidermis, housing the vasculature and hair follicles.

  2. Emollients – moisturizing treatments that work by creating a protective film over the skin.

  3. Enzyme – chemicals that dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells to help them slough off of the skin.

  4. Essential oils – a concentrated chemical compound from plants, such as lavender or peppermint, often very powerful and harsh when applied topically.

  5. Humectants – substances that draw water into the skin such as glycerin, AHAs, or hyaluronic acid.

  6. Inflammation – irritation felt and seen on the skin when something is imbalanced, such as pH or nutrition.

  7. Microdermabrasion – a facial resurfacing procedure.

  8. Non-comedogenic – a term that describes products that contain ingredients that won’t clog your pores.

  9. Occlusive – a term that describes ingredients that create a physical barrier over the skin to trap moisture, such as fats


and oils.

  1. Parabens – preservatives added to cosmetic products that may mimic human hormones and disrupt the endocrine system in the body.

  2. Pores – natural openings on the skin that allow it to breathe and for chemicals to pass through.

  3. Resveratrol – a powerful antioxidant serum.

  4. Rosacea – long-term chronic redness of the face, usually on the nose and cheeks.

  5. Serums – skincare products that contain higher concentrations of active ingredients than moisturizers or sprays.

  6. Silicones – skincare additiv


es that provide products with silky softness or smooth application.

  1. Squalane – an anti-inflammatory, moisturizing ingredient.

  2. Sunscreen – a product designed to block the UV rays of the sun and prevent sun damage.

  3. UVA – a longer wavelength in sunlight associated with aging.

  4. UVB – a shorter wavelength in sunlight associated with burning.

  5. Vitamin D –


a vitamin synthesized in the skin due to sun exposure that acts as a strong anti-inflammatory.

  1. Vitamin C – a vitamin crucial for tissue growth (including skin).

  2. Vitamin E – a highly anti-oxidant vitamin.

  3. Zinc oxide – a physical sunscreen ingredient that blocks UV rays.

  4. Witch hazel – an astringent skincare ingredient that is often cut with alcohol to dry the skin out.

The Skincare Dictionary is ever-expanding, and it can be daunting to navigate! Want a personalized, holistic consultation for your skin? Give us a call or visit us at our beautiful studio in Newport Beach to get the conscious care your skin deserves.


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