Skin Care Dictionary
A salt or ester of acetic acid (found in vinegar). It has antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities. Often combined with vitamin E and vitamin A in skin care and cosmetics.
A solvent commonly used in nail polish removers. It comes in varying concentrations from nail polish remover to paint thinner, and is a very effective solvent for breaking down plastics and synthetic fibers.
“Sheep Alcohol” It is a non-drying emollient alcohol made by combining lanolin (oil from sheep’s wool) and acetic acid. It is used as a skin softening ingredient; however it is extremely comedogenic and should be avoided by those prone to acne breakouts.
A synthetic fixative or thickening agent for hair gels, sprays or pomades. Mostly used in hair products to create stiffness and shine.
Creates a waterproof barrier found in waterproof sunscreens and makeup.
Or Specially Denatured Alcohol is a solvent for dyes and essential oils in perfumery. Also used in gums, resins, lacquers and varnishes.
Used for its non-comedogenic moisturizing and antioxidant properties.
A botanical acid that has moisturizing and exfoliating effect. It also has soothing, anti-irritant and skin protectant qualities by forming complexes with irritant and sensitizing agents.
(AHA) An active ingredient derived from fruit acids. Primarily used for its exfoliating qualities, it is also used in acne products for its antibacterial effect. Can be very drying and irritating if overused. Common AHAs include citric acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid.
A fatty acid that is found in every cell which is both water and oil soluble. It is an excellent antioxidant.
A mineral that comes in powder or crystal form used as an astringent in styptic pencils and shaving products, such as aftershave.
Form of vitamin C. A water soluble sugar acid that is used as an antioxidant and skin lightener in skin care and cosmetics.
A fat-soluble vitamin C sugar acid that functions as an antioxidant.
A synthetic, oil-soluble chemical used in broad-spectrum sunscreens for its ability to absorb UVA rays. Other names include Parsol 1789, Eusolex and Escalol.
An organic compound with natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that’s utilized to treat a variety of skin conditions, including acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation.
A natural wax created in beehives by honey bees. It is used as a thickening agent, emulsifier, and humectant. It is also a skin softening emollient and is relatively non-comedogenic.
An oil soluble chemical used in sunscreen for its UVA and UVB absorbing properties.
A mixture of alkylbenzyldimethylammonium chlorides used as an antimicrobial agent, preservative, conditioner and a foaming/cleansing agent in cosmetics. It may irritate skin with continued use.
Preservative used to inhibit growth of microorganisms, protecting cosmetics form contamination. It is also used as an emulsifier.
A pH adjuster and preservative naturally found in fruits, like most berries, and used as a preservative in skin care products. It is also used to preserve acidic food and beverages like fruit juice, sparkling drinks, soft drinks and pickles. It is known to be less irritating than other preservatives.
A chemical used in sunscreen as a UVA and UVB blocker.
An antibacterial and peeling agent used for the treatment of acne.
Shop by ingredient: Products with Benzoyl Peroxide:
PCA Skin BPO 5 Percent Cleanser
A substance used as an external analgesic, preservative, solvent and viscosity decreasing agent.
The only Beta-Hydroxy Acid is Salicylic Acid. It is used as an exfoliator as it causes the skin cells of the epidermis to become “unglued” and slough off. Unlike AHA’s it is oil soluble, so it can penetrate into the pore which contains sebum and remove all the dead skin cells inside the pore.
An oil-soluble, synthetic antioxidant added into cosmetics and foods.
A broad-spectrum UVA and UVB absorber.
Used as a preservative for its antiviral and antiseptic properties.
An alkaloid found in coffee and tea used for its possible anti-cellulite and eye de-puffing properties.
An extract found in wood of the camphor laurel tree used primarily for its cooling effect and soothing scent. Helpful in easing itchy, irritated skin.
A name for all synthetic polymers of acrylic acid used as emulsifiers and thickening agents in skin care products.
A red pigment derived from the carminic acid produced by certain scale insects such as the cochineal. Used in many cosmetic products including lipstick and mascara, as well as in food as a dye in juices and candy. It may be irritating and allergenic.
The cell wall of a plant, more commonly known as fiber. Used as a thickener and emulsifier in cosmetics and skin care products.
The essential lipids (fats) in the surface layer of the skin. Ceramides are used in skin care products to hydrate the epidermis as they help strengthen the skin’s barrier.
The combination of cetearyl and stearyl alcohols, to produce a thickening agent and emulsifier.
Produced from petroleum or vegetable oil (palm or coconut), it is used as a surfactant in shampoos as well as an emollient, emulsifier and thickening agent for skin creams and lotions. It is non-irritating, non-drying and non-comedogenic.
A highly stable vegetable fat extracted from the cocoa bean used for its moisturizing effects.
The main supporting fiber located within the dermis which gives strength and provides structure, but it functions as a moisturizer when applied topically.
A form of silicone. It is non-comedogenic and provides a smooth texture to products.
The active ingredient in sunless or self-tanning products. It is a colorless sugar that darkens the skin by staining. It interacts with the dead skin cells on the epidermis, producing a color change, and as the dead skin cells are naturally sloughed off, the color gradually fades, usually within 5 to 7 days of application.
A form of silicone that is commonly used in moisturizers as a skin protectant. It’s non-comedogenic, seals in moisture and protects the skin from irritation. Dimethicones also work to fill in and smooth out lines and scars.
A preservative that is used to slow down the degradation of ingredients in products. It may cause skin irritations, including contact dermatitis.
A protein within the dermis that gives skin the ability to be flexible, but tight. In topical formulas, it works as a surface protectant (it cannot penetrate the epidermis) to moisturize the skin while helping to smooth and improve suppleness.
Commonly known as rubbing alcohol or ethanol. It is often used as an antibacterial, but can be found in some astringents and toners. At high concentrations it can be very drying.
These dyes have been approved by the FDA as safe for use in food, drugs and cosmetics.
It hydrates skin while supplying a skin barrier to prevent moisture loss. Used in topical products to help provide smooth application, but high concentrations may clog pores.
An amino acid essential to collagen production.
A glucose polymer that functions as a conditioner.
A thickening promoter that provides products with a luminescent, shimmering look.
Glycolic acid is the most active and beneficial of the Alpha-Hydroxy-Acids (AHA) used in skin care and is derived from sugar cane. Studies have shown glycolic acid to be the most effective fruit acid for cosmetic application. It has the smallest molecular structure of all AHAs, thus possesses the greatest penetration potential. Inside the cell, it stimulates the collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis, improving the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines and other forms of sun damage. Due to this unique mechanism of action, glycolic acid has also been found to be beneficial for the management of conditions involving hyperkeratinization, i.e., psoriasis, ichthyosis, acne, dry skin, etc. Anyone suffering from these skin disorders would benefit greatly from the use of glycolic acid. It’s a fundamental part of a skin care maintenance program that will keep your skin healthy throughout the years.
Considered an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), Glycolic Acid is an exfoliant. It is used to remove the buildup of dead skin cells for a smoother, more even skin tone. It may aid in the reduction of fine lines, but too high concentrations or overuse may result in skin irritation. Not suitable for sensitive skin.
Extracted chemically from the seeds of grapes, commonly wine grapes, it is known for its potent antioxidant properties.
A powerful antioxidant derived from green tea leaves.
A polysaccharide used to promote thickness in skin care products. Its coating ability might improve skin’s moisture retention.
It is a natural substance found in the skin that keeps skin stay smooth and plump, but hyaluronic acid starts to diminish in our early twenties and skin loses the ability to retain moisture which causes the formation of lines. It is used topically as a moisturizing agent as it reduces dryness and itching. It is often used in conjunction with vitamin C products as it facilities the penetration of the vitamin C effectively.
A skin pigmentation lightening agent that is used to reduce the appearance of age spots, freckles and melasma. It works to topically reduce melanin production without actually bleaching the skin.
Commonly known as rubbing alcohol. It is commonly used for antibacterial purposes. It tends to dry out skin, especially when using high concentrations.
Derived from palm oil, it is used in cosmetics as an emollient and thickening agent. It may be comedogenic.
An emollient oil derived from the seed of a Jojoba shrub. It is used as an emollient and lubricant in many skin care products as well as hair care to moisturize.
A non-comedogenic clay mineral used in powders and masks to absorb oil.
A result of the fermentation process of malting rice for use in the production of sake (Japanese rice wine). It is an effective skin lightener as well as a good antioxidant.
Lactic acid is part of the alpha hydroxy acid family, derived from sour milk products. Lactic acid hydrates and gently exfoliates the skin, assisting with skin concerns such as wrinkles, acne, keratosis pilaris, psoriasis and hyperkeratosis.
Derived from purified sheep’s wool. Used in cosmetics to bind to the skin as an emollient or moisturizer to soothe dry, itchy, rough skin as well as chapped lips, diaper rash and minor burns. Impure lanolin can sometimes cause an allergic reaction in people.
Lecithin is used in cosmetics as an emollient and emulsifier. A natural antioxidant, derived from animal/plant tissues as well as egg yolk.
Licorice extract is an anti-inflammatory extract used in cosmetics to lighten the skin (areas of hyperpigmentation). Also referred to as glycyrrhizin or glycyrrhizin acid.
Linoleic acid is an unsaturated fatty acid taken from fats and oils. Used in cosmetics as an emulsifier, as an anti-inflammatory treatment and to retain moisture.
Liposomes are used in cosmetics as a “delivery-system.” Structures made up of phospholipids, filled with beneficial and active ingredients that are delivered and absorbed by the skin and then released. Liposomes provide a longer release time, increase stability of active ingredients, improve penetration of actives and reduce negative side effects.
Lysine is an essential amino acid used in the production and formation of collagen and elastin.
Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is a water-soluble, vitamin-C derivative. Used as an antioxidant to fight free radicals, accelerate the formation of collagen, inhibit melanin formation, prevent dry skin and as an anti-aging preparation.
Methyl gluceth is a water-binding skin conditioning agent that moisturizes the skin. Typically derived from corn sugar and/or corn starch, methyl gluceth is used to address eczema, dry skin, itching and roughness.
Methylparaben is one of the frequently used parabens as a preservative in cosmetics. Commonly used because it is anti-fungal, and is usually non-irritating/non-sensitizing with most skins.
Mexoryl SX, also referred to as Ecamsule. Mexoryl SX is a water-soluble, organic compound used in sunscreen products to block UVA radiation and because of its excellent photo-stability.
Mineral Oil is a by-product of petroleum used as a lubricant, emollient and binder in cosmetics. Commonly used in baby lotions, cold creams, makeup removers. Many manufacturers are using alternatives to mineral oil as it is considered to be comedogenic and may lead to dryness of the skin.
Mucopolysaccharides, also referred to as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), these carbohydrate-lipid complexes that attract and bind water to them to deliver to the skin. Example: hyaluron/hyaluronic acid.
Myristyl myristate is is an ester of myristic acid. Compound is an occlusive, conditioning agent and emollient for the skin.
Nanospheres are tiny delivery systems used in cosmetics to penetrate the skin and deliver ingredients in a way that increases absorption of these active ingredients and in a time-released fashion.
NaPCA, also referred to as sodium PCA. A humectant and emollient that is naturally occurring in the skin and also derived from amino acids. Used to hydrate and attract water to the skin. Non-irritating, non-comedogenic.
Octocrylene is an organic compound used in sunscreens/cosmetics to absorb UVB and short-wave UVA radiation. This ingredient also acts as an emollient and has water resistant properties. Considered a chemical sunscreen ingredient.
Octyl methoxycinnamate, also known as octinoxate. An insoluble, organic compound, primarily used in sunscreens to absorb UVB radiation. It is also used in some treatments to reduce the appearance of scarring. Considered a chemical sunscreen ingredient.
Octyl salicylate is an ester and organic compound used in sunscreens to absorb UVB radiation. Acts as an emollient and water resistant element in cosmetics. Considered a chemical sunscreen ingredient.
Oxybenzone, an organic compound used in sunscreens to absorb UVB and short wave UVB radiation. Considered a chemical sunscreen ingredient.
PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), also known as 4-aminobenzoic acid. An organic compound, slightly water soluble. Used in sunscreens as UV filter. Due to its possible cellular UV damage capabilities and allergic reactions, PABA is no longer favored as a sunscreen ingredient.
Panthenol is also known as pantothenic acid and vitamin B5, is water soluble, used due to its moisturizing factors, a humectant and emollient. Improves hydration, reduces itching and inflammation, improves healing of wounds.
Parabens are a class of chemicals used in cosmetics as preservatives, and anti-fungal remedies. Considered non-irritating and non-sensitizing with most skins but can cause irritation, contact dermatitis and rosacea in individuals with paraben allergies.
Petrolatum, also known as petroleum, petroleum jelly and soft paraffin. An occlusive mix of hydrocarbons, used as an ointment, holds moisture into the skin and keeps bacteria from entering the area.
Poly hydroxy acid are similar to AHAs. PHAs are said to be more moisturizing then AHAs and less irritating. Typically includes lactobionic acid and gluconolactone, beneficial as they exfoliate the skin, assisting with wrinkles and fine lines.
Polybutene is a liquid oligomer used as a lubricant in cosmetics to make liquids texturally viscous.
Proline is an a-amino acid that is essential to assist in the formation and production of collagen.
Propylene glycol is an organic compound used in cosmetics as a moisturizer/humectant. Can cause moderate skin irritation and dryness to those with sensitivity.
Quaternary ammonium salts (Quats) are ammonium compounds used as disinfects, surfactants, shampoos. Quats is often used to sterilize because it is fast-acting, nontoxic and odorless.
Quaternium-15 & 19, an all-purpose, quaternary ammonium salt preservative used to keep bacteria, mold and yeast from forming in cosmetic formulations. Q-15 is considered to be an allergen and is known to cause contact dermatitis in individuals.
An antioxidant-rich tea that's grown only in South Africa. Produces noticeable anti-aging results by helping the skin defend itself against damaging environmental factors, such as the sun, smoke and pollution.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant ingredient produced naturally in plants, but also derived from Japanese knotweed and found in red grapes. Known to have anti-inflammatory benefits, fight free radical damage and assist with anti-aging. Some studies indicate this ingredient may inhibit aging.
Retinal, a form of vitamin A, used in cosmetics to increase the rate of cell turnover, increase collagen, thus assisting with anti-aging. Used to address acne and keratosis pilaris. Can be irritating to skins that are not acclimated to this ingredient. Not safe to use during pregnancy.
Retinol is a fat soluble form of vitamin A, used in cosmetics to increase the rate of cell turnover, increase collagen, thus assisting with anti-aging. Retinol addresses acne and keratosis pilaris. Can be irritating to skins that are not acclimated to this ingredient. Not safe to use during pregnancy.
Retinyl palmitate is the ester of retinol/vitamin A and palmitic acid, used as an antioxidant, converts to retinol and then to retinoic acid when applied topically. Typically not irritating to the skin, due to its vitamin A concentration. Not safe to use during pregnancy.
Retinyl palmitate polypeptide is a glycoprotein complex containing retinyl palmitate that assists in moisturizing and protecting the skin. Non-irritating. Not safe to use during pregnancy.
Rose hip are the seed pods of roses used in cosmetics as they contain potent concentrations of vitamin C, D and E, essential fatty acids and antioxidant flavonoids.
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), organic compound used cosmetically for the treatment of acne, psoriasis, calluses, corns, keratosis pilaris, and warts. Salicylic acid exfoliates the skin, preventing clogged pores and excessive oil production.
Silica, also known as silicon dioxide, this chemical compound is used in cosmetics for its light-diffusing properties and absorbency benefits. Increases spreadability of cosmetic preparations.
Silicone are man-made compounds used in cosmetics as lubricants and conditioners. Increase softness of products.
Silk powder is synthetically ground silk, used is cosmetics, such as makeup, to reflect UV rays and absorb excess oil.
Silk proteins are protein substances used for their water-binding properties and antioxidant benefits.
Sodium bicarbonate, a chemical compound used cosmetically to neutralize acids/acid peels as well as a cleansing agent.
Sodium borate is also known as borax, a boron compound used in detergents and cosmetics to prevent bacterial growth, as a preservative. Sodium borate controls a products pH level and can alter its thickness.
Sodium hyaluronate is sodium salt form of hyaluronan used in cosmetics to attract and bind water to the skin, increase hydration and boost the skins elasticity.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant used in cosmetics and foaming preparations to create bubbles. SLS can cause skin dryness, hypersensitivity and irritation.
Sorbic acid is used in a wide variety of cosmetics as a binder, humectant and preservative.
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol used to thicken cosmetics and as a humectant to prevent moisture loss.
Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid occurring in solid animal and vegetable fats to harden soaps and as a lubricant.
Sulfur is a nonmetallic element, insoluble in water, kills bacteria found on the skin, used in the treatment of acne, blackheads, whiteheads, dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis.
Tinosorb M, also known as bisoctrizole, is an organic compound used in cosmetic sunscreens to absorb UVB and UVA radiation. Also reflects and scatters UV. Is photo-stable, shows little photo-degradation and stabilizes other UV absorbing ingredients. Considered a chemical sunscreen ingredient.
Tinosorb S: also known as bemotrizinol, an oil soluble organic compound used in cosmetics to absorb UVB and UVA radiation. Is highly photo-stable and helps prevent the degradation of other sunscreen ingredients. Considered a chemical sunscreen ingredient.
Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring oxide, used to produce pigment in cosmetics and in sunscreens as a physical block to UVA, UVB and UVC radiation. Often used for those with sensitive skin or young children, as it is non-irritating
Triclosan is a potent antibacterial and anti-fungal agent used in soaps, deodorants, creams and acne medications.
Tyrosine is an amino acid used by cells to produce proteins and initiate melanin production within the skin. Tyrosine reacts with the enzyme, tyrosinase, to form hairs natural melanin pigment.
Unipertan V-242 is a vegetable form of unipertan that functions as a catalyst in the tanning process by providing tyrosine and adenosine triphosphate in a vegetable collagen base.
Vitamin A is linked to the retinoid family, vitamin A is produced in various different forms, aids in the functioning and repair of skin cells, improves skin texture, can treat acne. Not safe to use during pregnancy.
Vitamin C, also known as l-ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin for proper repair of skin and tissues. Vitamin C is an antioxidant ingredient that provides many benefits to the skin; reduces UVB damage, protects against UV-induced damage, strengthens skins barrier response, promotes collagen production and may reduce hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin D is naturally synthesized in the skin, promotes healthy and rapid healing of skin and is a known antioxidant.
Vitamin E: also known as tocopherol that comes in many different forms, vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant that helps to protect the skin from UV damage and free radicals as well as lubricate the skin.
Water: is a chemical substance composed of hydrogen and oxygen, essential for all life forms. Used in almost all cosmetic products.
Witch hazel is derived from flowering plants, the bark and leaves are used as an astringent in cosmetics. Witch hazel treats bruises, insect bites, assists in contracting blood vessels and treats acneic issues.
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide used in cosmetics to increase viscosity of a product, to stabilize oil-in-water formulations and has some hydrating benefits.
Yeast extract is composed of beneficial substances such as proteins, peptides, amino acids, enzymes and polysaccharides. Yeast extract stimulates cell metabolism, thus increasing cell vitality.
Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound often used in baby powder, diaper rash creams, dandruff treatments and antiseptics as it assists in relieving irritation. Also commonly used in sunscreen products to prevent UV radiation from entering the skin. Considered a physical sunscreen ingredient.