- Glossary of Cosmetics Terms and Definitions – Put Your Face On
By: Arden Mellor
If you’ve really delved into cosmetics and their makeup, their ingredients, and their properties, you’ve probably found that they can be quite technical. But you don’t need all that technicality, you just want to look good. So we’ve compiled this glossary of cosmetics terms and definitions to help clear up the picture. Review it carefully, and your cosmetics will start to make more sense to you. We at Sher-Ray want to thank Arden Miller for this glossary. We have added some additional words to her work. They are noted by an asterisk.
Absolutes are much like essential oils, this method of extraction creates a more concentrated and more fragrant version of the plant’s essence. Absolutes can be successful in aromatherapy, but they must be handled with extreme care as there is always a danger of allergic reaction. Using absolutes in aromatherapy will help with the healing process for many people.
Acne is an inflammatory skin disease that’s made evident by pimples that can appear on almost any part of the body, but are usually on the face.
Something that’s acrylic has the property of being able to repel water or moisture.
An allergen is something that produces an allergic reaction.
Allantoin, extracted from a plant, is used in creams and skin preparations to heal and soothe.
- Almond Oil
Almond oil is vegetable oil made with almonds. It’s used in cosmetics products that soften the skin.
- Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is a plant that has wonderful healing and softening properties. Many people have an Aloe Vera houseplant, because you can break off a piece and use the extract from inside to soothe and heal cuts, burns and abrasions. It’s a very common ingredient in cosmetics because of its softening properties.
An expensive oil that comes from the argan tree in Morocco. The oil has been used to cure skin ailments and diseases.
An astringent, as part of the facial cleansing system, is commonly known as toner, and it controls oily skin and lowers the pH of the face after cleansing. Basically, it draws tissues together.
Beeswax has been used in cosmetics, mostly for its emulsifying properties
- Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient found in acne treatments, used for its antibacterial properties.
The Bergamot tree is grown predominantly in southern Italy. The Italians make an oil from the rind of the bergamot tree’s citrus fruit, which is good as an antiseptic, a cleanser, and a deodorizer.
A blackhead is a type of pimple that forms when the pores of the skin get clogged with oils and impurities.
Botanical products are those that are made from plants.
Botox is simply the trade name for botulinum toxin A. It’s a product that’s becoming increasingly popular for getting rid of wrinkles in the face, which is performed by injections.
Bronzers are products that darken the skin to make it look naturally tanned.
A buffer is a pH-balanced cleanser that makes the skin shinier and softer.
- Butcher’s Broom
Butcher’s Broom is a plant extract that’s used to “sweep away” redness in the face.
A build-up of tough layers of skin is referred to as calluses. They can be removed with a pumice stone, or you can get them professionally removed by an esthetician.
An oil that is produced from the seeds of the Camellia flower. Has a high content of unsaturated fatty acids and naturally blocks harmful UV rays.
- Candela wax
Candela wax is combined with oil to give more body to lipsticks.
Cellulite is the word used to refer to the fatty deposits that cause a dimpled or uneven appearance of the skin, usually around the thighs and buttocks.
Ceramides is a substance that protects the skin against moisture loss. It’s synthetically reproduced in skin care products.
Cetyl palmitate is a pure vegetable lipid derived from cetyl alcohol and palmitic acid (naturally occurring fatty acid). It is a skin conditioning and emollient ingredient.
We’ve probably all heard of chamomile tea; it’s made from a plant. Well, it’s not only good for health by drinking; it’s also a great anti-inflammatory when used in lotions.
- Citric Acid
Citric acid has many uses. It’s used in skincare products as an astringent and an antioxidant.
Clarifying lotion is the toner part of a cleansing system that balances the pH of the skin after cleansing.
One of the species of coffee to be cultivated. The oil comes from the tiny seed that are located in the berry. The caffeine in the oil preserves one’s skin.
Collagen is a natural part of the skin, but it can be increased in volume with injections to plump up a certain area. Those women who want that full pouty look can have collagen injected into their lips.
- Cucumber juice
Cucumber juice is used on the face to tighten the pores and stop the skin from drying out.
Depilation is the process of removing hair from the skin.
- Dihydroxyacteone (DHA)
DHA is a cosmetic product that bronzes the skin to resemble a tan.
Echinacea is a natural product that’s most commonly used to reduce flu or cold symptoms. But it’s also used in some skin care products to stop itching and soothe the skin
Eczema is an inflammatory condition that causes the skin to become red, scaly and itchy.
Elastin is used in cosmetics to protect the skin from getting dry.
Electrolysis is a process where an electric current is applied to hair roots to kill them.
An emollient is something that soothes and softens the skin.
An emulsifier is a substance added to a product to thicken it.
Epilation is the process of removing hair form beneath the surface of the skin.
- Essential Oil*
An essential oil is a concentrated, hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aromatic compounds extracted from plants. It may be produced by distillation, expression, or solvent extraction. Essential oils are used in perfumery, aromatherapy. cosmetics. incense, medicine, household cleaning products, and for flavoring food and drink. They are valuable commodities in the fragrance and food industries.
An esthetician is a professional trained to give beauty treatments like facials, manicures, and pedicures.
Evening primrose is a natural substance used as a toner or moisturizer. *Often used in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis and acne.
When you exfoliate your skin you remove layers or scales.
- Gluten Free*
Cosmetics that are free of ingredients derived from gluten, which naturally occurs in grains
Glycerin can be found in moisturizers; it holds water particles together.
- Glycolic peel
A glycolic peel is a method used to exfoliate or remove dead layers of skin.
An herb that is known for its wound healing ability. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties.
A humectant is a substance that helps retain moisture.
When you hydrate skin, you add moisture to it.
Hydroquinone is a white crystalline compound used in skincare products as a bleaching agent.
Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition caused by ultraviolet light from the sun, which darkens the skin.
Petroleum derivative; environmental toxin; mildly irritating; produces kidney damage in animals; not carcinogenic in humans.
Jojoba is a multi-purpose substance, used as a moisturizer, as well as to reduce wrinkles and stretch marks.
Karite is a natural ingredient that keeps the skin healthy.
Keratin is a natural ingredient that keeps the skin healthy.
- Kojic acid
Kojic acid is used to lighten the color of the skin.
- Lactic acid
Lactic acid is a natural ingredient in the body that moisturizes the skin.
Lanolin is a fatty substance made from wool, which moisturizes and emulsifies as well as absorbs water.
Can be found in animal and vegetable sources. It is a common compound that is found in the cells of all living organisms. It prevents water loss and is required for proper biological functioning.
Licorice, in its natural form (not the kind we eat), is good for treating acne and soothing skin irritated by allergies.
- Malic acid
Malic acid comes from raw fruit, like apples, cherries and tomatoes, and is used as a glycolic agent.
Mallow is a softening agent made from plants, that helps reduce inflammation, age lines, and eye swelling.
Comes from the seeds of the Meadowfoam plant. Contains a high percentage of long-chain fatty acids that bring moisturizing and rejuvenating effects.
Melanin is the dark pigment in hair and skin.
In cosmetics, a moisturizer is a cream that hydrates the skin.
Cosmetic products that are non-comedogenic (or they may be referred to as non-occlusive) don’t plug the pores, so don’t cause irritation or pimples.
Strong photoallergen; endocrine disruptor; produces free radicals that can increase skin aging; environmental toxicant.
PABA stands for para-aminobenzoic acid. It’s a part of the vitamin B complex and is used in some sunscreen lotions.
Panthenol, or vitamin B5, is used as a moisturizer.
Petrochemical bleached with carcinogen acrolyn; releases carcinogens benzene and toluene upon heating; causes kidney or renal system tumor in animals; environmental toxin
- Patch Test*
See Did You Know for details
- PEG-100 Stearate*
Polyethylene glycols are often contaminated with 1, 4-Dioxane; suspected endocrine disruptor; linked to cancer in animals; skin and eye irritant.
Petrolatum is another word for petroleum jelly. It’s used in creams as a lubricant, to soften and soothe the skin. It also seals in moisture. * Lung irritant upon inhalation; non-biodegradable environmental toxin.
pH is an abbreviation for percentage of hydrogen. In cosmetics, it measures the level of acidity.
Photoaging is damage to the skin caused by too much exposure to the sun.
Photosensitivity is a skin condition, manifested in rashes or swelling, that results from applying or eating certain chemicals or foods, then exposing the skin to sunlight.
Phytocosmetics are cosmetics that are made with natural ingredients from plants.
- Placental Extract*
Endocrine disruptor containing estradiol and progesteron; banned in Canada.
Has anti-oxidant properties that fight free radicals and skin aging. It has been used in cosmetics to heal, protect, and moisturize dry skin, and bring the elasticity back.
A pore is a tiny opening in the skin that serves as an outlet for sweat.
Psoriasis is a skin disease that produces dry, itchy, red patches.
- Propylene Glycol (PG)*
Can cause eye irritation and conjunctivitis, as well as upper respiratory tract irritation.
Skin and eye irritant; endocrine disruptor; linked to breast and ovarian cancer; environmental contaminant.
- Quaternium 7, 15, 31, 60*
Formaldehyde releasing, can cause skin and eye irritation; linked to several cancers.
Deficiency in retinol, another name for Vitamin A, results in a hardening and roughening of the skin. Retinol is the main ingredient in products like Retin-A and Renova, that help to reduce wrinkles and heal acne.
Rosacea is a skin condition that produces red oils skin and acne.
Comes from the rosemary herb which is very well-known and versatile. It can be used to reduce skin fragility, boosting the skin in general and also increases circulation.
- Royal Jelly
Royal jelly is a natural product that’s taken from bees. It has many medicinal purposes and creates generally good health, including healthy skin.
This oil is extracted from the seed of fruit that thrives in the humid climate of the Amazon rain forest. This oil is used to moisturize the skin.
Sage, a member of the “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” group, is not just an herb for cooking. It also helps to disinfect and heal wounds.
- Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid dissolves layers of the skin and is used in the treatment of eczema.
Used to be given to race horses in the time of the ancient Greeks because it would make their hair shiny and healthy. The skin easily absorbs this oil and is has been proven to heal or cure a range of skin problem sincluding: eczema, burns, ulcers, as well as many others.
- Shea Butter
Shea butter is a fat made from the seeds of the shea tree. It’s used in creams and lotions to soothe, soften and moisturize the skin.
SPF is an acronym for sun protection factor. Sunscreen products have an SPF; the higher the SPF, the more protection you get from sunburn.
Used to emulsify, thicken, bind and stabilize lotions and creams. The natural fatty acid occurs in vegetable fats.
A compound found in nature and occurs naturally in water and also minerals, soil, rocks, plants and food. Has side effects if ingested.
Made from the fruit that is located inside of the hull. It moisturizes, softens, and adds fatty acids to the skin.
Sunscreen is a product, usually a cream, that’s applied to the skin to protect it from getting sunburned. The amount of protection is governed by its SPF.
Sunblock, as opposed to sunscreen, is a lotion that actually blocks the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It’s more effective than sunscreen.
A surfactant is an ingredient that promotes an efficient mixture of oil and water. *A chemical that lift up oil and dead skin cells.
Even when it contains no asbestos, was proven fibrogenic (causes tissue injury and fibrosis); skin and lung irritation
The fruit of the tree is allowed to fall from the tree naturally and then the seed is harvested. The oil reduces the size and appearance of scars.
- Tartaric acid
Tartaric acid comes from apples and is used to promote the texture and tone of the skin.
Tea tree oil is a natural preservative that’s used in soap. Shampoo and skin care products to clean and disinfect. *Has natural antimicrobial properties.
Thyme, another herb primarily used for cooking, is also useful as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent. You’ll find it in some soaps.
- Titanium Dioxide
A mineral used for a mirror effect for sun blocking.
Tocopherol is another name for the fat-soluble vitamin E, which aids in the skin reproduction process.
The toner is a part of the facial cleansing system. It’s used after the cleanser, and cleans any last traces of dirt that may be left, as well as returning the skin to its natural pH.
Undertone is a term used to refer to the tone of the skin, like warm or cool.
Produced from the skin of grapes and has antioxidant and UV protection.
Eliminating the use of non-human animal products.
Made from the roots of an aromatic grass and is used for aromatherapy.
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. A deficiency in vitamin A can cause toughening and hardening of the skin.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. It’s used in anti-aging creams because of its preservative and antioxidant properties.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It promotes strong bones and teeth, but can be detrimental if collected in the skin as a result of too much exposure to the sun.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. Its antioxidant properties make it useful for promoting healthy skin and hair. *Improves the healing of dermal wounds.
- Wheat germ oil
Wheat germ oil, an ingredient found in natural cosmetics, aids in the renewing skin cells. It also has a large quantity of Vitamin E in it.
Plants that are gathered in the wild rather than cultivated.
- Zinc oxide
Zinc oxide is a chemical compound that was originally used as a whitening face powder around the beginning of the 20th century. It’s quite often found in sun protection products because of its ability to protect. It also soothes and heals the skin.
So there you have it. And with your newfound knowledge, you can buy your cosmetics with the confidence that you know what you’re getting. Whether you’re buying foundation, mascara, lipstick, nail polish, lotion, or any one of the many skin care products available on the market today, you’ll always be able to get just the right ones to enhance your natural beauty.