Posted on January 26, 2015

Skincare glossary: what do these popular beauty terms really mean?

Beauty/ Skincare

dove ingredients list

We’re often told to go for products with certain ingredients. If you dry skin, you’re told to go for a moisturiser with an emollient and if you’re at the other end of the spectrum and have oily skin, then a cleanser with salicylic acid is your winning ticket. But what do these ingredients actually do? A clear understanding of how certain things function can help you make better choices when it comes to skincare products.

Here are a few popular words that you might have come across before and probably didn’t care to research because you ‘heard’ it was good:

E for Emollients

Emollients generally hold moisture in the skin. They keep the skin looking soft and supple. Some very popular and effective emollients would be avocado oil, shea butter and glycerine. If you have dry skin then always go for a moisturiser that has an emollient.

A for Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)

AHA’s are naturally occurring acids found in milk and fruits. Generally, they help speed up the exfoliating process. This improves the texture of the skin and helps unclog nasty pores. Glycolic acid is one of the most commonly used AHAs.

A for Antioxidants

You’ve probably seen this word a couple of hundred times at this stage! Without getting too scientific, antioxidants keep the skin protected from harm caused by free radicals (damaged cells that can be problematic). Vitamins A, C and E, green tea, beta-carotene, and grape seed extracts are all highly effective antioxidants.

boots vitamin e night cream

E for Exfoliators

I love a good exfoliator! They are designed to help remove dead cells from the skin and help whatever you put on your face afterwards become for effective. As a rule of thumb, always look for an exfoliator that is designed especially for your face. Body scrubs are far too harsh to use on the delicate skin of la visage.

H for Humectants

Humectants absorb water from the air and help the skin retain moisture. Some very effective humectants include glycerin, algae extract and lactic acid.

B for Balms

Balms are super-rich moisturisers like shea butter or avocado extract that help target dry patches of the skin. They’re usually designed for people who have super dry skin but if you want a subtle glow on your face, you could warm some balm in between your hands and pat your cheeks after you’ve applied your makeup.

C for Collagen

Collagen is a fibrous protein that is present in the skin. When someone has high levels of collagen in their skin, it appears nice and firm. (I bet you just thought of someone there). As we age, the level of collagen declines and wrinkles begin to form. That’s why some older women – and even men – like to get injections, as they temporarily replace lost collagen.

R for Retinoids (Retin-A, Retinal, Renova)

Retinoids are derived from vitamin A. They are used in beauty products to fight acne and help build collagen to reverse the visible signs of aging. Since using retinoids makes the skin more sensitive to the sun, it is important to use an SPF. Some natural sources of retinoids include tomatoes, melon,fish-liver oils and leafy green vegetables.


SPF (Sun Protection Factor)

My favourite  S word! SPF measures  the degree of protection a product provides against harmful UVB rays from the sun. A lot of people are under the impression that an SPF should only be worn in the summer, however, it should be worn all year around.

S for Serums

Serums are corrective skin treatments that are highly concentrated and packed with ingredients to target specific skin problems. Uneven skin tone and dullness are usually it. Common ingredients found in serums would be vitamin C and green tea extract. They are generally applied after cleansing and before moisturising.

Vitamin K helps promote faster healing of swelling, bruising and skin irritation. A beauty product that contains this vitamin would be ideal for people with sensitive skin.

Vitamin E provides antioxidant protection. It protects the fatty acids in the skin which help keep the skin firm and young looking. Not many people know that vitamin E can act as a mild sunscreen as it has an SPF factor of 3.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that reduces the pigmentation of scars, making them less noticeable. High doses of vitamin C helps create a more even skin tone. Natural sources of this vitamin include oranges, red peppers and kiwis.

Next time you go shopping for a new beauty product, you will be able to see if it has the ingredients you need for your skin. I hope you found this useful! 🙂

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