Ever wondered about the meaning of the more ‘technical’ skin terms? We read these terms regularly on the backs of our products, but few of us actually know what they mean. Here are the definitions to the more frequently used terms courtesy of Anthony Logistics for Men:

Allergy
Itching, redness, swelling, or other skin reactions that might develop when you become sensitized by exposure to an allergen (the technical word for “allergy creator”). Allergy-tested products are often made without fragrances and preservatives, the two most common causes of cosmetic allergies. These products are tested on people with allergen-sensitive skin to show they cause no reactions.

Alphahydroxy Acids
A family of chemicals, including lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid, which act by loosening dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. They have much the same effect as a rough cloth or sponge that rubs off surface skin cells to uncover fresher cells from below. But they are less harsh than a rough cloth, because they are delivered in creamy lotions that also moisturise.
In nature, one of the 20 molecules that combine in various ways to form every protein in the body. In cosmetics, amino acids are added to products as one of the “natural moisturizing factors” usually present in healthy skin. Some manufacturers claim the added amino acids can help build new protein, but they can’t.

 Antibacterial
Substances that can kill bacteria and treat infections. Also used as preservatives in cosmetics.

Antioxidant
A unique group of substances (including AGR, and Vitamin E, C) that protects your body or other objects from oxidizing, or “going bad”. Oxygen, which is essential for life, is a volatile and reactive element. It reacts with iron to form rust or with the fats in butter to make it rancid. A similar process occurs in the skin. As you get older and more oxidation occurs, it ages the skin. Antioxidants prevent or slow the oxidation process, thereby protecting the skin from premature aging.

Astringent
A cooling liquid containing high amounts of alcohol, used to freshen the skin by removing surface oils and temporarily contracting the pores. Astringents are useful for people with oily or combination skin. But they can be too harsh for dry skin, which may benefit instead from a no-alcohol facial toner.

Botanicals
Ingredients derived from plants or herbs, such as aloe, almonds, chamomile, coneflower, and elder flowers. They are often included in skin care products for their scent. Some botanicals also have soothing or healing properties.

Cleansers
Contain little or no soap or detergent, usually with an oily base. Meant to be applied, then removed with wiping or rinsing.

Clinically Tested
Tried on human volunteers under close medical supervision and observation to prove that the product does what it claims to do.

Comedogenic
Capable of causing a breakout of blackheads or whiteheads, known as comedones (singular: comedo). To be labelled “non-comedogenic,” a product is tested on people prone to acne. If it doesn’t cause pimples among the people tested, it’s considered non-clogging for all skin types. Moisturisers can be non-comedogenic even if they are rich in petrolatum and oil, like Eucerin crème, because the oil used is so highly refined.

Dermatologist
A medical doctor with special training in diseases of the skin.

Detergents
Synthesized chemical that lift oils, fat and grime from the skin, holding them in a foam that can be rinsed off. Soap-free cleansing bars and liquid cleansers always contain detergents. The word sounds harsh, but detergents can actually be made milder than soap.

 Emollient
Something that helps restore dry skin to a more normal moisture balance. Emollients do this by supplying fats and oils that blend in with skin, making it pliable, repairing some of the cracks and fissures in the stratum corneum, and forming a protective film that traps water in the skin. Each of these changes may last for hours after the cream or lotion is applied. Along with humectants, emollients are the primary effective ingredients in moisturisers.

 Epidermis
The outer section of the skin, which separates the external environment from the dermis. Cosmetic products can’t penetrate any deeper than the epidermis’s outermost layer, the stratum corneum. In terms of dry skin and moisturizing, the stratum corneum is where all the action is.

Exfoliant
A chemical or abrasive that removes dead skin cells.

 Extract
The essence of a plant material. Drawn out of the flower, leaf, or other plant part. Natural extracts contain the scent, flavour, or healing properties of the original plant in a concentrated form.

 Fragrance
Any perfume that masks the scent of waxes and oils or that simply makes a product nicer to use. The fragrances used in skin care products are carefully chosen from a limited list of approve perfumes. Cosmetic chemists are choosy about the composition of the scents they use. Despite the pleasure perfume gives to most people, fragrances are the single biggest cause of cosmetic allergies and rashes among people with sensitive skin.

 Free Radicals
Highly unstable molecules produced through oxidation that attack and destroy cell membranes, cause damage to all types of substances and tissues in the body, and are thought to speed up the aging process. Antioxidants like AGR and Vitamins C and E prevent some of the damage caused by free radicals.

 Humectant
An ingredient that supplies the skin with water by attracting moisture from the air and holding it on the skin. Along with emollients, humectants are the primary effective ingredients in moisturisers.

 Hydrate
To add or replace moisture.

 Hypoallergenic
Any cosmetic formulated to minimize hostile skin reactions and shown in clinical testing to cause fewer reactions than other products like it.

 Irritant
Any ingredient that causes temporary discomfort, such as itching, burning, stinging or sneezing. Unlike an allergic reaction, irritation is quick: it occurs as soon as an irritant is put on the skin and stops as soon as it’s removed

 Melanin
The natural colouring of the skin that protects it from damage during sum exposure. More melanin is produced in response to ultraviolet radiation, leading to a darker skin tone – a tan.

 Moisturiser
A product that adds or holds water in dry skin, and that can be used on the hands, body, and face. About two-thirds of the facial moisturisers on the market are lotions, and about one third are creams.

 Ointment
Greasier than a cream, an ointment is probably the most effective form of moisturiser, if not the most elegant. Because it distributes active ingredients throughout the top layer of skin and holds them there, a pure ointment may be used to help heal damaged skin, or as the vehicle for delivering antibiotics or other prescription drugs to the skin.

Preservative
Keeps a product fresh and prevents it from spoiling.

 Sebum
The skin’s natural oil, whose function is to trap moisture in the epidermis. Sebum levels are highest during puberty and gradually decline throughout adulthood.

 SPF
These initial stand for Sun Protection Factor. A number given to every sunscreen product, ranging from 2 to 50, which represents its level of protection. If you usually burn in 10 minutes, a product labeled SPF 8 will let you stay in the sun for 8 time longer, or 80 minutes, without burning; an SPF 15 product will let you stay out 15 times longer, or 150 minutes. Higher SPF products contain more chemical sunscreens, which could irritate sensitive skin. The best SPFs, especially for the face, are between 15 and 25 – high enough to offer good protection, but not so high that they’re irritating.

Sunscreen or Sun Block
Any product containing one or more ingredients that absorb or physically block ultraviolet radiation. Dermatologists recommend daily use of a sunscreen or a moisturiser plus sunscreen. Year-round use of a product with a significant SPF helps prevent skin damage resulting from sun exposure, such as skin cancer and wrinkling.

Surfactant
A cleansing detergent ingredient, used to create an emulsion with the oils on the surface of the skin, so that water can easily rinse the skin clean.

Toner
A liquid skin freshener that removes soap or cleanser residue. Toners tend to be less drying than astringents, which often contain alcohol.

Ultraviolet radiation
The light rays from the sun that can lead to skin damage. Ultraviolet-A (UVA) can cause wrinkling and photo-aging; Ultraviolet-B (UVB) can cause sunburn and skin cancer. Damage from either type can be avoided by staying out of the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that blocks both UVA and UVB) every day.

 Water
The primary ingredient in just about every skin care product. Even when the label doesn’t say so, water is at least filtered – that is, run through a microfilter to remove minerals – before it’s put into a formulation. Sometimes, the water is described as “triple purified” or deionised,” which means it’s been through additional filtering processes that remove even more impurities.

Courtesy of Anthony Logistics for Men