In this new skin care glossary, we break down some of the most common terms in today’s beauty world into easy bite size nuggets of information, designed to keep you in the knowhow.
A is for…ANTIBACTERIAL
Ingredients such as propolis, cinnamon or eucalyptus oil, including essential oils such as thyme, lemon and rosemary have antibacterial properties. Although many are in fact classed as antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, they do not have a wide spectrum, meaning they’re effective against certain species of microorganisms only. They should not be used instead of other more effective disinfectants such as alcohol, but they can provide an extra natural protective booster.
B is for…BIOFLAVONOIDS
These are natural compounds present in numerous plants such as cocoa, soy, lemon, broccoli and açai, among others. They have numerous functions such as protecting and strengthening capillaries, as well as antioxidant and soothing properties. Highly recommended for people suffering from rosacea, varicose veins, tired legs and / or swollen ankles.
C is for…CLEAN BEAUTY
A general term that refers to cosmetics free from certain synthetic ingredients, however it does not necessarily imply that all the ingredients used are natural (although it is often used synonymously with natural!). Considering that natural is not always the best, this term should really be used to describe both natural and synthetic ingredients that do not impact negatively on skin health.
D is for…DERMATITIS (ATOPIC)
As its name suggests, this is an inflammatory condition that can occur anyway on the body, and known to occur mainly in winter time. There are many natural remedies that can help alleviate the often frustrating symptoms of dermatitis, such as vegetable oils with moisturising properties combined with natural extracts such as oats, liquorice or “spent” grain wax. All of which are considered valid alternatives to using cortisone creams.
E is for…ELASTIN
Elastin is a protein present in skin which provides elasticity and flexibility. It is sometimes included as an ingredient in certain skin care products but, in reality, it has little to no function as its high molecular weight prevents skin from absorbing it. The hydrolysed form of Elastin favours absorption more but as this form has a smaller molecular structure, it loses its effectiveness.
F is for…FERULIC ACID
A powerful antioxidant with SPF properties. Unfortunately, ferulic acid has a limited use in skin care products as it degrades rapidly, (it smells metallic and the formula darkens within a few hours), thus losing all its beneficial properties.
G is for…GLYCOLS
These are a group of alcohols derived from hydrocarbons, with the most commonly used being Propylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol as they act as humectants. Certain studies link them to cases of eczema, which is why it’s best to avoid them, especially in sun creams or body milks/butters as we apply these products in greater amounts.
H is for…HIBISCUS
Hibiscus flower extract is a favourite in the skin care industry because it contains natural sugars (which moisturise and soothe), pyruvic acid (which exfoliates), amino acids (which reinforce the skin’s barrier function) and antioxidants (which provide protection against free radicals and can aid slimming when used in body creams). As you can see, Hibiscus is a great ‘multi-tasker’!
I is for…IMPERATORIA (MASTERWORT)
Behind its imposing name is a plant with a hidden property – Its amazing ability to promote re-epithelialisation (wound healing). This quite rare and sought after quality is essential to improve the appearance of skin and is of the utmost importance for rosacea sufferers.
J is for…JOJOBA OIL
The main characteristic that sets Jojoba apart from all the other vegetable oils is that it doesn’t contain glycerine, making it actually a liquid wax rather than an oil. The first study that confirmed it was a wax and not an oil was published in 1933. It is very stable and doesn’t easily go rancid, thanks to its high level of natural antioxidants which prevent it from oxidising.
K is for…KALAHARI MELON SEED OIL
The Kalahari melon was originally cultivated in the Sahara and Kalahari deserts, however, nowadays it can be found in many areas of Africa. In the beauty industry, Kalahari melon seed oil is ranked very highly as it contains an abundance of both linoleic acid (omega 6) and vitamin E. Its more traditional counterpart and viable alternative would be sunflower oil, which from a scientific point of view is very similar to Kalahari melon seed oil but is more sustainable throughout the Mediterranean territory from a cultivation point of view.
L is for…LAKE
A synthetic pigment made by precipitating a dye with an inert binder, or ” mordant”, usually a metallic salt. Normally listed in the ingredients preceded by the name of a colour, a number then followed by the initials CI and another code, (for example Red 6 Lake CI 15850).
M is for… METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE, METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE
These are two synthetic preservatives whose commercial name is Kathon CG. Often found in many “paraben free” products despite been associated with numerous contact allergies. Because of this, these preservatives are not allowed to be used in natural products.
N is for…NITROSAMINES
Known carcinogenic compounds that are not used in beauty products but there is a risk of them being used in the formation of other ingredients such as Triethanolamine (TEA) and Diethanolamide (DEA). Although TEA and DEA are classed as safe at their respective recommended dosages, it’s best to avoid them due to their possible link to nitrosamines.
O is for…OILS
Could plant based oils be the new exfoliants? Oils blend and melt together with other oils, allowing them to easily dissolve the mixture of sebum and oxidised oils that tend to block pores. They can penetrate deep into the skin’s hydrolipidic barrier, working right at the source of the congestion. This is one of the reasons why I always include oils in my cleansing routine, (using either the Clementine Cleansing Balm or the Purifying Cleansing Beauty Cream).
P is for…PALM OIL
Despite the fact that there are many certificates guaranteeing its sustainability, the reality is that there is NO sustainable palm oil as more than 7 million hectares have already been designated for its cultivation (with the corresponding loss of biodiversity!). If you want to make sure that your skin care products are palm oil free, avoid ones that contain or are derived from: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Palm Olein, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis Oil, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3 , Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate / Sulphate, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides, Ethyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol.
Q is for…QUERCETIN
One of the most commonly used antioxidant in the beauty industry as it’s readily available. Boasting many regenerative properties, Quercetin can be found in apples, grapes, olives, citrus, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, capers, tea and red wine.
R is for…ROSACEA
Although rosacea is often misdiagnosed, it remains a common inflammatory condition suffered by many. Powerhouse antioxidants that soothe skin and strengthen capillaries are a must to relieve its symptoms, and Azelaic acid can be used a natural alternative to metronidazole gels.
S is for…SODIUM PCA
Despite Sodium PCA having been used in beauty products for a long time, nobody has come close to finding another ingredient with the same moisturising abilities. So, what makes this carbohydrate special? It forms part of the hydrolipidic film which protects our skin and it’s able to increase the water content of the top layers by drawing moisture from the surrounding air.
T is for…TESTED (DERMATOLOGICALLY)
This often used phrase describes the various product tests carried out by dermatologists. It usually refers to the commonly used “patch test”, where a product is applied to 48 volunteers for 48 hours and any allergic reactions are duly recorded. Due to the reduced number of participants used in these tests, the results are only useful to the manufacturer and should not be taken as gospel as we are all different. The moral of the story is, always try before you buy.
U is for…UNDECYLENIC ACID
A natural preservative derived from black elderberry, Undecylenic acid is very common in hygiene products as it has a pleasant citrus aroma. However, despite its natural origin, it has been known to irritate sensitive skin and its use comes with numerous warnings!
V is for…VITAMIN E
One of the most commonly used antioxidants in natural beauty products (if not THE most!). It helps to prevent the oxidation of vegetable oils and consequently lengthens the product shelf life. However, calculating the right amount of vitamin E to use in a formula is very tricky and getting it wrong leads to the vegetable oils going rancid. Yuck!
W is for…WATER
Water is often shows up as one of the first ingredients on skin care product labels and with good reason. It can represent up to 70% of the total content of the formula making it an important vehicle for many key active ingredients. This is why I believe it’s important to have a good water purification system installed in the lab. However, some natural skincare brands opt to replace the purified water with flower water, something that at first glance seems a like good alternative but in reality, is nothing more than water used for washing or rinsing plants before processing. This liquid not only has virtually no benefits but also a high level of impurities.
X is for…XANTHOPHYLLS
Pigments responsible for the yellow, orange and red hues in of some plants and flowers, Xanthophylls contain a high level of antioxidants, with some of the main sources being alfalfa and chlorella and spirulina algae. Lutein is one of the most beneficial xanthophylls, but due to its low stability, it’s rarely used in beauty products.
Y is for…YOGA (FACIAL)
Very effective in combating sagging skin, facial yoga can be combined with firming ingredients such as turmeric, gotu kola, hydrolysed grain proteins, unsaponifiable oils or ginger to give your skin an extra youthful look.
Z is for…ZINC
Consistently included in thousands of beauty products, Zinc has three main uses:
Zinc Oxide: Known to soothe skin and for its sun protection abilities (the only physical sunscreen allowed in natural products).
Zinc Pyrithione: Known for its anti-dandruff properties.
Zinc PCA: Known to help keep skin moisturised.