Beauty Glossary Skin Care From A to Z

A closeup look at every beauty term you should know

Sometimes it can feel like the ingredient list on your favorite products is in an entirely different language. And seeing as there’s no Duolingo or Rosetta Stone offering available to better understand your moisturizer, we’re stepping into the role of interpreter. See below for a breakdown of what’s what in your go-to products, from A to Zinc Oxide.

Astringent

A cleansing agent. Typically made of witch hazel or floral waters, it creates a mild inflammation of the skin tissue to improve the skin’s overall appearance and health.

Botanical

Quite simply, this means “derived from plants.”

Butter

A product that typically contains one or more vegetable butters, including essential and vegetable oils.

Clarifying Lotion

This is another name for toner. More on that below!

Collagen

A protein that firms skin and can naturally be found in the body’s connective tissue.

Emollient

Creams, moisturizers and lotions that moisturize and heal the skin.

Emulsifier

A thickening agent (such as lecithin or beeswax) that has a tendency to separate, much in the way that oil and water do.

Glycerin

A substance found in moisturizer that holds water particles together.

Humectant

A substance that preserves and maintains moisture.

Kaolin

An oil-absorbing clay that is commonly found in makeup.

Kinetin

A plant-based hormone used for its anti-aging properties; often found in cosmetics.

Lactic Acid

A skin-softening acid that is found naturally in muscle tissue.

Paraben

An artificial preservative sometimes put in products with the goal of keeping bacteria from growing, thus making the product’s shelf life longer.

Retinol

Also known as Vitamin A. This vitamin ingredient boosts collagen and smooths wrinkles.

Serum

A water- or oil-based liquid with a high concentration of nutrients made to deeply absorb into the skin.

Toner

A lotion or wash designed to cleanse the skin and minimize the appearance of pores.

Zinc Oxide

An ingredient found in makeup for whitening and/or thickening purposes.

You got all that?

We know it can seem like a lot, but we believe that knowledge is power—especially with the things you put on your body. So get out there and indulge in your favorite beauty products with confidence!

Blair Smith is a lifestyle and beauty writer who currently resides (and will likely stay forever) in Brooklyn, New York.

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