The Ultimate A-Z Glossary Of Beauty Terminology |
With new beauty terms and ingredients popping up daily, it’s understandable if you're not quite sure how or why things work. With that in mind, we've done the hard work for you and created the ultimate beauty glossary...
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A Is For…Ampoules

Already a staple in South Korean skincare routines, ampoules are a high-potency booster for your skin, with a serum-like consistency. Packed with actives, they work double-time to shrink spots and blur fine lines. Highly effective because their molecule size is smaller than that of a serum, they penetrate much deeper into the dermis. Typically used as an addition to the rest of your skincare, different formulas exist to brighten, hydrate, refine and exfoliate.

Find It In: L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Filler Ampoules Hyaluronic Acid

B Is For…Broad Spectrum 

If an SPF is described as ‘broad spectrum’, it’s proven to defend against both UVA (ageing) and UVB (burning) radiation. It also means the product has passed the FDA’s guidelines and will give you optimum protection, reducing the risk of skin cancer and premature ageing. 

Find It In: Decree Day Shield SPF30 + Zelens Daily Defence Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30

C Is For...Clean Beauty  

In 2019, the ‘clean beauty’ movement found even more momentum, but it’s still unclear how best to define those ‘free-from’ claims - especially when experts insist all ingredients are still classed as chemical, whether natural or synthetic. In 2020, expect to see these inaccuracies put to bed and better education all round. 

D Is For…Dermatologically Tested

Another one which sparks confusion, this term means the product has been reviewed by a dermatologist – someone who specialises in treating the skin, hair and/or nails – and is more often than not, approved by them. 

E Is For…Enzymes 

Enzymes often remain under the radar but are key when it comes to exfoliating the skin. Working to unglue the bonds between dead skin cells, enzymes get to work without disrupting your pH (unlike some heavy-duty scrubs). They’re gentle, yet just as effective at brightening and toning. You can now find them in everything from melting cleansers to gel masks and serums.

Find Them In: Wishful Yo Glow Enzyme Scrub & Saturday Skin Rub-A-Dub Refining Peel

F Is For…Ferulic Acid

A powerhouse antioxidant, ferulic acid can help slow the ageing process by reducing the effects of damaging free radicals on the skin. It’s also thought to protect against sun damage, as well as regenerating damaged skin. It’s best avoided by very sensitive skin types and most effective when applied directly to the skin in a serum.

Find it in: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum

G Is For…Growth Factors   

Growth factors are large proteins that are vital to healing and survival. They’re now being used in skincare to help repair and rejuvenate, with dermatologists also starting to promote their efficacy. As we age, our skin produces smaller quantities of our own grown factors, so using them topically is one way to promote plumper, supple skin. They’re also proven to fight off damage from pollution and boost elastic fibres, so look out for them in serums and face creams. 

Find It In: The Ordinary’s Resveratrol 3% Ferulic Acid + Dr Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Serum

H Is For…Humectants 

Just like hyaluronic acid, humectants work to attract water into the skin like a magnet. Now found in cleansers, serums and moisturisers, they penetrate the top layer of the skin to deliver intense moisture and keep dry, flakiness at bay. They’re also proven to encourage the shedding of dead cells, working as a gentle exfoliator to break down any unwanted surface grime for smoother skin. 

Find Them In: Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate Facial Serum + Fresh Sugar Face Polish 

I Is For…Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

A popular treatment, IPL is a machine-based treatment using different wavelengths of light. This is what makes it different to laser treatment, which uses just one beam of light. It works to remove hair, erase acne and scarring, pigmentation, spider veins and so much more. It’s also gentler and more affordable than laser. Just be sure to look for a reputable provider who specialises in IPL so you get the safest results.  

Find It At: The Mallucci Clinic or SK:N which is nationwide 

J Is For…J-Beauty 

Japanese products always promise quality over quantity. Offering smart skincare, complexion perfectors and sophisticated ingredients, they’re generally highly-regarded by both make-up artists and industry insiders. Leading the way this year are brands like Clé de Peau Beauté, SK-11 and DHC, but prepare to see a slew of new launches and formula breakthroughs from the J-beauty category in 2020. 

Try J-Beauty With These Brands: Clé de Peau Beauté, SK-11 and DHC

K Is For…Kojic Acid 

Speaking of Japan, Kojic acid is a key ingredient found in J-Beauty products. Known for being a skin lightener, it’s also proven to prevent melanin, the appearance of dark spots and post-acne scarring. Because it penetrates the skin deeply, look for it in small concentrations and percentages – high amounts can cause sensitivity. 

Find It In: Niod RE: Pigment + Joanna Vargas Exfoliating Mask

L Is For…Linoleic Acid (Vitamin F)

Known for its skin-barrier strengthening benefits, linoleic acid (vitamin F) is an essential fatty acid found in rosehip, sunflower, olive and flaxseed oils. It helps to keep the skin’s lipid barrier strong, and complexions healthy-looking and even in tone. It’s also been proven to take down inflammation and keep eczema and sensitivity at bay – in fact, studies show those who suffer from acne have low levels of linoleic, so it’s worth stocking up if you’re plagued by breakouts. 

Find It In: Drunk Elephant F-Balm Waterfacial + Perricone MD Rejuvenating Moisturiser

M Is For…Microbiome Skincare 

We’ve heard of friendly bacteria for our guts, but what about for our complexions? A number of skincare and supplement brands are now including probiotics, prebiotics and multi-biotics in their ranges. Said to balance pH levels and lock down good bacteria into the dermis, we're glad the industry is catching on. 

Find Microbiome Formulas In These Products: Mother’s Dirt’s AO+ Mist + The Inkey List’s Multi-Biotic Moisturiser

N Is For…Neurophroline

The relationship between stress and our skin are influencing numerous product launches, so it’s little wonder brands are harnessing the stress-busting powers of neurophroline. Working to lower cortisol levels, it reduces the stress levels in your skin, while also soothing conditions like rosacea. 

Find It In: Garden of Wisdom Neurophroline Serum

O Is For…Omegas 

It’s easy enough to ingest our omegas, through regular portions of salmon, walnuts and olive oil, but our skin can benefit topically, too. Omega-3 fatty acids work to supply the skin with essential nutrients, dispose of toxins and retain more water in the epidermis, which translates into a smoother and stronger complexion.

Find Them In: REN Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimum Skin Serum Oil + Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil

P Is For…PHAs

PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) are the newest generation of AHAs. Put simply, they’re chemical exfoliants which work to gently remove dead skin cells, allowing your complexion to appear smoother and more even in tone. The best bit? They exfoliate mildly in comparison to AHAs and don’t increase sun sensitivity either. They’re also proven to attract water molecules, in turn helping to moisturise your skin, as well as slow down the early signs of ageing – think collagen and elastin loss. This is because PHAs are rich in antioxidants, so epidermal growth is stimulated for a plumper appearance. 

Find PHAs In: Glossier’s Solution; Lixirskin Night Switch PHA/AHA; Zelens PHA + Bio Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads

Q Is For…Quercetin

With both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, quercetin is a skincare ingredient that fights and neutralises free radicals (the main cause of ageing), as well as protecting skin from damaging sun-rays. 

Find it in: Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Clinical Concentrate Radiance Booster

R Is For…Retinol/Retinoid

A ‘retinoid’ is the catch-all term used to describe all vitamin A derivatives found in your beauty products. Retinol, also known as vitamin A, works to promote skin renewal and enhance collagen production (which starts to decline in your 30s). As well as blurring fine lines and softening wrinkles, it can also reverse UV damage – but be cautious, retinol is one of the most potent ingredients out there, so opt for a low percentage, especially if you’re on the sensitive side. Look to 0.3% for minimal irritation, this will still have a significant impact on your skin.

Find It In: Oskia Retinoid Sleep Serum 0.5% + La Roche Posay Vitamin B3 Retinol 0.3%

S Is For…Sugaring 

Using a combination of sugar and water, this treatment offers a more natural alternative to traditional waxing. As one of 2018’s fastest-growing treatment options, it’s risen in popularity by a further 91% since the end of 2019. Gentle and kinder to skin, most salons use honey for softer exfoliation and smoother results.

Find The Treatment At:

T Is For…Tranexamic Acid 

This new acid targets hyperpigmentation and dark spots. It gradually encourages skin cells to turn over, working to disperse and break down melanin clusters for a brighter and more even complexion. You can expect to see this in numerous skincare launches this year, namely the Inkey List, which plans will drop a more affordable version this year.

Find It In: The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Overnight Treatment + SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense Serum


The two ultraviolet rays that reach from the sun to the earth’s surface, UVA and UVB rays are bad news for your skin. Over exposure can cause photo-damage and sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer. At the same time, UV radiation can trigger a loss of skin elasticity, thinner skin, wrinkles, dry skin, broken capillaries, freckles and liver spots.

Take action: It’s nothing new, but wear an SPF daily to safeguard your skin.

V Is For…Vitamin C 

An antioxidant that boosts collagen production and inhibits pigment formation. Like many antioxidants, vitamin C is an unstable molecule that can break down quickly when exposed to light and air. It’s commonly found in skincare products to protect against environmental aggressors, but it’s also well-loved for its anti-ageing and brightening benefits. Available in various concentrations, experts advise even 0.6% can have a significant impact on your skin. Use it twice or three times a week (depending on your sensitivity levels) as part of your morning skincare regime – that way, you’ll protect yourself from any pollution damage throughout the day.

Find It In: TruSkin Vitamin C Serum + Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Bright Serum

W Is For…Water-Free

When you look at the ingredient list of most beauty products, chance are aqua will be at the top which is, essentially, a fancy word for water. Due to the conscious-beauty trend continuing to grow, more and more brands are formulating products with zero, or very little, water in order to improve their environmental credentials. Set to be a huge trend for 2020, expect to see a slew of water-free products hitting the shelves. The key benefits for skin? Botanicals and oils are used as water replacement, which are not only more potent, but aid in producing plumper, smoother skin. 

Find water-free formulas in: de Mamiel; Farmacy; The Inkey List; Pinch of Colour; Evo

Z Is For…Zinc Oxide

In its most natural state, zinc oxide is a white, powdery mineral and one of the key ingredients in your sun cream. It’s often compared against chemical SPF formulas as it has a reputation for being chalky, however it’s worth making the switch if you can. Not only are they lighter in texture, zinc oxide formulas create a protective barrier and deflect UV rays more effectively – they’re also proven to reduce acne with dermatologists regularly recommending it for its anti-inflammatory benefits.

Find it in: Plenaire Violet Paste Blemish Solution + COOLA SPF’s

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