The Ultimate A-Z Glossary Of Beauty Terminology

New beauty terms and ingredients pop up daily, so it’s understandable if you're not quite sure how or why things work. With this in mind, we've done the hard work for you and created the ultimate beauty glossary – from kojic acid to Nanofirm, here are the ingredients, treatments and launches to have on your radar this year.
By Rebecca Hull

All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.


Antioxidants are recommended for most skincare routines, but what are they? Think of them as different substances that protect against damage from environmental factors like UV rays and pollution. They work by limiting and neutralising anything harmful that comes into the contact with skin. In turn, they prevent the depletion of collagen in our skin, keeping fine lines and dark spots at bay. Vitamin C is considered one of the most important antioxidants, as are vitamin E and resveratrol – each one tackles something different, so be sure you’re using the right one for your individual needs.


The term ‘skin barrier’ crops up a lot these days, and it’s about to be an even bigger focus for skincare brands this year. Think of your skin barrier as the outermost layer of skin. It’s like a defensive wall that shields you from UV damage, blue light and pollutants; and it also stops essential moisture from escaping, so it pays to keep it in good condition. Skin launches have previously focused on sealing in more hydration, but this year expect to see more products designed to physically strengthen your barrier and stop it becoming too sensitised.


Chebula is a big ingredient to look out for in 2023. Searches for the ingredient have soared on Google by 922%. Why? It’s similar to niacinamide – 2022’s most-googled ingredient – but has more anti-ageing benefits. Not only does it calm and reduce redness, it helps to moisturise and brighten skin, with some studies showing it can mildly correct sun damage and strengthen slackened skin, too. Want to give it a go? Try Paula’s Choice Super Hydrate Overnight Mask.

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 for its efficacy and use on all skin types.


EmFace is the latest treatment designed to lift and smooth without any needles. Targeting delicate facial muscles, it combines radiofrequency with HIFES (high intensity facial electromagnetic stimulation) to lift the face and brow, restoring any volume that has been lost. Taking no more than 20 minutes, magnetic pads are attached to your cheeks and forehead. These then move slowly around your face to stimulate muscle contractions and collagen production. You need a minimum of four treatments, but results are impressive – think brighter, more youthful looking skin with improved firmness.

Fermented Blends

Fermented skin and beauty formulas are going to be big in 2023. The idea is that the process of fermentation helps to break down ingredients into smaller, more concentrated molecules, meaning better product penetration and maximum potency. You’ll likely find fermented ingredients in essences and serums – both of which are thinner in texture. We recommend the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, but expect to see a slew of new launches with ingredients like double-fermented rice and ginger kombucha – you can already find the latter in Fresh’s Treatment Essence.

Growth Factors

Growth factors are large proteins that are vital to healing and survival, and now they’re 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 growth factors, so using them topically is one way to promote softer, plumper 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. 


HydraFacials were one of 2022’s most popular treatments and now the company behind them is launching a programme designed for the body. Whether you want to smooth the skin on your bottom, exfoliate your back, or are keen to get rid of under-the-skin bumps on your thighs, there’s an option for everyone. Using the same technology as the HydraFacial itself, expect microdermabrasion and optional add-ons of LED and lymphatic drainage. Simply choose one of more than 1,200 practitioners in the UK and Ireland.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

IPL is a popular 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 look for a reputable provider who specialises in IPL so you can be sure you’re in safe hands.

Japanese Indigo

Several skin experts recommend looking out for this ingredient in 2023 – especially A-list facialist Jasmina Vico who swears by it. Known for its healing benefits, it’s good for those looking to minimise inflammation from conditions including eczema and rosacea. You’ll find it crops up in everything from masks to serums and creams – we love the Tatcha Indigo Overnight Repair Cream, which harnesses the powerful ingredient to minimise irritation, redness and sensitivity.

Kojic Acid

Speaking of Japan, kojic acid is another key ingredient found in J-beauty products. Known as 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,  stick to small concentrations and percentages – high amounts can cause additional sensitivity.

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.

Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid is part of the AHA family, but it’s one that sits on the gentler side. Derived from bitter almonds, it works by dissolving the bonds between your cells to remove layers of dead skin. The result is brighter, clearer-looking skin, as well as fewer visible pores and more even tone. It’s a great alternative if you struggle to use stronger acids like glycolic and salicylic.


You’ll be hearing lots about NanoFirm this year. It’s a new treatment hailing from South Korea that works on both sunspots and pigmentation. Combining laser, ultrasound and something called galvanic energy, it stimulates skin cells to produce more collagen and elastin, improving skin tone and texture for fewer visible wrinkles and other early signs of ageing. It sounds intense, but the benefit is it’s quick – all you need is an hour with minimal downtime. Interested? Dr David Jack is one of the first to offer it at his clinic.


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


Experts recommend thinking of peptides like building blocks that make up your skin’s structural proteins – including collagen and elastin. Without them, your skin wouldn’t remain intact, resulting in a duller, slacker-looking complexion. As we age, our skin contains fewer peptides, which is why our complexion can look less springy. Using them topically may not reverse the clock entirely, but it will up your skin’s hydration and keratin levels for a smoother, plumper-looking complexion.


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. Expect to hear a lot more about it this year – as well as several product launches hailing its capabilities.


‘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 your skin is on the sensitive side. Try 0.3% for minimal irritation, as this will still have a significant impact on your skin.

Skin Cycling

Skin cycling is the latest trend taking TikTok by storm and it’s one dermatologists actually give the thumbs up. Put simply, skin cycling is a night-time skincare routine the involves using active ingredients on specific days, followed by ‘rest’ days. You’re supposed to adopt a four-day cycle that includes using active ingredients for two nights, followed by two rest nights, then repeat. The idea is you don’t harm your skin barrier, but you still create a consistent and effective routine that works.


Blue tansy is another ingredient to watch out for in 2023. An essential oil, it has anti-inflammatory, calming properties and has even been used by oncologists to treat patients suffering from skin burns and irritation after radiation treatments. Experts rate it for breakouts too, thanks to its ability to help with congestion and severe redness. Expect to see it in lots of skin treatments in the coming year – specifically in serums where you will get a more concentrated dose.


The two ultraviolet rays that reach from the sun to the earth’s surface, UVA and UVB rays are bad news for your skin. Overexposure 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.

Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)

In skincare, vitamn B3 is able to interact with several different skin cell types, which is what makes it so effective. Regular use helps builds proteins to protect skin against environmental damage – think UV and the dulling effects of pollution. Vitamin B3 is also known to increase your skin’s keratin levels for suppler, smoother texture.

Water Free

When you look at the ingredient list on most beauty products, chances are ‘aqua’ – or water – will be at the top. However, as conscious beauty becomes a bigger trend, more brands are formulating products with little or no water to improve their environmental credentials. This year, expect to see more water-free products hitting the shelves. The best bit? Botanicals and oils are used as replacements, which are not only more potent, but aid in producing plumper, smoother skin.

Zinc Oxide

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


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