Beauty Glossary from A-Z – What the technical terms of the Beauty industry really mean

The cosmetics industry is constantly developing. New ingredients are constantly appearing and often synonyms are used for substances that were previously only known under another name. Particularly in the case of questionable ingredients, there is often no clarification. So many different technical terms are used in advertising, so that it is quite easy to lose track.

We at BAYAGE want to avoid this and provide transparency by conveying as much Beauty Know-How to you as possible. It is important to know what you apply to your body as it is ultimately absorbed through your skin. After all, the skin is the largest organ of the human body and harmful ingredients can have an impact on your well-being and health.

It is equally essential to know what care the skin might need if it is missing something. We make a point of not leaving you in the dark and want to help you out - our A-Z Beauty Glossary will tell you briefly what most terms and ingredients mean, what they are good for and try to describe skin tolerability. 


When a pH level is below 7. The acidic mantle, a acidic film (pH of 4.5-5.5), on our skin protects us from bacteria, viruses and contaminants entering and penetrating our skin. When the pH-level drops or rises too much it causes breakouts and irritations.[i]


Activated Charcoal

A fine, odorless black powder, made from Coconut shells, peat, coal, olive pits, sawdust and more. The superheating process it undergoes, frees up bonds making it perfect to absorb excess oils and dirt from the skin. Or when taken orally, it absorbs toxins in the gut. [ii]


Alcohol, organic (Ethyl)

Not for consumption. In high concentrations it has a disinfecting function. In toners and creams it carries ingredients deeper into the skin. It removes excess sebum and kills acne causing bacteria. However, it can be drying for the skin.[iii]



When the pH level is above 7. Eating certain foods affects the skins pH level and may cause it to become alkaline, which in turn shows as dry, inflamed and irritated, prone to wrinkle skin. [iv]


Aloe Vera

A plant whose juice has extremely well hydrating properties.


Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Chemical exfoliant, it breaks down the natural “glue” binding skin cells, hence it removes the top skin layers and dead skin cells, leaving you with brightened skin. AHAs are great against fine wrinkles since they enhance cell renewal.[v]


Amino Acids

Occur naturally in our bodies. Building blocks for peptides and proteins, making up collagen and elastin. Amino Acids are vital for the skin’s hydration, texture, supple appearance and elasticity. One of their functions is to move water around in our body and between skin layers, keeping us hydrated.[vi]


Anionic polysaccharide

It is produced by bacterial fermentation. It stimulates cell renewal, restores the skin barrier; thus, it reduces the occurrence of feelings of tension and irritation. Due to its fast, soothing, moisturizing properties, it provides a pleasant soft skin feeling.[vii]



Reduce free radicals in the skin and body. Topical antioxidants support the natural protective layer of the skin from external influences. They keep the skin looking healthy and support stressed and damaged skin repair. Vitamin A, C, and E are some common antioxidants.[viii]



Water is primarily used as a solvent in skincare and cosmetics. It of course also has hydrating purposes.


Argan Oil

Contains omega fatty acids, Vitamin E and linoleic acids which all smoothen, nourish and hydrate the skin. It is perfect to smoothen hair and strengthen nails. It also has oil-controlling properties without clogging pores and absorbs fast.



Arnica has been in use in herbal medicine for years, known for its healing properties. When applied to the skin it also has a rejuvenating effect, soothing inflammation and acne.


Avena Sativa (Oat)

Black oats contain many precious ingredients for our skin, such as proteins, water-binding polymers and polysaccharides. The substances are close the skin’s own NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor), therefore are great moisturizers. It also contains Lecithin which makes your skin smooth and nourishes deeply, into all layers of the epidermis.[ix]


Azelaic Acid

A gentle exfoliant, helps to eliminate clogged pores and smoothens the skin. Also, anti-redness, hence good for people with rosacea, post-blemish pigmentation or acne. It is derived from oats.[x]



A natural comparison to retinol but has shown to be more tolerable. It boosts skin plumpness, evens out skin tone, minimize pores, and brightens the skin. [xi]


Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHAs)

A type of chemical exfoliant that is oil-soluble, making it great to reduce excess oils (hence preventing breakouts) and clogged pores, as well as dissolving dead skin cells.[xii]



A biodegradable, bacteria derived material which many sheet masks are made from as it has a high moisture retention.[xiii]



Biotin is a Vitamin H and belongs to B complex vitamins which are important to convert nutrients into energy. It occurs naturally in your body and when applied to your skin it supports the formation of fatty acids which nourish the skin. Oral biotin supports hair and nail growth.[xiv]



A mild type of skin blemish, that forms when sebum and dead skin cells mix, clog a pore, and oxidize which makes them turn black. This can be prevented from regular cleansing and exfoliation.



Not only is caffeine a great “wake me up” in the morning, but also great to energize your skin. It has anti-inflammatory properties and tightens blood vessels, making it a great ingredient for eye creams to reduce puffiness. Studies have also shown that it protects cells from UV rays. [xv]


Castor Oil (Ricinus Communis Seed Oil)

Castor oil is rich in Vitamin E and is highly nourishing for skin and hair. Its main constituent is Ricinoleic Acid. It has a soothing effect on the skin and gently removes dandruff from hair and skin.[xvi]



Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin’s barrier and retain moisture. They protect the skin against environmental damage.


Citric Acid

Citric acid is a type of AHA found in many fruits. It has exfoliant, antioxidant properties and brightens the skin tone. It is also added to increase shelf-life in some products.


Cocoa Seed Butter (Theobroma)

Cocoa Seed butter is the fat taken from the seeds of the cocoa plant. The phytochemicals it contains can increase blood flow towards the skin, making it an anti-inflammatory, it has high antioxidative levels which makes it great against signs of aging, and its fatty acids act as a great moisturizer.[xvii]



A protein naturally produced in the body whose fibers give the skin its thickness, firmness, strength and smooths it. With age, collagen naturally breaks down, however retinol and peptides can encourage collagen production.


Decyl Glucoside

A mild surfactant derived from coconut. It foams and lathers on without affecting the skins natural moisture. It is suitable for sensitive skin and often found in green skin care products.



Elastin is a highly elastic protein present in the skin’s tissue allowing it to jump back into place. With age, the elastin levels of the skin decrease naturally due to sun exposure.



A moisturizing agent in skin care that locks in moisture, for example shea butter, cocoa seed butter, oils etc.[xviii]



Used in creams to bind oils and water.


Free Radicals

Generated by environmental pollution and UV damage, these highly unstable free molecules attach to cells and cause long-term.



It stimulates the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, enhances wound healing and decreases wrinkles.[xix] It is said to brighten and even the skin tone.



Glycerin is part of the skin’s own moisture retention system. Hence, it is great to hydrate the skin and is highly tolerable by most skin types. Newest studies have shown that Glycerin can also support the skin’s barrier by supporting lipid structures within the skin’s surface.[xx]


Glycolic Acid

It is a type of AHA that can be derived from sugar cane. Glycolic Acid removes dead skin cells effectively, it has skin-renewing properties and boosts collagen production. However, when doing a glycolic acid treatment make sure to use sunscreen every day![xxi]


Grape Seed Extract

You may recognize this ingredient from some Caudalie Products. It is widely known for its wound and scar healing properties, being anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial.[xxii]


Hyaluronic Acid

Due to its hydrating, collagen and elastin stimulating properties, hyaluronic acid has been proven to be a great wrinkle defying ingredient.[xxiii]



A humectant hydrates the skin and pulls water from two sources: the air and the deeper skin layers. Glycerin is the most effective and well know humectant.[xxiv]


Jojoba Oil

It is a liquid wax and is similar to the lipid mixture of the skin surface and therefore mixes well with the skin’s natural lipid film. Due to its specific structure it is not split on the skin by the skin's own lipases. Thus, a delicate, non-occlusive lipid film is formed which binds the skin's moisture, without sealing the skin or making it greasy. It is said to have healing properties.[xxv]



A naturally occurring mineral, commonly used in clay facemasks. It is good against oily skin as it absorbs excess sebum and removes impurities. It is gentler than other clay types however, can be drying too.[xxvi]


Lactic Acid

It belongs to the AHA group and is naturally derived from fermented milk. It exfoliates very gently and is therefore suitable for people with sensitive skin types.[xxvii]



Liposomes are tiny bubble or sac-like vesicles, similar to a cell membrane, which contain ingredients. They make it easier for the skin to absorb the ingredients and are effective in transporting it into the deeper layers of the skin.[xxviii]


Mandelic Acid

Again, this acid also belongs to the AHA group and is used to exfoliate skin. It is derived from bitter almonds. Due to the large particle size it is taken up slower by the skin, making it gentler and less irritating.[xxix]



Melanin is the pigment in your hair and skin. It occurs naturally and everyone has it. The more melanin the melanocytes produce the darker your hair, skin and eye color will be.


Mentha Arvensis Herb Oil

Peppermint essential oil is extracted form wild mint leaves through distillation. It is used in cosmetics for its cooling effect on the skin. The oil forms a strong protective layer on your skin and is sometimes used in wound healing. It is commonly used to give a fresh taste and smell in cosmetics.


Micellar Water

It is used as a facial cleanser as the micelles suspended in soft water draw out dirt, makeup and oils from the skin. Often hydrators such as glycerin are added. It is suitable to be used on all skin types.[xxx]



A large collection of essential microorganisms and bacteria living in and on our body.


Mineral Oils

The Oils are derived as a by-product of the distillation of petroleum (which makes gasoline/kerosene/petrol), making it environmentally harmful due to the extraction and transport risks. It is used as a moisture locking barrier, it doesn’t however add any moisture itself.



A type of Vitamin B3, which works together with your skin’s own substances to tighten pores, even skin tones, brighten and smoothen lines. It is tolerable by all skin types.[xxxi]



They serve the purpose of moisture retention and acting as a skin barrier to environmental pollution. They usually have a very heavy and thick texture.[xxxii]


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Found in different food sources, such as fish, walnuts and olive oil. Omega-3 Fatty acids support the cell membrane’s functions within the entire body, maintaining their abilities to take-in ingredients, remove waste and hold onto water. In terms of skincare this translates to a supple and hydrated skin. [xxxiii]



Especially known for its hydrating properties on dry and sensitive skin, panthenol isn’t called the “Queen of Vitamins” for no reason. It has an anti-inflammatory and soothing effect on the skin, it improves the skins elasticity and texture, and supports the regeneration of the skin.[xxxiv]



Parabens are a group of chemicals added to makeup, creams and foods, acting as a preservative to prolong shelf life. There have been recent health concerns regarding this ingredient.



It is a by-product of petroleum purification, which is often used in moisturizing creams to lock in moisture.



The protein building blocks that make up our skin, keeping it firm and smooth. Peptides signal to our cells to produce more collagen.[xxxv]



Phytochemicals are found in many fruits and vegetables which we eat on a daily basis and have anti-inflammatory effects. They support the cell from damage by free radicals.[xxxvi]



Basically, prebiotics are the food that probiotics feed on. Foods with prebiotics include garlic, oats, onions, barley, bananas and flaxseeds. Topical prebiotics include fructoligosaccharides.[xxxvii]



Probiotics are “good” bacteria living in and on our bodies and help maintain good skin health. They are mostly known in regard to gut-health, however recent studies have shown that topical skin probiotics work too. [xxxviii]



All Vitamin A derivatives used in skincare.



A derivative of Vitamin A which increases the turnover of cells, which in turn helps to keep younger and plumper cells closer to the surface. Hence, it is an age defying ingredient that improves your skin’s health. [xxxix]


Salicylic Acid

Belongs to the BHA group and acts as an exfoliant, removes excess sebum and is anti-inflammatory. It is naturally found in plants. [xl]



A commonly used liquid gel-like skincare product which contains high concentrations of ingredients.



Silicones are semi-liquid, derived from silica and undergo a long chemical process before they are added to our beauty products. Most creams and foundations contain them.


Sodium Laureth Sulfates (SLES)

SLES has lathering, foaming, oil binding properties make it a good surfactant and detergent in toothpastes, cleansers and shampoos. In general, Sulfates are environmentally harmful.[xli]


Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (SLS)

This is more irritating to the skin than SLES. It is an oil-cutting detergent, known for its lathering properties. It can be very drying for skin and hair, so be careful.[xlii]



Squalane is a clear, odorless, low-viscosity lipid, it is the saturated form of the skin’s own Squalene. Nowadays can be mostly derived from plant sources. It has a very soothing effect and makes your skin silky soft without being greasy. Squalane can have a positive effect on the absorption of cosmetics, it is non-irritating and is well resorbed.[xliii]



Are typically emulsifying, cleansing and oil-dissolving detergents, which can sometimes be harsh on the skin.


Thermal Water

Thermal Water is particularly rich in calcium and silica and can help soothe irritated and inflamed skin, while aiding the healing process. It can also have a positive effect on the suppleness and elasticity of the skin and is able to bind to keratin to strengthen skin, hair and nails. It is often used in anti-aging and soothing formulations. [xliv]


UVA Rays

Ultraviolet A Rays are the most common form of skin ageing, it destroys collagen and elastin, as well as its production in the skin. They are always present, no matter which season which means you should always wear sunscreen! In the long-run, it can lead to skin if you don’t protect yourself.[xlv]


UVB Rays

Ultraviolet B Rays lead to darkened skin pigments and sunburns, form tanning freckles and age spots. Be careful in summertime!


Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Ascorbin acid promotes Collagen formation, it is antioxidative and remove free radicals. Studies have shown that it works against skin ageing.[xlvi]


Vitamin E (Tocopherol)

Vitamin E is said to have properties such as improved water-binding capacity of the skin, protection against skin aging due to external influences (UV-A, UV-B radiation) and the ability to smooth the skin.[xlvii]


Zinc PCA

It is s salt derived from pyrrolidine carboxylic acid which comes from amino acids found in sugar cane. It contributed to the NMF and has sebum controlling and antibacterial properties.[xlviii]


[i] Farage MA, Hood W, Berardesca E, Maibach H. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors Affecting Skin Surface pH. Curr Probl Dermatol. 2018;54:33-47. doi:10.1159/000489516

[iv] Lambers H, Piessens S, Bloem A, Pronk H, Finkel P. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2006;28(5):359-370. doi:10.1111/j.1467-2494.2006.00344.x

[v] Babilas P, Knie U, Abels C. Cosmetic and dermatologic use of alpha hydroxy acids. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2012;10(7):488-491. doi:10.1111/j.1610-0387.2012.07939.x

[vi] Solano F. Metabolism and Functions of Amino Acids in the Skin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1265:187-199. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-45328-2_11

[vii] Maia Campos P.M.B.G., de Melo M.O., de Camargo Junior F.B. (2014) Effects of Polysaccharide-Based Formulations on Human Skin. In: Ramawat K., Mérillon JM. (eds) Polysaccharides. Springer, Cham.

[viii] Burke KE. Protection From Environmental Skin Damage With Topical Antioxidants. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2019;105(1):36-38. doi:10.1002/cpt.1235

[ix] Becker LC, Bergfeld WF, et al. Safety Assessment of Avena sativa (Oat)-Derived Ingredients As Used in Cosmetics. Int J Toxicol. 2019 Nov/Dec;38(3_suppl):23S-47S. doi: 10.1177/1091581819889904. PMID: 31840550.

[x] E Lusianti et al 2018 IOP Conf. Ser.: Mater. Sci. Eng. 299 012011. Doi:

[xi] Chaudhuri RK, Bojanowski K. Bakuchiol: a retinol-like functional compound revealed by gene expression profiling and clinically proven to have anti-aging effects. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2014;36(3):221-230. doi:10.1111/ics.12117

[xii] Green BA, Yu RJ, Van Scott EJ. Clinical and cosmeceutical uses of hydroxyacids. Clin Dermatol. 2009;27(5):495-501. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2009.06.023

[xiii] Perugini P, Bleve M, Redondi R, Cortinovis F, Colpani A. In vivo evaluation of the effectiveness of biocellulose facial masks as active delivery systems to skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020;19(3):725-735. doi:10.1111/jocd.13051

[xiv] Zempleni J, Wijeratne SS, Hassan YI. Biotin. Biofactors. 2009;35(1):36-46. doi:10.1002/biof.8

[xv] Herman A, Herman AP. Caffeine's mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(1):8-14. doi:10.1159/000343174

[xviii] Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian J Dermatol. 2016;61(3):279-287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427

[xix] Bissett DL. Glucosamine: an ingredient with skin and other benefits. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2006;5(4):309-315. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2006.00277.x

[xxii] Hemmati AA, Foroozan M, Houshmand G, Moosavi ZB, Bahadoram M, Maram NS. The topical effect of grape seed extract 2% cream on surgery wound healing. Glob J Health Sci. 2014;7(3):52-58. Published 2014 Oct 29. doi:10.5539/gjhs.v7n3p52

[xxiii] Bukhari SNA, Roswandi NL, Waqas M, et al. Hyaluronic acid, a promising skin rejuvenating biomedicine: A review of recent updates and pre-clinical and clinical investigations on cosmetic and nutricosmetic effects. Int J Biol Macromol. 2018;120(Pt B):1682-1695. doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.09.188

[xxiv] Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian J Dermatol. 2016;61(3):279-287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427

[xxv] Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Ghassemi MR, Kazerouni A, Rafeie E, Jamshydian N. Jojoba in dermatology: a succinct review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2013 Dec;148(6):687-91. PMID: 24442052.

[xxviii] Ashtiani, HR Ahmadi, et al. "Liposomes in cosmetics." J. Skin Stem Cell 3.3 (2016): e65815.

[xxxii] Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian J Dermatol. 2016;61(3):279-287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427

[xxxiv] Stettler H, Kurka P, Wagner C et al. A new topical panthenol-containing emollient: skin-moisturizing effect following single and prolonged usage in healthy adults, and tolerability in healthy infants. J Dermatolog Treat. 2017 May;28(3):251-257. doi: 10.1080/09546634.2016.1218417. Epub 2016 Aug 22. PMID: 27545858.

[xxxvi] Mintie CA, Singh CK, Ahmad N. Whole Fruit Phytochemicals Combating Skin Damage and Carcinogenesis. Transl Oncol. 2020;13(2):146-156. doi:10.1016/j.tranon.2019.10.014

[xl] National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 338, Salicylic acid. Accessed Sept. 17, 2020.

[xliii] Kim SK, Karadeniz F. Biological importance and applications of squalene and squalane. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2012;65:223-33. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-416003-3.00014-7. PMID: 22361190.

[xliv] Salsberg J, Andriessen A, Abdulla S, et al. A review of protection against exposome factors impacting facial skin barrier function with 89% mineralizing thermal water. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2019;18(3):815-820. doi:10.1111/jocd.12927

[xlv] Lan CE, Hung YT, Fang AH, Ching-Shuang W. Effects of irradiance on UVA-induced skin aging. J Dermatol Sci. 2019;94(1):220-228. doi:10.1016/j.jdermsci.2019.03.005

[xlvi] Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866. Published 2017 Aug 12. doi:10.3390/nu9080866


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