Acacia Farnesiana: An extract from a type
of acacia tree. It is used in cosmetics to create fragrance, but is not
beneficial for the skin.
Acacia Gum: Acacia gum, also called gum Arabic,
is a natural gum made from the hardened sap of acacia trees. It is mainly used
as a bonding agent for products, but it can also sooth irritated skin and can
help alleviate inflammation. Acacia gum may cause allergic reactions.
Acai Berry: Acai berries have high
concentrations of antioxidants and are rich in amino acids, fibre, fatty acids
such as omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and C and minerals
that make it a beneficial fruit. Including acai in skincare formulas resists
the gradual loss of effectiveness for in products. Acai berries resist damage
by free radicals. Acai is generally suitable for sensitive skin.
Acetate: An acetic acid salt. The word that
follows or precedes acetatse on an ingredient list determines the function of
Acetic Acid: A solvent and fragrance that is
used to adjust pH levels in cosmetics. It is used in skin-bleaching products,
hand lotions and hair dyes. It is found in many fruits including apples,
oranges and pineapples, as well as vinegar. It has some disinfecting
properties. Acetic acid is found in apple cider vinegar (see), which is
used in some DIY skincare recipes. In commercial skincare products it usually
appears in the form of an acetate (see).
Acetone: A solvent commonly found in nail polish removers
and sometimes in astringent toners. It can be drying and irritating.
Acetylsalicylic Acid: Also known as aspirin. It
combines acetic acid and salicylic acid. Although acetylsalicylic acid contains
salicylic acid the two compounds are not identical. See Acetic Acid, Salicylic Acid.
Achillea Millefolium Extract: See Yarrow Extract.
Activated Charcoal: Charcoal has been
processed to increase the charcoal’s surface area, which in turn increases
its absorbency. See Charcoal.
molecule that occurs naturally in the human body. In products adenosine can
soothe the skin in addition to delivering anti-aging benefits by smoothing the
skin’s surface and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Adenosine is suitable
for all skin types.
gelatinous substance added to products as a thickener. Agar comes from seaweed
and is a very mild antioxidant.
Alcohols: A category
encompassing a wide range of substances with varying effects on the skin.
Alcohols with a low molecular weight are considered bad for the skin,
particularly if they’re primary ingredients in a product. These alcohols are
added to products to help other ingredients penetrate the skin and to reduce
the skin’s oiliness. They dehydrate the skin and can damage the skin, causing
sensitization. Bad alcohols include benzyl alcohol, methanol, ethyl alcohol,
denatured alcohol, SD alcohol and isopropyl alcohol. Note that if a product
simply lists “alcohol” as an ingredient, it generally refers to ethyl alcohol. Alcohols
with a high molecular weight, also known as fatty alcohols, do not cause
dehydration and sensitization. They are non-irritating emollients that can
benefit most skin types, especially dry skin. Fatty alcohols include cetyl
alcohol, stearyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol.
chemical that helps to sooth and heal the skin. Allantoin is generally
non-irritating and is often included in products meant to reduce the appearance
of acne scars. Allantoin occurs naturally in the body and current research
suggests that it encourages the cell turnover process. In skincare products it
may be derived naturally from plants such as comfrey and chamomile, or it may
be produced synthetically.
Algae: Algae contains
antioxidants, amino acids, minerals, fatty acids and vitamins. It is an
emollient and its vitamins protect skin from free radical damage. Algae
prevents skin dehydration by regulating sebum production.
Algae Extract: See Algae.
Algin: See Alginates.
emulsifier in creams and a thickening agent in shampoos and lotions. Alginates
are suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
Alginic Acid: An
acid produced by marine algae. See
Almond Oil: A
non-fragrant oil extracted from almond seeds, also known as sweet almond oil.
It is used as an emollient, and is a source of Vitamin E, proteins and fatty
acids such as oleic acid and linoleic acid. It is not known to cause any sensitivities,
although people with nut allergies can react to it.
Aloe Barbadensis: See
Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera,
also called aloe barbadensis, has mild moisturizing properties. It can help to
soothe the skin after injury, particularly after a sunburn. It also has mild
antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Aloe Vera is suitable for both dry
and oily skin types. Note that other varieties of aloe aren’t effective
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) include glycolic acid and lactic acid. AHAs have
exfoliating properties: they slough off dead skin cells, revealing the smoother
skin underneath. Glycolic acid in particular is often used to help reduce the
appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. In high concentrations, AHAs are the
primary ingredient in the chemical peels applied by estheticians and
dermatologists. Cleansers can contain lower concentrations of AHAs for use at
home. AHAs are effective chemical exfoliants, but they can irritate sensitive
skin and may also increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. AHAs are also
common in acne treatments, where they’re typically paired with beta-hydroxy
acids (BHAs) such as salicylic acid.