Glossary of Cosmetic Terms

Amphoteric: An ion with a charge depending on the ph level.

Analgesic: refers to pain relief.

Anionic:  In reference to an atom with a negative charge.

Anti-inflammatory:  Alleviates inflammation.

Anti-oxidant: Antioxidants are substances that prevent or slow oxidation. What this means in the cosmetic world, is adding an antioxidant to your cosmetic formula will prevent the oils from going rancid prematurely. They are not preservatives. they cannot preserve a formula where water was added. They are generally used in anhydrous (lacking water) formulas such as balms, ointments and body butters.

Anti-septic: An agent helping to control infection.

Astringent: Is used to close the pores of the skin thereby improving the tone and texture and making the skin firmer.

Bactericide: An agent that destroys bacteria.

Balsamic:  A soothing substance having the qualities of a balsam.

Cationic: In reference to an atom with a positive charge.

Chelating agents: Chelating agents bind with metal ions and keep them from being reactive with various ingredients.  They also help to slow down the oxidation process in our formulas.  EDTA is an example of a chelating agent.

Cicatrisant: Helps with formation of scar tissue.

Comedogenic: blocks pores.

Cytophylactic: Encouraging the growth of skin cells.

Decongestant:  An agent that relieves or reduces congestion.

Demulcent: Is a compound that has a soothing effect on irritated and inflamed skin.

Dermatitis: Is the inflammation of the skin due to an allergic reaction or other causes.

Disinfectant: An agent that prevents and combats the spread of germs.

Diuretic: An agent that reduces water retention.

Emollient: An emollient is a compound that increases the moisture content of the skin by forming a barrier to prevent water-loss from the skin.

Emulsifier: A product that binds oil and water together.  You need an emulsifier to make a lotion or cream.  

Exfoliant: Is an agent that helps to remove dead cells from the outermost layer of the skin. The medium could either be a chemical or a physical agent - alpha hydroxy acids are chemical in nature while apricot kernel powder is a physical agent that removes the cells by the friction caused when applied.

Febrifuge: Is the therapeutic effect of cooling or reducing high body temperature. It can also refer to "cooling" of irritated skin.

Fungicide: An agent destroying fungal infections.

Germicide: An agent destroying germs or micro-organisms.

HLB or the hydrophilic-lipophilic balance system: Systematic method for selecting the most effective nonionic emulsifier(s) for any given application.

Humectant: Humectants draw moisture from the air and are found in many cosmetic products where moisturization is desired.  Glycerine is the most common humectant.

Hydrophilic: water attracting.

Hydrophobic: water repelling.

Microbial: A minute life form; a microorganism, especially a bacterium that causes disease.

Nonionic: In reference to an atom with no charge.

Occlusion: refers to covering the skin by any means of film or substance

Opacifier: An opacifier is added to clear or translucent products to change the look to a more creamy or pearlier one - depending on the opacifier used.

ph: This refers to the measurement of acid or alkali. The spectrum runs from 0 to 14 where 0 is a strong acid, 7 is neutral, and 14 is very basic (corrosive).  

Your skin's pH varies between 5 and 5.6 while body fluids are at 7.4. The male skin is slightly more acidic than that of women.

Polymer: is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units.  A polymer can be both natural and synthetic.

Preservatives: Preservatives are substances that preserve the formula by preventing (for a reasonable time) the growth of microorganisms, or occurrence of undesirable chemical reactions (such as oxidation), that spoil it. Preservatives are very necessary to hydrous formulas as it is the water in the formula that becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Without a preservative your product is not safe for use as bacteria will start to breed in a very short time period.

Rubefacient: Warming and increasing blood flow.

Sebum: Is the skin's natural oil, produced by the sebaceous glands.

Solvent: A solvent is used in cosmetic and skincare products into which other ingredients can be dissolved - water is a commonly used solvent as well as oils and alcohols - depending on what has to be dissolved.

Stimulant: An agent which increases the physiological function of the body or skin.

Surfactant: compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, the interfacial tension between two liquids, or that between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as detergents, wetting agents,  emulsifiers, foaming agents and dispersants.

Tonic: An agent that strengthens and improves bodily performance.

Viscosity Adjuster: In order to make a product thinner or thicker, a viscosity adjuster will be used such as a thickening agent in gels and a fat or oil in lipstick and eyeliner.

Vasoconstrictor: Contraction of blood vessel walls.

Vasodilator:  Dilation of blood vessels.

Vulnerary: An agent that prevents tissue degeneration and arrests bleeding in wounds.


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