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Beauty Jargon Cheat Sheet

Beauty Jargon Cheat Sheet

An ever-growing guide to the words used by the beauty industry. What does it mean, and how does it affect me? Let's find out... 

Peptides (good)

Peptides naturally occur in the skin. When added to a skincare regime they encourage regeneration and healing. They work over long periods of time to restore skin’s collagen, which improves skin elasticity and firmness, and they help in reducing the appearance of fine lines and surface scarring.

Copper peptides specially have received attention recently for their restorative benefits but research remains ongoing. Look for peptides in serums.

AHAs and BHAs (for chemical exfoliation and spots)

AHAs and BHAs are alpha and beta hydroxy acids and are mostly found in cleansers. Simply put, AHAs such as glycolic and lactic acids loosen the “glue” that attaches dead skin cells to your skin.

They are great in cleansers for dry skin but can cause photosensitivity and so should be used only at night. BHAs such as salicylic acid penetrate the pores and essentially “degunk”, working their magic on acne-prone or oily skin, but can be quite drying.

Antioxidants (to protect and prevent)

Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances that help prevent cell damage caused by oxidants (anti-oxidants – get it?). Put them on in the morning (only) and they will protect your skin throughout the day by sponging up all the nasty free radicals found in things like cigarette smoke and air pollutants.

There are dozens of effective antioxidants but some to look out for are vitamin E, vitamin C, grape seed, resveratrol, green tea and retinol.

Parabens (bad)

Parabens are chemical preservatives used to prevent products developing mould or bacteria. Most companies are now trying to rid their products of these chemicals and “paraben free” has been popping up on labels for years.

The main worry is that parabens interfere with the body’s hormones and they’ve also been linked to breast cancer tumours. The European Union allows small doses of some parabens in products, so check for ingredients such as ethylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.

Hyaluronic acid (to plump)

Hyaluronic acid is a natural element found in the skin that retains massive amounts of water. By helping water into the lower levels of the dermis it provides a temporary plumping effect.

When applied to the face hylaluronic needs water to work properly, so make sure to apply to a damp face or with a water-based moisturiser to lock moisture into the skin.

Vitamin C (really good for all skin)

Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant (see above) but as well as protect and prevent, i takes care of issues that you already may have. A serum with a high concentration of Vitamin C (22% and over) will brighten the skin and help even out skin tone.  It is also essential  for the body’s production of collagen. May be found referred to as ascorbic acid.

Vitamin A (really good for older skin)

Vitamin A, otherwise known as retinol, is a key ingredients for skincare over  30. This ingredient has been prescribed for decades to people with severe acne, but is becoming more widely used for anti-ageing. Retinol thickens the top layer of the dermis, and encourages skins turnover and renewal. Over time, and frequent application, the skin will learn to renew itself more quickly. It is the only chemical that will do this.  It chemically exfoliates the skin, reduces fine lines and evens out skin tone. It can be bought on prescription from a doctor, but can also be bought over the counter in less powerful doses.

Natural and hypo-allergenic (mean nothing)

There is no legal standard that has to be met for you to call your product either of these terms. They literally mean nothing. Their presence on a bottle is not necessarily a negative, just don't rely on these terms if, for example, you have sensitive skin. 

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