Every Term You’ve Ever Googled: The Big, Badass Skincare Glossary
Let's face it: Skincare can be confusing. Besides the fact that we're all born with different skin types, tones, and textures, there's also age, geographical location, diet, lifestyle, and more to consider (which is why we created our Skin Decoder). Here at Versed, we’re all about simplifying skincare and helping you understand your skin better. Our #1 goal is clear up confusion, which is why all of our ingredient lists are clickable. Give any unfamiliar ingredient a tap and it'll reveal easy-to-understand definitions powered by ClearForMe, a platform that uses research, formulation, and science to end ingredient confusion.
Want more? Here, you'll find our ultimate, evergrowing skincare glossary. It contains just about every oil, extract, and technique you could ever Google…except now you don’t have to. Find all the skin terms (big and small) you need to know below.
Pimples, blemishes, breakouts, and spots... Whatever name you call it, most of us have dealt with acne at some point. When pores become clogged by dead skin cells and bacteria, they cause these pesky pimples to form. There are 6 major types of acne: whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. They can appear anywhere (not just your face) and at any point in your life (not just as a teen). The causes of acne are unique to each individual, but include (yet not limited to) improper cleansing and exfoliation, diet, stress, and hormones.
Aging is natural. Signs of aging skin include sagginess, fine lines and wrinkles, and dark spots or uneven tone. You start producing less collagen around your mid-to-late 20s, which basically means your skin starts to lose its ability to bounce back. And your skin also naturally produces less and less oil as you mature, which makes lines more visible. Unprotected exposure to the sun, environmental damage, and lifestyle factors can all worsen the signs of aging. Eyes often show signs of aging first because of the delicate thin skin there.
ALOE LEAF JUICE (ALOE VERA)
Derived from the leaf of the aloe plant, aloe leaf juice is a super anti-inflammatory ingredient containing antioxidants, enzymes, and vitamins that soothes and hydrates the skin. It often creates a cooling and refreshing effect, making it a hero for sunburns, problem skin, and dry skin. Find it in our Look Alive Hydrating Plumping Mask and Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream.
There are two types of alcohol in skincare: the good and the bad. The good kind of alcohol, stearyl alcohol, is used as a fatty acid to benefit skin. The bad kind, denatured alcohol, is used to make the creams thinner but often dries and irritates skin. See below for more.
ALPHA HYDROXY ACID (AHA)
A powerful ingredient (both naturally occurring and synthetic) used in products for aging skin and dullness, AHA has the ability of loosening what binds the surface skin cells together, whisking the dead skin cells away. It’s great for unclogging pores, rejuvenating your complexion, and improving skin texture and tone. The common AHAs include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid.
Amino acids are building blocks that help facilitate collagen production (more on that below). Essentially they support your skin’s structure (the bounce, shape, etc.) They’re also responsible for maintaining skin’s hydration, texture, and elasticity. Sun damage, aging, and environmental pollutants can all contribute to reducing the amino acids in your skin.
APPLE AMINO ACIDS
This ingredient, similar in profile to the amino acids found in apple juice, is often added to face washes to provide a gentle, foaming cleanse without stripping the skin. Find it in Wash It Out Gel Cleanser.
APPLE FRUIT EXTRACT
Apples don't just keep the doctor away. When derived from the fruit, this antioxidant-rich ingredient protects skin, prevents premature aging, and promotes a healthy barrier. Reap its aging skin benefits in our Keep the Peace Acne-Calming Cream Cleanser.
A retinol-like natural ingredient that also reduces sebum, which can contribute to clogged pores and acne. Find it in our Pressed Restart Gentle Retinol Serum.
You can find sources of antioxidants pretty much anywhere in nature—berries, grapes, nuts, plants, and more. When used in skincare, antioxidants protect your skin by preventing or slowing cellular damage. They also combat free-radicals (more on those below), which damage your skin which leads to hyperpigmentation, loss of elasticity, and premature aging.
A type of chemical used in sunscreen that absorbs UVA rays. In some cases, avobenzone can cause allergic reactions especially to those with sensitive skin. Recently, all chemical sunscreens have been banned in Hawaii because of the damage they cause to the coral reefs.
Packed with vitamin A, D, and E, essential fatty acids, and potassium, avocado oil is a great source of nutrients in your diet and your skincare. In skincare, it is known for its moisturizing and nourishing properties.
Found under a class of medications called dicarboxylic acids, this superstar ingredient boasts antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cell-regulating, and skin-brightening benefits. It also diminishes redness and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is why it's found in our Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution.
Derived from the psoralea corylifolia plant, bakuchiol is a natural alternative to retinol that effectively reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and pigmentation and promotes elasticity and firmness—without the irritation and sensitivity commonly associated with traditional retinol. Bakuchiol is also CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) certified, meaning its use in our Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum doesn't negatively impact this precious plant species' survival.
When bamboo matures and it is harvested, it can be heated and ground to a fine powder. Enter: Bamboo charcoal. It's often used in skincare, particularly acne products, because of its ability to pull bacteria, toxins, and other particles out of the skin. That's one of the reasons why we included it in our Find Clarity Purifying Mask.
Significant in Asian culture, bamboo is an exceptionally soothing ingredient when extracted. Bamboo extract acts as a humectant by drawing moisture into the skin. Its ability to create velvety-soft skin is one of the reasons it is found in our Baby Cheeks Hydrating Milk.
A non-irritating, naturally-derived version of hydroquinone (a powerful yet unsafe ingredient). Containing the skin-lightening agent arbutin, it safely brightens skin and helps fade brown spots. It’s also an antioxidant and that provides antibacterial properties. Bearberry extract helps put the glow in our Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution.
Bentonite is an absorbent clay, often formed from weathering of volcanic ash, that is commonly used in cleansers and masks. It pulls out impurities in your skin, like oil and bacteria; unclogging pores and removing dead skin cells. Find it in our Find Clarity Purifying Mask and Game Over Acne Drying Treatment.
BERRY LEAF EXTRACT
This antioxidant duo of raspberry and black currant leaves target breakout-causing sebum overproduction and decrease inflammation (the root of all skin woes) without stripping away moisture. Find it in our Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator.
BETA HYDROXY ACID (BHA)
Similar to AHAs, BHAs are chemical exfoliating agents. Unlike AHAs, BHAs go deeply into your pores to dissolve and clear out the sebum (oil), dead skin cells, and bacteria. One of the most popular BHA acids include salicylic acid that is commonly used to combat blemishes, which is why it's found in our Nix It Complexion Solution.
Also known as blackberry vinegar, this botanical enzyme helps to restore and balance the skin. Due to it’s astringent properties, it also fights acne-causing bacteria without disrupting your moisture barrier. Full of antioxidants and rich in vitamin C, anyone will benefit from incorporating this ingredient into their routine. Find it in our Gentle Cycle Milky Cleanser.
BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE (BHA)
Unlike the other BHA, this BHA is a synthetic antioxidant that is used as a preservative and defoaming agent in foods. When butylated hydroxyanisole is used in beauty products, it is associated with hormone disruption, organ system and reproductive toxicity, and even cancer in severe situations.
BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE (BHT)
Another synthetic preservative that can end up in beauty products, BHT stabilizes fats and is used to retain food smell, color, and flavor. Just like BHA above, it could cause hormone disruption, organ system and reproductive toxicity, and even cancer in severe cases.
These tiny dark bumps form when dead skin cells on the surface of your skin blocks the oil in your pores. Since the trapped oil is exposed to air, it darkens to form that black color, and becomes annoyingly visible to the world. They are best removed when extracted by skin professional or dried out by our Game Over Acne Drying Treatment.
Besides being an aromatic flower with a dreamy blue hue, it's also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient known to calm irritation and soothe skin. Find it in Keep the Peace Acne-Calming Cream Cleanser.
There are two types of UV light that can increase your risk for skin cancer: UVA which is linked to aging and UVB which is linked to burning. Broad spectrum sunscreen helps protect against both types, which is why we made our Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35.
In both natural (from plant leaves and seeds) or synthetic, caffeine is a stimulant known to perk people up and in skincare it’s powerful ingredient for depuffing and reducing redness. That’s why caffeine is often a hero ingredient in eye care products, like in The Fix Emergency Eye Mask.
CALENDULA FLOWER EXTRACT
Coming from the bright orange calendula flower, it has the power of healing redness, acne, and sunburns. When it’s used in skincare, calendula extract stimulates collagen production and keeps your skin hydrated. Its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties also makes it suitable for sensitive skin and people with eczema. Find it in our Keep It Supple Body Oil.
Originating in Japan and a longtime beauty secret of geishas, camellia oil (which comes from the camellia flower) is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and omegas. Its non-greasy texture helps keep skin and hair moisturized, like in our Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil and Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum.
Cell turnover is the process by which our bodies produce new skin cells and they travel up from the deep layers of the skin to the surface. The skin cells you remove with exfoliation are the oldest (and deadest) cells. Our cell turnover rate slows with age, but powerful ingredients for aging skin—like vitamin A (retinol)—can help increase that rate.
These are lipids, or fatty acids, that occur naturally in the skin. Adding ceramides to skincare products allows the skin to retain moisture, which means that the skin stays plump and hydrated over time.
CHAMOMILE FLOWER EXTRACT
Similarly to how this widely-used herb quells anxiety and relieves stress when imbibed (like in your favorite bedtime tea), chamomile calms inflammation and soothes skin—ideal for sensitive skin types. Its moisturizing properties also are effective at smoothing out rough, uneven texture—which is why we formulated it in our Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum.
You'll probably recognize this ingredient as the photosynthetic pigment found in plants, but it can also be used as an anti-inflammatory ingredient in skincare. Chlorophyll is responsible for giving our Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum its dreamy green hue.
Found in many different citrus fruits (like lemons), citric acid acts as a natural preservative and exfoliant under the family of AHA. It has the ability to whisk away the superficial layer of your skin and promote the regrowth of new skin cells.
You've probably used this type of oil while cooking, and its benefits don't end there. Coconut oil contains saturated fatty acids, making it super moisturizing for dry skin. That's what makes it so essential in our Keep It Supple Body Oil.
If you've ever drank coconut water, you know how hydrating it is. Coming from the juice pressed from the coconut fruit, this ingredient is packed with skin-moisturizing sugars and skin-nourishing amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. It also has antioxidant properties and is non-comedogenic, making it super effective in our Baby Cheeks Hydrating Milk.
COFFEE SEED EXTRACT
Similar to your morning cup of brew, this brightening ingredient has the power to alleviate symptoms of a bad night's sleep by energizing and boosting circulation. That's what makes it so effective specifically in eye gels and creams (talking to you, Vacation Eyes Brightening Eye Gel), since it helps flush out fluid that gets caught in the under-eye area and causes dark circles.
This skin type, just like how it sounds, is a mix of oily and dry skin. Typically, the T-zone and the chin are more prone to oil, and cheeks tend to be drier. However, people with combination skin usually lean toward either side, making them combination-dry, or combination-oily.
When a pore or hair follicle becomes clogged with dead skin cells and/or sebum, it results in a small bump, known as a comedo (the plural being comedones). Open comedones are also known as blackheads, while closed comedones are referred to as whiteheads.
It is the most abundant protein in your body, and it’s what gives your skin firmness and bounce. While it plays such a big part in the elasticity of your skin (more on elastin below), unfortunately collagen does break down naturally as you age, leading to sagging. Collagen production can be stimulated by using ingredients formulated for aging skin (like retinol). Collagen only comes from animal sources, but there are some vegan alternatives to be used in skincare.
When ingested, cucumbers are a refreshing snack; in skincare, cucumber juice extracted from the cucumbers also have many benefits. In addition to its highly hydrating content that keeps the skin moisturized while reducing puffiness (which is why you see people putting slices of cucumber directly onto their eyes), it is also a good choice for inflamed or irritated skin, too. Find it in The Fix Emergency Eye Mask.
Pimples form when pores get clogged with either dead skin cells or oil, and when bacteria joins the party, the area gets red and inflamed. Cystic acne occurs when the infection gets deep below skin’s surface, often causing pain. Cysts are usually firm, swollen, and you often feel like they are growing under your skin since there is no pop of a “head” on the surface. Don’t try to pop this type of breakout as you’ll likely push the infection deeper into the skin. Avoid drying treatments as well as you’ll simply dry out the surface layer of your skin.
Dark spots, brown spots, sun spots, whatever you call them—it’s hyperpigmentation, often caused by sun damage, scarring from inflammation (like acne), or natural aging. Dark Spots are essentially an overproduction of melanin, which is what gives your skin and hair their color. To help with that, look for brightening and exfoliating products.
The stubborn, lingering darkness under your eyes. Much of what you’re actually seeing is blood pooled up due to low circulation. It’s visible because the skin under your eyes is so thin. The number one cause of dark circles is genetics, but lack of sleep and diet also play a role. In addition to using brightening ingredients, work on stimulating circulation through facial massage or using a stone roller or massager.
This is a skin concern (not a skin type) signaling that your skin is lacking and having trouble retaining water. Even people with oily skin can experience dehydration since hydration levels are not tied to oil production.
DENATURED ALCOHOL (SD ALCOHOL)
The “bad” alcohol in skincare. Denatured contains an additional denaturant ingredient that makes the alcohol undrinkable and makes your skincare products last longer. It is typically in face creams to make them feels lighter. Ultimately, it’s a very raw and harsh form of alcohol that can cause irritation, dryness, and in some cases breakouts.
A technique of using a sterile single-edge blade to scrape off the superficial, outer layer of your skin where the dead skin cells live. It is a form of physical exfoliation that softens and brightening skin and is suitable for all skin types. Most often it’s performed by a skin professional but there are at-home tools as well.
The inner layer of skin beneath the epidermis (the outermost layer) and above the hypodermis (the third layer of skin that is made of fat and connective tissue right above your muscles; skincare doesn’t reach this layer). It’s the middle-man that contains connective tissue, hair follicles, and sweat glands.
A two-step cleansing process developed and made famous by Korean beauty to ensure your skin is totally clean and prepped to absorb your products. The first step uses oil-based cleansers, like oils or balms, to remove makeup and wash away impurities. The second step usually involves a gel, cream, foaming, or treatment cleanser to remove any leftover dirt and bacteria you missed the first time.
Dullness refers to skin that doesn’t look as bright and radiant as you want it to—it’s uneven and may have dark spots. Dullness can be impacted by lifestyle, environmental pollutants, and diet, and can be improved with antioxidants, exfoliation, and brightening ingredients.
Dryness is a skin concern, resulting in tight, itchy, even flaky skin, that can affect all skin types, even oily skin. But most often it’s a concern for people with dry skin and dehydrated skin. Dryness can be exacerbated by dry climate, heavy air conditioning or heating, and harsh, stripping ingredients in skincare products, like SD Alcohol.
Dry skin, not to be confused with dehydrated skin, is a skin type that lacks oil or isn’t producing enough oil on its own. Dry skin will always need help in replenishing moisture in the skin; use rich, emollient products like creams and oils to give it the moisture it craves.
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is a condition that causes patches of skin to feel inflamed, dry, scaly, itchy, red, cracked, and/or rough. It often appears in the crooks of the elbows, neck, wrists, and knees. It's likely hereditary, and often triggered by allergic reactions to pollen and smoke. While there's no cure, flare-ups can be relieved through sufficient moisturization, cleansing with gentle soaps, and avoiding hot showers and baths.
Elastin is a protein in your skin that allows your skin to bounce back to its original shape after you touch it. Collagen and elastin are essentially the building blocks of healthy, plump skin. When the elastin starts to decrease as you mature, it results in thinner skin and signs of aging like sagginess. Elastin production can be stimulated by ingredients found in products for aging skin (like retinol).
The outermost layer of skin that provides a waterproof barrier to your body. It is consists of 5 layers called the stratum corneum, stratum lucidum, stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum, and stratum basale.
Coming from eucalyptus trees (native to Australia), eucalyptus oil not only does it smell good, but has powerful anti-bacterial properties that makes it the perfect ingredient for cleansing and purifying. And it won’t clog pores. Find it in our Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
These are the fatty acids that your body isn’t able to produce on its own. They’re often found in food sources and can be ingested or supplied through skincare. Omega 3s and 6s are essential fatty acids that support your overall health and keep your skin hydrated, plump, and youthful looking.
Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from your skin. It can be both physical or manual (using a scrub or tool to slough off dead skin cells) and chemical (with acids or enzymes that dissolve dead skin cells).
This is a technique commonly used to de-puff and awaken dull, tired skin. Start by applying a frictionless skincare product, such as a moisturizer or facial oil, and begin to gently massage the skin in circular motions, moving up and out from the center of your face. It stimulates lymphatic drainage (in other words, it will drain stagnant fluid that may be collecting underneath the skin). This encourages a bright, refreshed, and naturally contoured complexion to appear.
A facial roller (sometimes referred to as a stone roller) is a tool that’s made from a firm material, such as jade or rose quartz, for the purpose of facial massage. Roll one gently over the skin to reap the de-puffing and awakening benefits of facial massage. Pro tip: place one in your fridge for a cool and refreshing effect.
FERMENTED PURPLE TEA
A relatively new ingredient grown from a plant called Camellia Sinensis, which native to Southeast Asia (although purple tea itself is often made in Kenya). Known for its high polyphenol and vitamin content, this ingredient provides skin with full-spectrum antioxidant protection while helping to repair oxidative damage from visible, UV, blue, and infrared lights. Find it in our Recovery Mode Advanced Night Cream.
One of the many antioxidants that helps protect your skin against free radicals, and works to soften the look of fine lines. It is mostly known for its ability to boost other antioxidants (think vitamin C and E), allowing them to work harder for the skin. That's why we formulated it in our Auto-Save Advanced Restoring Serum.
The ingredients that make up “fragrance” on an ingredient list can be anything since brands don’t have to disclose this information. There could be hundreds or even thousands of ingredients making up that ingredient of “fragrance.” The mystery blend of alcohol, natural or synthetic oils, and other chemicals can often cause skin irritations. According to Environment Working Group, fragrance is the number one cause of allergic reactions in skincare products.
This is a term you’ve likely heard in relation to aging and pollution. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules produced inside the body by things such as sunlight, cigarette smoke, and environmental pollution. They latch onto and damage cells, resulting in roughness, sagging, wrinkling, and other signs of aging. Antioxidants work to neutralize them.
A colorless, strong-smelling gas that’s used in different industries and products including building materials, walls, cabinets, furniture, and personal care products as a type of preservative. It has been banned or restricted in Japan, Sweden, the European Union, and Canada because of its link to cancer, and yet it is still not banned in the United States.
GINSENG ROOT EXTRACT
Coming from the ginseng root (the best part of ginseng plant), it is often referred to as the super-herb in Eastern culture. This antioxidant has a long list of benefits for aging skin and dullness including boosting blood circulation, firming skin, protecting your skin from environmental pollutants, and more. Find it in our Vacation Eyes Brightening Eye Gel.
Glycerin is a humectant, which means it pulls moisture from the atmosphere to hydrate the skin. It’s commonly found in moisturizers and hydrating products. It’s an effective and inexpensive skincare ingredient, which explains why it’s so pervasive.
This is a powerful exfoliating acid that belongs to the aforementioned AHA category. It’s derived from sugarcane, and it’s included in skincare products for the purpose of removing dead skin and any other pore-clogging impurities. As such, it leads to smooth texture and an even and bright complexion. It works particularly well on fine lines, wrinkles, and other forms of sun damage. Find it in our Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution and The Shortcut Overnight Facial.
GREEN COFFEE EXTRACT
Extracted from green coffee beans, this rejuvenating ingredient is rich in antioxidants and caffeine. It helps to increase cellular energy and protect against abnormal and premature keratinization and melanization of skin cells. You'll get a dose of this caffeine with our Recovery Mode Advanced Night Cream.
GREEN TEA EXTRACT
Green tea’s original roots in East Asian cultures have sprouted and spread, becoming a popular ingredient in skincare (and beverage) all over the world. It’s a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals and quells inflammation and redness. As such, it’s typically found in face creams and lotions (like our Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream) and is great for sensitive, acne-prone, and aging skin.
High energy visible light (more commonly recognized as 'blue light') is a type of ray that not only comes from the sun, but is also emitted from many of our electronic devices, like smartphones and laptops. While more research needs to be done, early studies have shown excessive exposure to HEV light can have a negative impact on skin, resulting in hyperpigmentation and premature aging. To protect yourself against blue light damage, be sure to wear a sunscreen that blocks against HEV daily (like our Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 does) especially if you spend a majority of your day in front of a screen.
This is another popular skincare ingredient that’s found naturally in the skin. It’s technically a sugar molecule that increases the skin’s moisture content and actively prevents water loss, which makes it a great ingredient for people who struggle with dry and dehydrated skin. In fact, it can hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water.
This term doesn’t refer to a specific ingredient so much as it refers to a category or class of moisturizing ingredients. These moisturizing ingredients pull water into the skin from the atmosphere, keeping it plump and hydrated.
You can find this ingredient in many bleaching creams as a pigment lightening agent. Unlike the other brightening ingredients like vitamin C, it’s a much harsher and aggressive ingredient that can potentially lead to allergic reaction, organ system toxicity, and even cancer. It’s particularly unsafe for darker skin tones, which can adverse reactions to it like burns.
This is essentially another name for what we call “uneven skin tone.” It refers to an apparent darkening of skin tone triggered by such things as sun exposure (use your SPF, people!), a wound, an illness, hormonal changes, or even certain prescription medications. Hyperpigmentation rears its ugly head in a variety of ways. It might make itself known through a uniform tan, an isolated acne scar, or melasma (which are uneven patches of discoloration). Treat it with our Disappearing Act bundle.
INDIAN CRESS EXTRACT
This ingredient, also commonly referred to as sodium hyaluronate, is in the same family as ever-popular hyaluronic acid. Stemming from the Indian Cress plant, which is native to Columbia, Bolivia and Peru, it's basically another form of HA that uses sodium to retain water. It's because of these hydrating properties that it's included in our Hydration Station Booster with HA.
Inflammation is another way of saying your skin is irritated, and it could be from the external environmental factors or your own body. The symptoms include itchiness, pain, or redness like when you first get a pimple or a rash. Some forms of information are eczema and acne, and they can be affected by the things you eat to your hormone levels. According to how acute or severe your inflammation is, you can treat it with anti-inflammatory treatments containing calming ingredients or with oral medication.
Native Americans first discovered the power of this ingredient when they ground jojoba seeds into a moisturizing and conditioning salve. Nowadays, it's popular lightweight and naturally fragrance-free plant oil used for treating dry skin. Because it’s so lightweight and fast-absorbing, it won’t leave behind the greasy sheen of other plant oils, such as argan or coconut oil. And it’s non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores. Find it in our Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil, Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator, and Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum.
Kaolin clay, which is also called china clay because it is named after a hill in the country where it was historically mined, is a type of clay mineral that absorbs excess oil and stamps down shine when applied to the surface of the skin. Like most clays, it also has some mild exfoliating properties. No matter its color (it can be red, yellow, white, or pink), it’s considered to be a mild type of clay and, as such, it’s recommended for use on delicate skin, such as mature or sensitive skin. Find it in our Photos, Please Brightening Tightening Mask and Game Over Acne Drying Treatment.
More commonly recognized as "chicken skin", keratosis pilaris is a skin condition where small, rough bumps appear on the arms, thighs, bum, and more as a result of blocked follicles caused by the buildup of the protein keratin. It's more common for those with dry skin and can usually be solved by keeping skin properly moisturized.
This is an exfoliating acid that was discovered (and is still popular today) in Japan. It’s derived from fungi and commonly used as a skin lightener, due to its efficacy at blocking melanin production. Like most acids, it can cause irritation when used in high concentrations, so be wary. Don't worry, we added just the right amount in our Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution.
You likely know lavender as the dreamy scent that often sends you straight to sleep, but did you know it's also soothing for the skin? This oil's antimicrobial properties help cleanse skin, reduces inflammation and irritation, and of course, smells really, really good. Let it calm your breakouts by way of our Nix It Complexion Solution.
This AHA is derived from milk, however there are synthetic forms as well. It gently exfoliates the surface of the skin, while providing a natural moisturizing effect as well. The key word is ‘gentle,’ as lactic acid is even safe for use on people with rosacea or other forms of sensitivity. Find it in our Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Solution and The Shortcut Overnight Facial.
Studies have shown that this essential oil can be used to fend off bacteria and reduce inflammation, which is why it's included in Nix It Complexion Solution.
LICORICE ROOT EXTRACT
Coming from the licorice plant originating in southern Asia, this extract is a natural skin-brightening hero. Its powerful antioxidants help reduce the appearance of the stubborn under-eye circles, discoloration, and dark spots. It works to even out your skin tone and diminish pigmentation caused by sun damage, scars or just natural, human, aging (like in our Stroke of Brilliance Brightening Serum).
A lightweight, easily absorbed oil often seen in products for aging skin. Marula is recognized for its ability to hydrate, smooth, and reduce redness of the skin thanks to fatty acids and natural antioxidants like vitamin E. Find it in our Gentle Cycle Milky Cleanser.
The pigment that gives hair and skin their color. Hyperpigmentation and dark spots are a result of patches of excess melanin; it can be caused by age, sun damage, and more.
Also called chloasma, this is a type of pigmentation that causes dark, brown, or gray patches to appear on the skin. It often results from sun exposure or hormonal changes, particularly in pregnant women, which is why it's also referred to as "the mask of pregnancy".
This mineral, ethically and sustainably sourced from mines in the US and India, has an illuminating effect when added to skincare. Mica is what helps Zero-G Smoothing Eye Cream deliver that refreshed, soft-focus effect to tired undereyes.
This vegan-friendly ingredient has an amino acid profile similar to collagen, allowing it to boost skins' overall firmness and tone. It also helps to hydrate and oxygenate skin cells. Find it in our Recovery Mode Advanced Night Cream and Auto-Save Advanced Restoring Serum.
These tiny, white, painless bumps appear when keratin (a type of protein) gets trapped under the skin. AHAs, retinol, and using non-comedogenic products can help reduce their appearance.
This odorless and colorless oil, creates a protective layer on your skin, trapping in your natural oils and moisture, but also clogging your pores. As a byproduct of petroleum, mineral oil has been linked to organ system toxicity and even cancer.
You probably know mint to be cooling and refreshing. It also has antibacterial properties that help soothe and prevent blemishes. This ingredient is what gives our Wash It Out Gel Cleanser that minty-fresh feeling.
Microcrystalline is a 100% natural alternative to the plastic microbeads that are often used in exfoliators (and seep into our oceans and the fish they house). It's biodegradable, made from renewable resources, safe for skin, and even edible—although we don't recommend giving it a taste. It's microcrystalline that makes our Day Maker Microcrystal Exfoliator so effective.
At home microneedling, also referred to as dermarolling, uses a roller tool spiked with teeny tiny needles less than 0.5mm that create microscopic punctures. These little micro-injuries trigger to your body to send collagen to those “injured” cells. It helps your products absorb better (some have linked it to aerating the grass), improves skin texture and tone, and boosts collagen production to help your skin look plump and smooth.
MORINGA SEED EXTRACT
Not only is this skin protectant packed with free radical-fighting antioxidants, moringa seed extract actually prevents pollution particles from adhering to skin. Its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties have made it staple of Ayurvedic medicine, since it originated in India thousands of years ago. You'll find it in Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35.
Niacinamide, aka vitamin B3, is a hero ingredient. It’s well known for brightening and so much more, like minimizing the appearance of pores, improving uneven skin tone, boosting elasticity, and strengthening your skin’s overall surface. That's why it's so beneficial in our Stroke of Brilliance Brightening Serum and Vacation Eyes Brightening Eye Gel. It’s also very calming and anti-inflammatory, which is why it’s often used in anti-breakout products (like our Just Breathe Clarifying Serum).
A more severe type of inflammatory acne caused by a bacteria known as p. acne. These hard pimples live beneath the surface of the skin, can be swollen, and are usually painful. These are best treated by a dermatologist-prescribed medication.
NONYLPHENOL ETHOXYLATE (NPE)
NPE a surfactant that was widely used in detergent and pesticide formulations and as an emulsifier. In some studies, NPE has been associated with hormone disruption, extreme aquatic toxicity, irritation, reproductive harm, and birth defects. Although it is restricted in the European Union, it is not regulated in the United States.
Dry, irritated skins' best friend, this barrier repairing ingredient is often used in products for sensitive skin. It contains soothing agents like lipids and beta-glucan along with anti-inflammatory agents like fatty acids and antioxidants. Reap oat milk's benefits in our Gentle Cycle Milky Cleanser.
Derived from olives, olive oil not only helps keep the moisture in your skin, but also helps prevent signs of photo-aging and sun damage making it great for dryness and aging skin. Find it in our Zero-G Smoothing Eye Cream.
Everyone’s skin produces oil, it’s the body’s way of moisturizing. An overproduction of oil can result in shiny, oily skin, clogged pores, and acne without proper care. As we age, oil production slows, which leads to drier skin and skin aging.
Oily skin over produces oil. Oil production is natural and essential to healthy skin, but people with this skin type often find their skin getting shiny throughout the day.
Over-the-counter products, often associated with retinol or acne treatments, can be used without having a prescription.
Oxybenzone is a chemical sunscreen ingredient that absorbs UV rays. Because it can possibly cause biochemical or cellular level changes, hormone disruption, and skin allergies, it needs FDA approval before entering the market. Oxybenzone is banned in Hawaii due to the damage it causes to the coral reefs.
Nutrient-rich papaya tastes delicious, but it's also a natural skincare powerhouse. It (gently) scrubs away dead skin cells left on the surface of the skin while infusing our complexion with vitamin C, leaving skin soft, rejuvenated, and glowing. Find them in our Doctor's Visit Instant Resurfacing Mask.
A small, raised, type of inflammatory acne often caused by clogged pores.
Parabens are commonly used as preservatives protect cosmetics from bacteria and fungi. Although not restricted by FDA, they are known to disrupt hormone function, mimic estrogen, and possibly increase the risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. To spot parabens in an ingredient list, look for prefixes like methyl, ethyl, propyl or butyl.
Facial peels are a type of chemical exfoliation using acids (those AHAs and BHAs) that breaks down dead skin cells, dissolves excess sebum trapped underneath, and allows other products to better and deeply penetrate your skin to do their job. Turn to peels to boost cell turnover and brighten your complexion. They come in all different forms (leave-on lotions, wash off gels, peel pads) and common ingredients in facial peels include lactic acid and glycolic acid.
Petroleum is used to soften and smooth the skin by forming a film on the outer layer, which prevents moisture loss. However it can also clog pores, cause allergic reactions and acne, and has been linked to cancer and pulmonary arterial hypertension (aka high blood pressure in the lungs).
Peptides are strings of amino acids that make up proteins, like collagen in your skin. Peptides are the foundation for what gives your skin its structure and bounce, which is why they are an important ingredient in firming and texture-smoothing products, such as Zero-G Smoothing Eye Cream.
Primarily known for its ability to help protect skin against environmental stressors, this ingredient also helps to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, resulting in an overall more even-toned complexion. Find it in our Auto-Save Advanced Restoring Serum.
Phthalates are essentially a group of diverse materials that make plastics more flexible; commonly used in a wide variety of beauty products including skincare to moisturize and soften the skin, and sometimes dissolve other ingredients, too. Why is it bad? Phthalates have a reputation of hormone disruption and developmental and reproductive toxicity. It has been banned in the EU, yet the FDA still rejects taking any regulatory action against it in cosmetics.
It only takes one glance at this summery fruit to imagine the skin-brightening benefits it brings to your complexion. Besides being packed with vitamin C, pineapple enzymes offer gentle exfoliation without stripping the skin. In fact, it's quite moisturizing and leaves you feeling soft and smooth. That's why we included them in our Doctor's Visit Instant Resurfacing Mask.
Known for its ability to topically plump and hydrate the skin, this amino acid holds 4 times as much moisture when compared to hyaluronic acid. It plays well with other active ingredients, particularly vitamin C, and is ideal for those with a drier skin type or anyone who counts dehydration as a skin concern.
The little, tiny openings or holes on the surface of your skin that act as a tunnel for oil and sweat to come through. When your pores are clogged with access oil or bacteria, acne can form and your pores are then enlarged to make room for the extra stuff in the tunnel.
PH refers to the level of acidity or alkalinity of your skin or ingredient. Normally, your skin is slightly acidic ranging from a pH of 4.4 to 6.7. Although the pH in skincare can tip off your natural level with harsh ingredients, you can also restore it with certain products (like our Baby Cheeks Hydrating Milk).
Probiotics can be applied topically, or taken internally, to balance the skin and help keep acne at bay. Thanks to their ability to repair and strengthen your moisture barrier, probiotics also help with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Find it in our Gentle Cycle Milky Cleanser.
A skin type that is prone to breakouts. Whether it’s on your forehead, nose, chin or your cheeks, your pores are easily clogged at least in part due to overproduction of oil. Breakout-prone skin is also characterized by inflammation. Essentially, it’s acting up, sp focus on calming and balancing products and stick to the basics to avoid exacerbating problem spots.
As a hardworking member of the B-complex vitamin family, this skin-conditioning antioxidant is best know for its ability to effectively moisturize and soothe dryness. Find it in The Fix Emergency Eye Mask.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease where a buildup of skin cells causes large, raised patches of skin to become inflamed. Flare-ups often show up on the elbows, knees, scalp, feet, or palms and may itch, burn, or feel sore. There is no cure and flare-ups may come and go—often triggered by skin injuries like sunburn and scratches. A dermatologist will be able to determine the best treatments for psoriasis and may prescribe topical creams or oral medications.
A pus-filled type of inflammatory acne caused by clogged pores, commonly found on the back, chest, shoulders, and face.
RED ALGAE EXTRACT
Extracted from red algae, you can think of this ingredient as skin’s moisture guard. It helps to enhance your skin’s barrier layer that locks in the moisture. It also helps replenish skin’s natural moisture to keep it hydrated from the inside out, which is why it's included in our Skin Soak Rich Moisture Cream.
An antioxidant often found in grapes. Resveratrol is great for fighting free radicals from the environment and the sun. It essentially serves as a guardian for you skin and can brighten up your complexion, too.
A form of Vitamin A that is known for stimulating the process of cell turnover in your skin (which is good news for all skin concerns, especially problem skin) and increasing collagen production. Retinol is also great for fading hyperpigmentation in your skin, too. It’s the gold standard for aging skin. It can be irritating to some skin types when used at high concentration, so always ease into a new retinol product—start with once a week and work your way up. Our Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum uses microencapsulated retinol and natural retinol alternatives, so it's gentle enough for sensitive skin types and first-time retinol users to use nightly.
Anti-inflammatory agent rich in antioxidants that helps control excess oil in your skin, reduce redness, calm irritated skin, soothe wrinkles, and clean your pores. Find it in our Wash It Out Gel Cleanser.
Extracted from rosemary herb, rosemary oil is packed with nutrients. It’s anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory—great for calming inflammation and breakouts and keeping pores clear—which is why it's found in our Nix It Complexion Solution. It also protects skin from free radicals and sun damage and acts as an antioxidant.
ROSEHIP SEED OIL
Rosehip seed oil comes from the fruit of the rose plant. Besides keeping your skin soft and supple, this oil also contains vitamin A that helps even out skin tone and promote cell regeneration, leaving your skin looking brighter and more luminous. Find it in our Look Alive Hydrating Mask.
Unlike lactic and glycolic acid, this exfoliating acid is a BHA. It removes excess oil and shine, while also sloughing away dead skin and other pore-clogging impurities. Due to the fact that it penetrates deeper into pores than other acids, it’s particularly effect at treating (and preventing) acne.
SEA BUCKTHORN EXTRACT
Also called seaberry extract, this plant-sourced oil is rich in vitamins (including C and E) that brighten, restore, and protect skin. Its anti-inflammatory properties also help reduce swelling and redness associated with many skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. Find it in our Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum.
SEA FENNEL EXTRACT
Taken from the sea fennel plant (also known as crithmum maritimum), this ingredient for aging skin boasts benefits from boosting to collagen to evening out discoloration and rough texture. Best of all, it protects skin from the damage and aging effects of HEV (high energy visible) light—aka the blue light emitted from our electronic devices, like our phones and computers. You'll see it in Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35.
Because of seaweed's ability to absorb and retain a plethora of vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and more, it's one of the best natural ingredients you can use on your skin. We added it to Wash It Out Gel Cleanser to create a soothing, gentle cleanse that leaves skin feeling smooth (not tight).
Also called sebum plugs, these tube-like structures help transport sebum from your oil glands to the surface of the skin. While not a type of acne, they are often mistaken for blackheads, but they cannot (and shouldn't be!) extracted.
Aka oil in your skin, sebum is a light yellow oily substance that is produced by your oil glands. It consists of some of the things you may have heard of before that your body produces naturally, such as squalene, wax esters, fatty acids, and more. Sebum is not a bad thing, but it can get trapped in your pores and become pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads.
This is a skin type that you are born with and encompassing a range of skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis. Often signs of sensitive skin are inflammation, redness, itchiness, and discomfort. People often self-diagnose themselves as having sensitive skin when their skin reacts to a product or ingredient poorly, but what they’re really experiencing is sensitized skin.
Fun fact: Sesame oil was one of Cleopatra's favorite treatments. Extracted from sesame seeds, this nourishing ingredient moisturizes, smooths, and repairs dry, cracked skin. That's one of the reasons it's a hero ingredient in all the Silk Slip Lip Oils.
Although sensitized skin shares the same signs as sensitive skin, it is caused by outside stimuli. Air pollution (usually in metropolitan areas), lifestyle, or harsh cosmetic ingredients are common contributors to this skin concern. Anyone can develop sensitized skin.
Silicone is known for providing a prettier look to formulas, preventing moisture from evaporating, and creating a blurring or smoothing effect on the skin. It’s the ingredient responsible for the ‘slip’ in complexion products, most often found in personal care products such as serums, primers, foundation, and moisturizers. Dimethicone, an oil-free silicone, is one of the most common. Silicones are not necessarily a bad thing, but not all skin types sit well with them. Some studies have also shown that silicone can worsen problem skin concerns, trap bacteria in pores, and interfere with cell renewal.
Remember how we said hyaluronic acid is technically a sugar? Well, sodium hyaluronate is its salt counterpart. It’s essentially another form of hyaluronic acid, the two often used interchangeably. Some consider it to be even more effective than hyaluronic acid, since it’s able to absorb more easily into the skin. Find it in our Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream.
SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS)
A souplike detergent agent that lathers easily. It’s a type of sulfate very commonly used in cleaning products, but it can irritate skin and cause damage to the outer layer of skin where the skin proteins live. See Sulfates for more.
SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLES)
A modified form of SLS, this sulfate possesses the same characteristics and side effects as SLS, though SLES is known to be slightly more gentle. See Sulfate for more.
A.k.a. Sun Protection Factor. The number that follows “SPF” indicates how long you can stay under the sun before burning with the sunscreen on, versus your unprotected skin—it’s a measure how long not how strong. SPF can be chemical (with actives like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate) or physical/mineral (using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide), or a combination of both. Physical/mineral tends to be more widely tolerated for sensitive skin. Most dermatologists recommend wearing SPF 30 or higher every day (yes, even when it’s cloudy the sun’s rays are still going strong). Our Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35. has SPF 35 and protects against environmental and electronic pollution.
This is the “good” alcohol that is essentially a fat that holds other ingredients together in skincare to give them a silky and soft texture. Part of the fatty alcohol family, stearyl alcohol along with cetyl and cetearyl alcohol are non-irritating and have a smoothing effect on skin.
Squalene is part of our skin’s natural moisture, but it decreases as we age. Squalane comes from plants and works as effectively as the squalene in our bodies. It instantly hydrates and locks in moisture, replenishing what your skin naturally once had. Find it in our Skin Soak Rich Moisture Cream.
Here’s another effective moisturizing ingredient. Squalene is actually a moisturizer that’s made naturally in the skin. It’s rich in fatty acids and antioxidants, which means it hydrates and fights free radicals simultaneously. Squalene production drops off with age, which is why it’s helpful to use squalane in your skincare products.
A category of strong cleansing agents that can be found in shampoos, cleansers, and body washes. It’s regarded as one of the most aggressive ingredients in personal care. Sulfates can cause irritation, dryness, and also strip your skin and hair of their natural oils. Although it has had associations with cancer, there haven’t been enough studies to prove that correlation yet.
This natural element has been used as a skin treatment for centuries. It kills bacteria, soothes inflammation, and breaks down dead skin cells, which makes it an all-star acne-fighting ingredient found in our Game Over Acne Drying Treatment.
SUNFLOWER SEED OIL
You can enjoy them in a vase, as a snack, and yup, in your skincare, too. This oil is extracted from sunflower seeds and works as a moisturizer, which is why its included in Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil.
SWEET ALMOND OIL
Extracted from almonds, this oil is filled with nourishing, moisturizing ingredients (like antioxidants and fatty acids) that keep skin feeling smooth. Find it in Keep It Supple Body Oil.
These are most commonly used as detergents and foaming agents in cleansing products (in other words, they give products that fluffy foamy effect and skin that squeaky clean feel). That might sound like a good thing, but they’re very harsh on the skin, and end up stripping it of moisture and throwing its pH levels off balance.
Talc is a powder commonly used to soften and add a sliding effect to formulas such as baby powder, eyeshadows, setting powders. Talc can also be used to absorb moisture and add opacity. The FDA has an ongoing research on talc because of its possible link to cancer and organ system toxicity.
TEA TREE OIL
Comes from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, tea tree oil is commonly added to acne treatments to calm redness and reduce swelling and inflammation. It’s a potent essential oil that helps control excess oil, soothe redness, fight bacteria, and prevent blemishes from forming. It’s also helpful in healing acne scars. Plus, its cooling effect and natural refreshing scent create a calming aroma every time it is used. Find it in our Nix It Complexion Solution and Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist.
Titanium dioxide is a mineral ingredient used in physical sunscreens that shields the skin from UVA and UVB rays. Since this ingredient reflects the UVA and UVB rays away (basically the ray bounce off it instead of being absorbed into your skin), it is known to be gentle and even safe to use even around the eyes, great for those with sensitive skin.
Tranexamic acid is a topical ingredient that helps fade discoloration caused by acne scarring, melasma, or UV damage. And while it is effective on its own in evening out skin tone, pairing it with ingredients like vitamin C will provide you with brighter, more radiant skin. Be sure to patch test first if your skin is on the sensitive side.
Triclosan is added to many products such as anti-acne cleansers to reduce and prevent bacterial and fungal contamination. Although it may be effective as acne treatments, high exposure to Triclosan can decrease the levels of some thyroid hormones. More bad news? Triclosan can also contribute to environment toxicity.
Triclocarban is an antimicrobial and antibacterial agent that has been used in formulating bath products, cleansing products, and powders. However, this ingredient has had associations with hormone disruption and environment toxicity, and the FDA has ruled that companies will not use it without premarket review due to its safety concerns.
A longtime favorite ingredient native to South Asia and used in ancient Ayurveda, turmeric is known as the most powerful spice for brightening skin. Because of the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits, turmeric can help reduce redness from acne and calm skin irritations. It also has antiseptic properties that are known to prevent bacteria from spreading, which makes it great for combating blemishes. Find it in our Photos, Please Brightening Tightening Mask.
The ultraviolet rays from the sun that penetrate deep into the dermis, the second and also thickest layer of your skin. UVA rays cause premature aging and are the culprit for wrinkles caused by sun damage. Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays.
These ultraviolet rays usually burn the surface layer of your skin, which is what makes you tan. However, protection from UVB rays is crucial because UVB plays a key role in skin cancer. Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays.
This vitamin promotes growth and repairs body tissues (including skin tissue). That, plus the fact that it stimulates collagen production and cell turnover, makes it an effective ingredient for aging skin. In fact, retinol and retinoic acid are derivatives of Vitamin A, and we all know how powerful these ingredients can be for treating wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of aging.
A potent and praised antioxidant that fights free radicals, encourages collagen synthesis (collagen keeps skin looking plump and youthful), and brightens skin. It gently lightens hyperpigmentation (dark spots)—by inhibiting an enzyme that produces pigment in our skin—for a more even and radiant complexion. It helps stimulate production of collagen—one of the building blocks of healthy, youthful skin and something we naturally produce less of as we age—for firmer, smoother skin. And, as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it defends against one of the leading causes of premature skin aging: free radical damage from the sun and pollution.
Vitamin E, which is also goes by the name Tocopherol or Tocopherol Acetate, is another powerful antioxidant. It’s essential for protecting the skin from free radicals. It also conditions the surface of the skin, making it feel soft and smooth to the touch. Find it in many of our moisturizing products, like Sunday Morning and Skin Soak.
Whiteheads are a form of acne that, like the name says, appear white on your skin. They sit right below the surface of the skin and occur when pores are clogged with dead skin cells or bacteria. Since the trapped sebum isn’t directly open to the skin’s surface, meaning it is not exposed to air, the infection doesn’t oxidize (like with blackheads) and the whitehead remains stays white.
BINCHOTAN WHITE CHARCOAL
Mineral-rich white charcoal is extremely effective at absorbing impurities, including dirt, bacteria, and other pore-clogging debris, thanks to an extremely porous texture. That's why it can be found in our Find Clarity Purifying Mask.
Derived from the bark of the willow tree (as the name suggests), this ingredient has been for centuries to soothe irritation and inflammation. Willow bark is a natural BHA, meaning it gently exfoliates, helping to clear pores and it minimizes excess oil and shine. It rebalances oily and breakout-prone skin without over-drying or irritating it, which makes it ideal in our Just Breathe Clarifying Serum.
Witch hazel, which comes from the leaves and bark of a North American shrub, is a natural astringent commonly reported to have soothing and anti-redness benefits. It tightens the skin, minimizes the look of visible pores, and reduces excess shine, which is why we included it in our Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist.
YLANG YLANG OIL
This plant oil is naturally hydrating and conditioning, which means it helps the skin retain moisture and feel soft and smooth. It’s also thought to soothe inflammation and irritation. Find it in our Keep It Supple Body Oil.
Zinc is a natural element (yes, like the ones you learned about in science class) that’s used in skincare products to heal skin, soothe inflammation, and regulate oil glands. Because acne is essentially inflammation caused in part by pore-clogging oil, zinc is an effective yet gentle (i.e. no drying side effects) acne-fighting ingredient, which is why we included it in our Just Breathe Clarifying Serum.
Zinc oxide is a mineral that scatters and reflects UVA and UVB rays, working as a physical sunscreen to shield your skin from the sun’s rays. Zinc oxide is widely accepted as a safe, non-irritating, and effective sun protectant. Find non-nano zinc oxide (the safest SPF active available for our bodies and our oceans) in our Guards Up Daily Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35.