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Skincare Science Glossary

The beauty world is packed full of technical terms and innovative, effective ingredients that promise varying results, but with trends always changing, sometimes it’s tricky to keep track of what everything means. Welcome to our Skincare Science Glossary, which aims to break down some of the language you’re likely to regularly hear in the beauty industry to help you make more informed decisions about the products you buy.

A

alpha hydroxy acids - often abbreviated to AHAs, alpha hydroxy acids are water-soluble acids that exfoliate the uppermost layers of skin by speeding up the process of desquamation. This natural process, otherwise known as cell turnover, slows down as we age. However, AHAs break down the 'glue' that holds dead skin cells together, meaning they're removed and replaced at a faster rate, revealing skin that looks fresher, smoother and more even.

amino acidsthe building blocks that make up specific peptides, which in turn make up specific proteins that have particular roles in our bodies. Naturally present in the uppermost layers of our skin, amino acids help it to remain hydrated, supple and healthy.

antioxidanta general term applied to lots of different ingredients that work to defend the skin from environmental stressors, such as sun exposure, pollution and free radicals, which can increase the visible signs of ageing. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, help to shield the skin's surface from further deterioration, scavenging free radicals to prevent them causing damage to our skin. This process reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and creates a firmer, more even complexion.

 

B

beta carotene - a red-orange antioxidant that's found in certain fruits and vegetables, and when applied topically helps to improve the tone and texture of skin.

beta-glucana polysaccharide sugar, which is a type of carbohydrate made from multiple sugar molecules. Often derived from yeast or oats, it has antioxidant properties, strengthens the skin's natural barrier, and has skin-soothing abilities, effectively reducing the appearance of redness.

beta hydroxy acidoften referred to as BHA, beta hydroxy acid is a term used for the ingredient salicylic acid. As it's oil-soluble, beta hydroxy acid is able to exfoliate both the skin's surface and work deep within the pores, acting to breakdown the 'glue' that holds dead skin cells together. It also has natural skin-calming properties, so it's an effective, gentle exfoliant for those with sensitive skin.

bio-retinola plant derived alternative to traditional retinol, which is a vitamin A derivative that can cause negative side effects. Bio-retinol isn't from the vitamin A family, but delivers the same anti-ageing benefits without the risk of side effects.

bisabolol - a soothing agent usually extracted from chamomile, bisabolol effectively calms skin, has anti-inflammatory properties and a subtle floral scent.

broad spectrum - a term used for sunscreens proven to defend against both UVA (ageing) and UVB (burning) radiation. Broad spectrum protection products help to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin ageing in addition to preventing sun burn.

 

C

caffeine - mainly found in plants such as cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves and coffee beans, caffeine can have anti-inflammatory, soothing and antioxidant benefits for the skin.

ceramides - waxy lipid molecules found in the skin's barrier that act as mortar to hold our skin cells (the bricks) together. They prevent transepidermal water loss by providing a protective layer to skin.

 

F

flora - skin flora refers to the microorganisms, predominantly bacteria, that naturally reside in the upper layers of the skin.

free radicals - a free radical is an atom, molecule or ion in the environment that has an unpaired electron, meaning it tries to take an extra electron from the atoms in the skin. This can cause damage to our skin's DNA and accelerate skin ageing, but antioxidant ingredients can protect from free radical damage. That's because they provide the extra electrons for free radicals, preventing them being taken from our skin instead.

fruit enzymes - typically sourced from papaya, pineapple and mango, fruit enzymes break down the connective proteins called desmosomes that keep dead keratin-filled cells together on the skin's surface. Fruit enzymes assist in this natural chemical reaction to reduce the build-up of dead skin cells and promote a brighter, more dewy complexion.

 

G

glycerin - often also referred to as glycerol or glycerine, glycerin is a powerful humectant that's present in all natural lipids (fats) and therefore our skin. It's one of the many substances in our skin that acts to maintain its moisture level and a healthy look and feel.

 

H

hyaluronic acid - a natural component of skin tissue, hyaluronic acid acts as a skin-replenishing ingredient when applied topically in skincare products. Capable of holding up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, its a great hydrator for skin and defends against moisture loss.

hyperpigmentation - this is a skin condition where areas can become darker than others due to excess melanin being produced. This can be triggered by UV light exposure, stress, wounds/scars or hormonal changes.

humectant - a term used to refer to ingredients that are able to maintain skin moisture levels, such as glycerin, AHAs and hyaluronic acid. They act to draw moisture from the air into the upper layers of your skin to keep it hydrated.

 

I

independent clinical study - a process we undertake to test the effectiveness of our formulations, an independent clinical study is when a product is tested and assessed by an Independent ISO certified laboratory using high-end equipment under qualified dermatologists’ supervision.

 

J

jojoba oil - the wax liquid produced in the seed of the jojoba plant, which can be extracted and used as an emollient in skincare products to enhance skin's restorative properties. A rich source of numerous fatty acids, jojoba oil's texture is similar to our skin's sebum and it feels lighter and less greasy on the skin.

 

K

K-beauty - a category of skincare products and trends hailing from South Korea that emphasises healthy, hydrated, glowy, no-makeup skin.

kerastosis pilaris - kerastosis is a common, harmless condition that around 40% of adults have, where small bumps appear on the skin, predominantly the legs and the backs of the arms. It occurs when hair follicles become blocked with a build-up of keratin, which can't be removed with physical exfoliation, such as a luffa or mitt. However, this common condition can be minimised with acid exfoliators.

 

M

mica - often referred to as nature's glitter, mica is a group of minerals that can be ground down into a sparkling powder for use in beauty products to create a glowing appearance. We source our mica from sustainable sources, which are free from child labour and other unethical practices.

mineral microspheres - also referred to as blurring microspheres, mineral microspheres are tiny powder-filled spheres that diffuse light to provide a soft focus effect for skin, working to absorb oil and mattify at the same time.

MSM - short for methylsulfonylmethane, MSM is a biologically active sulfur, naturally occurring in various fruits, vegetables, whole grains and also in humans, commonly referred to as a beauty mineral. It helps in the formation of collagen and elastin, has anti-inflammatory properties and refines the appearance of pores for more even-looking skin.

multi-molecuar - often used to describe hyaluronic acid, multi-molecular means that the compounds in the ingredient are at different molecular weights. This allows the ingredients to be absorbed into different layers of the skin, increasing overall hydration.

 

O

omega-3 fatty acids - these are a group of essential fatty acids that maintain the function of cell membranes throughout the body, preserving the membrane's ability to take in nutrients and control the movement of water. In the skin's epidermis, they help to create smoother, more supple and hydrated skin.

 

P

pH-balanced - the pH scale indicates the concentration of hydrogen ions in a solution and therefore whether it's acidic or alkaline. Water has a neutral pH of 7 and a healthy skin barrier has an acidic pH of 4.5 to 5.5, which means that pH-balanced skincare products generally fall on the slightly acidic side of neutral. When the skin's pH balance is upset, it can lead to certain skin conditions such as irritation, redness, breakouts and dryness, which is why all of our products are formulated to match skin's optimum pH.

plant allo-melanin - an innovative, plant-derived ingredient that creates a natural-looking tan by mimicking the colour of your skin's own melanin.

plant peptides - peptides are fragments of proteins and are made up of amino acids. Different combinations of amino acids form specific peptides and combinations of these peptides in turn form specific proteins. Proteins are skin's building blocks, so if peptides are reduced then skin loses firmness and there's an increased appearance of wrinkles. Plant peptides are plant-derived peptides that act to rejuvenate skin and replenish its 'bounce'.

polyhydroxy acids - also often referred to as PHAs, polyhydroxy acids are exfoliants that are considered 2nd generation alpha hydroxy acids. Also water soluble, PHAs work on the skin's surface to breakdown the 'glue' that holds dead skin cells together. What differentiates them from AHAs is their larger molecular size, meaning they cannot penetrate the skin as deeply and are more suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin.

prebiotics - natural partners to probiotics - the good bacteria that helps to keep our skin and bodies healthy. Prebiotics increase the production of probiotics, so when applied topically they help to keep skin balanced, younger-looking and strong. 

 

R

resveratrol - a potent antioxidant that's particularly abundant in red grapes, which helps to protect the skin's surface from environmental damage and calm the skin when applied topically.

 

S

salicylic acid - also called beta hydroxy acid or BHA, salicylic acid's primary benefit is that it's an effective exfoliant. Able to exfoliate the skin's surface, salicylic acid can also penetrate deeper into the pores and exfoliate inside them due to its oil-soluble nature. This is especially effective in reducing breakouts, but salicylic acid also has soothing properties to calm the skin too.

squalane - this is the saturated portion of the emollient ingredient squalene, which is a natural component of the oil or sebum in our skin. As it is highly saturated, squalane is less prone to breaking down in the air than less saturated squalene. It's an effective moisturiser and a great source of fatty acids and antioxidants. As a vegan and cruelty-free brand, we proudly source our squalane from olives, rather than sharks.

 

T

titanium dioxide - a mineral used in sunscreen that reflects sun rays away from the skin's surface to effectively protect it from both UVA and UVB light. The grade of titanium dioxide we use doesn't include nano particles, making it more beneficial for our bodies and the environment. However, this larger particle size can cause a slightly white cast on darker skin tones.

 

U

UVAUV stands for ultraviolet radiation, which is part of the natural energy produced by the sun. It has shorter wavelength compared to visible light, meaning that you can't see it but your skin can feel it. Ultraviolet A, or UVA, is associated with skin ageing and can also cause the mutations in skin cells that can lead to skin cancer. This kind of radiation doesn't cause burning as it has a longer wavelength than UVB, penetrating deeper into the skin - all the way into the dermis and hypodermis - where it causes collagen and elastin fibres to become dysfunctional.

UVBUV stands for ultraviolet radiation, which is part of the natural energy produced by the sun. It has shorter wavelength compared to visible light, meaning that you can't see it but your skin can feel it. Ultraviolet B, or UVB, has a shorter wavelength than UVA and primarily penetrates and damages the outermost layers of skin - the epidermis - to cause burning and hyperpigmentation, eventually penetrating the dermis too. Its radiation intensity is 1,000 stronger than UVA and it's more mutagenic, making it a major cause of the mutations in skin cells that can lead to skin cancer.

 

V

vitamin C - a water-soluble vitamin that comes in lots of different forms and acts as a powerful antioxidant. Applying it topically for a prolonged period of time has been shown to improve the appearance of ageing, skin brightness and even skin tone.

vitamin E - a fat-soluble vitamin naturally occurring in the skin, but it can become depleted due to environmental stressors and sun exposure. As a powerful antioxidant, applying it topically helps to protect the skin and has soothing benefits too.

 

Z

zinc oxide - a mineral used in sunscreen that reflects sun rays away from the skin's surface to effectively protect it from both UVA and UVB light. The grade of zinc oxide we use doesn't include nano particles, making it more beneficial for our bodies and the environment. This larger particle size however, can cause a slightly white cast on darker skin tones.   

 

 

We recommend that you use this page as a guide, but please bear in mind that different ingredients and products can have different results for individuals and research and trends in the beauty industry are regularly changing and evolving.