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skincare and facial treament glossary



Activated Charcoal

Long used in emergency rooms to treat alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses, this form of carbon — found in cleansers, masks, toothpastes, health drinks — has been specially treated to increase its absorbency, allowing it to sponge up dirt and oil from pores (or toxins from the stomach when taken internally).

AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acid)

Natural acids derived from fruit, dairy products and sugar cane which loosen and remove dead skin cells from skin, enhancing  the skin’s texture and overall appearance. Effective in smoothing skin and wrinkles. AHA’s include: Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid and Citric Acid.

Alcohol (SD Alcohol)

Undrinkable ethyl alcohol has many uses in skin care. It delivers other ingredients into the skin and drives them deeper down. In toners and acne products, it can help dissolve oil and temporarily tighten pores. When added to certain moisturizers, like gel-based lotions, it makes them less tacky and helps them dry down faster on the face.


Molecules that slow down or prevent oxidation of other molecules. In skin care, antioxidants help prevent premature ageing.


BHA (Beta-Hydroxy Acid) 

Also known as Salicylic Acid. BHA exfoliates the skin whilst providing anti-inflammatory action. BHA also dissolves the substance that causes cells to stick together, therefore making it effective in combating acne and breakouts. 


 Ingredients derived from plants



Helps to reduce puffiness and redness by constricting blood vessels. Used commonly in eye care products and cellulite treatments.


Fatty acids that help to hold cells together, strengthening the epidermis (surface layer of the skin).

Certified organic

These ingredients must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or chemicals. They also must be grown, prepared, processed and packaged according to the specific standards of the country which they are being certified in. They then must be certified by an Organic Certification Body.


A powerful antioxidant extracted from the fruit of the coffeeberry or California buckthorn plant.


Cosmetic products that contain biologically active ingredients and claim to have pharmaceutical benefits.

Coenzyme Q-10 (COQ10) 

An antioxidant present in the skin which declines with exposure to sun. COQ10 is used commonly in anti-ageing skincare to help strengthen cells and improve the texture of the skin.


A protein that makes up approximately 80% of our skin, collagen gives our skin firmness and strength. Over time collagen breaks down, however certain ingredients can promote new collagen production in the skin.


Dermatologically tested 

ust means tested on skin. Different companies will use this term to mean different things.


A form of silicone used commonly in oil-free moisturisers for its slip and hydration properties.



Improving circulation while removing dead skin cells. Pressure used in the process can contribute to relaxation.


The process of removing sebum, bacteria, dead cells, and other waste from the skin follicle.


Ferulic Acid

Plant based antioxidant which enhances the stability of Vitamin C and E.

Free Radicals 

When talking skincare, free radicals refer to UV rays, pollution etc, that cause damage and degradation to the skin.

Fruit Enzymes

Typically sourced from papaya, pineapple, and pumpkin, they break down the keratin proteins comprising dead skin cells, offering a mild form of exfoliation.


Galvanic Current Machine*

A machine used by estheticians in facial treatments. It has two different uses, depending on the polarity of the current that is used. When the working electrode is the negative pole, it is used with a desincrustation solution to soften blocked sebum in pores. When the positive pole is the working electrode, it is used to soothe the skin and encourage the absorption of a water-soluble treatment product.


A hydrating ingredient used commonly in moisturising products.

Glycolic Acid 

An AHA derived from Sugar Cane which exfoliates the skin, smoothing out fine lines and uneven texture. Used commonly in anti-ageing and brightening products.

Green Tea 

A powerful antioxidant.

Growth Factors

Produced by stem cells throughout the body, these large proteins relay messages crucial to cellular growth and division. The human-derived growth factors used by cosmetic companies like SkinMedica and Regenica have been shown to help rejuvenate skin by stimulating collagen and elastin synthesis while improving radiance, moisturization, and pigmentation.


Hyaluronic Acid 

A sugar molecule which increases the skin’s moisture content. Hyaluronic acid can hold 1000 times its weight in water.


Often triggered by UV light exposure, a wound, illness, hormonal changes, or certain drugs, this darkening of the skin might appear as a uniform tan, melasma (patches of discoloration), or an isolated acne scar.


generally used to mean that the product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. This does not guarantee you will not react, you will still need to check specific ingredients if you are super sensitive.


Idebenone A bio-engineered antioxidant used to combat free radicals, found in some anti-ageing products.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

A machine that emits many wavelengths of light — as opposed to lasers, which use just one concentrated beam — to remove hair or erase acne, dark spots, wrinkles, spider veins, and more. While gentler and less expensive than lasers, it isn't always as effective.


Jessner’s Peel*

A medium-depth chemical peel administered by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, the solution combines three peeling agents — resorcinol, lactic acid, and salicylic acid — to remove the outermost layer of dead skin cells, thereby minimizing signs of sun damage, and helping to improve acne and melasma.

Jojoba Oil

An oil derived from an evergreen shrub used for its softening and hydrating properties. Said to be the oil that most closely resembles the skin’s own natural oils.


Kaolin Clay

A natural clay which offers adhesion to cosmetic products. Absorbs oil, and drives out impurities, so it’s great for an oily/acneic skin.

Kojic Acid

This skin lightener, especially popular in Japan, has been proven to be effective at blocking the production of new melanin in the skin, but it can also cause skin irritation when used in higher concentrations.


Lactic Acid 

An AHA derived from fermented milk, Lactic Acid exfoliates the skin to improve texture and clarity. It has a larger molecule size than glycolic acid so can be a less irritating alternative for sensitive skins.


A natural oil that comes from sheep’s wool. It has excellent moisturizing properties and is easily absorbed by our skin. Lanolin is also known to protect and soothe the skin. Used commonly in lip balms, moisturizers etc.

Light-emitting diode devices give off a narrow range of a specific wavelength of light. (Different wavelengths target different skin issues; for example, blue light kills the bacteria known to cause acne.) Much less intense than lasers or IPL, many LED devices are safe enough for hand-held use at home.


Matrixl 3000

A patented peptide complex shown to stimulate collagen production and reduce the look of fine lines when used consistently over time.


Performed by dermatologists and facialists, this treatment exfoliates the top layer of dead skin cells with a wand that sprays on and then vacuums off extremely fine aluminum-oxide crystals. A newer form of the technology uses a vibrating diamond tip in place of the crystals.


A cosmetic procedure during which a device studded with tiny needles pierce the skin to incite the body's natural healing response, resulting in increased cell turnover and collagen production to improve skin's tone and texture. At home tools have shorter pins, which work superficially; professional devices with longer needles drive deeper for more significant improvements in wrinkles and scars (along with greater downtime).

Mineral Oil (Paraffin Oil) 

Liquid petrolatum which has an excellent ability to cut through grease, dirt and makeup. Commonly used in skin care and baby products. Also useful in locking in moisture. Mineral oil acts as a thin layer on the skin, and essentially creates a barrier which has been known to block pores. To be avoided when skin is problematic and prone to breakouts.



A tricky term that has no standard definition when it comes to skin care. Most commonly used to refer to products that are made mostly of plant-derived ingredients.


A form of Vitamin B3, Niacinamide helps to strengthen skin and improve elasticity whilst reducing redness.


A comedo is a clogged pore (whitehead or blackhead); therefore a non-comedogenic product is one that claims not to clog pores.


Organic an ingredient that has been grown free of chemical pesticides. Read packaging carefully as organic does not necessarily mean that every ingredient is organic, or that the ingredients are certified organic.

Oil Free Indicates the product is free from oils, both natural and artificial. A highly recommended choice for those with an oily/acneic skin.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Abundant in herring, mackerel, wild salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, and olive oil, these essential fatty acids maintain the function of cell membranes throughout the body, preserving cells' ability to take in nutrients, dispose of waste, and hold onto water. In the epidermis, this can translate to smoother, more supple, hydrated skin.

Oxygen Therapy

Also called enriched aromatherapy, or oxygenated aromatherapy. Humidified oxygen is infused with aromas and flavors for therapeutic purposes. The oxygen is delivered via tanks or a machine that extracts it from the atmosphere.



Commonly used preservatives in food and cosmetics that prevent bacteria and fungus from forming.


Proteins used in some skin care products for anti-ageing benefits. There are numerous types of peptides.


A measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. Water has a neutral pH of 7. A healthy skin barrier has an acidic pH of 4.5 to 5.5. And pH-balanced skin-care products generally fall on the slightly acidic side of neutral.


These common plasticizers, used some nail polishes to increase flexibility and in some shampoos and cleansers to carry fragrance, are controversial because of a possible link to disruption of the human endocrine system. Their role in a possible increase in breast cancers in women is currently being studied.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)

A portion of one's own blood that's rich in growth factors. After drawing blood from a patient's arm, and spinning it down in a centrifuge to isolate the PRP, doctors customarily inject it into the scalp to encourage new hair growth, or inject or apply it topically to skin to jumpstart healing for enhanced cell turnover and collagen renewal. (See also: vampire facial.)


Radio Frequency (RF)

Used by dermatologists to non-surgically tighten the skin, RF energy heats the deeper layers of tissue (leaving the surface intact) to spur new collagen and elastin growth for firmer, thicker skin.

Retinol (Vitamin A)

Used mainly in anti-ageing products to stimulate the renewal of cells. Is available over the counter up to 1%. Increases the skinâs sensitivity to the sun and must be used in conjunction with a daily SPF.


A chronic skin disease marked by persistent redness, easy flushing, broken blood vessels, and pimples on the nose and cheeks primarily. Rosacea tends to run in families, especially those of Northern or Eastern European descent. The cause is unknown; there is no cure; and controlling triggers (heat, UV, spicy foods, alcohol) is crucial to treatment.


Salicylic Acid 



Sun Protection Factor. The number that follows is a measure of the time it will take for your skin to burn with the sunscreen applied, in comparison to unprotected skin. . If Jane’s unprotected skin would burn in 10 minutes, an SPF30 product (correctly applied) would give her 30 x 10 minutes in the sun before burning. 


Cleansing agents that create a lather used to remove dirt and oil. Can be synthetic or plant derived.


Titanium Dioxide

A natural mineral used for sun protection like a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. Used in sunscreens and cosmetic products.

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCS)*

A key ingredient in chemical peels used to treat sun damage and hyperpigmentation, TCA promotes shedding of the outermost layer of dead skin cells, allowing new cells to rise to the surface in the days following treatment. TCA peels are generally light to medium strength, with the former requiring a series of two to three for best results; the latter requiring only a single session (but carrying about a week of downtime).



Ultraviolet rays from the sun that cause premature ageing to the skin.


Rays that cause the skin to tan and burn.


Vitamin A 

Promotes the growth and repair of body tissues. Vitamin A is used commonly in anti-ageing products.

Vitamin C 

A key antioxidant which strengthens collagen synthesis and promotes radiant skin.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol)

A powerful antioxidant that has essential for the body to protect it from free radicals. Vitamin E also has excellent conditioning properties.


Zinc – A natural sun protector, acts as a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. Used in sunscreens and foundation (especially mineral makeup). Zinc has also been known to be beneficial for those with sensitive and acneic skin.

*Available at Gregory Dylan Skincare & Beauty

This glossary is provided on behalf of Gregory Dylan and is comprised of professional knowledge as well as information from the following sources: