Skin Care Glossary – Every Term You Need to Know, Decoded

A beta hydroxy acid that removes excess oil and dead cells from the skin’s surface. It’s used in nonprescription cleansers, moisturizers, and treatments for acne-prone skin in concentrations of 0.5 to 2 percent.


A non-invasive body-contouring laser the FDA cleared to reduce fat in the belly, flanks (love handles), back, thighs, and under the chin, SculpSure permanently destroys fat cells with heat. Up to a 24 percent fat reduction can be seen six to 12 weeks after treatment.


A biostimulatory injectable made from poly-L lactic acid, this filler activates the body’s own collagen production to gradually restore lost volume and minimize the look of wrinkles. Patients generally need three to four treatments, with results lasting two years or more. While Sculptra is FDA-approved for the correction of shallow to deep nasolabial folds (smile lines), contour deficiencies, and other facial wrinkles, doctors reportedly use it (off-label) on the body.


A skin-care product that contains high concentrations of active ingredients and claims superior penetration of the skin’s surface when applied.


Made from paper, cotton, biocellulose (plant fiber), or hydrogel, and imbued with skin-care ingredients, these K-beauty essentials are shaped to fit the face (and other parts, like the neck, under eyes, lips, hands), delivering moisture and luminosity in a 20-minute session.


A safe and effective foaming detergent used in facial cleansers, body washes, shampoos, and toothpastes; not to be confused with the more irritating sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).


A detergent agent that cuts through oil and generates lather. Sulfate-free shampoos have become popular because of a misconception that the foaming agent may cause cancer, but no link has ever been established.


Rich in proteins and vitamins, this natural, non-irritating extract is a mild skin brightener that blocks the transfer of pigment from pigment-making cells to surrounding skin cells.


A fat that binds together the ingredients in creams and cleansers and gives them a silky texture.


Rich in fatty acids and antioxidants, this natural moisturizer is made by the skin, but diminishes with age. For skin-care purposes, it can also be derived from olives, rice bran, wheat germ, sugarcane, or palm trees.


These cleansing agents remove dirt and oil and are responsible for creating lather. There are more than 100 different varieties — some synthetic, others from natural sources, like coconut or palm oil. They’re found in facial cleansers, body washes, shampoos, and shaving creams. All types have the potential to dry and irritate the skin. They’ve come under scrutiny in recent years for their potential damage to the environment.


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