Five Key Skincare Terms Explained

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One of the things that we hear quite often from our clients is that they see lots of words on labels and it product descriptions, but they just don’t quite know what they mean. For a complete beginner (or even for a seasoned pro in some cases…) skincare labels can be pretty confusing, so we thought we’d give you a little glossary of some of the most common terms to help you decipher exactly what you’re buying:


Retinol is a form of Vitamin A, an ingredient that promotes skin renewal and enhances collagen production (which starts to decline in your 30s). As well as lessening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, retinol can also reverse some of the side effects of sun damage.


AHAs are alpha hydroxy acids – a type of chemical compound that can be either naturally occurring or synthetic. Many are derived from organic sugars, with glycolic acid from sugar cane and lactic acid from milk, the best-known and most common AHAs used in skincare. AHAs help to smooth the skin without the use of harsh exfoliants.

Broad Spectrum

This is a term used to describe certain types of sunscreen, which contain protection against both UVA and UVB rays. To fully protect the skin against the signs of ageing and types of skin cancer, your sunscreen should be both broad spectrum and above SPF15 (the higher the better, as far as we’re concerned!)


You might hear this word and associate it with Pamela Anderson’s lips from the 90’s, but actually collagen makes up 80 percent of the skin, and its fibres give skin its firmness and strength. Collagen naturally breaks down over time, but certain ingredients, such as retinol and peptides, can stimulate new collagen production. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, it makes skin thick, strong, and smooth.


Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Pollution is another source of free-radicals, which is why it’s so important to wash your face after a long day in the city! Free radicals may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

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