Big Beauty Words Explained

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We’ve all experienced this before: You’re at the store looking for the next big thing in beauty and being a savvy consumer, you look at the ingredients list only to find long rows of names you can’t pronounce. Turns out the only name you seem to understand is aqua. Seeing as we all can’t be cosmetic chemists ready to spot ingredients that make one product better than the next, it turns out that knowing just a few can really help. Here’s a list of 10—almost impossible to pronounce—ingredients that you may run into when searching for that miracle beauty product. If you see any of these ingredients, you’ll know you’ve found something good. 


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1 / 10
Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

Pronunciation: hīl-yu̇-ˈrä-nik- acid

Origin: Your body

What It Does: Increases skin elasticity and fights wrinkles. 

Superpower: Your body already contains this acid to help skin retain water, but in your early 20s your hyaluronic acid levels start to decrease. With aging, your skin tends to lose moisture, which leaves it dry and can lead to loose, wrinkled skin. This natural acid is found in many skin-care products and helps prevent premature aging by retaining moisture within skin to keep it looking healthy and younger for longer. When applied topically, it can penetrate through skin’s upper layers and reaches all the way down to the dermis (the middle layer). Improving skin’s collagen and elastin levels, the acid attracts water in between cells to create a cushion which helps give the appearance of plumper skin.

Product To Try: An easy fix for dry skin, Le Mieux Moisture Infusion Mask hydrates with the help of hyaluronic acid and claims to brighten dull skin with vitamin C. $25
2 / 10
Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides

Pronunciation: \kə-ˈpri-lik-\ / \ˈka-prik\  /trīˈglisəˌrīd/

Origin: Coconut oil

What It Does: Moisturizes skin with its fatty acid formula

Superpower: When a product feels silky, chances are caprylic/capric triglycerides can be found on the ingredients list. These fatty acids help restore skin by retaining moisture and delivering vitamins and other ingredients evenly into skin without causing irritation. A thickening agent in many face creams, lipsticks and other cosmetics, this ingredient acts as an emollient that helps soften skin without the greasy residue.

Product To Try: Created to remove makeup and dissolve skin impurities, Algenist GENIUS Ultimate Anti-Aging Melting Cleanser leaves skin replenished and smooth. $38
3 / 10
Avobenzone (butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane or Parsol 1789)

Pronunciation: \ˌā-və-ˈben-ˌzōn\

Origin: Synthesized in a lab

What It Does: Provides UVA protection

Superpower: FDA approved since 1988, avobenzone is found in many sunscreens to protect against harmful UVA rays that can cause cancer and prematurely age your skin. This ingredient prevents skin from absorbing these rays by converting them into heat. Unfortunately, it breaks down when exposed to light, which is why it is paired with other photostabilizing ingredients to help protect your skin from the sun.

Product To Try: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 70 is a broad-spectrum, oil-free product that uses stabilizers to keep avobenzone working as long as possible. It is light enough to apply everyday—you won’t even feel it under makeup. $11
4 / 10
Octisalate (octyl salicylate)

Pronunciation: /oc·ti·sal·ate/

Origin: Synthesized in a lab

What It Does: Provides UVB protection

Superpower: Protection from just UVA rays leaves you susceptible to damage by UVB rays. UVB rays only reach the epidermal (outer) layers of the skin, unlike UVA rays that reach down deeper and cause to photoaging. An ester of salicylic acid, octisalate protects skin by absorbing these harmful rays responsible for skin reddening and sunburn. The organic compound also has water-resistant properties making it stick to skin.

Product To Try: The first BB facial sunscreen from L’Oréal, Advanced Sunscreen Silky Sheer BB Face Lotion 30, has broad-spectrum sun protection and contains antioxidants such as vitamin E and white grape seed to protect against sun damage and maintain healthy skin. $10
5 / 10

Pronunciation: (pic-noj-en-all)

Origin: Les Landes de Gascogne forest pine tree bark in France

What It Does: Reduces symptoms of psoriasis

Superpower: Studied for the past 40 years, pycnogenol is bark extract successfully tested to reduce symptoms of psoriasis such as redness, hardness and flaking. In fact, a study conducted by Chieti-Pescara University in Italy found 80 percent of the 73 psoriasis-diagnosed participants continued to use this product after the testing period was finished. Even if you don’t have psoriasis, this ingredient increases skin’s hydration, fights free radicals, enhances collagen production and increases skin’s microcirculation of nutrients and oxygen.

Product To Try: High Potency Amine Face Lift by Perricone MD lists pycnogenol as pinus pinaster bark extract for its key age-defying ingredient. Other main ingredients include DMAE to preserve skin elasticity and vitamin E ester to minimize skin discoloration. $98
6 / 10
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)

Pronunciation: gamma \-ˈlē-nik-, -ˈlā-\ acid

Origin: Plant Based Oils (borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil)

What It Does: Treats certain skin disorders and leaves skin glowing

Superpower: The omega-6 essential fatty acid helps improve skin’s overall health by treating symptoms of common skin disorders such as dermatitis and eczema. When out in the sun, GLA helps reduce skin inflammation from UV light.  If you’re deficient in this ingredient, the result could be dry, dull skin.

Product To Try: Formulated with key botanical and essential oils that help relax the senses, Aurelia Firm & Revitalise Dry Body Oil uses borage and mongongo oils to tighten, hydrate and repair skin. $77
7 / 10

Pronunciation: \bi-ˈma-tə-ˌpräst\

Origin: Synthesized in a lab

What It Does: Stimulates lash growth

Superpower: This is the key ingredient that helps you achieve thicker, longer, darker lashes. Allergen, the makers of Latisse, first used bimatoprost to relieve eye pressure, but then noticed an increase in the length of patients’ eyelashes. This discovery led to the creation of Latisse and became the only doctor-prescribed solution for longer lashes.

Product To Try: Latisse is the only FDA-approved prescription-strength lash growth serum. Apply the serum nightly to see dramatically longer lashes after 16 weeks. $120
8 / 10


Pronunciation: \ˌnī-ə-ˈsi-nə-ˌmīd\

Origin: The lab, green vegetables, fish, eggs, milk or poultry

What It Does: Treats dark spots and fights acne

Superpower: Also known as vitamin B3, this ingredient prevents melanin from reaching skin’s surface cells, keeping dark spots at bay. Niacinamide was originally used to help fight acne; however, Proctor & Gamble conducted a different study where it was discovered this ingredient also helps strengthen skin’s barrier and makes it less irritable and more tolerant to retinoids. Its strengthening capabilities also help reduce fine lines and wrinkles by maintaining skin’s moisture.

Product To Try: Thanks to a 4% concentration of niacinamide, Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Renewing Essence Boost restores your skin by reducing discoloration and improving texture and elasticity. $44

Note: This product won’t hit stores until November!

9 / 10

Pronunciation: \rez-ˈvir-ə-ˌtrȯl, -ˌträl, -ˌtrōl\

Origin: red wine, skins of grapes, berries and some fruits

What It Does: Increases cell life

Superpower: Maybe the secret to all things anti-aging, this ingredient helps repair cell damage and extends cell life. In a 2003 lab study on mice, Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School found that resveratrol helps stimulate cell proteins which gives energy to the cell’s mitochondria to keep cells active as they age.

Product To Try: An antioxidant powerhouse, SkinCeuticals Resveratrol B E contains the maximum level of 1% pure resveratrol to reverse skin damage and improve skin’s ability to repair itself from free radicals. $145
10 / 10

Pronunciation: \käŋˈkīələ̇n also kȯŋ-\

Origin: Mollusk shells

What It Does: Prevents melanin production

Superpower: With a new hydrolyzed conchiolin protein (OLI-2168) developed by a botanical and herbal product manufacturer, this ingredient keeps sun-exposed skin from darkening. When affected by UVB rays, cells release endothelin, which stimulates the process to produce melanin. The firm claims this ingredient will regulate the information passed along by endothelin to inhibit this pigment production.

Product To Try: Formulated with conchiolin, Clé de Peau Beauté Wrinkle Correcting Concentrate claims to repair wrinkles and prevent new ones—caused by facial expressions—from forming. $150

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