The Anti-Aging Dictionary


AHAs, antioxidants, retinols, retinoids…with all the terms we hear every day, the world of anti-aging gets a little confusing! Rather than stumble through the beauty counter, here’s your complete guide to everything anti-aging in skincare—from A to Z.

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AHAs: Alpha Hydroxy Acids found naturally in fruit and milk, they are used in chemical peels as natural exfoliators and are known to help reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sun spots. 

Alpha-Lipoic Acid: An ingredient that can decrease the appearance of fine lines and support anti-oxidants like vitamin C to help eliminate free radicals.

Antioxidants: Vitamins and minerals found naturally in fruits and vegetables that counteract the effects of free radicals by donating an extra electron and restoring free radicals to healthy, functioning cells. 

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Botox: A prescription injectable used to block communication between the nerves and muscles to paralyze the muscles in the face. This helps smooth skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. The results can last up to 6 months.

Broken Capillaries: Tiny veins under the skin that get damaged, making them red and visible through the skin. 

Bunny Lines: Wrinkles that appear on the side of the nose, caused by aging, scrunching the face, and sometimes Botox. 

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Collagen: A protein found naturally in the dermis, collagen acts as the support system for your skin, helping it bounce back from funny facial expressions and environmental stressors. Over time, collagen gets weaker, and fine lines and wrinkles start to form. 

Crow’s Feet: The wrinkles that appear on the outside corners of the eyes, usually with three lines shaped like a crow’s foot.

Dermal Fillers: Usually given by injection, fillers add volume and fullness to the face to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They can be used to plump up thin lips, soften wrinkles, and improve the look of scars.  

Dermis: The second layer of skin, located beneath the epidermis, the dermis is the layer where wrinkles form.

Dysport: A prescription injection that works like botox, paralyzing muscles and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. 

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Elastin: A protein located in the dermis, it works with collagen to support skin’s cellular structure and provide elasticity. Over time, environmental exposure decreases the amount of elastin in the skin.  

Ferulic Acid: This powerful antioxidant kills free radicals and helps ward off sun damage. It can also make other anti-oxidants like vitamin C and E more effective.

Fraxel: A Laser treatment, performed by certified physicians, that usually takes between 15 and 45 minutes. It smoothes out skin, helping to minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, surface scarring, pigmentation, and sun damage.

Free Radicals: Cells in the body that have been damaged by the process of oxidation. These cells are missing an electron and try to correct the problem by stealing their missing electron from healthy cells. This could injure the healthy cells, damage DNA and potentially cause premature aging.  

Frown Lines: This refers to two kinds of wrinkles: the vertical lines that form between the eyebrows and the vertical lines that form across the forehead. 

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Glutathione: An anti-oxidant molecule found inside cells that fights free radical damage.

Glycation: The process by which excess sugar consumption damages collagen and elastin, causing skin damage and premature aging.

Glycolic Acid: An AHA and natural exfoliator found in sugar cane, it removes dead skin cells and lightens discoloration for younger looking skin.

Hydroquinone: A lightening agent used to reduce hyperpigmentation and eliminate sun spots. 

Intense Pulsed Light: A light therapy treatment performed by a dermatologist, it stimulates collagen production and targets multiple signs of aging simultaneously, including: spider veins, broken capillaries and dark spots. 

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Kojic Acid: An ingredient with similar effects as hydroquinone, lightening sun spots and reducing hyper pigmentation.

Laugh Lines: The wrinkles that form around the side of the mouth from the nose to the chin, also known as parentheses.

Microdermabrasion: An exfoliating treatment, usually done on the face, neck and chest, it uses a specialized tool to buff away dead skin cells. This helps minimize the appearance of fine lines.  

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An antioxidant that helps protect the skin from UV damage, it keeps skin and hair hydrated and radiant. It can be found naturally in fish, flaxseed and walnuts.  

Oxidation: The process of cells being exposed to oxygen. It is a natural process that may lead to cell death, in which case, dead cells are usually replaced by new and healthy ones. In some cases, oxidation will damage cells, turning them into free radicals. 

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Parentheses: The wrinkles that appear around the side of the mouth and appear to form parentheses around the lips from the nose to the chin, also known as laugh lines.

Peptides: Small proteins shown to increase collagen production, Peptide technology is continually improving. It is believed to produce an effect similar to Botox in that it may keep facial muscles from forming new wrinkles. 

Plant Stem Cells: These are cells derived from the stem of the plant, and not at all similar to the controversial embryonic stem cell. Plant stem cells are essentially no different from any other plant extract, and most of the anti-aging properties attributed to them are hype based off their cleverly confusing name.   

Retinol: Derived from vitamin A, retinol is considered one of the most effective ingredients for reversing sun damage and other signs of aging because it speeds cellular turnover (or the production of new skin cells). Essentially, Retinol creates new, delicate skin. Because of this, it should only be used as part of a nighttime skincare regimen. Retinol and sunshine do not mix. 

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Salicylic Acid: an ingredient used to exfoliate skin and improve its texture, it can help minimize the appearance of fine lines.

Selenium: This mineral (found in whole grains, seafood, garlic and eggs) helps preserve skin elasticity and protect the skin for excessive UV damage.

SPF: The leading cause of premature aging, fine lines and wrinkles is exposure to the sun. Using sunscreen daily is the best way to prevent that damage. Make sure yours has a Sun Protection Factor of at least 15. Anything less will provide some protection from UVB rays (the ones that burn you), but not from UVA rays (the ones that age you).

Spider Veins: Small red, purple and blue veins that appear under the skin, usually in the legs and face.

Sun Spots: Also called dark spots or age spots, they appear on the skin after prolonged sun exposure that leads to skin damage. 

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Thermage: A treatment available from certified physicians that uses radio-frequency energy to strengthen collagen and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

Varicose Veins: Large, swollen veins visible through the skin in the legs.

Vitamin A: Used to make some of the most effective anti-aging ingredients, including retinol. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that can help reduce the appearance of circles under the eyes. 

Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant, this vitamin helps ward off free radicals and decrease environmental damage, including the damaging effects of the sun’s rays (but that doesn’t make it a replacement for sunscreen). It can also boost the body’s natural ability to produce skin-firming collagen.

Vitamin E: Another vitamin with antioxidant properties, vitamin E is a natural moisturizer that can repair dry, cracked skin, while helping protect it from UVB rays.

Xeomin: An injectable wrinkle filler available by prescription. It works like Botox and Dysport by blocking signals from the nerves to the muscles and paralyzing the muscles to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.   

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