Glossary of Skincare Terms

Glossary of Skincare Terms

Fatty Acids - Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat. During digestion, the body breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can then be absorbed into the blood. Fatty acid molecules are usually joined together in groups of three, forming a molecule called a triglyceride.

The four main categories of fatty acids are saturated, unsaturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

Kinds of fatty acids

Palmitic acid - Is a saturated fat that is found largely in palm oil, palm kernel oil, as well as in butter, cheese, milk and meat. It helps to prevent moisture loss, protect the skin from bacteria and allergens, and improve the texture of products. In recent years it has gotten a poor reputation because of its abundant use in lower quality products, as well as the damage to the earth caused by its harvest and processing. Although it is still beneficial to the skin, we at Wild South use oils that are of higher quality and provide more benefits than those dominated by high levels of palmitic acid.

Stearic acid - This saturated fat is found in red meat, poultry, fish, and milk products. Fats rich in stearic acid include cocoa butter (typically consumed as chocolate), mutton tallow, beef tallow, and lard. There are very positive skin care aspects of some types of stearic acid, its presence in tallow for instance. Consuming too many foods with this fatty acid present is what causes health problems. Stearic acid softens and smooths the skin's surface while also helping to maintain the skin barrier. It also works as a surfactant, or emulsifier, causing a rich lather in soaps, shampoos, and other skin care products.

Oleic acid - Is a monounsaturated fat that is the most widely distributed of all the natural fatty acids and present in practically all lipids. It is the main fatty acid in olive oil pressed from the ripe fruit of the olive, as well as a number of nut and seed oils. Oleic acid is a perfect pick for dry and aging skin because it penetrates the skin deeply and locks in the moisture. This prevents your skin from developing fine lines, and wrinkles. What's more, this anti-inflammatory acid helps you restore your skin's natural oil without clogging your pores.

Linoleic acid - Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. It is a colorless or white oil that is virtually insoluble in water but soluble in many organic solvents. It typically occurs in nature as a triglyceride (ester of glycerin) rather than as a free fatty acid. It is one of two essential fatty acids for humans, who must obtain it through their diet, or in smaller amounts, through the skin. Linoleic Acid, or Vitamin F, provides moisture and “plumpness” without weighing down the skin. It fortifies and protects the skin's barrier, thereby helping to fend off UV rays and air pollutants such as smoke, both of which cause free radical activity that can result in wrinkles and signs of aging.

Linolenic acid - This naturally occurring, colorless polyunsaturated fatty acid liquid functions as a skin-conditioning agent and skin-restorative ingredient. Also known as alpha-linolenic acid, this ingredient is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that occurs in vegetable oil and flax seed oil as well as canola and soy oils. Walnuts are a top dietary source of this fatty acid. It is the other essential fatty acid that our body cannot synthesize and we have to ingest it from our food, or in smaller amounts, through the skin.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals for the Skin

Vitamins are organic compounds that people need in small quantities. Most vitamins we need come from food because the body either does not produce them or produces very little, and the same holds true for the skin. Below are the most important of these compounds for a healthy epidermis:

Vitamin A - Both the upper and lower layers of skin need vitamin A. It seems to prevent sun damage by interrupting the process that breaks down collagen. Since it's an antioxidant, it may give your skin some protection against sunburn, although not as much as wearing sunscreen. It helps the oil glands around your hair follicles work and may also help cuts and scrapes heal, especially if you're taking steroids to reduce inflammation. Without enough vitamin A, your skin might get dry and itchy or bumpy.

Vitamin C - Think "C" for collagen. This vitamin helps the twisted web of proteins hold its shape. Its also a powerful antioxidant, protecting you from free radicals and possibly lowering your chance of skin cancer. Low levels of vitamin C can cause easy bruising, as well as slower-healing on cuts, sores and abrasions.

Vitamin D - Vitamin D is most often made when sunlight is absorbed by your skin, and cholesterol converts to vitamin D when this happens. Vitamin D is then taken up by your liver and kidneys and transported throughout the body to help create healthy cells. This includes the skin, where vitamin D plays an important role in skin tone. It may even help treat psoriasis.

Vitamin E - Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant. Its main function in skin care is to protect against sun damage. Vitamin E absorbs the harmful UV light from the sun when applied to the skin, and it can help prevent dark spots and wrinkles. Normally the body produces vitamin E through sebum, an oily substance emitted though the skin’s pores. In the right balance, sebum helps keep the skin conditioned and prevents dryness. Sometimes we lose that balance and need to supplement with a product high in vitamin E. Vitamin E also helps in the treatment of skin inflammation.

Vitamin K - Vitamin K is essential in aiding the body’s process of blood clotting, which helps the body heal wounds, bruises, and areas affected by surgery. The basic functions of vitamin K are also thought to help certain skin conditions, such as stretch marks, spider veins, scars, dark spots, and stubborn circles under your eyes. Doctors frequently use creams that contain vitamin K on patients who have just undergone surgery to help reduce swelling and bruising, and it may help speed up skin healing as well.

Vitamin F - This more rare compound is a must for proper skin care. It is great for all skin types, but people with acne-prone skin can reap more benefits from using products with this ingredient. In addition, vitamin F is a great help to those who suffer skin issues, like psoriasis or dermatitis, as it helps reduce inflammation, aids in promoting healthy cell function, and prevents excessive water loss. Electromagnetic radiation is present all year round, and too much sun exposure can induce aging. This essential compound, in conjunction with a sunscreen, provides all of the protection the skin needs. On days when we forget to apply sunscreen, or are unaware of the intensity of the sun's rays, like a cloudy day for instance, vitamin F provides a back up barrier for the skin.

Zinc - Zinc is one of the most important healing minerals for skin health, and is particularly important for acne sufferers. Zinc controls the production of oil in the skin and helps control some of the hormones that can cause acne. It's also believed to have antioxidant properties to protect against premature aging of the skin and muscles. Zinc also helps to speed up the rate of skin healing after an injury and is highly beneficial to all parts of the immune system.

Copper - This naturally occurring metal benefits skin by promoting the production of collagen which give skin its strength. Copper also helps to enhance the function of antioxidants which help to protect skin from oxidative damage. It works alongside vitamins and zinc to assist in the creation of elastin, a protein that keeps the skin flexible. Copper rich foods are also required to convert the amino acid tyrosine to promote hair and skin pigment.

Calcium - We all know the importance of ample calcium intake for healthy teeth and bones, but it’s also an essential mineral that benefits skin health. The human body contains more calcium than any other mineral; about 90% of our bone structure is made up of it. It plays a major role in providing firmness and elasticity for the skin as well as all tissues and cells of the body. Calcium rich foods can also deter acne. A calcium deficiency will result in fragile and thin skin, loss of hair, weak bones and brittle nails.

Skincare Terms

Collagen - Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for about one-third of its protein composition. Its one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is also found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas, the teeth, and skin. You can think of it as the “glue” that holds all these things together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word “kólla,” which means glue.

Elastin - An amino-acid fueled protein found in both the skin and tissues of the body, elastin gives cells their structure. In the skin, it’s mostly found in the dermis where it allows connective tissues to be able to stretch, contract and resume shape.

Keratin - This special protein can be called our body's shield layer. Although our skin appears smooth, their are millions of bumps and crevices that act like our own turtle shell, although much, much thinner. Its no coincidence since that reptile's shell, as well as its skin, teeth, nails, and beak are all made up of various layers of keratin. We most often associate this protein with our nails, but it is present in our skin as well.

Omega Fatty Acids - Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, a type of fat your body can’t make. There are three main types: Eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, consists of 20-carbon fatty acids whose main function is to produce chemicals called eicosanoids, which help reduce inflammation. Docosahexaenoic acid is a 22-carbon fatty acid, and DHA makes up about 8% of brain weight and contributes to brain development and function. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)is an 18-carbon fatty acid that can be converted into EPA and DHA, although the process is not very efficient. ALA appears to benefit the heart, immune system, and nervous system.

Omega 6 fatty acids - Like omega-3s, omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids, and they are also essential, so you need to obtain them from your diet, and they mainly provide energy. The most common omega-6 fat is linoleic acid, which is present in many nut and seed oils as well as some legumes. It is commonly found in many oils and butters used for skincare products.

Omega 9 fatty acids - Omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated fats. Oleic acid is the most common omega-9 fatty acid and the most common monounsaturated fatty acid in the diet. Omega-9 fatty acids aren’t strictly “essential,” as the body can produce them, however, consuming foods rich in omega-9 fatty acids instead of other types of fat may have health benefits.

Polyphenols - Polyphenols are a category of compounds naturally found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, dark chocolate, and wine. Polyphenols are also thought to reduce inflammation, which science has postualated to be the root cause of many chronic illnesses. More than 8,000 types of polyphenols have been identified. They can be further categorized into 4 main groups:

Flavonoids. These account for around 60% of all polyphenols. Foods like apples, onions, dark chocolate, and red cabbage contain this compound.

Phenolic acids. This group accounts for around 30% of all polyphenols. Examples include stilbenes and lignans, which are mostly found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seeds.

Polyphenolic amides. This category includes capsaicinoids in chili peppers and avenanthramides in oats.

Other polyphenols. This group includes resveratrol in red wine, ellagic acid in berries, curcumin in turmeric, and lignans in flax seeds, sesame seeds, and whole grains.

Emollient - Emollients are products used to soften skin.

Hydrophilic - Derived from the Greek language meaning water loving. Hydrophilic compounds penetrate deep in to the skin and any residue is easily removed with water.

Lipophilic - Derived from the Greek language meaning fat loving. Lipophilic compounds stay on the surface of the skin as an extra layer of protection and are removed with a mild solvent such as soap and water.

Oxidation - In a simplified definition, oxidation is when a compound loses electrons because its oxidation, or level of oxides, is increased. An example is when oxygen combines with iron to cause rust , or iron oxide.

Free Radicals - Free radicals are not a British punk band, but unstable molecules that are missing an electron. These unstable molecules are created through normal body processes like digestion. They are also produced when you're exposed to excess sun, pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, and more. These unstable molecules go around stealing an electron from other molecules, damaging healthy cells in the process. This theft can result in a free radical cascade which causes damage to the skin.

Antioxidant - Any compound that removes or reduces free-radical damage to the skin. Lipids, vitamins, and minerals are free radical fighters, but can only do their job if enough of them are available.

Hypoallergenic - The product will likely not cause an allergic reaction on the skin of the user. This does not mean that the product will not cause an allergic reaction in every single case, only that it won’t cause a reaction in a majority of cases.

Noncomedogenic - Means a product will not induce the clogging of pores in the skin.