What popular skincare terminology do I need to know?

Questions and Answers

What popular skincare terminology do I need to know?


Welcome back to the blog!

I’m sure you’ve all noticed by now, but we’ve had a glow-up here at qandaskin.com! Our shiny new website has finally launched, and we’re super excited to introduce our brand new Ingredients Glossary! To go alongside the unveiling, we’ve put together a glossary of popular terminology to help you take your skincare knowledge to the next level. As you browse the growing list of ingredients, feel free to bookmark this post as your handy reference guide for deciphering any unfamiliar words you encounter along the way.

Non-Comedogenic & Comedogenic

A blemish caused by a blocked pore is known as a comedo. A non-comedogenic ingredient is one that won’t clog or congest pores; this makes them ideal for those with oily or blemish-prone skin types. A comedogenic ingredient is one that does have the potential to clog or congest. This doesn’t necessarily make it a bad ingredient; it will just be better suited to skin types that aren’t blemish-prone. There also isn't a standardised test for comedogenicity.

Naturally Derived

A naturally derived ingredient is one that has been obtained or sourced from a natural origin, e.g., a plant or mineral.

Skin Purging

Skin purging is a fairly common and temporary reaction to the introduction of new skincare products, particularly those with active ingredients like AHAs or retinol. A skin purge usually involves blemishes and congestion due to an acceleration in cell turnover.


Humectant ingredients bind to and draw moisture from the atmosphere or from deeper layers of the skin into the upper layers of the skin to help hydrate and prevent moisture loss.


Emollients are a type of moisturising agent that helps to soften and smooth the skin by filling the gaps between skin cells with lipids and, therefore, supporting healthy barrier function. Typically found in lotions and creams, Squalane is an example of a natural emollient.


Occlusives are moisturising agents that help to protect against moisture loss by creating a physical barrier on the skin, preventing evaporation. They also help to prevent irritants and allergens from entering the skin.


Surfactants are used for their cleansing properties, helping to create the foaming action in cleansers and lift away oils and dirt. There are four different types of surfactants:

  • Anionic surfactants are negatively charged, lather well and are great for removing dirt and oil from the surface of the skin (which also has a negative charge).  
  • Nonionic surfactants have no charge and have low foaming properties. These are particularly good at emulsifying and removing oil.  
  • Amphoteric surfactants have both a positive and negative charge and are known for being gentle on the skin. 
  • Cationic surfactants are positively charged and act as more of a conditioning agent than a cleansing agent. 



An emulsion is a mixture of water and oil (that would usually be incapable of mixing), which is stabilised with an emulsifier. Most lotions and creams are emulsions designed to nourish and moisturise the skin.


Emulsifiers are used as stabilisers in water and oil formulations (emulsions) to prevent separation. Emulsifier molecules have a hydrophilic end (water-loving), which is attracted to water, and a hydrophobic end (water-hating), which is attracted to oil – as a result, preventing separation.


Antioxidants help to protect the skin from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and chemical compounds generated through environmental stressors like pollution and UV. Antioxidants help to maintain skin health and minimise the signs of ageing. Common antioxidants include Vitamins C and E.


The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin, which acts as a protective barrier to the body; it’s also where dead skin cells shed from. Below the epidermis is the dermis layer, followed by the subcutaneous layer/hypodermis.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to explore our new Ingredient Glossary. And if you come across any unfamiliar terminology, this blog post is your trusty reference guide. And, of course, if there are any other skincare terms you’d like us to demystify, just let us know by leaving a comment below or sending us an email.

Until next time,

Charlee @ Team Q+A

Charlee Grimson

eCommerce & Digital Marketing Coordinator