Your Ultimate Guide to Skincare Definitions
Some of us are science people, who easily grasp the anatomy and chemistry behind skincare. Complex concepts? Obscure jargon? Just a nice walk in the park for science people.
How cool to have such an analytical brain!
Then again, some of us are decidedly NOT science people. We see words with more than four syllables and our internal monologue just glosses over them like white noise. And please don’t come at us with the names of chemicals, or anything in Latin!
Health and skincare are deep categories, and it can be very intimidating to dig your way through all the information out there. Where do you even begin?
We suggest that you begin here, with our Ultimate Skincare Guide!
You don’t need to memorize everything, there won’t be a test later. But when you’re trying to absorb an article on the newest wonder-fad for your complexion, you’ll have all the definitions you need, all in one place!
Who knows, even the science-lovers among us might learn something new!
Don't recognize a word in the definition? If it is CAPITALIZED AND BOLDED, you can also find that term explained here in our glossary!
The acid mantle is a thin film on the skin's surface formed by a mixture of SEBUM, sweat, and amino acids. Its primary function is to defend against bacteria, viruses, and environmental toxins. In that way, you could call it your skin’s first line of defense!
But the acid mantle isn’t invincible, and it can be damaged by oil-stripping skincare products, overcleansing, or a change in pH LEVELS. If your face feels tight or squeaky after you wash it, pay attention! You may be damaging your acid mantle and leaving yourself vulnerable to skin issues.
Simply put, acne cosmetica is any breakout caused by makeup. It can affect any cosmetics user, even if you haven’t been prone to acne before.
Usually appearing as tiny bumps or WHITEHEADS, acne cosmetica is one of the leading causes of breakouts in women. The most common sites for acne cosmetica include your forehead, chin, and cheeks.
Acne mechanica, also called “sports-induced acne,” develops when your skin becomes irritated by consistent friction, smothering, or chafing.
Often seen in very active people or athletes, acne mechanica presents with acne-like bumps at the site of irritation. It is usually caused by tight clothing or equipment, and most commonly appears as body acne or around the hairline and jaw.
Acne vulgaris (what we normally refer to simply as “acne”) occurs when SEBUM and dead skin cells combine to block pores. Then bacteria like C. ACNES infiltrate the blockage and cause inflammation in the skin. This process can create blemishes such as COMEDONES (WHITEHEADS and BLACKHEADS), PAPULES, NODULES, and CYSTS.
Especially common amongst teenagers, acne vulgaris can be caused by natural fluctuations in HORMONES. But when acne persists into adulthood, it may be a sign of underlying problems such as hormonal imbalances, poor diet, and medications.
Adrenaline is a HORMONE that prepares your body for fight or flight, and is often released in response to stress, fear, anger, or surprise.
An influx of adrenaline can be helpful for your reflexes and reaction time, but not so helpful for your skin, contributing to wrinkles and dull skin. And much like the effects of the stress hormones CORTISOL and CRH, constant adrenaline surges can result in acne breakouts.
As mandated by the FDA, cosmetic products labeled “alcohol-free” are specifically referring to the absence of ethyl alcohol, a harsh ingredient which can dry out your skin and hair. (Aka ethanol or grain alcohol.)
This label does not mean, however, that the product contains no alcohol at all. Skin-safe fatty alcohols are also found in many skincare products, but don’t have the same dehydrating effect.
An allergen is a generally harmless substance that your body mistakes as a threat. Your immune system then overreacts in self-defense, causing an allergic reaction. This reaction often appears in the form of hives, rashes, swelling, irritation, or blisters.
Allergies to skincare products are common, and can cause a rash called CONTACT DERMATITIS. Be especially wary of ARTIFICIAL FRAGRANCES, which can mask many chemical allergens.
Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA)
Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are plant and animal-derived acids that are often used in skincare products. They are touted to help collagen production, promote exfoliation, treat acne, and improve uneven skin tone. However, AHAs are also common ALLERGENS. They should be used with caution, especially in products with stronger formulations (like skin peels).
Look out for AHAs like:
- citric acid (from citrus fruits)
- glycolic acid (from sugar cane)
- hydroxy caproic acid (from animals)
- lactic acid (from lactose or other carbohydrates)
- malic acid (from fruits)
- tartaric acid (from grapes)
Anaerobic is simply a technical term for an absence of oxygen. You may have heard it in reference to “anaerobic exercise,” which entails fast-paced, intense workouts like weight lifting or sprints. These exercises are considered oxygenless because your body draws energy from stored fats and sugars instead of from your breaths.
In regard to troubled skin, “anaerobic” has more ominous connotations. When your pores become clogged, they form an airless, anaerobic environment where bacteria like C. ACNES thrive. This leads to INFLAMMATION and acne breakouts!
Androgens are commonly called “male sex hormones,” because they are HORMONES that help to regulate male characteristics. For example, testosterone. But androgen hormones are not only present in males, and can also play important roles in the female body.
In either gender, an excess of androgens like testosterone can contribute to the production of SEBUM, leading to oily skin and breakouts. And in women, excess androgens may be a sign of HORMONAL IMBALANCE.
Anti-aging skincare products help slow and prevent the outward signs of aging. They usually target complaints like fine lines, wrinkles, environmental damage, and dark spots.
As your skin gets older and more delicate, it becomes especially important to prioritize gentle, nourishing products. Some naturally anti-aging ingredients include:
- Jojoba oil
- Grape seed oil
- Vitamin C
- Tea extracts
One subgenre of ANTIMICROBIAL products are antibacterials. Popular as hand soaps, antibacterial products or ingredients help prevent the growth and development of BACTERIA. They are also useful in skincare products to help prevent the spread of acne-causing bacteria like C. ACNES.
A few of the best naturally antibacterial ingredients include:
- Witch hazel
- Tea tree oil
- Calendula (marigold)
To easily deliver your skin a clarifying dose of witch hazel and tea tree, try Averr Aglow’s Clear Skin Elixir. Bonus: its overnight formulation allows these botanicals to penetrate deeply, so they can fight bacteria from the very bottom layers of your skin.
ANTIMICROBIAL products or ingredients that target fungi are known as antifungals. In skincare, they help prevent fungal growth from disrupting the surface of your skin (and potentially leading to FUNGAL ACNE).
A few naturally antifungal botanicals include:
- Tea tree oil
- Manuka oil
- Prickly pear
- Apple cider vinegar
Anti-inflammatory ingredients or techniques help calm the swelling and discomfort of INFLAMMATION. Topically, anti-inflammatory ingredients are especially handy to soothe inflammatory conditions like acne.
Common skincare ingredients that act as anti-inflammatories include:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
For a quick, easy way to incorporate these ingredients into your skincare routine, consider Averr Aglow’s Clarifying Hydration Dew. You can also incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, like berries and dark, leafy greens.
An antimicrobial substance is one that fights harmful microorganisms. Antimicrobials are broken down into more specific classifications according to the type of organisms they attack, such as ANTIBACTERIALS and ANTIFUNGALS.
Used topically, antimicrobials help combat skin issues from acne breakouts to athlete’s foot.
Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize damage from FREE RADICALS. Left unchecked, free radicals can destabilize cells in your body by stealing electrons, but antioxidants step in to donate electrons before that occurs.
Antioxidants are especially important for your skin, which constantly faces free radical damage from smog, pollutants, and sun exposure. They can be found in topical skincare products like our Luminous Complexion Toner, and also consumed through a vitamin-rich diet.
Anti-pollution skincare products are intended to shield your skin from harmful environmental toxins like smog and dust particles, which can clog your pores and contribute to dull skin and acne breakouts.
There are two main categories of anti-pollution products. Some form a physical barrier to protect your skin throughout the day. Others detoxify your skin after exposure, through EXFOLIATION or deep cleansing. For example, Averr Aglow’s Illuminating Essence Exfoliating Mask, which combats impurities with the power of volcanic ash and silica.
Artificial fragrances are typically SYNTHETIC scents added to a product, either for sales appeal or to mask the product’s natural smell. Many health- and environmentally-conscious brands like Averr Aglow avoid artificial fragrances, which can contain harmful chemicals and preservatives.
Artificial fragrances are particularly bad for sensitive skin, and are considered to be the #1 cause of CONTACT DERMATITIS in the United States.
Astringent skincare products are marketed to help reduce shine, cleanse skin, and tighten pores. But astringents often contain a high concentration of dehydrating alcohols, and can harm your skin by stripping it of its natural oils.
This is especially damaging to acne-prone complexions, which overcompensate for the lost moisture by upping SEBUM production — the first step down a road to clogged pores.
To achieve similar results with a gentler, skin-positive formulation, consider choosing a toner (like our Luminous Complexion Toner) instead of a harsh astringent.
An atrophic scar develops due to a lack of tissue regeneration, leaving behind an indentation in your skin. This can result in long-term or even permanent scarring.
Atrophic scars are essentially the opposite of HYPERTROPHIC SCARS and keloids, which instead leave behind raised tissue.
Back acne (aka bacne) is caused by the same factors as facial acne: excess SEBUM, dead skin cells, and inflammatory BACTERIA like C. ACNES. It can be difficult to treat, however, due to its awkward location and the thickness of skin on your back.
Your back is also a prime location for severe breakouts like CYSTIC or NODULOCYSTIC ACNE. These deep-rooted issues can be chronic, painful, and leave behind stubborn scarring.
Bacteria are a type of single-celled organisms called MICROBES that exist literally everywhere — from freezing glaciers to your small intestine. Many are not only helpful, but are vital to the orderly functioning of the human body. But some bacteria are harmful, causing a range of health issues.
When it comes to acne, the most common bacterial culprit is cutibacterium acnes, or C. ACNES for short. When C. acnes come across a clogged pore, they make themselves at home, feeding on trapped skin oil and causing INFLAMMATION. They are one of the primary causes of an acne breakout.
Bioavailability is the proportion of a drug or nutritional supplement that your body can actually use. When you ingest or absorb a product through your skin, only a certain amount enters your bloodstream and gets circulated. The rest passes through your system without taking effect.
In terms of skincare, bioavailability can be an indication for how much of a difference a product can make for your skin — essentially asking, How active are its active ingredients, really?
For example, our Flawless Nourishment Cream is formulated with 100% active ingredients to deliver the utmost bioavailability possible, letting your skin reap the benefits of its deeply moisturizing rosehip and camellia.
Blackheads are COMEDONES that often plague acne-prone complexions. They appear as raised bumps with a dark grey or black center, so some people mistakenly assume that blackheads are a sign of poor hygiene or dirt on the skin.
In actuality, blackheads occur when your pores become clogged with skin cells and SEBUM. The surface of this blockage darkens when it comes into contact with oxygen, given blackheads their signature look.
Unlike the closed pimples known as WHITEHEADS, blackheads are considered open comedones, because the pore is still open to the air.
Botanicals are healing ingredients derived from plants for use in medicine, preventative treatments, and cosmetics. They are especially popular in NATURAL SKINCARE products, which prefer to use botanicals in place of potentially harmful SYNTHETIC chemicals and preservatives.
(formerly known as P. acnes, or propionibacterium acnes)
Short for cutibacterium acnes, C. acnes are the bacteria commonly at the root of an acne breakout.
When your pores get clogged — usually with SEBUM and skin cells — C. acnes thrives in the airless environment and feeds on the trapped oil. They multiply in the pore, and then this overgrowth of bacteria causes your immune system to clap back with redness and INFLAMMATION.
Your clogged pores become swollen and painful, and voila! Acne. Specifically, ACNE VULGARIS.
Carriers are neutral oils used to dilute an essential oil before it is applied to your skin. Some essential oils are too strong to use on their own, and can cause irritation if not mixed with a carrier first. The carrier maintains an essential oil’s therapeutic qualities, but creates a buffer so that it can be used safely.
Common carriers include coconut oil and avocado oil.
Circadian rhythm is the internal cycle that regulates your sleep. It repeats roughly every 24 hours, and can be impacted by light exposure — for better or for worse.
Getting natural light during the day can help stabilize your sleep cycle and grant you better sleep at night. On the flip side, getting too much artificial light at night can confuse your circadian rhythm and keep you awake.
This all has implications for your skin, as well. Poor sleep translates into stress, and stress can trigger the release of acne-causing HORMONES.
Collagen is a protein that connects the tissues in your body, providing structure and support.
Working within your skin, collagen keeps your complexion supple and firm. In fact, loss of collagen is one of the primary causes of wrinkles and fine lines, because your body naturally produces less and less collagen as you age.
To keep skin youthful longer, most ANTI-AGING products use ingredients that stimulate collagen production. Or you multitask with our Completely Clear Gelee Makeup Remover, which cleans, calms, and boosts collagen all at once!
A comedogenic substance is one that is likely to clog your pores and cause COMEDONES, aka acne blemishes. “Comedogenic” has become quite the skincare buzzword in recent years, and there is even a “Comedogenic Scale” that is meant to rank products’ likelihood of pore clogging.
Unfortunately, the Scale’s trustworthiness is under debate, and its recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, it may be useful for acne-prone consumers to aim for NON-COMEDOGENIC products, which are less likely to clog pores.
Comedones are, at their most basic, acne bumps. They are caused when debris like oil and dead skin cells clog up your pores, causing blockages beneath the surface of your skin.
Often found on the forehead and chin, comedones are the most common form of ACNE VULGARIS. There are several types of comedones, but the two most typical are open comedones known as BLACKHEADS and closed comedones known as WHITEHEADS.
When speaking about food groups, complex carbohydrates are foods with natural sugars that take time for your body to process. Some examples include whole grains, vegetables, and beans.
Unlike REFINED CARBOHYDRATES (sometimes called simple carbs), the sugars in complex carbohydrates are digested gradually and don’t cause an INSULIN spike in your bloodstream. This is good news for skin, because insulin spikes can produce acne-triggering HORMONES.
As a bonus, this gradual sugar absorption also makes complex carbs a more sustained form of fuel, keeping your body steady and productive instead of following brief hyperactivity with an energy crash.
Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction that occurs after your skin comes into contact with an ALLERGEN or other irritating substance. This may include soaps, cosmetics, or even plants. (Hey there, poison ivy.)
But the number one cause of contact dermatitis is actually ARTIFICIAL FRAGRANCES, which may hide in anything from your perfume to your laundry detergent.
Appearing as a rash, contact dermatitis makes your skin irritated, red, and itchy. While the rash is not contagious or life-threatening, it can be very uncomfortable. Just one more reason that Averr Aglow doesn’t use artificial fragrances in our products!
Hand in hand with ADRENALINE and CRH, cortisol is a HORMONE that contributes to your body’s fight-or-flight instinct. Cortisol is produced in response to stress, whether it's a sudden, acute stressor (like getting into a car accident and wondering how you’ll pay for the damage) or a chronic stressor (being overworked at your job and feeling burned out).
What does this have to do with skincare? High amounts of cortisol increase your skin’s production of SEBUM. This excess oil can clog pores and eventually lead to acne.
Cortisone shots are a type of steroid injection often used to relieve pain or inflammation, especially in joints like your ankles, knees, elbows, or wrists.
Cortisone shots are also used as a treatment for severe acne. The cortisone is injected directly into blemishes — usually large ones, like CYSTS — to shrink them and reduce INFLAMMATION. However, cortisone shots are not meant to be used as a regular acne treatment, and are better saved for emergencies.
CRH (Corticotrophin-Releasing Hormone)
CRH is a HORMONE that is often triggered by chronic or extreme stress. Tied to your fight-or-flight instinct, it can suppress your appetite, increase anxiety, and sharpen your memory.
Regarding your skin, CRH can interfere with the normal production of SEBUM and cause INFLAMMATION, two contributing factors of an acne breakout. Partnered with CORTISOL, which is also stress-released, these two hormones can turn stress into a major acne trigger.
"Cruelty-free" is a popular claim made on skincare labels to imply that the manufacturer didn’t use any animal testing to create the product. However, this claim is not legally regulated, and there are several loopholes allowing less scrupulous companies to use “Cruelty-free” even if there has been some form of animal testing in their supply chain.
For better proof of a company’s cruelty-free practices, look for certifications from organizations like PETA or the Leaping Bunny Program. (Spoiler alert: Averr Aglow has both!)
One of the most severe forms of ACNE VULGARIS, cystic acne develops deep within the skin. Rather than surface-level blemishes, cystic acne presents with large, painful CYSTS that can linger for weeks or months. They can appear on the face or as body acne.
Typically unpoppable and difficult to treat, cystic acne is particularly common among adult women. In an emergency, cystic acne can be treated with CORTISONE SHOTS, but a safer everyday treatment would be a spot treatment like our Clear Skin Elixir.
A cyst is a swollen pocket of tissue that often contains fluids like pus, blood, or SEBUM. They can grow almost anywhere in your body, including beneath your skin. Cysts are typical to CYSTIC ACNE, and can be very tender and painful.
Because cysts can linger for long periods of time, it can be tempting to try and drain them at home. But cysts are practically unpoppable, and any attempts to do so can result in scarring and the spread of infection beneath your skin.
"Dermatologically Approved" simply means that a dermatologist has reviewed and signed off on a product’s formulation. But this term is not regulated, and there’s no way to be sure how rigorously the dermatologist examined or tested the product.
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that can develop as early as childhood and persist throughout a person's life. The most common sign of eczema is a red, itchy rash and INFLAMMATION, often around the arms or knees.
People with eczema will have particularly sensitive and reactive skin, and should choose products with care. BOTANICALS like jojoba oil and kakadu plum have been shown to help eczema, and it may be worth examining natural skincare options like Averr Aglow to avoid harsh chemicals and preservatives.
Emollients are creams or ointments meant to soften rough or dry skin. They achieve this by filling the dried out cracks between your skin cells with moisturizing, fatty substances known as lipids. They also help seal in hydration to keep your skin from drying out any more.
One warning: many emollient products can contain a lot of heavy oils, and may be considered OCCLUSIVE. This is great for dry skin, but disastrous for more oily complexions, and can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.
Endocrine disruptors are ingredients (often, synthetic chemicals) that interfere with the normal functioning of your HORMONES. They can even lead to a full-on HORMONAL IMBALANCE. Since hormones control so many of your body’s natural processes, this can lead to issues ranging from infertility or cancer to — you guessed it — acne breakouts.
Endocrine disruptors are common in skincare and cosmetics, including ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, triclosan, and oxybenzone.
But you won't find any of these in our Clear Skin Kit! At Averr Aglow, we use wholesome, skin-safe BOTANICALS to deliver real results.
Your endocrine system is a series of glands that create and regulate your HORMONES. It has a hand in almost every process in your body, helping manage everything from sleep and stress to your physical growth and development. Hormones can also influence your complexion — for example, influencing how much SEBUM your skin produces.
The epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin. It determines your skin tone and forms a protective barrier over the layers underneath. The epidermis is particularly critical for regulating your skin’s hydration and defending against harmful bacteria.
Because it sits on top, the epidermis is also the layer of skin that first encounters your skincare products. It’s important to choose products thoughtfully to protect the epidermis, and keep your complexion strong and well-defended!
Estrogen is a HORMONE considered the “female sex hormone,” and is responsible for the development and regulation of the reproductive system. It also plays a significant role in the menstrual cycle, including PMS breakouts.
When estrogen levels are low — for example, around your period — it opens the door for ANDROGEN hormones to run rampant, increasing your oil production and contributing to acne. But this isn’t a PMS-only phenomenon, especially if you end up with a HORMONAL IMBALANCE.
Exfoliation is the process of buffing away dead skin cells from the surface of your EPIDERMIS, and is a key step in maintaining a clear, glowing complexion. Exfoliation not only keeps your face looking fresh by removing dull skin, but it also helps prevent breakouts by clearing dead cells away before they clog your pores.
Not sure where to start? For a gentle but effective facial exfoliant, the Illuminating Essence Exfoliating Mask can’t be beat. And don’t forget about body acne! Keep body breakouts at bay with our Rejuvenating Essence Body Polish.
Fatty acids are molecules typically found in fats and oils, from both animal or plant sources. They are sometimes used in engineering, or in the production of soaps and cosmetics. Certain fatty acids are considered essential for our diet, since our bodies can’t create them on our own. These include well-known fatty acids like OMEGA-3 and OMEGA-6.
Essential fatty acids provide numerous benefits to health and skin, such as helping to keep your skin’s protective layer in top form. And while they’re available in some topical skin products, don’t forget to include fatty acids in your clear-skin meal plan! They’re much more effective when consumed.
FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
The FDA is a federal agency in the United States responsible for regulating and supervising certain consumer products. Their domain includes food safety, tobacco products, prescriptions, etc. They also enforce protections for cosmetics and skincare products, such as monitoring ingredients lists.
Heads up, though: a lot of product claims aren’t regulated by the FDA (or anyone else), and can be misleading or meaningless. Think biggies like FRAGRANCE-FREE, HYPOALLERGENIC, or NON-COMEDOGENIC.
You’d think that fragrance-free is self-explanatory, but that’s not necessarily the case. Fragrance-free may mean totally lacking fragrance, or it may mean that the fragrance has been disguised with scent-masking chemicals.
Because this term is not regulated by the FDA, it’s important to double-check the ingredients list on your personal products. Some chemicals can cause allergic reactions or contribute to HORMONE IMBALANCE.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that are very reactive with other substances, including the human body. They like to steal electrons from other atoms, which can be very damaging to your cells — a process called OXIDATIVE STRESS.
Over time, as they destabilize more and more of your cells, free radicals can cause illness and premature aging. And as you get older, your body becomes less able to fight free radicals. This is why so many diet plans and skincare lines emphasize the importance of ANTIOXIDANTS, which can help prevent free radical cell damage.
To heal and protect your precious skin, Averr Aglow uses antioxidant-rich botanicals throughout our Clear Skin Kit. Thwart free radical damage with ingredients like exotic kakadu plum and soothing rosewater!
Fungal acne is a skin condition that resembles a red, itchy breakout, and most commonly appears on the back, chest, and upper arms.
Unlike common ACNE VULGARIS, which is caused by bacteria, fungal acne thrives on yeast. As a result, fungal acne won’t respond to many acne treatments, which only target bacteria. It will require products with ANTIFUNGAL properties, or even antifungal medication.
A genetic trait is one that you inherited from your parents, like hair color or eye color. And when it comes to acne, genetics can play a central role. While there is no specific “acne gene” being passed down your family tree, you may inherit a predisposition that sets you up for breakouts.
For example, you may be genetically predisposed to produce excess SEBUM, skin cells, or ANDROGEN hormones. Or you may tend toward deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals that affect the clarity of your skin.
Glycoproteins are simply protein molecules that have a sugar molecule attached to them. They are extremely common throughout the human body, and have a hand in everything from fertility and immunity to helping your blood clot.
Glycoproteins are also relevant to the health of your skin. They add strength and stability to tissues like COLLAGEN, contributing to the tone and firmness of your complexion. They also help protect you from microbes and bacteria by sweeping them out when you sweat!
Also called the Gut-Skin Connection, the Gut-Brain-Skin Axis refers to the interconnection of your digestive system with your mental and skin health.
Specifically, it appears that healthy digestion can affect your skin via the nutrients it absorbs, by influencing HORMONE levels, or by impacting your immune system. This is why many sources emphasize the importance of gut health as part of your clear skin journey!
Hard water is water containing a high concentration of salts or minerals, most often calcium or magnesium. These minerals can leave behind chalky residue on faucets or shower heads.
Hard water can also be harmful to your skin. Regular exposure to hard water can dehydrate your skin and disrupt its natural defenses, contributing to conditions like PSORIASIS or ECZEMA. Hard water can also trigger acne, thanks to excess dead skin cells and the overproduction of SEBUM.
Hives are red or skin-tone bumps that usually occur after exposure to an ALLERGEN or irritant. Often swollen and itchy, hives can be tiny or quite large, and appear one at a time or in broad patches.
Many different causes can trigger hives, such as food, medications, insect bites, stress, extreme temperatures, and chemicals — including harsh chemicals in skincare products.
Spoiler alert: all acne is influenced by our HORMONES in one way or another. Breakouts can result from normal hormone fluctuations, like your menstrual cycle, or from a HORMONAL IMBALANCE. This is why conquering acne often includes lifestyle changes, to help even out and rebalance breakout-triggering hormone levels.
HORMONES usually work together to keep your body running smoothly. But hormone levels can rise or fall for all sorts of reasons, disrupting the natural harmony of your ENDOCRINE SYSTEM. This is called hormonal imbalance.
Hormonal imbalance can have serious consequences on your health, impacting your energy levels, digestion, fertility, and even triggering acne breakouts. If you’re dealing with a hormone imbalance, you may need to consult a medical professional or make lifestyle changes to moderate your hormone levels.
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the glands of your ENDOCRINE SYSTEM. They travel around your bloodstream to various organs and tissues, influencing processes like:
- Growth and development
- Thirst and body temperature
- Reproductive health
Hormones can also influence the development of acne, from increasing oil production to kickstarting INFLAMMATION.
Humectants are common moisturizers included in skincare and beauty products. They help your skin preserve moisture, and can even attract moisture from your environment into the upper layers of your skin (aka the STRATUM CORNEUM).
On rare occasions, this can backfire. If your environment is very dry, humectant products can end up pulling moisture from within your skin in an effort to hydrate its upper layers. So be careful if you live in a desert!
For most consumers, though, humectants are an effective way to lock-in moisture for your complexion. We recommend natural humectant ingredients like aloe vera, honey, and jojoba.
Hyperkeratinization is an excess of KERATIN, the protein that makes up much of our skin, hair, and nails. If you struggle with acne, you probably experience hyperkeratinization in your pores. Problem, because that excess keratin prevents the normal shedding of dead skin cells.
When these trapped skin cells mix with SEBUM, they develop into a full-on, pore-clogging clump. Step one on the road to breakouts!
Hypertrophic scars are caused by excess deposits of COLLAGEN within the skin, and may also contain nerves and blood vessels. The excess collagen results in a raised scar at the site of an injury, usually smaller and less dramatic than KELOIDS.
Hypertrophic scars can form anywhere on your body and often result from skin trauma like pimples, cuts, burns, body piercings, and tattoos.
Hypoallergenic is a label often applied to skincare, indicating that a product is unlikely to cause allergic reactions. Thanks to their gentle reputation, hypoallergenic products are popular among consumers with allergies and sensitive skin.
But the term “hypoallergenic” is not regulated by the FDA, and companies don’t have to run any tests or show any proof to back up the claim. It is, essentially, meaningless. So look for other indicators to judge the suitability of a product for your complexion!
IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1)
IGF-1 is a hormone primarily produced by your liver. It is very similar to insulin in its molecular structure — hence, “insulin-like.” Though you’ll produce IGF-1 all throughout your life, the highest IGF-1 levels occur during puberty, and it has strong ties to your growth and development.
This is all well and good, until you get into abnormally high IGF-1 levels. Excess IGF-1 has been linked with several types of cancer. It’s also considered a trigger for your acne breakouts, as it can cause INFLAMMATION, shifting HORMONE levels, and increased SEBUM. (No surprise that high IGF-1 levels coincide with puberty, when many people experience an acne peak!)
One of the big contributors to increased IGF-1 is the consumption of cow’s milk. This is why many clear-skin diets recommend limited intake of dairy products.
Inflammation is a response by your immune system to any kind of wound or harm, from a paper cut to an infection. When your immune system detects damage, it sends a flood of white blood cells to defend the area, causing redness and swelling.
In the case of acne, inflammation can be triggered by clogged or infected pores. The tissue around the pore then swells up, becoming a visible blemish on your skin.
If you have an acne-prone complexion, seek out products that calm and soothe inflammation, such as our Clarifying Hydration Dew.
Insulin is a HORMONE produced by your pancreas. It controls your blood sugar levels and enables those sugars to be used by your organs for energy or tucked away for later. The amount of insulin produced is determined by the type and amount of sugars you consume.
In fact, insulin is one reason that sugars are considered bad for your skin. Foods high in sugar but low in fiber cause a strong insulin response, and that insulin boosts the production of skin cells and SEBUM, both of which can contribute to acne.
Insulin resistance occurs when your body starts ignoring signals from your INSULIN hormones, and no longer regulates your blood sugar effectively. In self-defense, your ENDOCRINE SYSTEM starts pumping out extra insulin every time you consume sugars, until your body ignores those levels, too, eventually stressing out your pancreas as it struggles to keep up.
This is bad news. Not only can insulin resistance lead you down the path to type-2 diabetes, it can also ravage your complexion as your constantly increasing insulin levels set off acne breakouts.
Keloids are raised scars that appear after a skin injury. Often they are dark in color, in a deep shade of pink, red, or purple. Unlike regular HYPERTROPHIC SCARS, they can grow much larger than the original site of the skin trauma — in fact, you could consider them like an overgrowth of scar tissue.
Doctors aren’t sure why some people develop keloids, but they can be caused by any normal scarring injury, such as burns, cuts, or even acne.
Keratin is a protein that makes up most of your skin, hair, and nails. It is a very strong binding protein, helping form your skin barrier and support cellular structures. In fact, it’s one of the strongest organic tissues found in nature.
Excess keratin, aka HYPERKERATINIZATION, is a common factor in the formation of acne, contributing to the formation of pore-blocking skin clogs.
Leaky Gut (Gut Permeability)
Leaky gut is a condition in which the cells of your GI tract — a section of your digestive system — begin to space out, leaving vulnerable cracks and holes. This allows harmful bacteria and toxins to leach out of your intestines, traveling through your bloodstream and other organs.
These escaped bacteria and toxins can cause not only digestive problems, but have also been linked to conditions like arthritis, depression, and diabetes, as well as skin conditions like PSORIASIS, ECZEMA, and acne.
Typically recommended for mild to moderate acne, light therapy (or phototherapy) uses light waves to reduce your acne symptoms. The application of blue light is generally used to kill bacteria and remove FREE RADICALS from your skin, while red light may be used to reduce scarring and INFLAMMATION.
As opposed to MICRONUTRIENTS, macronutrients are nutrients that your body requires in higher amounts. These energy-providing nutrients make up the staples of any diet: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Melanin is your body’s natural pigmentation, which determines the color of your hair, skin, and eyes. The amount of melanin in your skin can change in reaction to external factors, such as sun exposure causing a tan.
Melanin helps protect your skin from UV RADIATION, decreasing your chance of skin issues like sunburns, freckling, and cancer. But while people with darker skin tones have a better natural defense, they are still at risk and should remember to wear sunscreen!
By the way, did you know? Averr Aglow's product line is perfect for all skin types and tones!
Melatonin is a HORMONE produced to regulate your CIRCADIAN RHYTHM, letting your body know when to sleep and when to wake up. Typically, you produce more melatonin at night, signaling your body to rest and relax.
However, your melatonin levels can be affected by light exposure. Too little natural light during the day or too much artificial light at night can confuse your body and interfere with melatonin production.
When this melatonin disruption inevitably affects your sleep, your body feels stressed and begins to produce acne-triggering hormones like CORTISOL and CRH.
Microbes, aka microorganisms, are tiny, single-celled organisms that can’t be seen with the naked eye. They include organisms like BACTERIA and fungi, and can be found everywhere...even in the human body!
Most microbes are actually helpful, but there are some which can have repercussions on your health. Certain bacteria can cause infections and skin issues — like C. ACNES, which contributes to acne breakouts.
There is an entire world inside your body, and it’s called your microbiome! This world is inhabited by MICROBES like BACTERIA, fungi, and occasionally viruses. Many of these microbes are beneficial to your health, working together with your body to maintain balance.
But sometimes harmful microbes enter the picture, or something occurs to throw your microbiome off-kilter. For example, you might catch a cold. Or a course of antibiotics might kill some of the helpful bacteria in your gut. In these cases, your microbiome will need to restore its natural equilibrium.
Also referred to as “collagen induction therapy,” microneedling is intended to stimulate COLLAGEN for smoother, firmer skin. During the procedure, dozens of pinpricks are created in your skin with tiny needles. Enthusiasts believe that the healing process from these tiny wounds will encourage the development of new collagen in their complexion.
It is sometimes used in conjunction with other skincare procedures, like PRP TREATMENTS.
The term “micronutrients” is just another way to describe the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function. They are referred to as “micro” because they are required in slightly smaller amounts than MACRONUTRIENTS. Still essential, this category includes all the familiar vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, Vitamins A, B, C, etc.
Many of these micronutrients are crucial to support healthy, acne-free skin, and can be easily worked into your everyday diet.
In theory, natural skincare suggests products free from harsh, synthetic chemicals like artificial scents, dyes, and preservatives. But since this term isn’t strictly regulated by the FDA, it can be misleading. Look for additional signs of a natural company’s integrity:
- Do they list all of their ingredients (without hiding behind vague labels like “fragrance”)?
- Do they explain the purpose of the minerals and botanicals they’ve chosen?
- Do they share real customer testimonials?
- Do they have other environmentally-conscious certifications, like cruelty-free awards from reputable organizations?
Try to get a total picture of the company, its transparency, and its commitment to those natural goals.
(Does Averr Aglow meet these standards? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.)
Nodular acne appears with hard lesions called NODULES. They can pop up one by one as single blemishes, or in rash-like breakouts with multiple nodules. Because nodular acne develops deep within the skin, these breakouts can linger for weeks or months at a time.
Acne nodules are firm lumps beneath the skin that do not come to a head like typical acne blemishes. They may appear red or skin-toned, and be painful to the touch. Nodules cannot be popped, and attempting to pop one will only increase INFLAMMATION and your risk of scarring.
Nodules often appear with CYSTS in a form of breakout called NODULOCYSTIC ACNE, but should not be confused — nodules and cysts are very different beasts.
Nodulocystic acne is a severe form of acne breakout that appears with both NODULES and CYSTS. It is most common on the face, chest, shoulders, and back. Women who develop nodulocystic acne often see breakouts centered around their chin and jawline, but this form of acne is actually most likely to affect men in their teens and twenties.
As with NODULAR and CYSTIC acne breakouts, a nodulocystic flare-up can last for weeks or months.
Non-comedogenic is a product label meant to indicate that the product avoids pore-clogging ingredients...and by extension, doesn’t contribute to acne.
Unfortunately, the term “non-comedogenic” isn’t regulated in the US, calling its credibility into question. There is no standard of ingredients that these products must or must not contain, and there’s no guarantee that products with this label will prevent your breakouts.
In skincare, occlusive ingredients are thick, moisturizing substances that form a barrier over your skin. Often oil-based, prime examples of occlusives include paraffin, mineral oil, petroleum jelly, and coconut oil.
Occlusives are excellent for dry or prematurely aging complexions, but not so great for acne-prone skin, which tends toward oily already. Using occlusives on oily skin can not only make you super shiny, but they can mix with dead skin cells to clog pores and start breakouts.
Omega-3s are FATTY ACIDS considered an essential part of a healthy diet. Intake of omega-3s has been linked to improved heart health and reduced inflammation.
For those of us struggling with acne, fighting inflammation with omega-3s may help reduce the duration and severity of our breakouts. But the human body doesn’t create omega-3s on its own, so be sure to include a sufficient amount in your diet!
Like OMEGA-3s, omega-6s are essential FATTY ACIDS that are good for heart health. Unlike omega-3s, you don’t need to go out of your way to include them in your diet. Omega-6s are common in foods like nuts and oils, and the modern Western diet already contains more than you will possibly need.
Omega-6s and omega-3s work best in a particular ratio, and omega-3 is usually falling short. So some sources urge you to cut back on omega-6s. But don’t worry too much about that — Harvard experts instead recommend consuming additional omega-3s to improve your balance.
As it relates to skincare, “organic” is meant to imply that the ingredients in that product have not been genetically modified or exposed to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
However, the FDA does not regulate the term “organic” for cosmetics, so products in the US have a lot of leeway in how they use it on their label. Just because a product calls itself organic doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best choice for your skin!
OTC simply refers to any products that can be purchased without a prescription, such as medications or topical skincare. Think: Tylenol (OTC) vs. Vicodin (prescription).
Oxidative stress occurs when your body is unable to counteract cell damage caused by FREE RADICALS. The free radicals damage cells by stealing their electrons, and then those damaged cells try to repair themselves by stealing from other cells, setting off a domino effect of cell damage. This domino effect is oxidative stress.
Some of this damage can be prevented thanks to ANTIOXIDANTS in food and skincare products. But left unchecked, oxidative stress can prematurely age skin and lead to serious conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart failure.
See C. ACNES.
Acne papules are tiny red bumps on your skin, measuring smaller than 5 millimeters in diameter. (Around ⅕ of an inch.) They occur when a pore becomes clogged, and your body reacts with inflammation.
After a few days, papules usually evolve like Pokemon into another kind of blemish called a PUSTULE, at which point they fill with pus and take on a yellow or white tone at the center.
Parabens are a type of preservative often used in skincare and cosmetics to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria, extending products’ shelf-life.
But recently, consumers have started avoiding parabens due to health concerns. Parabens are ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS, meaning they can interfere with the normal balance of your HORMONES. This can impact fertility, harm your reproductive organs, and increase the risk of cancer. Parabens are also linked with skin irritation.
The pH scale is a scientific tool that measures the acidity of a substance. In skincare, pH-balanced products try to work with your skin’s natural pH level, which is just slightly acidic.
Products or tap water with a too-high pH can disrupt natural barriers, making it harder for your skin to retain moisture and repel harmful bacteria. It can indirectly contribute to acne by drying out your complexion, causing overproduction of SEBUM and leaving you vulnerable to C. ACNES BACTERIA.
To recover from a pH imbalance, experts recommend the use of a toner like our Luminous Complexion Toner.
Prebiotic fiber is a type of plant fiber that your body can’t digest. This is actually a good thing, because that intact fiber then helps the growth of helpful PROBIOTIC bacteria, improving your digestive health and helping control your blood sugar.
Both probiotics and prebiotic fiber are considered important nutrients in a clear-skin diet. Prebiotic fiber empowers the probiotics, and they in turn empower your body to prevent acne breakouts before they start.
Probiotics are helpful bacteria and yeasts that live in your body, helping everything run smoothly. They support digestion, fight off harmful bacteria, and help your body maintain peak working conditions.
For an easy health-boost, probiotics can be consumed in foods like pickles, miso, and certain types of yogurt. They are an important part of a clear-skin diet, and may help prevent acne by relieving INFLAMMATION and balancing INSULIN levels.
PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma)
PRP is a component of human blood with a heavy concentration of platelets, cells which help with clotting and wound recovery. It is sometimes used in PRP facials, aka VAMPIRE FACIALS, which supposedly give skin a youthful glow.
Psoriasis is a recurring skin condition that most commonly appears around the knees, elbows, scalp, and lower back. The condition causes red, scaly patches, which may feel itchy or sore. These patches may be small and scattered, or cover large areas of skin.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but it often goes through a cycle of flare-ups and remission. Certain topical ingredients, like jojoba oil, can also help treat the appearance and discomfort of a psoriasis flare-up.
Phthalates are chemical preservatives that commonly appear in skincare, haircare, and artificial fragrances. They’re banned from use in European cosmetics, but are still found in most American skincare products.
The problem with phthalates is that they are ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS, which interfere with our HORMONE levels and can cause serious HORMONAL IMBALANCE. They’ve even been linked with various cancers and toxicities.
Phthalates are especially dangerous for pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers, and should be avoided.
Purging is a process that occurs when a skincare product speeds up your skin cell turnover. This increased turnover begins to expose lower layers of skin, as well as any problems which may be brewing beneath the surface. This often results in a temporary period of dry skin or extreme breakouts.
For example, a buried buildup of oil and skin flakes that would have caused you a pimple in two weeks gets unearthed early, causing that pimple now.
Purging doesn’t cause new problems, though, and is centered in areas where you already experience regular breakouts. Plus, blemishes uncovered by purging tend to appear and disappear faster than pimples left to develop beneath your skin. This cleans out hidden skin problems, making way for a clearer, healthier complexion.
Refined Carbohydrates (Simple Carbohydrates)
Refined carbohydrates are foods containing processed sugars and grains, such as white bread, pasta, white rice, fruit juice, and sweet cereals. They are sometimes called “simple” carbohydrates because they are broken down quickly by your digestive system, and converted into sugars that absorb into the bloodstream.
Refined carbs are connected not only with health problems like obesity and type-2 diabetes, but also with the formation of acne. If you consume a meal high in refined carbs, the influx of sugar raises INSULIN levels in your bloodstream. This insulin then triggers increased oil production in your skin, which can lead to breakouts.
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives used for ANTI-AGING or acne-fighting purposes. Some are prescribed as oral medication, while others are synthesized into topical treatments like creams and serums.
While some users find retinoids effective, they can also present side-effects. The most common side-effects on skin include excessive dryness, sun sensitivity, and irritation, but prolonged use may also inhibit the skin’s natural defensive barrier. And retinoid users with dark complexions sometimes report HYPERPIGMENTATION.
Retinoids are particularly discouraged from use by pregnant women, due to potential complications.
Rosacea is a chronic skin condition characterized by reddened skin and visible blood vessels across the face. It may also produce red, pus-filled bumps that are commonly mistaken for ACNE VULGARIS. Rosacea comes and goes, sometimes flaring up for weeks or months before disappearing.
Though rosacea isn’t dangerous, it can affect confidence and mental health, and is most common in light-skinned, middle-aged women. There is no cure for the condition, but the symptoms and redness can be managed with some treatments.
Salicylic acid is often used as a topical skin treatment for conditions like acne or psoriasis. The acidity is intended to exfoliate thick, dry skin and unblock pores.
But if you have a sensitive complexion, salicylic acid may be too harsh. While some users are able to try it without irritation, salicylic acid often strips away too much skin oil, resulting in skin that is dry, itchy, or stinging. It may also cause skin peeling or hives.
Additionally, over-drying from the use of salicylic acid can actually spur your skin to produce more oil, creating a new batch of acne breakouts.
Sebaceous filaments are natural structures that help SEBUM (skin oil) reach the surface of your skin, keeping it protected and moisturized. Long and thin, these filaments line the inside of your pores like a tube.
If your body overproduces sebum, it can fill up the sebaceous filament and enlarge the appearance of your pores, resembling a dark yellow or gray dot on your skin. So if you have an oily complexion, it is easy to mistake sebaceous filaments for pore blockages like BLACKHEADS.
Sebaceous glands lay beneath your skin, producing natural skin oil called SEBUM. This oil is released into your hair follicles to protect and hydrate your skin and hair. Sebaceous glands exist all over your body, with anywhere from 2,500 to 6,000 sebaceous glands per square inch of skin.
Sebum is the natural skin oil produced by your SEBACEOUS GLANDS. It is released into your hair follicles to keep your hair and skin moisturized and protected. Sebum also helps defend your skin against UV RADIATION and BACTERIA.
However, too much sebum can contribute to acne by gluing together dead skin cells and blocking pores. In fact, excess sebum is considered one of the central building blocks of acne breakouts. That’s why oil-balancing products are so key in an effective anti-acne skin routine.
Serotonin is the feel-good hormone. It impacts many processes in your body, including your mood, sleep, and digestion. A good balance is key, as too little serotonin can lead to depression, and too much can lead to neurological disease.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, or in other words, how well a product will protect your skin from the sun. SPF is found in sunscreen, but is sometimes also added to makeup and other skincare products.
Incorporating SPF into your skincare is extra important for sensitive skin. Not only does it protect your skin from sunburns and cancer-causing radiation, but from drying sun damage that can worsen acne breakouts!
Squalane (with an A) is an oil used in skincare products to help retain moisture. It is a version of a natural fat called SQUALENE (with an E) that is already produced by our skin, but squalane is processed to be more shelf stable.
Squalane is best suited for complexions that are mature or chronically dry. But if you have oily, acne-prone skin, squalane could make your complexion worse.
Squalene (with an E) is a fat produced by your skin to keep your face hydrated. It is a component of SEBUM, the natural oil that protects and moisturizes your complexion.
Some skincare products incorporate squalene, but it is more often replaced by a similar ingredient called SQUALANE (with an A). Squalene loses its benefits when exposed to oxygen, so its effectiveness in skincare is limited.
The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of your skin, the part you can see and touch. It’s made up of about 20 layers of skin cells, depending on the part of your body. (For example, the skin around your eyes tends to be thinner with less layers, while areas like your back and heels will be thicker and incorporate more layers.)
The stratum corneum is your skin’s defensive layer, and helps protect your body from dehydration, BACTERIA, and environmental toxins.
Sulfates are a type of SURFACTANT, harsh detergents use in soaps to create suds. Sulfates are a sensory ingredient included to provide a foamy texture for cleansers, but don’t provide actual benefit to your skin.
On the contrary, sulfates can dehydrate and damage your skin, and are especially discouraged for anyone with a sensitive complexion. Two common sulfates to look for on ingredient lists are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).
Short for SURFace ACTive agENT, surfactants are a type of ingredient used to help water-based and oil-based ingredients mix. They’re often found in cleansers, especially those that promise a foamy texture. However, surfactants can be very drying for sensitive skin and are not recommended.
A synthetic substance is artificially created, not grown or harvested from nature. Or, it may be a naturally harvested ingredient that was heavily processed and altered, until it no longer closely resembles its natural state.
Synthetic ingredients are usually used to mimic a natural ingredient in a more cost-effective way. Not all synthetic substances are dangerous for your skin and health, but many can be, especially when manufacturers sacrifice quality to cut costs.
Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal ingredient used in products to prevent any bacterial growth. While that sounds good in theory, triclosan is an ENDOCRINE DISRUPTOR, meaning it can agitate the delicate balance of your HORMONES. This hormone disruption can lead to a variety of health issues, including an increase in acne breakouts.
Short for ultraviolet radiation, UV radiation is a form of radiation that comes naturally from the sun or artificially from tanning beds. While it can help increase vitamin D levels, too much can lead to health problems like sunburn and skin cancer.
Contrary to popular rumor, UV radiation and sun exposure are also bad for acne. In fact, too much sun can make your breakouts worse!
A vampire facial uses your own blood as a cosmetic, hoping to provide skin with a plump and youthful glow. PLATELET-RICH PLASMA (aka PRP) is extracted from the blood and then injected back into your face by syringe or absorbed through a process called MICRONEEDLING.
Enthusiasts suggest that PRP may help scarring, sagging, wrinkles, hair loss, and acne. Does it work, though? Evidence still pending.
Veganism is the act of abstaining from animal products or byproducts of any kind. As such, vegan skincare companies don’t test on animals or use any animal products or byproducts in their formulations. This excludes not only ingredients like milk, but also less obvious ingredients like honey, beeswax, and gelatin.
Whiteheads are blemishes known as COMEDONES, and are very common to acne. Specifically, whiteheads are closed comedones, which occur when a layer of dead skin covers a clogged pore. The clog develops pus and appears white.
Open comedones, on the other hand, are referred to as BLACKHEADS.
Both types can be treated with Averr Aglow's clarifying skincare line, made with nourishing products designed to heal acne-prone complexions from within.
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