Glossary of technical terms
Active ingredient cosmetics sometimes uses a confusing number of technical terms from very different areas of science. As we mainly work with herbal active ingredients, botany has provided many words in our language use. But of course we cannot do without the technical terms from medicine and especially dermatological research. In our glossary for the technical terms of cosmetics you will find the most important terms and their explanation.v
In skin medicine, abrasive means abrading or rubbing off, i.e. the property of a substance to remove the top layer of skin.
In cosmetics, abrasive products are used for acne treatment on the one hand because of their massaging effect. In addition, abrasive creams or cleansers have an anti-ageing effect: dead skin cells and scales are removed and the circulation and regeneration of skin cells is supported. Examples of abrasive products are almond bran or masks with Dead Sea salt or enzymes
In cosmetics, natural active ingredients are defined as ingredients that are vegetable or plant-based. In organic cosmetics, they come from biodynamic or controlled organic cultivation and wild collections.
Unlike natural active substances, synthetic active substances are waste products from oil refineries, such as paraffin or vaseline. In natural cosmetics, these substances are completely dispensed with.
An antioxidant is a substance that protects the organism from reactive oxygen species, the so-called free radicals, and thus the body from oxidative stress. Free radicals play an essential role in the ageing process of the skin. Antioxidants therefore have an anti-aging effect on the skin.
Antioxidants can render free radicals harmless by absorbing or releasing an electron themselves without further reaction.
Important antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, trace elements such as selenium and numerous plant substances such as carotenoids, flavonoids and anthocyanins. Argan oil is particularly rich in natural antioxidants.
Astringent means contracting. Astringent agents are also called astringents. On contact with the skin or mucous membranes, they have a drying effect through protein precipitation, have a haemostatic but also an anti-inflammatory effect and thus promote wound healing. Typical natural astringents are tanning agents.
Substance that stimulates or accelerates a reaction in a living organism, e.g. enzymes, hormones, vitamins, trace elements.
In dermatology, broad-spectrum filters are used to describe light protection substances that have a broad spectrum of activity in the UVA and UVB range. These are usually physical light protection substances such as micropigments, which act by reflecting and scattering UV rays on the pigments and have a broad spectrum of activity. Sun creams approved in Europe must protect against both UVA and UVB rays, i.e. they must have a broad spectrum filter. The prescribed UVA protection must correspond to at least one third of the UVB filter.
Quantitative elements are minerals which, in contrast to trace elements, occur in a concentration of at least 50 mg per kilogram of dry body mass. Trace elements are below this concentration. The bulk elements include calcium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium, sodium and phosphorus.
The cell membrane is a membrane of lipids and proteins that separates each cell from its environment and thus enables an internal environment to be maintained. It is also known as the cytomembrane or plasma membrane.
A cell nucleus is a cell organelle located in the cell or cytoplasm, usually roundish in shape. The cell nucleus is separated from the cell plasma by a double membrane. The cell's genetic material in the form of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is located in the nucleus. The cell nucleus is the main distinguishing feature between living beings with a delimited cell nucleus, the eukaryotes and living beings without a delimited cell nucleus (e.g. bacteria), the prokaryotes. The cell nucleus is the control centre of the cell.
All cells have common basic structures: a cell membrane that forms a barrier to their environment, a nucleus that contains genetic information, and a cytoplasmic space in which the cell organelles are stored. These include the mitochondria, which are used to provide energy, the Golgi apparatus, the endoplasmic reticulum, the chloroplasts and the ribosomes where the production of proteins takes place. The cells and all their structures are made up of biomolecules, namely water, mineral salts, proteins, fats or lipids, sugars and nucleic acids.
Prof. Charouff Zoubida is a professor at the Mohammed V University in Rabat (Morocco). She has studied Moroccan medicinal plants and the possibility of using their ingredients in nutrition and cosmetics. This woman was the driving force behind the first argan oil cooperative in Morocco, which today provides 2,500 women with work and a source of income. She has written more than 100 technical reports and articles on argan oil.
The collagen family consists of a number of proteins, which make up about a quarter of the total amount of protein in the human organism. More than 28 different types of collagen have now been identified. Collagen I plays the most important role in the skin.
Collagen is the most important fibrous component of the skin: here it is responsible for the firmness of the skin and, together with elastic fibres, for its elasticity.
In the course of the ageing process, but also due to external factors such as UV rays, collagen is broken down, causing the skin to sag. Vitamin C is necessary for the body's own collagen production.
Comedogenic means the property of an ingredient to promote the development of impurities, pimples and acne. People with a tendency to acne should therefore avoid comedogenic ingredients in cosmetics. An example of a comedogenic ingredient is the paraffin oil contained in many conventional detergents.
Controlled organic farming is a form of agriculture that places as little burden on the environment as possible. The use of chemical pesticides, mineral fertilisers and genetic engineering, which are commonplace in conventional agriculture, is avoided. As a result, the products are also less polluted than conventionally produced products.
According to the "Council Regulation (EEC) No. 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products" (in short EC Organic Regulation) the term controlled organic is explicitly protected. Therefore, you can be sure that products labelled in this way meet the criteria set by the EU.
Diethanolamines (DEA) and triethanolamines (TEA) are colourless or crystalline alcohols used in solvents, emulsifiers and detergents. DEA is added to body lotions and skin care products as emollient or humectant. If DEAs are processed together with nitrates, they react chemically with each other, which can lead to the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. Recent studies show a carcinogenic potential even without nitrate compounds. These products should also not be contained in any cosmetics because of their skin and mucous membrane irritating potential. Both substances are often used in conventional cosmetics because they are cheap to produce and easy to process. These substances are not used in natural cosmetics.
The dermis is the connective tissue layer of the skin, rich in collagen fibres, which is located under the epidermis. It consists of two layers, the reticular layer (stratum reticulare) and the cone layer (stratum papillare).
The dermis contains hair follicles, nerves, sebaceous glands, sweat glands and blood vessels.
Ecocert Standard was developed in 2002 for natural and organic cosmetics and is state-registered. Its implementation is monitored by governmental agencies. The standard defines and promotes a higher level of quality for cosmetic products than the minimum legal requirements and guarantees the use of natural and organic ingredients to protect the environment. Ingredients are obtained from renewable resources and produced by environmentally friendly processes, and preference is given to ingredients from organic farming.
Elastin is an elastic fibre protein and one of the most important structural proteins of the human body. It is found in the lungs, blood vessels and skin and gives elasticity to these organs.
During the ageing process, elastic fibres are also broken down, causing the skin to become flabbier with age and - following the laws of gravity - to sag.
Elastin occurs together with other structural proteins such as collagen.
Emulsifiers are substances that make it possible to mix components that are actually not mixable with each other. They are characterised by having both a fat-loving (lipophilic) and a water-loving (hydrophilic) part in their molecule. Thanks to these two sides, the emulsifier can combine one water particle and one fat particle. The resulting mixture is called an emulsion. Emulsifiers play a major role in the production of creams.
In cosmetics, emulsifiers are used as auxiliary agents, especially for creams, lotions and ointments, with the aim of mixing both aqueous and oily skin care substances into an emulsion. An everyday emulsifier is egg yolk, a well-known emulsion mayonnaise.
The epidermis is the uppermost cornified layer of skin in which there are neither nerves nor vessels. It consists of over 90% of cells that form horny skin, the so-called keratinocytes. Keratin, the horny substance formed by these cells, has a water-repellent effect and provides the skin with protection and stability.
The epidermis can be divided into several sections (from inside to outside):
This process removes flakes of skin and toxins, and the skin regenerates more quickly as young cells are reproduced in greater numbers. The skin also becomes more even. An example of exfoliating ingredients on a natural basis are argan fruit shells and enzymes.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is assigned to the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and is responsible, among other things, for providing scientific advice to the Federal Government on issues of food safety, product safety, contaminants in the food chain and consumer health protection. This institute also deals with questions on the safety of cosmetics and the safety of nanotechnology in cosmetics and issues corresponding recommendations (e.g. on ingredients such as parabens).
Flavonoids are a group of plant substances. Some of the flavonoids are flower dyes and chemically speaking polyphenols. There are over 6000 known compounds. They are found in many plant foods and medicinal plants, e.g. in tea. Flavonoids have an antioxidant effect and can thus slow down ageing processes.
The abbreviation FSC stands for "Forest Stewardship Council", an international non-profit organisation that has developed a system for the certification of sustainable forest management. Paper or wood bearing this seal comes from sustainably managed forests. Corresponding products are marked with the following logo.
There are natural or synthetic gel formers which thicken cosmetics but are also suitable for the production of gels. Xanthan gum is an example of a vegetable gelling agent.
The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) is a non-profit association that promotes nutritional research, which evaluates and publishes data. According to its statutes, a second essential objective is nutritional counselling and education in the service of the health of the population. The DGE supports a complete diet as the basis for needs-based, health-promoting food and drink. The DGE explains how a complete diet can be implemented in practice through the 10 rules for a complete diet (see http://www.dge.de/ernaehrungspraxis/vollwertige-ernaehrung/10-regeln-der-dge/en/ ), the DGE Nutrition Circle and the three-dimensional DGE food pyramid.
Depression in the epidermis from which the hair sprouts; extends to the dermis from where the hair is nourished.
Protective acid mantle of the skin consisting of watery sweat and sebum fat layer with horny scales, the pH value is in the slightly acidic range.
In all countries of the European Union, the ingredients of cosmetic products have been uniformly labelled since 1997. The basis is the so-called "INCI nomenclature" (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredients). In the meantime, this labelling has spread beyond Europe: In addition to the USA, it is also legally established in many countries in Asia, South America, Africa and Australia. The INCI labelling provides detailed information about the ingredients of cosmetic products and thus creates a high degree of clarity and transparency.
The horn substance keratin has a water-repellent effect and gives the skin protection and stability. It is formed in the uppermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, by the keratinocytes.
Cornification process: it begins in the epidermis in the granular layer (stratum granulosum)
Indicates the ability of a substance to dissolve horn. In skin creams, these substances, e.g. the enzyme papain from papaya, ensure that skin care substances can be better absorbed into the skin.
Sunscreens contain sunscreens and protect against the negative effects of UV radiation. There are two classes of sunscreens: Organic-chemical sunscreens that protect against radiation by converting harmful UV radiation into harmless heat radiation. Depending on the absorption maximum, there are UVA, UVB or broadband filters. There are also physical light protection substances. These are micropigments that act by reflecting and scattering UV rays at the pigments and usually have a broad spectrum of activity in the UVA and UVB range (so-called broadband filters).
Collective term of organic chemistry for all fats and fat-like substances; in general they are not soluble in water.
Liposomes resemble the walls of skin cells in their structure: they carry a layer of fat on the outside, which has good contact with fats and fat-soluble substances. The "water phase" is directed inwards: There the liposome can hold water and water-soluble substances. Because of this relationship to skin cells, and because liposomes are quite small compared to the former, they can penetrate the skin. Thanks to their grease-friendly surface, the water-soluble active ingredient that they contain inside is transported into the skin, which is also grease-friendly but water-repellent. In this way, active ingredients, e.g. water-soluble vitamins, can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, namely to the living cells of the epidermis, where they can develop their effect.
Yellow-brown to brown-black pigment bound to proteins, which is responsible for the colour of skin, hair and eyes. It is produced by special cells, the melanocytes.
Melanin-forming cells in the basal cell layer of the epidermis.
Mimic muscles are a group of muscles in the area of the face and neck which radiate into the skin above them. Through their movement, we are able to physically express emotions and moods. Over the years, the frequent contraction of the mimic muscles causes typical mimic wrinkles to appear, e.g. on the frown line (technical term: glabella), the forehead and in the area around the eyes (crow's feet). Such wrinkles can be treated by injecting botulinum toxin. There are even tripeptides that have a weaker botox-like effect on the outside.
Besides the main nutrients proteins, fats and carbohydrates, the body needs numerous other elements. With the exception of phosphorus and sulphur, these essential nutrients are taken in inorganic form with food. They are grouped together under the collective term minerals or minerals. Minerals are divided into quantitative and trace elements according to their quantitative proportion in the body.
Moisturizers are substances that help the skin to retain moisture. Glycerine, for example, fulfils this function. There are also very good plant moisturizers, e.g. extracts of aloe vera, algin from brown algae or betaine from sugar beet.
Nanocells are cells that are only about one-fifth the size of a normal cell. Inside, they can transport active substances. In cosmetics, active ingredients can thus be transported deeper into the skin. In medicine, nanocells are the hope for cancer treatment, for example, because they can be used to transport chemotherapeutic agents directly to the cancer cells without burdening the entire organism.
Nanoparticles are particles down to a size of 100 nanometres. Sun creams can contain nanoparticles such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
The term natural cosmetics has not yet been clearly defined and protected by law. Several systems have been developed for the labelling of natural cosmetic products, which are based on various requirements. The current certifications require that vegetable raw materials are at least partially or, where available, organically grown. This also applies, for example, to the certification of the "Bundesverband Deutscher Industrie- und Handelsunternehmen für Arzneimittel, Reformwaren, Nahrungsergänzungsmittel und Körperpflegemittel (BDIH)" (Federal Association of German Industries and Trading Firms for Pharmaceuticals, Healthcare Reform Products, Food Supplements and Personal Hygiene Products). The BDIH standard aims to define the term natural cosmetics in a factually correct and comprehensible way in the interest of the consumer and to create transparency. It is also intended to enable fair competition between manufacturers and distributors of natural cosmetics. The interests of animal and species protection are given special consideration.
Oxidation is a chemical reaction in which one substance gives off one or more electrons to another substance and is thereby oxidised. In medicine, the term oxidation is usually associated with the conversion of atmospheric oxygen and the formation of oxides. For example, food in the body is oxidised in many steps to form endogenous substances, carbon dioxide and water.
Paraffin wax is a waste product from the oil industry. It is not only found in cosmetics, but also in cleaning products, sweets, shoe polish, chewing gum and candles. Paraffin wax is a fossil fuel that is consumed in its manufacture and many experts believe that paraffin wax is also a health hazard, as it provides the necessary fat content for cosmetic products. But the skin cannot breathe and becomes dry. It is also unsuitable for impure skin because of its comedogenic effect.
Because of the unfavourable climate balance and the unfavourable effects on the skin, manufacturers of natural cosmetics do not use this ingredient at all
Parabens are preservatives that are popular with manufacturers of conventional cosmetics because of their low price. Creams are highly perishable and therefore need to contain preservatives. However, parabens in particular are controversial as they enter the body through the skin and have a similar effect to hormones. This is why parabens have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in the past. An official authority, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, considers their use safe as long as the concentration is below 0.4%.
In certified natural cosmetics, this group of preservatives is generally avoided as a preventive measure.
Polyethylene glycols (PEG) and PEG derivatives are effective means of combining fat and moisture. To be able to use this ability in cosmetics, polyethylene glycols are attached to fatty alcohols, esters and oils by means of so-called ethoxylation, which makes them water-soluble. There are liquid as well as soft to solid PEGs. Due to their favourable price and good material properties they are often used in conventional cosmetics. The problem is that ethoxylation is an aggressive chemical reaction process which also produces a large number of substances with undesirable properties, e.g. laureth-9, which is used by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment as a substance which is hazardous to health. In addition, PEGS also react with the skin itself, which thereby loses its barrier function and becomes more permeable to pollutants and pathogens. In the long term, the PEGs can also dry out the skin.
These ingredients are not used in natural cosmetics.
Petroleum jelly is a very effective moisturizer and is therefore often used as an ingredient in creams and lotions. Petroleum jelly is often used as a base for medicinal ointments, and reports of contact dermatitis (skin inflammation) are rare. They belong to the paraffin waxes and are obtained from residues of petroleum distillation. Like paraffins, petroleum jellies include water without having a real skin care effect. Petroleum jelly also has a comedogenic effect. Moreover, its production consumes petroleum, a fossil fuel.
Because of these facts, petroleum jelly is completely avoided in natural cosmetics.
Free radicals are molecules or atoms with a so-called unpaired electron, which are very reactive. Their biological significance is that they put various tissues under oxidative stress and destroy it by initiating a chain reaction. A free radical combines with an existing molecule to form a new molecule. Often the new reaction partner is also released as a free radical and sets a new reaction in motion, thus creating a chain reaction.
Free radicals are associated with ageing processes, the development of degenerative diseases and even cancer. Both UV radiation and ionising radiation cause free radicals. Cigarette smoke contains numerous free radicals.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) also belong to the free radicals and play an essential role in numerous biological processes.
Protection against the effects of radicals is vital, so the body has effective defence and repair mechanisms in the form of vitamins, trace elements, enzymes and hormones or other classes of substances that minimise the harmful effects, e.g. vitamins A, C and E. However, if free radicals are produced too much, the protective mechanisms mentioned above can be overloaded.
Refatting agents are fat-soluble basic substances which are supposed to prevent a possible disturbing effect of detergents on the barrier function of the skin. Therefore, they are particularly contained in shampoos for dry hair (or better said for dry scalp) and in so-called cream soaps. The refatting substances consist of fatty acids (e.g. palmitic, linoleic and oleic acids) and compensate the fat loss caused by cleansing.
Retinol is absorbed in the diet as provitamin A (beta-carotene and other carotenoids).
In cosmetics, the active ingredient is used as an anti-aging agent against wrinkles. In the skin, retinol is converted into vitamin A acid and stimulates the connective tissue cells (fibroblasts) there to produce more substances again, e.g. hyaluronic acid. In addition, it prevents collagen breakdown by inhibiting the enzymes. The positive effect of retinol has been proven in many studies. However, there are people who do not tolerate retinol. Its use is often accompanied by skin irritation and redness.
Skin glands that produce tallow.
Increased secretion of tallow
Reduced secretion of tallow
Tallow, which is produced by the sebaceous glands.
Silicone is a true chameleon: there are short-chain, long-chain or ring-shaped silicones and thus countless applications. You will find silicone in cake tins, for sealing joints in the bathroom, as a breast implant or as a component of a skin cream.
Here, however, the silicone is not undisputed. It forms a kind of water-repellent coat that protects against moisture loss, which is why its addition to hand creams is very popular. It is also contained in body oils as it fixes fragrances to the skin and does not feel greasy. But if there is too much silicone in a cream, sweat accumulates and the skin swells under the film and becomes brittle. In addition, unlike vegetable oils, silicone does not provide any skin care substances of its own. In contrast, avocado oil, for example, contains provitamin A and vitamin E to protect the skin from free radicals, while ARgan oil supports cell regeneration.
For the reasons mentioned above, natural cosmetics do not use silicone at all.
Stabilisers are generally chemical compounds that are added to an unstable system to prevent the transition to a lower energy state. They play an important role in the production of plastics.
In cosmetics, stabilisers are used to stabilise emulsions. They coat the emulsified droplets with a protective film and ensure strong cohesion. For example, sun protection creams contain emulsion stabilizers to prevent the oil and water phases from separating. Starch, dextrins, pectins or proteins are used as stabilisers.
Chemically speaking, sulphates are salts or esters of sulphuric acid. In cosmetics they are mostly found in shampoos, shower gels and foam baths. Sodium lauryl sulphate, which used to be common, has now been almost completely replaced by sodium dodecyl poly(oxyethylene) sulphate (sodium laureth sulphate). Sodium lauryl sulphate is a PEG derivative that is considered to be allergenic and irritating to the skin. However, sodium dodecyl polyoxyethylene sulphate also has skin-irritating and skin-drying properties. In natural cosmetics these substances are not used.
Oily substance consisting of fatty acids, cholesterol and skin cell excretions. It protects against skin infections and greases hair and skin. Technical term: Sebum
Permanent dilation of the capillary vessels of the skin, often around the eyes.
Bioelements occurring in low concentrations, which are essential for life. They are components of enzymes and hormones. Numerous trace elements play an important role in skin metabolism, e.g. manganese, zinc and copper.
The skin stores moisture in the stratum corneum, where the water content is about 10-40%. While the innermost cell layer of the stratum corneum is in contact with the cells of the stratum granulosum, which store up to 70% moisture, its outer layer borders on the drier ambient air. This difference in concentration leads to a continuous release of stored water into the environment. This natural loss of the skin's own moisture is known as "transepidermal water loss". It is increased in certain skin diseases such as neurodermatitis, but also in very dry skin.
According to European law, UV filters are "substances which are exclusively or mainly intended to protect the skin against certain UV radiation by absorbing, reflecting or scattering certain UV radiation". UV filters are distinguished between chemical and physical sun protection filters. Chemical UV filters absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat energy, whereas physical sun protection filters (e.g. pigments) reflect the rays that hit the skin. There are 25 chemical sun filters approved throughout the EU.
Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. With the exception of vitamin D, which the body can produce itself with the help of sunlight, they must be obtained from food. Fat-soluble means that these vitamins do not dissolve in water, but need fat as a transport medium. That is why, for example, the precursor of vitamin A, the carotene from carrots, can be absorbed best if they are eaten with a little oil or fat. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body. They therefore do not have to be taken in as regularly as water-soluble vitamins, but these vitamins can also lead to a harmful oversupply.
Water-soluble vitamins include all vitamins of the B family as well as vitamin C. They are distributed in all water-containing areas of the body, for example in the blood or in the intercellular spaces. Water-soluble vitamins are hardly ever stored in the body - too much is excreted again, so there can be no harmful oversupply. Only vitamin B12 can be stored in the liver.