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Beauty jargon glossary

Let’s be honest: the beauty industry doesn’t make it easy for newcomers. If you’re trying to begin your skin journey, it can be incredibly daunting when influencers are throwing around words like hyaluronic acid and AHAs - it all sounds like something out of a chemistry lab.

We believe skin care should be accessible to all, and that everyone should have full control over what they choose to put on their skin. That’s why we’ve created this guide to common beauty terms to help you decode your skin care. Let's dive in.

Active ingredient - the ingredient that is responsible for the effect of the skin care product e.g. olive squalane found in our Balancer Oil-to-milk Cleanser.

Alpha hydroxy acids* (AHAs) - a type of chemical exfoliant that loosens cells so that they can be removed to reveal new skin cells underneath. 

Antioxidant - a type of ingredient that neutralises free radicals and prevents premature ageing of the skin. Our organic, cold-pressed plant oils are naturally high in antioxidants and the upcycled hemp seed oil in our Ally Blemish Recovery Oil contains 52% more antioxidants than its standard counterpart. 

Alcohols* - help ingredients such as retinol penetrate the skin more effectively, but it does so by breaking down the skin’s barrier which can cause dryness, redness and irritation. You won't find any alcohols in any of our skincare.

Beta hydroxy acids* (BHAs) - working similarly to AHAs, BHAs are chemical exfoliants, but they penetrate deeper into pores than AHAs. This means they are better at unclogging pores.

Ceramides - a type of molecule that makes up to ~50% of your skin’s lipid composition, forming the natural skin barrier. 

Chemical exfoliant* - breaks bonds between dead skin cells so that they can be washed away e.g. AHAs and BHAs

Cleansing - a method of deep cleaning your skin to remove excess sebum, makeup and build up of pollutants from the environment. It’s recommended that you cleanse twice a day, morning and night. Our Balancer Oil-to-milk Cleanser removes both oil-based and water-based debris from the skin. 

Collagen - a very important protein, found in many parts of the body. Its role in the skin is to keep it elastic and plump. Collagen can be broken down by UV rays from the sun and free radicals.

Exfoliation* - the process of removing dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin. This can be achieved by either physical exfoliants or chemical exfoliants.

Fragrance-free - fragrances are common irritants that are found in many skincare products. Always choose fragrance-free where possible, and be aware of ‘unscented’ products as these may just mean a fragrance has been added to mask another smell.

Free radicals - highly reactive molecules found in the environment and pollutants. Antioxidants work against free radicals to prevent them from damaging your skin.

Hyaluronic acid - a molecule naturally found in the skin which draws in water. These are used in skincare products to allow moisture to bind to the skin without leaving a greasy or heavy feeling. You'll find medium molecular weight hyaluronic acid in our Saviour Moisture Mask, which is like a drink for your skin!

Lipid - organic (meaning they contain carbon) compounds that are one of the key building blocks found within your body. Oils are an example of lipids. Our Hero Facial Oil is bursting with natural lipids to restore the skin's barrier.

Microbiome - think of your skin microbiome as a bustling city or a rainforest – like a web of trees, animals and insects – it's comprised of trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa and viruses) that all work together. These protect us against harmful pathogens and aggressors, support and strengthen our skin immunity, and boost the skin's natural barrier function.

Non-comedogenic - if skincare says it’s non-comedogenic, it means it won’t clog pores and cause blemishes. This is very important for those with blemish- or acne-prone skin. Each of our ingredients at By Sarah London is non-comedogenic.

Retinol* - made from vitamin A, these small molecules go deep beneath the outer layer of your skin to neutralise free radicals which boosts collagen production, having a plumping effect. This is often associated with the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Salicylic acid* - a type of BHA that is a common chemical exfoliant, often used to treat acne. It is often too harsh for sensitive skin which is why we formulate with hemp seed oil; it's acne's sustainable alternative to salicylic acid

Skin barrier - the outermost layer of the skin, this regulates water loss from the inside out, retains moisture, and keeps your skin hydrated. It also protects from external threats such as bacteria that can cause inflammation. The full By Sarah London collection has been formulated to support the skin barrier.

SPF - a skin care product that protects your skin from UV rays. The number tells you how long the sun’s radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product as directed versus not using any SPF. Always go for the highest SPF possible, wear it every day, and reapply when needed.

Sulphates* - a common ingredient in skin care and hair care that helps the product to form a lather. These can strip the skin and hair of natural oils, resulting in dry or irritated skin so should be avoided. Our Hair Oil is free from sulphates, silicones and scalp-irritating essential oils.

Toning - a product that helps to rebalance the skin’s pH or can be another way of delivering an active ingredient to the skin. We recommend using a toner that is going to help protect and restore your skin’s barrier, such as our Reviver Hydrating Mist after cleansing with the Balancer Oil-to-milk Cleanser and before applying the Hero Facial Oil

*not recommended for sensitive skin. You will not find these in any By Sarah London products.


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