Grooming isn’t rocket science. But when faced with advertising jargon or a never-ending list of ingredients, it can be hard to know what to look out for. That’s why we’ve put together an A-Z list of some of the most commonly used terms and ingredients used in the men’s grooming world…
Male Grooming Terminology
A common skin condition usually characterised by pimples, spots or blemishes on the face, chest or back. Though commonly linked to the change in hormone levels during puberty, acne can occur at any age and is usually caused build-up of oil or the presence of bacteria deep within the skin’s pores.
Substances that can kill or prevent bacteria. Also used as preservatives in cosmetics.
A natural or synthetic substance that inhibits oxidation and fights off free radicals (molecules that cause damage to the skin). Incredibly important in skin care products, the likes of vitamin A, C or E, as well as lecithin, tocopherol, and citric acid, are some of the most common antioxidants used in male grooming.
A chemical substance used to shrink or contract the pores of the skin, resulting in less oil production. Astringent skincare products are particularly suited to oily skin types but can be harsh on dry skin.
Ingredients that derived from plants or herbs, such as aloe, chamomile and eucalyptus. Often used in skincare products for their fragrance, some botanicals also have soothing or healing properties.
Products used to remove dirt and oils, makeup, sun cream and dead skin cells. Usually applied then removed with wiping or rinsing, cleansers are meant to clean skin without stripping the top layer.
The main structural protein found in skin. Collagen production slows down with age and causes wrinkles and sagging skin. Widely used in purified forms in anti-ageing products.
Technical term for a blackheads. If a product is labelled ‘non-comedogenic,’ it has been tested on users prone to acne.
The soft/dead skin at the base of a fingernail or toenail, where the skin and nail meet.
The layer of skin directly beneath the epidermis. Contains hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands, apocrine glands and blood vessels.
Products which have the quality of softening or soothing the skin by restoring the moisture balance. Emollients do so by supplying fats and oils that blend in with skin, repairing some of the cracks and forming a protective film that traps water in the skin. Along with humectants, emollients are the primary effective ingredients in moisturisers.
The surface of the skin, overlying the dermis.
Removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin.
While we’ll leave the science behind them to people who know better, all you need to know is that free radicals cause damage to your skin. Exposure to sunlight, stress, poor nutrition and smoking can all lead to increased free radical formation. Antioxidants like AGR and Vitamins C and E are used in products to combat them.
A product that is less likely to provoke an allergic reaction. Hypoallergenic products are more suitable for those who have sensitive skin.
A substance in a product which reduces the loss of moisture.
Though many think manscaping is about trimming your pubic region, in essence, it’s the removal or trimming of any hair on a male’s body for cosmetic purposes.
The natural colouring of the skin that protects it from damage in sunlight. More melanin is produced in response to ultraviolet radiation, leading to a darker skin tone – a tan.
Used to describe a product that will not clog the pores. Often found moisturisers, creams or body lotions, it’s useful for those prone to acne or oily skin.
A moisturiser that deposits oil or silicone on the surface of the skin to prevent moisture from evaporating. Suited to dry skin types.
Products labelled ‘Certified Organic’ have been tested and approved by a third party. It’s important to remember that there are no legal guidelines when adding just the word ‘organic’ to product packaging, regardless of its contents.
A small opening on the surface of the skin that secretes sweat or oil.
The natural oil your skin produces through the sebaceous gland.
A concentrated liquid with active ingredients that penetrates deep into your skin to treat specific skin conditions, such as ageing, pigmentation or dry skin.
A term used to describe to what degree a scent lingers.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
A measure of the effectiveness of a sun cream. The higher the SPF, the better the protection against UVB radiation. An SFP rating (factor 15, factor 30 etc.) indicates how long it will take for UVB to redden/burn skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long skin would take to redden without it. So for example, an SPF of 15 will take 15 times longer to redden than without the sunscreen.
When it comes to sun cream, one of the main points of confusion is the difference between ultraviolet A sunrays (UVA) and ultraviolet B sunrays (UVB). Generally speaking; UVA is responsible for long term skin damage, such as wrinkles, sunspots and skin cancer. In the UK, you should be aware that SPF ratings only take into account UVB rays. The UVA Star Rating system, however, is incredibly important and should always be taken into consideration when buying a cream. Look out for the UVA star guide on your sun cream; if it doesn’t have one, it shouldn’t be trusted.
Over exposure to UVB can burn your skin. The higher the SPF of your sun cream, the better the protection against UVB radiation and the less likely you are to get burnt.
Male Grooming Ingredients
Acai is a nutrient-dense fruit that’s often used as an oil to nourish cells and thwart skin damage. Thanks to their high antioxidant content, studies have shown that acai berries can have benefits for your brain, heart and overall health.
Aldehydes are used in fragrances to make perfumes more robust and offer potency. They can be found in natural materials, such as rose, citronella, cinnamon bark and orange peel, but can also be made synthetically.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA's)
Naturally occurring or synthetic compounds that are widely used in skincare products as an exfoliant. With used over time, they can reduce signs of ageing and make your skin smoother and more toned. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the most commonly used AHA’s used.
Aloe vera is widely used in cosmetics thanks to its natural cleansing and moisturising properties. Regularly used in anti-ageing products, it’s also it’s one of the leading therapies for sunburn.
Argan oil is a natural ingredient high in vitamin E and fatty acids. As it absorbs easily and is non-greasy/non-irritating, argan oil is most commonly used in moisturisers to hydrate and soften skin. It’s also used in hair products to fight dandruff and dry scalps.
Used in a wide range of products, beeswax helps to keep an emulsion from separating into its oil and liquid components, ensuring a creamy consistency. They also thicken products.
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA’s)
The lesser-known cousins of AHA’s, Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA’s) usually appear as salicylic acid and are useful in the fight against acne or sensitive skins.
Butane (alongside Isobutane and Propane) is colourless, odorless gas used in cosmetics as an aerosol propellant.
Similar to lanolin (only derived from goats), cashmere and its related ingredients moisturise the skin, hair and nails. It also acts as a skin lubricant, gives skin a soft and smooth appearance.
Derived from the seed of the Ricinus communis plant, castor oil is used as a skin conditioning agent and an emulsion stabiliser in cosmetics.
Citronellol is a natural ingredient added to products as a fragrance thanks to its sweet, floral scent.
One of the most widely used ingredients in cosmetics, dimethicone works as an anti-foaming agent, skin protectant and conditioner. Used by manufacturers primarily as it’s easily so spreadable, it forms a hydrating barrier on the skin, which prevents water loss and inflammation.
Eucalyptus oil is widely used in cosmetics due to the eucalyptol it contains. Eucalyptol is not only an effective antiseptic but it’s also highly aromatic, making it ideal for use in the likes of deodorants.
Formaldehyde is a colourless, flammable gas that is mainly used as a preservative. In male grooming products, it mainly comes in the form of a liquid called formalin. Many dermatologists advise avoiding formaldehyde wherever possible as it can cause skin irritation and research suggests it’s also a carcinogen (a substance capable of causing cancer).
Glycerol is a natural or synthetic emulsifier and humectant. Able to absorb and retain moisture in the skin, it’s regularly found in moisturisers, hand creams, body creams and soaps, helping the skin with dryness and flaking.
Hyaluronic acid is used in anti-ageing products to tighten the skin.
An ingredient that supplies the skin with water by attracting moisture from the air and holding it on the skin. Typically found in skin serums and moisturisers.
When applied to skin, Jojoba oil locks in moisture and fends off free radicals, preventing skin damage. It’s commonly used to treat acne, psoriasis and sunburn.
Thanks to its antiseptic qualities, juniper is used to treat oily or dry skin, as well as those with acne. It’s often used in men’s products thanks to its woody, more masculine aroma.
Derived from sheep’s wool, hydrolysed keratin protein is regularly used in hair products as it can not only help aid the growth of stronger hair, but it also increases your hair’s moisture retention.
Derived from wool that’s been sheared from sheep, lanolin and its related ingredients moisturise the skin, hair and nails. It also acts as a skin lubricant, gives skin a soft and smooth appearance.
Macadamia oil is rich in essential fatty acids, such as palmitoleic acid, which helps prevent premature ageing, and Oleic Acid, which helps to prevent trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). It’s therefore ideal for skin moisturisers and in hair care products where the fatty acids also add shine and strengthen hairs.
Ideal for dry skin and frizzy/thick hair, marula oil contains a perfect balance of moisture and fatty acids to keep the skin hydrated. It’s also known to improve skin elasticity for women during pregnancy.
Mentha piperita (also known as peppermint) is well-renowned for its antiseptic and analgesic properties in cosmetics. Thanks to these properties, mint is extremely stimulating and soothing to the skin skin.
Parabens are a group of synthetic chemicals that protect products from growing bacteria or mould. Usually listed as butyl-, ethyl-, isobutyl-, methyl- or propyl-paraben, parabens have a bad reputation among some scientists with certain studies linking them to breast cancer and erectile dysfunction.
Parfum is a highly concentrated solution of fragrant essential oils. They give a product its distinct smell.
Peptides are a chain of amino acids which prevent skin from showing signs of ageing through wrinkles and loose skin.
Another famous fighter against anti-ageing, retinol (Vitamin A) aims to restore skin cells to their younger self; improving firmness, fine lines, wrinkles, skin tone and acne.
Rice is often broken down and used as a natural exfoliant in products.
Shea butter is used regularly in grooming and cosmetic products thanks to its moisturising and softening properties. The nut is comprised of Vitamins A and E, which soothe and hydrate skin and boost collagen, while the Vitamin F in shea butter contains essential fatty acids which help to protect and heal damaged skin.
Soybean oil is used in cosmetics as an emollient and emulsifier, and contains natural antioxidants.
Steareth 21 is a polyethylene glycol made from stearic acid and is used as an emulsifier.
Commonly known as Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Ammonium Laureth Sulphate (ALS), sulphates provide shampoos, shaving creams and soaps with thick, foamy lather. SLS especially, however, is seen as an environmental toxin with strong evidence that it can irritate skin.
Talc is a mineral substance used in various products to absorb moisture, smooth or soften products.
Tangerine peel is a fragrant citrus oil that’s often used in cosmetics thanks to its fragrance but also due to its skin sensitising properties.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is well known for its natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It also soothes the likes of rashes, burns and acne.
Also known as Vitamin E, tocopherol is a fat-soluble compound which acts as an antioxidant, protecting the skin from free-radicals. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and naturally moisturises the skin. It’s found in most beauty products and can be effective in reducing damage caused by UV rays from the sun.
Tribehenin is used in cosmetics as a lubricant and humectant. It’s found in animal and vegetable fats and oils such as palm-nut and coconut oils, and is used as a conditioning agent in a wide variety of products.
As it doesn’t dissolve in water and is naturally finely crushed, volcanic ash is a superb natural exfoliant which is also rich in minerals. It is widely used in scrubs thanks to its purification and cleaning qualities.
Walnut and its related ingredients are natural emollients and moisturisers. They help to keep skin smooth and soothed.
Willow Bark and its extracts are a natural exfoliant containing salicylic acid (a BHA), useful in the fight against acne or sensitive skins. They can also stimulate new cell formation.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana) is used in cosmetics as a skin conditioning agent. It helps to reduce flaking of the skin and restores suppleness.