Following is a glossary of terms commonly used in Aromatherapy and natural product development.

Anti-Oxidants – A natural or synthetic product used to prevent or slow down the process of fats and oils from reacting with oxygen causing rancidity. Natural items used are Vitamin E, Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), Rosemary extract. Please note: An anti-oxidant is not a preservative.

Artificial – With relation to cosmetics, a substance that is synthetic, not originating from nature.

Aromatic – Any substance that has a pleasant smell

Astringent – Any substance that constrict or contracts the skin locally. May be natural or synthetic.

Balsams – One of many forms of oleresins extracted from a variety of trees including benzoin from trees in central America containing benzoic acid or cinnamic acid. Used quite often in soaps, creams, lotions and hair conditioners for their anti-microbial properties.

Barrier Creams – A formulation applied to the skin to provide a protective coating to protect against chemical irritants or harsh elements such as cold wind from reaching the skin. Diaper rash cream is designed to protect the baby’s skin against urine and the bleaching agent in diapers. Most ingredients which will form a barrier are petroleum based. One of the only effective natural ingredients is beeswax or natural lanolin.

Chelating Agents – Used primarily to neutralize the trace metals in water. These trace metals can cause residue, oxidization, separation etc. Many cosmetic companies will use a chelating agent as a cheap alternative to using distilled or purified water which are free of metals and contaminants. Concentrations should be kept to about 5% although many companies will go higher because the water source is so poor. EDTA is one of the most commonly used chemicals.

Collagen – A natural protein substance vital to all skin and connective tissue. As we age or with over-exposure to the sun, collagen production in the body is reduced leading to wrinkles, sagging skin and other signs of aging. Contrary to popular belief, collagen when applied as a topical solution does not improve collagen production in your skin.

Unfortunately, it has been proven that the collagen will eventually leave this area. Skin contains mostly soluble collagen when we are young but gradually evolves into insoluble collagen. Soluble collagen retains moisture, is flexible and swells when hydrated to give the skin a smooth appearance. Insoluble collagen is inflexible, does not retain moisture causing the skin to tighten, wrinkle and dry out easily. Sun, smoking, drug use, diet and topical solutions containing petroleum accelerate the shift to insoluble.

Comedones – Plugs of sebaceous oil and debris that obstruct pores and hair follicles appearing like white-heads or black-heads. Product and ingredients that are listed as “comedogenic” are considered to be culprits in blocking pores.

Cosmetic – The official FDA definition is “Articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled or sprayed on, introduced into, or somehow otherwise applied to the human body for the purpose of cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering the appearance.” The word “cosmetics” is derived from the word “cosmos” which was coined by the Greek mathematician Pythagoras in around 550 BC. The word in its original context referred to the order of the universe and, in its most ancient simple meaning it represented the glorification or adornment of man and woman. According to ancient Egyptian and Greek societies, a person who was physically attractive or beautiful, was said to be in harmony with the universe.

Cutaneous – Referring to or affecting the cutis (deeper layer of skin).

CTFA – Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association

Deodorant – A product to reduce the odour resulting from perspiration. Deodorants do not stop perspiration.

Dermatitis – Inflammation of the skin caused by allergic reactions often caused by contact with cosmetic products containing many synthetic petroleum based ingredients.

Detergent – Generally a soap comprised of many chemicals that strip away oils and proteins while lathering better than soaps. While they do not leave residue like soaps will, they can be rather harsh on the skin due to the higher PH level. They are better suited for washing the hair, clothes or dishes.

Emollient – A substance which is softening and soothing to the skin. This is achieved by preventing water loss on the skin or drawing water towards the skin (see humectant).

Emulsion – The result of mixing two incompatible substances such as oil and water. All creams and lotions are emulsions.

Emulsion Stabilizers / Enhancers – Ingredients which are used in co-ordination with a main emulsifier to stabilize, or enhance the overall look, feel or performance of an emulsion. Some examples are cetyl alcohol, stearic acid, lecithin, clays, gums, lanolin. Generally not recommended to use alone as emulsifier

Emulsifier – A emulsifier is a substance which bonds two incompatible substances together such as vegetable oil and water. Quite often this will be a form of wax which is comprised of fatty acids and alcohol.

EO – Essential Oil

Fatty Acids – Organic oils found in vegetable and animal fats which can be both saturated and non-saturated. Ingredients with high fatty acid contents are excellent emollients for the skin and are generally stable and not prone to rancidity.

FCC – Food, Chemical Codex

FDA – Food and Drug Administration (U.S.A.)

FD&C – Food, Drug and Chemical

FO – Fragrance Oil

Glide – Reference to how easy it is to spread a product over the skin. Creams generally have poor glide since they are used in concentrated areas of the body. Lotions generally need more glide since they are spread over larger parts of the body

GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms

GRAS – Is an acronym used by the FDA which stands for “Generally Recognized As Safe”. A list created in 1958 by the U.S. Congress to identify ingredients in food and cosmetics which were generally agreed to be safe according to leading scientists. These items are usually fast tracked into use without any market testing.

HDPE – High Density Poly Ethelyne plastic. The grade of plastic referred to as “food grade” which is generally safe for food and cosmetics.

Hydrocarbons – General name given to wide range of compounds which contain hydrogen and carbon atoms. Most synthetic cosmetic ingredients are derived from hydrocarbons

Hydrosols – A by-product from the distillation of essential oils. Most common are orange blossom, rose, lavender, rosemary and chamomile. If an essential oils has been distilled then its hydrosol exists. In most cases, hydrosols are very pleasant and friendly to the skin. These waters are mildly antiseptic, astringent, and lightly fragrant. They can be applied directly to the skin as a toner, mixed with creams, in facial compresses, lotions or used as a body splash. A great alternative to essential oils when treating children and are often referred to as the ‘gentle aromatherapy.’ When possible, use instead of just water. Conversely, a plant can be distilled which does not produce an essential oil, but does have aromatic and therapeutic properties such as witch hazel or sweetgrass.

Humectant – Any substance used in cosmetics to retain or draw moisture. Some natural examples are aloe vera, glycerine and shea butter. Emollients will achieve this as well.

INCI – International Nomenclature Chemical Cosmetic Ingredients. The Internationally recognized system for naming food and cosmetic ingredients. All chemicals and natural substances have a common name and an INCI name. Many countries now require that the common as well as INCI name be included on all ingredients listed on a label for cosmetic and food. See glossary.

Irritant – A substance that creates a reaction in the local area to which it is applied. The irritant factor remains constant with each application unlike a sensitizer which increases with use. See Sensitizer

NF – National Formulary

Occlusive Agents – In cosmetics, these are substances that bond to the top layer of skin, blocking access to the air. Ointments, barrier creams and first aid treatments usually contain some of these.

OSI – Oil Stability Index. A measurement of the stability of oils in an emulsion. Low OSI indicates the potential for rancidity in a formulation. Oils high on OSI index will be much more stable and provide longer shelf life.

Patch Testing – When dealing with potentially sensitive skin or testing new ingredients, apply a small amount to the inner forearm. Cover with a bandage and leave for up to 24 hours. If irritation begins to occur, remove substance from the skin immediately since this reaction gives you an answer.

PEG – Poly Ethelyne Glycol

PG – Propylene Glycol

Phthlalates – Any of a group of esters of phthalic acid that are widely used in the manufacture of plastics and as synthetic additives in perfumes and cosmetics. These chemicals have been linked to reproductive and hormonal abnormalities in animals, including humans.

ROE – Rosemary Oil Extract

Saponins (saponifiers) – Natural glycosides derived from sugars (many in commercial use are synthetic ) which create sudzing effect in soaps and shampoos. May be utilized as sudzing, foaming or emulsifying agents.

SAP – The saponification value which is expressed as a number on a scale. All fats and oils have a SAP value. Oils which have a high SAP value such as coconut are generally used in soap making. Oils with high SAP values in creams and lotions have the potential to volumize a formulation depending on emulsifiers used.

SD – Steam distilled

Surfactants – Used in soaps and detergents as a collector of dirt so that it may be washed away easily by water. Most surfactants are synthetic in nature.

USP – United States Pharmacopoeia. Ingredients with this sign are standardized or pharmaceutical grade. Some raw materials are naturally USP such as magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts)

Viscosity – Refers to the thickness, liquidity and pourability of liquid or semi-solid substances

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