Neutrogena skincare ingredient glossary with science lab beakers

Ingredient Glossary

Learn about skincare ingredients, conditions, and all about what goes into great skin.

Whether you’re new to skincare or a seasoned expert, keeping up with the changing trends and science is hard – but Neutrogena® has your back! The ingredient glossary is your comprehensive guide to skincare ingredients, conditions, and science that goes into great skin.

Acne
Acne
A skin condition caused by clogged pores, excess oil production, and bacteria. When pores become clogged with oil and dead skin cells, it causes whiteheads, blackheads, and red, raised pimple bumps.
Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHAs)
Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHAs)
Naturally or synthetically derived acids that complement skin's natural turnover process. Benefits of AHAs include smoother and brighter-looking skin.
Androgen
Androgen
Hormones in both males and females that increase during puberty and affect several functions of human skin, including oil production, epidermal barrier homeostasis (which regulates skin hydration), follicle strength and wound healing.
Antioxidants
Antioxidants
Substances that may prevent or delay some cell damage. Antioxidants have been shown to neutralize oxidative stress on the skin's surface, which is caused by environmental aggressors like the sun, pollution, and cigarette smoke.
Argan Oil
Argan Oil
An extract derived from the kernels of the Moroccan argan tree. It's rich in natural oils and vitamin E, so it provides both hydrating and antioxidant benefits to the skin. It's commonly found in moisturizers and serums.
Bacteria
Bacteria
Single-celled microorganisms that can be found everywhere including the environment and even your skin, where they're known as the microbiome. A balanced skin microbiome can help fight off harmful bacteria and keep your skin healthy looking.
Barriercare® Technology
Barriercare® Technology
Cleansers with Barriercare® Technology use large molecules called polymers to thoroughly clean skin without penetrating its protective barrier. This gentle, hydrating technology removes only excess oil while leaving behind the skin's natural oils that keep it moisturized and healthy.
Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO)
Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO)
This ingredient has antibacterial properties that helps reduce bacteria on the skin that lead to breakouts. It's also helpful in preventing and treating the formation of clogged pores or comedones — what we commonly call blackheads and whiteheads.
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)
These powerful exfoliators help shed dead skin cells. They also boast anti-aging abilities, reducing the appearance of fine lines and improving skin texture. Salicylic acid is one common BHA found in acne washes, spot treatments, moisturizers and creams.
Biotin
Biotin
A B vitamin found in meat, eggs, seeds, nuts and some vegetables that helps turn food into energy. It plays a major role in the growth and health of hair and nails. It can also be applied topically to the skin as a moisturizing oil.
Blackheads
Blackheads
When a pore becomes clogged with dead skin cells, oil and bacteria, and left open (not covered with skin), the top of the clog oxidizes and turns black. BPO helps clear the dead skin cells that create these "blackheads" by exfoliating and reducing bacteria on the skin.
Body Acne
Body Acne
This occurs when pores become clogged. Body acne most commonly appears on the neck, back, chest and shoulders. It can be triggered by sweat or humidity, so showering regularly and wearing lightweight clothing is advised. Its causes are similar to regular acne.
Collagen
Collagen
This is the most common protein found in the human body. It's essential to forming your muscles, bones and skin — as well as holding all of these components together. As we age, we lose collagen, which is why it can be helpful to use products that help reduce the visual effects of decreased collagen production.
Combination Skin
Combination Skin
Skin that is dry or normal in some areas and oily in others. This skin type tends to have more active oil glands in the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin), making it prone to clogged pores. The cheeks have fewer active oil glands, so they may appear dry and flaky.
Dark Spots
Dark Spots
Also called hyperpigmentation, this is discoloration that lies flat on the skin's surface. It's formed by the overproduction of melanin, the substance that gives skin its color. This is often the result of skin trauma such as acne, sun damage, psoriasis or other irritants.
Dry Skin
Dry Skin
A skin type that produces less sebum (natural oils) than normal. Often, dry skin also lacks hydration, since oil holds in moisture on the skin's surface. Dry skin is medically known as xeroderma and usually feels tight, sensitive or itchy, and looks dull, rough or flaky.
Elastin
Elastin
A protein found in skin and other connective tissues that has elastic properties. Like a rubber band, it allows skin to snap back to its original shape after being stretched — for example, when it is poked or pinched. Elastin is vital in preventing wrinkles and sagging.
Exfoliation
Exfoliation
The process of removing dead cells from the skin's surface to improve its appearance. It may be done physically by using a granular scrub to remove the dead cells, or chemically by applying acids to loosen the bond between dead cells.
Fine Lines
Fine Lines
Linear markings that appear on the facial skin, typically in areas that show expression, such as the eyes and mouth. These occur naturally as a result of age and lifestyle habits (such as smoking) as well as over-exposure to UV rays and free radicals in the environment.
Glycerin
Glycerin
A colorless, odorless liquid sourced from plants that is used as an ingredient in moisturizers for its ability to attract and seal water into skin cells, improving the overall appearance of fine lines and puffiness. It's often found in facial moisturizers and body lotions.
Helioplex® Technology
Helioplex® Technology
HELIOPLEX® Technology provides broad-spectrum protection against the sun's UVA and UVB rays, which contribute to sunburn, premature aging, hyperpigmentation and skin cancer. The active ingredients in sunscreens with HELIOPLEX® Technology don't break down when exposed to the sun, giving wearers more effective protection.
Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic Acid
A chemical compound that is found naturally in skin and widely used in skincare products. Its intense hydrating benefits — and unique ability to hold many times its weight in water — make it a popular active ingredient in many hydrating serums and masks.
Hydration
Hydration
This is the ability of the skin's surface to retain and hold water. This causes the cells to swell, become more plump and appear dewy, creating a visibly healthier and glowing appearance. In addition to helping skin look good, hydration also assists with crucial barrier functions.
Inflamed Acne
Inflamed Acne
Also known as mild to moderate acne, inflamed acne bumps are an area of raised skin that contain a small amount of pus, usually due to dead skin cells and bacteria getting trapped underneath skin. Products containing benzoyl peroxide are an ideal choice for treatment.
Inflammation
Inflammation
This occurs when a mixture of dead skin cells and sebum becomes trapped inside a pore, creating an oxygen-free environment where a naturally occurring bacteria, called Propionibacterium acnes, multiples very quickly. Inflammation typically presents as redness on the skin.
Light Therapy
Light Therapy
A skincare technology that has been used by dermatologists for more than a decade. It leverages a combination of blue and red light to target acne-causing bacteria as well as reduce inflammation and shrink oil glands, respectively.
Lipids
Lipids
These are naturally occurring fat compounds that sebum is mostly composed of. Lipids are critical to maintaining the skin barrier and minimizing water loss as well as preventing outside chemicals and irritants from entering the skin. They also aid in the skin's repair process
MicroClear® Technology
MicroClear® Technology
Products with MicroClear® technology deliver salicylic acid deep within follicles to kill acne-causing bacteria at the source. It dissolves oil and pushes acne-fighting salicylic acid into pores, improving both inflammatory and noninflammatory pimples and helping prevent new ones from forming.
Moisture
Moisture
The collection of water from humectants and emollients (such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin) that the skin is able to absorb and retain for the purpose of maintaining a healthy skin barrier. Not to be confused with hydration, which infuses skin cells with water.
Normal Skin
Normal Skin
A classification of a skin type that is neither too oily, too dry or too sensitive. Normal skin typically does not exhibit blemishes or many issues, so individuals can generally use most skincare products without concern.
Pimple
Pimple
This form of inflammatory acne occurs when a pore clogged with dead cells, debris and sebum gets infected by the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria. It normally presents as a red lesion that's filled with pus. Instead of squeezing them, seek treatment through skincare products.
Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs)
Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs)
A chemical exfoliating ingredient that helps to slough off dead skin cells. PHAs help skin appear younger, brighter, and healthier looking.
Pores
Pores
These tiny openings on the skin's surface come in two forms: oil and sweat. An oil pore contains a hair follicle and sebaceous gland, which allow sebum to reach the surface and lubricate the skin. A sweat pore releases sweat to cool the body. Keep pores clear to avoid issues.
Pro-Vitamin B5
Pro-Vitamin B5
Also known as pantothenic acid, pro-vitamin B5 is a conditioner that helps skin feel softer and nourished. It has also been found to reduce facial lesions when applied topically in the long-term.
Retinoids
Retinoids
A derivative of Vitamin A that reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots. It also complements the skin's natural turnover process, making skin look younger and healthier.
Retinol
Retinol
This is a vitamin A derivative that's available in over-the-counter skincare items. It complements skin's natural surface renewal for smooth skin and decreases the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots.
Rosacea
Rosacea
This chronic skin condition is characterized by inflamed blood vessels, persistent flushing, redness, hyper-reactive skin and pus-filled lesions. It's often hereditary, though the exact causes are not known. It is treated by finding and managing triggers, wearing sun protection, and using rosacea-friendly skin care products.
Rough Patches
Rough Patches
This term applies to areas of the skin that are dry, flaky, scaly or bumpy. Common causes include dry skin, extreme weather conditions, blemishes, allergies, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, poor skincare practices, a weakened moisture barrier or even keratosis pilaris.
Salicylic Acid
Salicylic Acid
This beta hydroxy acid is an oil-soluble chemical exfoliator that can cut through skin's lipid barrier to penetrate deep into pores and unclog them.
Sebum
Sebum
This oily, waxy substance (which is produced by sebaceous glands) is the main component of skin's natural oils. Sebum forms a thin film on the skin, which retains moisture and rejects pollutants and germs. Skin needs it to function, but too much can clog pores and cause acne.
SPF
SPF
Also known as Sun Protection Factor, this is an estimate of how well a sunscreen can protect skin from UVB (not UVA) rays. If you burn easily without sunscreen, a product with SPF would allow you to stay in the sun longer without burning. Regular reapplication is needed.
Sulfur
Sulfur
An element that's both antimicrobial, meaning it fights bacteria, and anti-inflammatory, meaning it helps clear redness. Both of these properties make it useful in treating a variety of skin issues, most commonly acne.
T-Zone
T-Zone
Shaped like a "T" in the middle of your face, the T-zone starts at the forehead, going down to the nose and ending at the chin. This area has the highest concentration of oil glands anywhere on the face — and is most prone to enlarged pores, excessive greasiness and blemishes.
Toner
Toner
A watery liquid that's often the first step in a skincare routine (after cleansing). Its main purpose is to remove all residue, balance pH levels and hydrate. Many toners also contain potent actives, such as glycolic acid to remove dead cells, or botanicals to calm the skin.
UVA
UVA
These rays make up about 95 percent of the sunlight that reaches Earth's surface. Although it's the least damaging of all UV rays, UVA still contributes to burns and photodamage — and should therefore always be protected against with daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
UVB
UVB
As opposed to UVA, these rays are in the minority of light that reaches Earth — yet they're primarily responsible for causing severe photodamage. UVB rays can potentially induce skin cancer, cause sunburn and leave the skin less able to protect itself against further UV exposure.
Vitamin A
Vitamin A
Also known by its scientific name, "retinol," vitamin A is known for its ability to limit sun damage and the appearance of wrinkles. While it's naturally occurring, over 1,000 variations of vitamin A have been synthetically created to reproduce its highly therapeutic benefits.
Vitamin C
Vitamin C
Often referred to by its reduced form, ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a potent antioxidative molecule that protects skin from free radicals by reducing and neutralizing them. It also helps treat wrinkles by influencing collagen formation.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D
This vitamin is unique because it's produced in the skin after exposure to sunlight. Despite this fact, vitamin D deficiency affects nearly 50 percent of the worldwide population, resulting in abnormalities in calcium and phosphorus levels as well as bone metabolism issues.
Vitamin E
Vitamin E
Sometimes known as tocopherol, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight against environmental aggressors like air pollution and the sun's UV rays.
Whiteheads
Whiteheads
Whiteheads are where a plugged follicle remains closed, resulting in a white spot atop a clogged pore. Unlike pimples, whiteheads are not yet infected, swollen or red. Many skincare products can address this skin issue.
Wrinkles
Wrinkles
A wrinkle is any furrow on the skin surface. It is caused by progressive collagen loss, resulting in low tissue elasticity and cellular reproduction. Wrinkling occurs naturally in the aging process but can be exacerbated by smoking, sun exposure, drinking or poor nutrition.