Honing Your Skills

Glossary Of Common Esthetic Terms

A list of common esthetic terms.


acid balance: a condition of a cosmetic product where its acidity is the same as the acidity of the skin or hair.

acidity: the degree of being acid; acids have pH value of less than 7.0; the opposite of alkalines.

acid mantle: the natural acidity of the skin or hair that helps to retard irritation and bacterial growth.

acne: inflammation of the sebaceous glands from retained secretions; consists of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and, sometimes, cysts.

acne rosacea: an acne-like condition usually occurring around the nose and cheeks due to dilated (enlarged) and sometimes broken capillaries; may appear as knobby bumps.

adrenal: an endocrine gland situated on top of the kidney that produces steroids such as sex hormones, hormones concerned with metabolic functions, and adrenaline.

allergy: a disorder due to extreme sensitivity to certain foods or chemicals

aloe vera: extract from the aloe vera plant (a type of cactus) that aids in healing burned skin.

amino acids: the chief component of proteins; manufactured in cells or broken down from the diet for use by the body.

androgens: male sex hormones.

anti-oxidant: a chemical compound that inhibits or helps prevent oxidation.

antiseptic: a chemical agent that prevents the growth of microorganisms.

aromatic: pertaining to or containing aroma; fragrant.

basal layer: the layer of cells at the base of the epidermis closest to the dermis layer.

beeswax: composed from the walls of the honeycomb produced by the domestic bee; the yellow wax smells like honey and is whitened industrially; used to protect and soften the skin.

blackhead: also called a comedone; a pore plugged with small kernels of sebum, skin cells, and bacteria.

botanical: a drug, medicinal preparation, or similar substance obtained from a plant or plants.

capillary: small blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the individual skin cells.

carcinoma: cancer; a malignant new growth of epithelial or gland cells infiltrating surrounding tissues.

cellulitis:  inflammation of connective tissue.

collagen: a fibrous protein that is the chief constituent of the body’s connective tissues, including tendons and ligaments, and gives them their elasticity. When heated with water, it becomes gel-like.

comedone: a blackhead or whitehead; a plugged pore.

comedone extractor: a metal instrument used for the removal of comedones.

comedogenic: acne-causing.

congestion: over-fullness of capillaries or blood vessels in any locality or origin.

couperose: a broken capillary in the skin.

depilatory: a substance, usually a caustic alkali, used to destroy hair; the power to remove hair.

dermabrasion: the removal of skin in varying amounts and depths by such mechanical means as revolving wire brushes or sandpaper for the purpose of correcting scars.

dermatitis, atopic: also atopic eczema; intensely itchy and oozing lesions principally occurring on the face and scalp, mostly affecting infants and children but sometimes persistent through adulthood; associated with non-food related allergies.

dermatitis, contact: an inflammation of the skin caused by contact with chemicals, dyes, plants, etc., to which the individual may be allergic.

dermatitis, cosmetic: an inflammation of the skin caused by coming in contact with some cosmetic product to which the individual may be allergic.

dermatitis, occupational: an inflammation of the skin caused by a material or substance encountered over time in an individual’s employment.

dermis, derma: the layer below the epidermis; the corium or true skin.

diabetic: one who has diabetes, a disease associated with deficient insulin secretion.

duct: a tiny tube; a large duct on the surface of the skin is a pore.

eczema: encompasses any kind of inflamed, itching, oozing, scaly, brownish, bleeding, or thickened lesions on the skin or scalp.

edema: an abnormal accumulation of clear watery fluid in the lymph spaces of the tissues.

elasticity: the property that allows a thing to be stretched and return to its original shape.

emollient: a naturally occurring substance that suspends (emulsifies) oil droplets in water; used to give cosmetics a slippery feeling.

endocrine: any internal secretion or hormone.

enzyme: a catalyst in living organisms.

epithelium: a membranous cellular tissue that covers a free surface or lines a tube or cavity of an animal body; produces secretions and excretions.

erythema: a superficial blush or redness of the skin.

essential oils: any of a class of volatile oils that impart the characteristic odors to plants and are used in perfumes and flavourings.

esthetician: a specialist in or a devotee of esthetics; one who works to clean and beautify the skin

esthetics: the study of skin care; a branch of philodophy pertaining to or dealing with the forms and nature of beauty; judgement concerning beauty.

exfoliate: remove the top layer of the skin.

extraction: the process of removing comedones, performed by an esthetician.

facial treatment: a cosmetic treatment applied to the face and neck generally for preventive or corrective purposes and for the general enhancement of skin and muscle tone.

follicles: tiny tubes containing hairs and oil-producing glands.

free radical: an atom or group of atoms having at least one unpaired electron, giving it a positive or negative charge; can cause the breakdown of cells, cell abnormalities, and tumors; free radicals occur from exposure to the sun and the atmosphere.

galvanic current: a direct and continued silent current having a positive and a negative pole.

germicide: any chemical, especially a solution that will destroy germs.

glycerine: glycerol; a sweet syrupy substance obtained from fats and used as a solvent and plasticizer.

glycolic acid: an acid belonging to the alpha hydroxyl group of acids (AHA), mainly found in citric fruits, sour milk, and sugar cane; used to slough or exfoliate dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, to fade the skin, to treat acne, and to smooth facial wrinkles.

hair follicle: the depression of the skin containing the root of the hair.

high-frequency: an electric current of medium voltage and medium amperage.

hormone: a chemical substance formed in one organ or part of the body and carried in the blood to another organ or part that it stimulates to functional activity or secretion.

humectant: a substance that promotes water retention.

hydrate: to cause to take up or combine with water.

hypo-allergenic: a term suggesting that the product contains less or fewer allergy-causing substances (allergens) than other equivalent products on the market; since there are no federal guidelines for defining or limiting the use of this term, it is of little value.

ingrown hair: a hair that has grown underneath the skin, which may cause infection.

intercellular: between or among cells.

jojoba: a valuable liquid wax from the edible seeds of the jojoba shrub or tree.

keratin: horny epidermal tissue made up of fibrous proteins; what human nails are made of.

lancet: a small, sharp, and very pointed double-edged surgical blade, used by estheticians and physicians to pierce a papule.

lanolin: oil from wool that is refined for use in ointments and cosmetics.

lecithin: a substance present in all plant and animal tissues, used in the processing of cosmetics; has emulsifying, wetting, and antioxidant properties.

lipectomy: surgical removal of body fat, usually through suction methods, performed by a doctor.

lipid: a soluble substance that is a major component of living cells and cell membranes; includes fats and waxes.

loofah: the dried, fibrous skeleton of the fruit of the Luffa tropical vine, used as an exfoliating sponge.

lymph: a clear yellowish or light straw-colored fluid that circulates in the lymph spaces or lymphatics of the body.

lymphatic system: consists of lymph flowing through the lymph spaces, lymph vessels, lacteals, and lymph nodes or glands.

Malignant: resistant to treatment; growing worse; occurring in severe form; a tumor recurring after removal.

Massage: manipulation of the body by rubbing, pinching, kneading, or tapping to increase metabolism, promote absorption, relieve pain, etc.

Mineral oil: a refined petroleum oil.

Moisturizer: a cream or oil that adds moisture to the skin.

Osmosis: the passage of fluids and solutions through a membrane or other porous substance.

Oxidation: the loss of an electron; the electron can become a free radical and damage cells; exposure to oxygen, the air, and sun are a few causes of oxidation.

Ozone: a triatomic form of oxygen that is a bluish irritating gas of pungent odor, used as a disinfectant, de-odorizer, oxidizer, and bleaching agent.

Panthenol: a vitamin B derivative used in cosmetics as an emollient.

Papule: a small solid elevation of the skin, especially a pimple, inflamed and containing pus; a pustule.

pH: symbol for potential hydrogen concentration; the relative degree of acidity or alkalinity.

pH number: a measure of the degree of acidity or alkalinity of a solution.

photosynthesis: the formation of chemical compounds with the aid of radiant energy and light; formation of carbohydrates in the chlorophyll containing tissues of plants exposed to light.

pigmentation: the deposition of pigment (coloring matter) in the skin or tissues.

pimple: A small, boil-like lesion that occurs when sebum breaks through the wall of a duct.

polytherapy: use of more than one treatment method simultaneously to combat a problem.

pores: the larger, visible follicular ducts on the skin’s surface; ducts or openings for oil producing glands to secrete their products onto the surface of the skin.

pus: a fluid product of inflammation or infection consisting of leucocytes (healing white blood cells), dead cell debris, and cell tissue.

pustule: papule.

rash: a skin eruption having little or no elevation.

sanitary: pertaining to cleanliness in relation to health; tending to promote health.

sebaceous glands: glands of the skin that empty oily products (sebum) onto the surface of the skin via follicular ducts (tiny tubes).

sebum: the fatty or oily secretions of the sebaceous glands.

sensitivity: the state of being easily affected by certain chemicals or external conditions.

squalene: an oily substance found in sebum, shark liver, and some plants; prevents loss of moisture in the epidermis (skin) when the skin is exposed to sun, wind, and salt.

steamer: an apparatus used in place of hot towels for steaming the scalp or face.

sterilization: the process of making sterile; the destruction of germs.

stratum: layer of tissue.

stratum corneum: horny layer of the skin.

stratum germinativum: the deepest layer of the epidermis resting on the corium, or dermis.

stratum granulosum: granular layer of the skin.

stratum lucidum: clear layer of the skin.

stratum mucosum: mucous or malpighian layer of the skin.

terminal hair: thick, pigmented body hair; androgens determine whether hair will be terminal or not; males generally have more terminal hair than females; the ratio of terminal hairs to non-terminal hairs (see vellus) varies widely between individuals.

toner: any liquid product that adds a feeling of firmness or tension to the facial muscles.

vasodilation: widening of the capillaries; brings increased amounts of nutrients, oxygen, and healing properties to the cells.

vellus hair: thin, soft, unpigmented body hair; appears all over the body on prepubescent individuals.

whitehead: a comedone that has become inflamed because it does not have a wide enough opening or is not near enough to the surface; it may rupture and become a lesion or pustule.


The International Dermal Institute, El Segundo, Calif.; Dermascope Magazine, Dallas, Texas; Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Mass.

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