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saceha rated lime

Used in cosmetics as a preservative and buffer, this chemical is made from oxidated glycomc acid, which is then neutralized with lime.


The dried stigmas of the crocus (Crocus sativus) are called saffron. They’re used as a deep orange-yellow (lye and as an herbal stimulant, antispasmodic and emmenagogUe.


See sassafras.

salicvlic acid

Salicvlic acid is the active ingredient in aspirin (whose chemical name is acetylsalicylic acid); it’s used in cosmetics at concentrations between 0.025% and 0.2%.


Salts are formed from acids by replacing some or all of the hydrogen ions with metal ions. There are many different kinds, the best-known of which is sodium chloride (NaCl)—commonly called table salt. Sodium and potassium salts react with oils to form soaps.


This tree, which grows in temperate climates, has many uses. The oil obtained from the flowers, also known as elder oil, is used in perfumes. The oil of the leaf and bark, as well as the flower water, are used in skin-care creams. The berries are used to make elderberry wine and elderberry tea.


This extremely expensive oil, derived from a small evergreen tree (genus Santalum) of tropical Asia, lends its distinctive fragrance to all kinds of cosmetics. Ifs also used in Chinese herbal medicine to treat stomach aches, vomiting and gonorrhea.

Coarsely powdering the tree’s heartwood and then distilling it with steam or water yields 3% to 5% sandalwood oil. The oil contains 9000 or more of alphasantalols and betasantalols, which are responsible for its odor.


These sterols are naturally occurring glycosides that foam in water; they’re used as foaming, ernu1sifying and detergent agents in cosmetics. Examples are quillaya bark, yucca root, soap bark, soapvvort and sarsaparilla.



This saponin from a plant of of the Smilax family may come from Mexico, Central America or South America. It was formerly used to make sweetened carbonated beverages, but was replaced by artificial flavors.


The dried bark of this North American tree (Sassafras albiduni) is used to make an aromatic tea with diaphoretic and stimulating properties. Safrole, the major flavoring ingredient in sassafras, was found to cause cancer in animal tests.

saturated fats

A fat, usually of animal origin, whose fatty acid chains can’t accornodate any more hydrogen atoms. Compare unsaturated fats.


This herb, used in Chinese medicine as a diapho reLic and antipyretic, is known in China as ching-chieh. It’s also used in herbal tonics for the skin, to treat pigmentation problems. See ching-s hang.


This is a form of tuberculosis that affects the lymph nodes and also causes inflammation of the joints. Because the disease was formerly associated with filth, poverty and promiscuity, scrofulous (affected with scrofula) carried a connotation of moral degeneration.

scute (Scute ilaria baicalensis)

This herb, known in China as hang-chin, is used for stomach problems and in skin tonics. See ching-s hang.

sebaceous glands

Glands in the skin that open into hair follicles and secrete sebum.


Also known as skin oil, this secretion of the sebaceous glands is composed primarily of fat, keratin and cellular material.


In herbology, a substance that has a direct effect on a particular disease.


The root, known as fang-feng in China, is used as an antipyretic and analgesic, and for skin problems. See chin g-s hang.


See sodium lauryl sulfate.


This European perennial herb (Saponaria officinalis) has coarse pink or white flowers and leaves that become soapy when bruised. See saponzns.


This chemical element (atomic number 11, symbol Na) was named by Sir Humphrey Davy, who isolated it by electrolysis in 1807. The major use of sodium today is in the reduction of animal and vegetable oils into long-chain fatty alcohols, which are then used to manufacture soaps and detergents. Sodium can irritate the skin and burn the eyes.

The largest use of sodium (about 60% of the total production) used to be in the manufacture of tetraethyl lead, an antiknock ingredient in gasoline (first introduced by the Ethyl Corporation). Today, however, in order to reduce pollution, leaded gasoline has been largely phased out.

sodium acetate

This allergenic preservative is made by combining sodium with acetate (derived from acetic acid).

sodium alginate

This natural compound (also known as the salt of alginic acid) is used mostly as a thickening agent and emuls~fler in foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. It isn’t known to be toxic.

Sodium alginate is made from algin, a hydrophilic (water-absorbing) substance present in various types of brown algae (macrocystis, laminaria and ascophyllum). First the seaweed is prewashed, to leach out undesirable salts; then a dilute alkaline solution is used to solubilize the alginic acid present in the seaweed.

sodium alum

This chemical, used as an astringent, styptic and emetic, is irritating to mucous membranes and may cause allergic reactions. The alum used in it is produced by treating bauxite with sulfuric acid to yield alum cake.

sodium ascorbate

This buffered form of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is used in cosmetics as an antioxidant and preservative. Like other ascorbates, it can also block the formation of nit rosamines.

sodium benzoate

This sodium salt of benzoic acid is used as an antiseptic and as a preservative in foods such as soft drinks. There have been allergic reactions to it orally, aiid it’s been listed as moderately toxic due to the dermatitis that develops in some people who use it topically.

sodium bisulpliite

This corrosive synthetic chemical is used as a hair relaxer and a preservative.

sodium borate

This sodium salt of boric acid is used in cosmetics as an emulsWer, preservative and detergent builder.

sodium carbonate

This sodium salt of carbonic acid is used in cosmetics as a humectant and an alkalizer.

sodium citrate

This crystalline salt is used in cosmetics as a sequestrant and an alkalizer, and in foods as a buffering agent.

sodium fluoride

This sodium salt of fluoride is added to water in trace amounts to prevent dental caries (cavities). Sodium fluoride can cause mottling of teeth and—if taken orally in high concentrations—death.

sodium hydroxide

Also called caustic soda or lye, this corrosive chemical is extremely alkaline; an aqueous soluton of just 0.5% (by weight) has a pH of around 12. It’s used as an alkalizer and in hair straightening products; combined with fats, it produces soaps. Also see potassium hydroxide.

sodium iodate

This iodine compound has a broad antimicrobial effect. It’s used in cosmetics at concentrations of 0.1%, but only in rinse-off products. It’s toxic, and irritating to skin and mucous membranes. Dogs were murdered in the lab with 200 mg/kg of it.

sodium lactate

This hygroscopic, viscous, sodium salt of lactic acid is used as an antacid and as a substitute for glycerol.

sodium lauryl sulfate

This very popular ingredient, commonly referred to in the trade as SLS, is used as a detergent, emulsifier and surfactant in over a thousand cosmetic products, including shampoos, toothpastes, lotions and creams. Although youll find it in many so-called "natural" cosmetics, it’s not natural—it’s produced synthetically via the Ziegler process and is hardly ever made from coconut oil (even when the label says it is). SLS is a primary irritant in high concentrations. It’s a strong degreaser that dries skin and hair, and has produced skin and hair damage. including cracking of the horny layer of the skin and a severe inflammation of the dermaepidermal tissue. SLS is frequently combined with TE.4 (trlethanolamine), which may be contaminated with the potent carcinogens called nit rosarnines.

sodium metaphosphate

This term refers to several crystalline, sodium salts of inetaphosphoric acid that are used in cosmetics as emulsifiers or texturizers.

sodium palmitate

This sodium salt of palmitic acid is used in cosmetics as a texturizer.

sodium PCA

This chemical, sometimes abbreviated NaPC’A, is a sodium salti of pyroglutamic acid. A few years ago, it was a popular buzzword in cosmetics, with advertising copy describing it as a substance in our own skins that can remoisturize the skin from the outside in. However, synthetic NaPCA can cause strong allergic reactions when applied topically, and can severely dry the skin by absorbing moisture from it.

sodium pyrrithione

This toxic chemical, used in cosmetics at 250 to 1000 ppm, can cause allergic reactions. Lab rats have been murdered with it at 875 mg/kg, and mice at 1172 mg/kg. First synthesized in 1948, it’s a cyclic thiohydroxamic acid and a pvridine derivative. Trade names include Sodium Omadine and Pyrion-Na.

sodium salicylate

This sodium salt of salicylic acid, used as a sun filter, antiseptic and preservative, can cause allergic reactions, especially in people allergic to aspirin.

sodium thioglycolate

Like all thioglycolate compounds, this chemical, used in permanents as a hair relaxer, is a primary irritant.

solid extracts

Solid extracts are thin to thick liquids or semisolids prepared from native extracts and diluted to the appropriate strength. Also known as pilular extracts, they’re usually the same strength as powdered extracts.

sorbic acid

This organic acid, used in cosmetic creams and lotions as an antifungal preservative, is toxic. (Don’t confuse it with sorbitol, a natural humectant.) Its trade name is Sentry.

First isolated in 1859 by A. F. Hofmann from the berries of the mountain ash (in the form of parasorbic acid), today it’s synthesized by condensing crotonaldehyde and malonic acid in a pyridine solution.

sorbitan laurate, oleate, palmitate, stearate, etc.

These cosmetic ingredients, used as nonionic surfacrants, humectants, binders and ernulsifiers, can cause allergic reactions. They’re made from lauric acid and sorbitol compounds.


This crystalline, slightly sweet alcohol, occurring naturally in the mountain ash (Sorbus acuparia) but usualh produced industrially by a reduction reaction of D-glucose, is used in cosmetics as a humectant, binder, plasticizer and softener.

soybean (or soy) oil

This pale yellow oil, consisting mostly of glycerides of linoleic, oleic, linolenic and palmitic acids, is used in cosmetics as an emollient.


This oil, derived from sperm whales, has been illegal to use in any products in the United States since 1971, when the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed.

See waxes.


The involuntary discharge of semen without sexual intercourse.


There are recent claims that this saturated hydrocarbon bolsters the immune system, increases oxygenation, improves metabolism and strengthens the liver. Although squalene is typically obtained from shark liver oil, the identical chemical can be derived from olives, and you don’t have to kill sharks to get it. Olive oil squalene is cheaper to produce, more stable against oxidation, of a higher food grade (due to its vegetarian source), purer and more compatible with the skin than shark-derived squalene (or, for that matter, than lanolin).


This gram-positive bacteria may contaminate cosmetics.

stearalkonium chloride

This quaternary ammonium compound is used almost universally in hair conditioners, both those that are mass-merchandised and so-called "natural" ones. It was originally developed by the textile industry for use as a fabric softener, and it also has antistatic proper-

ties. These characteristics are important in a hair conditioner only if you think of your hair as a ball of yarn. If you think of it as protein that grows out of living tissue. then you’ll avoid this chemical.


An ester of stearic acid.

sreareth-2, -4, -7, -10, -20 and -30

These polyethylene glycol ethers of stearyl alcohol are used as emollients and emulsifiers. They’re synthetic chemicals that can cause allergic reactions.

stearic acid

This waxy, crystalline, fatty acid is typically derived from tallow and other animal fats, but it’s also found in cocoa butter and other hard vegetable fats. Used in cosmetics as a base and an emollient, it can cause some allergic reactions.

stearyl alcohol

This fatty alcohol is found in whale, porpoise and dolphin oils, but it’s usually produced by hydrogenating stearic acid. It’s used similarly to cetyl alcohol.


These fat-soluble compounds, which occur naturally but can also be synthesized, include sterols, sex horrnones, adrenal hormones, bile acids and some cancer-stimulating hydrocarbons.


This class of usually unsaturated solid alcohols is wideh distributed in the fatty tissues of animals and plants. Cholesterol is a sterol. Also see steroids.

stilbene dyes

These yellow to orange dyes or fluorescent brighteners are derived from an aromatic hydrocarbon calle(I stilbene.

stillingia oil

This pale yellow drying oil is obtained from the seeds of the Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum or Stillingia seb~fera).


Any substance that quickens physiological activity.

stoma chic

In herbologv, a substance that strengthens and tones the stomach.


This chemical, ~~hich is similar to belladonna, is used in cosmetics for its antiperspirant properties, but it’s lethal if ingested. Derived from the dried leaf of the thorn apple (genus Datura), it contains the alkaloids atropine, lyoscyamine and scopolamine, and is used as an asthma medicine.

stratum corneum

The outer, horny layer of the epidermis.

strength of extracts

The potency of botanical drug extracts is generally expressed in two ways. If the active ingredient is known, the concentration of that is given; otherwise, the concentration of the crude drug is given. In that case, a strength of 1:4 means that one part of extract is equivalent to, or derived from, four parts of crude drug.

strontium hydroxide

This alkaline solid is used to make soaps and greases and in refining beet sugar. A synthetic chemical, it’s an irritant.


This term can refer to either a plant that contracts organic tissue (that is, an astringen~ or to one that stops bleeding (that is, a hemostatic, like alum or tannin).


Under the skin.

succinic acid

This acid, which occurs naturally in amber, lignite, turpentine, animal fluids and elsewhere, is used in cosmetics as an antiseptic, buffer and neutralizer.


This synthetic liquid, made with sulfated oils, is used to make synthetic soaps and detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate (a chemical used in soaps, detergents and shampoo). Sulfates are harmful to marine life and the environment. They can cause allergic reactions and dry skin and hair, and can irritate the eyes.

sulfated oils

These oils or fatty acids, treated with sulfuric acid or oleum to make them water-soluble, are used as wetting and emulsifying agents.


See bisuifites.


This chemical element (atomic number 16, symbol S) was discovered prior to recorded history. Its elemental character was first recorded by the pioneering French chemist Lavoisier in 1777. Two main types of compounds are macic with sulfur—sulfides and oxides.


See ultraviolet rays.


Capable of reducing the surface tension of a lic{uid. The noun is surfactant.

surface tension

The property of a liquid that makes its surface resemble a stretched elastic membrane. Surface tension is what allows you to fill a glass of water so that it bulges slightly above the lip. Surfactants reduce surface tension.


A substance that reduces the surface tension of a liquid in which it’s dissolved.


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Skin Anatomy and Physiology Acne Ingredients Cosmetics
Dictionary of Skin Care Terms Skin Care Advice Skin Problems
The Sun & Your Skin Skin Care News  

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