Skincare Buzzwords

Sometimes you’re casually lying around on your couch re-watching 30 Rock when you finally find a name for the post you’ve been wanting to write for weeks.

Before I go on, thank you to everyone that left their suggestions on Facebook for skincare buzzwords they would like to know more about. It turned out that everything you want to know over there relate directly to product ingredients and skin treatments, so I’ll do a separate post (or two) on that in a couple of weeks.

What’s the deal, you wonder? There are some frequently used buzzwords in skincare that I’d like to go over – some good, some overrated, some misleading. You may be familiar with many of them, and hopefully I can help clarify if you weren’t quite sure what some of them were about!

Natural and Organic

Organic is a big one for me, as I’m Brand Manager for an (actual) organic brand by day. The terms ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ are thrown around loosely and can refer to anything from a product with an organic ‘feel’ (I’m not joking), a product that contains some natural ingredients to an actual certified organic product. With clever wording, brands can get away with a lot.

I’m not saying that everything you use must be organic, but if you’re looking for the real thing you should look out for the term ‘certified organic’ as well as a little logo (Ecocert, Soil association etc) to ensure authenticity. If it doesn’t have a certification there’s no way to know that the product is actually organic.


This is another one of my favourite skincare buzzwords as it honestly doesn’t mean much at all. Hypoallergenic is a term that doesn’t have one specific definition, but you’re safe to assume it’s low on known allergy-causing fragrances and colourants. If those aren’t allergy culprits for you, it’s unfortunately not a very helpful description – there’s no guarantee that there aren’t other allergens in there.

skincare buzzwords


Dermatologist Tested

Am I the only one that assumes all skin products are tested by dermatologists/cosmetic chemists, much like food items are tested before they’re allowed to be sold? No? Alright then… As for dermatologist approved? That just means someone’s getting paid to endorse something.

Acid Toning

If acid toning sounds a little hectic to you, you’re not alone – my eyes were the size of saucers when I first read about it too. What it actually is is a benign process of using a toner with Alpha- or Beta Hydroxy Acids as a key ingredient. Acid toning has an exfoliating and hydrating effect, and it lowers the pH of the skin which ensures better product penetration.

I’ve been asked for recommendations countless times and I can still only think of two acid toners – Nimue Skin Conditioner and Environ Alpha Toner. If you, like me, have an aversion to toners; you can also apply a leave-on acid in gel or lotion form. There are some great options from Paula’s Choice, Nimue, Environ, Dermaceutic, Kiehl’s etc.

Double Cleansing

Double cleansing is one of the best skincare habits I’ve adopted. As the name suggests you cleanse, rinse and repeat. You can use two different cleansers with different textures if you want to up the sensorial experience, but I tend to just use the same cleansing oil twice and use a face cloth to remove the product with. Using face cloths is another habit I picked up that turned out great for my skin – you can read about that here.

skincare buzzwords

Chemical Exfoliants

I’m very much pro chemical exfoliants – it’s been years since a granular scrub touched my face. Chemical exfoliants work by means of AHA (lactic acid, glycolic acid), BHA (salicylic acid) or enzymes (papain, typically) that loosen and digest the keratin bonds between dead skin cells. Depending on how you go about it this can be a very gentle or very intensive method of exfoliation, and I recommend it over granular scrubs any day of the week.

Read more about enzymatic exfoliants + get some product suggestions here.

Active Ingredients

Here’s where a little detective work generally comes in. If a soothing serum hails the benefits of aloe extract all over the packaging, you would assume that that would be the active ingredient. If you turn the bottle over and aloe is the third last ingredient listed, you’ve been duped. We call that label-claim ingredients, and it’s literally an ingredient that’s only included in a minuscule quantity so that the manufacturer can make claims about that ingredients’ benefits.

While there are some exceptions, the main/active ingredients should generally be in the first 1/3 of an ingredient listing.

If there are other skincare buzzwords or phrases that you’d like me to include in the next post, please leave you suggestion in the comments.

C x



  1. Bianca
    Apr 25, 2016 / 4:46 PM

    Double cleansing changed my life too. Looking forward to the other posts!

  2. Shana
    Apr 26, 2016 / 12:33 PM

    I double cleanse and use a clean facecloth every time… made a HUGE difference to my skin! You actually gave me the facecloth idea – THANK YOU đŸ™‚

    • Chantelle Bester
      Apr 28, 2016 / 3:41 PM

      Only a pleasure x

  3. Apr 26, 2016 / 9:33 PM

    My mond hang op die grond. You mean to tell me that “dermatologist tested” actually means “dermatologist endorsed”?
    Ag no man, daar bars my bubble

  4. Apr 28, 2016 / 12:00 PM

    Thanks for the info, I really enjoy your blog!
    Have you ever tried micro needling / dermarolling? Do you know if there is any benefit on the at home rollers?
    I have been doing some internet research, but I figured if anyone would know and give an honest review its you.

    • Chantelle Bester
      Apr 28, 2016 / 3:40 PM

      I haven’t, it’s still on my list of things to try out! I’ll chat to an expert for an opinion in the meantime though.

      • May 3, 2016 / 8:14 PM

        You should definitely speak to Sonette Donker re: skin needling. She has become quite the fundi đŸ™‚ And thank you for such an informative article!

        • Chantelle Bester
          May 4, 2016 / 10:32 AM

          Thanks Justine, I also figured Sonette is the best person to speak to!

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