Here's What Those Vague Words In Skin Care REALLY Mean

Choosing a skin care product is far from a straightforward process. In fact, at times it feels downright mysterious — and no wonder. With vague words like "invigorating" and "revitalizing" explaining what a product is supposed to do, how is anyone ever supposed to know the difference — or if there's even a difference at all?
Never ones to be left in the dark about our own beauty choices, we made a list of words that might have you scratching your well-nourished scalps, and then set about demystifying them. The bottom line, as we quickly learned from Marla Malcolm Beck, the co-founder and CEO of Bluemercury, is that overall, there are no true definitions for these terms. "They tend to be industry slang and fall within a skin-care language that beauty experts and beauty junkies speak," Beck explains.
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But, that being said, this industry slang does have its own meaning. Read on for your glossary of skin care, so that you never have to risk enhancing when you should be tightening (or whatever) ever again.
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Nourishing
Tony Vargas, skin care expert and founder of Tilth Beauty, says that "nourishing" means the products will provide nutrients that sustain the skin’s cell growth. “Ingredients that can do this for the skin are natural oils, such as jojoba, avocado, and grape seed,” he says. And, Beck adds, nourishing also implies hydrating, with vitamins E and K, or aloe vera. In plain terms, this is what we want out of a moisturizer.

Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Purely Nourishing Cream, $28, available at Sephora.
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Brightening
Jan Marini, President & CEO of Jan Marini Skin Research, says, "Brightening products are designed to give the skin a more uniform appearance with greater clarity and luminosity. The primary ingredients to look for are known as 'tyrosinase inhibitors,' which lessen the production of abnormal pigment."

According to Beck, uneven skin tone could come from acne blemishes, freckles, melasma, or photoaging. "This is the case where acids are your friend," she says. "Glycolic, salicylic, gallic acids, and vitamin C are the best ingredients for skin brightening."

Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial, $48, available at Beauty Bar.
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Invigorating
"Invigorating is a less technical term than brightening or nourishing," Beck says. "It tends to refer to products that are meant to soothe the skin, calm redness, or refresh the skin." The best ingredients, according to her? Chamomile, lavender, and aloe.

Ole Henriksen Invigorating Night Gel, $45, available at SkinStore.
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Tightening

"Tightening generally tends to mean firming or reducing pore size," says Beck. She suggests products packed with peptides for firming, and glycolic and salicylic acids to give the feeling of tightening. It's very similar to toning, says Vargas.

Strivectin-TL Tightening Neck Cream, $89, available at Ulta.
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Perfecting
Nobody's perfect, right? But, says Beck, "perfecting" creams are all about texture. "Perfecting products are geared towards those looking to smooth or retexturize the skin, giving a more perfect, even feel," she says. Specifically, according to Marini, "Perfecting mostly refers to minimizing or resolving superficial imperfections such as fine lines and wrinkles, coarse skin texture, large pores, mild to moderate acne, rosacea, acne scarring, or discoloration caused by acne scarring."

As for the perfect perfecting ingredients? Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and vitamin A.

Ren Radiance Perfecting Serum, $55, available at Bluemercury.
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Calming
"Calming" is another way of saying a product has anti-inflammatory properties, says Dr. Zein Obagi of Obagi Skin Health Institute. Basically, calming targets redness due to irritation. “There’s usually inflammation in the skin to some degree,” he says. Vargas adds, "Some natural ingredients that achieve this are alpha bisabolol, oatmeal, chamomile, aloe vera, allantoin, and cucumber extract."

Eucerin Calming Creme Daily Moisturizer, $11.49, available at Walgreens.
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Enhancing
Enhancing, says Vargas, is the same as boosting: "For the skin, they both mean increasing the proteins within the skin, which leads to firmer, fuller-looking skin." The ingredients within a product that promises to enhance should be similar to those that promise to perfect and tighten.

Renée Rouleau Glow Enhancing Cream, $69.50, available at Renée Rouleau.
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