The skincare world is outrageously complicated for something universally essential to all humans looking and feeling their best. Skincare Jargon is full of three-syllable words that seem to contain the entire alphabet, including but not limited to such gems as “tranexamic acid”. You shouldn’t have to be a dermatologist to choose the right SPF for your skin type. In the spirit of true empathy, we at S’ABLE Labs thought we would put together a shortlist (the first of many) of terms we think will get you started on your healthy skin journey.

For newbies looking to build a simple but effective skincare routine or just find out what their skin needs to glow, keep reading. 

Skincare Jargon Explained


AHAs or Alpha-hydroxy acids, for those in the know, are a group of plant and animal-derived acids used in various skin care products. There are seven types of AHAs found in skincare. 

How to use them? AHAs are powerful antiaging chemicals that sluff away dead skin cells by loosening the fluid that binds them to the skin’s surface.  You can find AHA’s in many forms like Toners, treatments and serums.


Antioxidants are effective natural compounds that protect the skin’s surface from oxidative damage by free radicals. If you’ve ever seen an oxidised avocado, you’ll understand why the daily application of an antioxidant, like vitamin c, is a must.

Free radicals

Free radicals are chemical species induced when our skin is exposed to the air, solar radiation, and other environmental pollutants. They are nasty operators responsible for the breakdown of our skin’s collagen, resulting in “unflattering skin blemishes like wrinkling, dark spots, fine lines and loose, saggy skin”, according to The National Libary of Medicine.


According to the Cleveland clinic, “Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that makes some areas of the skin darker than others. Extra melanin creates spots or patches that look brown, black, grey, red or pink.” I know what you’re thinking, since when is extra melanin a bad thing? When last month’s blemish is this week’s scar.


The term non-comedogenic should be at the top of every acne-prone skincare newbies (enthusiasts) list. Simply put, non-comedogenic skincare products are formulated so as not to cause blocked pores. A comedone is a prettier way of saying “blackhead”.

pH balanced

I’m sure you’ve seen pH numbers popping up on your favourite skincare products; this will likely not change. Healthy pH balanced skin typically has a pH of around 4.7-5.75, meaning a healthy balance of acidity and alkalinity. Ideally, you want your daily skincare to have a pH balance of about 5.5; this protects the skin’s acid mantle, retains moisture, and repels harmful toxins.

Sensitive skin

Wait? Didn’t we already talk about this? 

“It may come as a surprise, but “sensitive skin” is not actually a medical diagnosis. It is an umbrella term covering everyone with skin that has a reduced tolerance for cosmetics and other personal care products. Meaning, people with skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, or dermatitis may not tolerate certain known irritants; resulting in stinging, itching or burning.”

Skin barrier

Our skin is made up of multiple layers, and as our first line of defence, every one of those layers performs important functions in protecting the precious continence below. Choosing the right skincare can preserve and strengthen our skin’s barrier, while things like too much sun exposure or harsh irritants can lead to it’s depletion.

Tranexamic acid

By now, I’m sure you’ve noticed the prominent role acids play in maintaining healthy skin; tranexamic acid is no exception. This chemical can be used any time of day and helps strengthen the skin’s barrier while reducing dark spots and discolouration.