Skin Care Glossary
Abhyanga is the Sanskrit word for oil massage. In ayurveda, massage strokes and special medicated oils called taila are chosen to balance the client's dosha constitution or promote detoxification.
A Brazilian fruit that is high in nutrients and antioxidants that may be used in treatments to slow the signs of aging.
The natural acidic outer layer of the skin that helps prevent bacterial invasion.
A solution of water and lemon juice or vinegar.
Pre-cancerous growth that may occur because of repeated sun damage.
Small tumor of translucent appearance, originating in the sebaceous gland.
A person who has no pigmentation in the eyes, hair, or skin.
The terms algae and seaweed are often used interchangeably in skin care, which causes some confusion. Seaweeds are algae that have a particular growth form, but the term algae also includes a wide range of other terrestrial and aquatic organisms with different evolutionary histories. Algae occur in all marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the world, wherever there is fresh or salt water.
The application of thin layers of heated seaweed to the skin to reduce pain and inflammation. Infrared lamps maintain the temperature of the seaweed. Brown seaweeds are the type primarily used in algotherapy. After being washed and rinsed, the seaweed is processed and preserved to retain all active ingredients. (Adapted from www.day-spas.org.)
A substance that is used to neutralize acids and is used in the soap making process.
A skin disease that results in baldness or very thin hair.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
Naturally-occurring acids found in sugar cane and citrus fruit. AHAs include lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid, glycolic acid, and pyruvic acid. Glycolic acid is the most popular of the AHAs, because it has the smallest molecular structure and most easily penetrates into the skin's surface. AHAs have the ability to remove and loosen cells from the stratum corneum (skin surface), causing the skin to look smoother and making wrinkles less noticeable. The use of AHAs also helps retain moisture in the surface layers of the skin.
Electricity that takes the form of a rapid, interrupted current, flowing first in one direction and then in the opposite direction.
A substance that is used to adjust pH levels in cosmetics and skin care products.
The first phase of the hair cycle, when hair synthesis takes place.
The process by which liquids, including water-based skin care products, are forced into the skin from the negative or positive pole of a galvanic current machine.
Treatment in humid or dry caves, where temperature is determined by the environment.
An agent that prevents or arrests the growth of microorganisms.
A natural skin-lightening agent composed of glucose and hydroquinone. It is extracted from bearberry plants.
The use of essential oils for healing the body, mind, and spirit.
A device that breaks down a water-based product into a fine mist for spraying onto the face or body.
The 5,000-year-old traditional medical system of India. It is also a philosophy that offers keys for creating harmony and balance in life.
Spa and skin care products often come in two sizes. The larger size is called the back bar and is used by a therapist during treatment. It is not sold to clients and is not subject to the same labeling requirements as products sold to the public. The smaller size is sold in the retail area for clients to use for home care. Retail items must meet the Food and Drug Administration's labeling requirements for cosmetics.
The use of waters to restore and revitalize the body. An ancient treatment, balneotherapy has been used to improve circulation, fortify the immune system, relieve pain, and treat stress.
The ability of the skin to prevent penetration by microorganisms and chemicals that might otherwise damage tissue or enter the circulation. The skin also reduces water loss from the body.
Basalt is one of the best types of rock for stone massage, as it holds heat better than many rock types. It is an igneous rock formed from the solidification of molten magma on the earth's surface. Basalt generally has microscopic crystals and a smooth texture.
The use of salt, sugar, ground-up nuts, pumice, or other granular substances in an emollient base to exfoliate skin. Polishes and rejuvenates the skin at the same time.
Any exfoliating procedure using either a dry brush or products such as salt, oatmeal, almond paste, pumice, algae, or gel.
A treatment in which brushes and salicylic salt are used to polish the body, producing a fine skin texture.
Brushes rotate at different speeds to slough off dead cells and grime that cling to the surface of the skin.
Natural or artificial salt baths aid in treatment of fractures, dislocations, and a variety of illnesses. Oxygen introduced into the bath through tubes along the tub bottom has a soothing effect and is useful with hypertension, cardiac disease, and insomnia. Carbon dioxide baths may help slow the heart rate and regulate blood pressure. Recommended water temperatures and soaking times vary according to the specific chemicals introduced.
The application of product to the skin to remove dead or damaged cells of the epidermis, improving skin texture, and decreasing fine lines and wrinkles. The term peel is misleading, as the procedure is not intended to remove live tissue, only dead or damaged cells from the stratum corneum (skin surface). Deeper penetrating procedures with high concentrations of exfoliating chemicals are intended for a dermatologist's use.
The fear of being enclosed in a small or narrow space. Some clients experience claustrophobia with a body wrap, or when their face is enclosed in hot towels or other materials. The therapist must keep this in mind and always be on hand to remove a client from the wrap quickly.
A variable group of fine-grained natural materials, mainly mineral in composition, which usually becomes "plastic" in texture and consistency when moist.
A deep, cold water pool plunge causes rapid contraction of the capillaries and stimulates the circulation after using a sauna.
A process that irrigates and cleanses the colon and is reported to aid in detoxification.
An ingredient or product that increases the accumulation of dead cells within the follicles (increased retention hyperkeratosis) when applied to the skin, leading to blackhead formation and acne flare-ups.
A contrast bath is designed to stimulate local circulation by surrounding parts of the body with water at different temperatures. A contrast bath normally involves two large containers, each large enough to hold both of a person's legs. One container is filled with cold water (50-60ºF) and another with hot water (100-110ºF). Treatment is short, with the client first placing the leg or legs into the hot water for four to six minutes, then into the cold water for one to two minutes. Dipping can be repeated for five to ten transfers. (Adapted from Spa Management magazine.)
Treatments that use mineral water, mud, and vapor.
A product that cools the body area to which it is applied. These products are sometimes used for cellulite treatments, and sometimes for sore muscles, because they stimulate circulation.
The therapeutic application of cold temperatures.
A spa that offers beauty/salon services, mind-body therapies, massage/bodywork, body and facial treatments, esthetics, and de-stressing programs, either by the service or pre-packaged in half- or full-day programs, requiring no overnight stay.
A dermatological surgical procedure using a rotating instrument that sands the skin, reducing scarring and some wrinkles. This procedure requires intense pre- and post-operative care.
A spa that offers all-inclusive package programs, including exercise, body and facial treatments, massage/bodywork, mind-body therapies, and de-stressing programs, along with luxurious accommodations, amenities, and spa cuisine.
A body cleansing to remove toxins accumulated by over-taxing the body with addictive habits.
The component in self-tanning products that causes the skin cells to change color and appear tanned when the product is applied to the skin.
A substance that destroys harmful microorganisms; usually used on inanimate hard surfaces such as floors, walls, and countertops.
Dissolving exfoliants are composed of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). AHAs include glycolic, citric, lactic, and malic acids. The most widely used BHA in cosmetics is salicylic acid, or its related substances sodium salicylate and willow extract.
In traditional Ayurvedic practice, the doshas are the three subtle energies (vata, pitta, kapha) believed to circulate in the body.
Dry brushing with a massage brush, glove, or a rough towel improves the skin's circulation. Brushing is performed in a specified manner from the feet upward and leaves the skin slightly red, but not damaged. Followed by hydrating oils or moisturizers. May be used as a precursor to other treatments.
A treatment room in which there is no shower or hydrotherapy equipment. Instead, hot towels are used to remove products from the client's body, or clients take showers in a different area.
Powdered dulse seed, combined with water or oil, is used to scrub the body, eliminating dead skin and leaving a smooth surface. This also serves as a vitamin/mineral treatment. Gentle enough for sensitive skin.
A type of massage stroke. A firm or light soothing, stroking movement that doesn't drag the skin, using either the pads of the fingertips or the palms.
A substance that softens the skin by slowing the evaporation of water.
A mixture of two or more liquids, in which one liquid is present as microscopic droplets distributed throughout the other liquid.
Exfoliation that relies on biological action rather than physical abrasion. This type of exfoliation is applied to the skin and then rinsed off. The enzymes used dissolve keratin in the skin, thereby removing dead cells and supporting the natural process of exfoliation. Papain from papaya is an example of one of these enzymes.
A body exfoliation treatment that uses ingredients such as protein enzymes or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) that chemically dissolve dead skin cells without the surface abrasive action of other body exfoliation treatments. AHAs are naturally-occurring acids found in sugarcane and citrus fruit. Glycolic acid is the most popular of the AHAs because it has the smallest molecular structure. The enzyme peel is typically applied as a body mask and provides a period of relaxation for the client until the treatment is rubbed or washed off, depending on the product manufacturer's instructions.
Volatile plant oils, extracted from certain aromatic plants, that have both physiological and psychological effects on the human body.
The application of various techniques to the epidermal layer of the human body. Application of esthetic techniques may include, but is not limited to, facial steaming, exfoliation, waxing, pore cleansing, extraction, and chemical peels. This may also include instructing the client in maintenance skin care and how to apply makeup skillfully to conceal scars and imperfections. The use of creams, lotions, wraps, clay or gel masks, etc, may also be included, as well as use of the electric pulverizer, spray machine or atomizer, brushing machine, galvanic current, microdermabrasion, and other device-driven noninvasive cosmetic procedures. Esthetic practice specifically excludes diagnosis, prescription, or any other service, procedure, or therapy that requires a license to practice dermatology or any other profession or branch of medicine.
Improving circulation while removing dead skin cells. Pressure used in the process can contribute to relaxation.
The process of removing sebum, bacteria, dead cells, and other waste from the skin follicle.
Deep cleansing of the face with steam. Facials may include exfoliation, extraction, or the application of creams, lotions, cleansers, masks, peels, and massage.
Electric apparatus used to direct a lukewarm vapor mist to the face. Beneficial for softening dead surface cells, opening follicles, loosening up deposits of dirt and grime, eliminating toxins, and increasing blood circulation.
Administered as a bath or mud pack, using highly mineralized mud mixed with oil or water. In addition to aiding in detoxification, pain relief, and stimulation of circulation, the fango blend softens the skin and creates a soothing warmth. Additional natural ingredients, such as sea kelp and peat moss, may be added to increase warmth and mineral content.
Also referred to as lipids or fats, fixed oils are those that are nonvolatile (in other words, they do not evaporate at room temperature). Vegetable oils in this category include sweet almond and sunflower. They might be used as a lubricant in massage or as a carrier for essential oils.
Galvanic Current Machine
A machine used by estheticians in facial treatments. It has two different uses, depending on the polarity of the current that is used. When the working electrode is the negative pole, it is used with a desincrustation solution to soften blocked sebum in pores. When the positive pole is the working electrode, it is used to soothe the skin and encourage the absorption of a water-soluble treatment product.
The use of long massage-like strokes to apply creams that cleanse and rehydrate the skin. Gommage offers many benefits, as it removes dead cells and toxins that have accumulated on the surface of the skin. Gommage works to cleanse the skin, stimulating cellular regeneration and blood circulation, and increases effectiveness of skin products by enabling them to penetrate the skin with ease. (Adapted from www.day-spas.org.)
Sometimes called a Turkish bath, the hammam is a type of steam room originating in the Islamic world, characterized by a vaulted ceiling and a raised, heated marble platform called a hararat where the client can lie while receiving massage or exfoliation treatments.
Specifically blended to suit the client's needs and skin type, herbs are added to individualized baths in the form of sachets or extracts. The hot water disperses the herbs' healing qualities to the skin.
Herbs steeped in water to produce an infusion. Sheets, bath towels, or hand towels are soaked in the herbal infusions and applied to the body for therapeutic purposes.
The body is enveloped in warm linen sheets that have been soaked in a special blend of herbs. The herbs induce perspiration to draw toxins from the skin. Relaxation is promoted by the deep heating action. Herbal wraps usually last 15-20 minutes and are often followed by a brief Scotch hose spray to lower the body temperature and tonify tissue.
High Frequency Machine
A machine that generates a rapidly oscillating electrical current and transmits it through glass electrodes. When the electrodes are applied, the current produces heat in the skin, which stimulates circulation. It also produces ozone, which acts as a germicide to kill bacteria.
An alternative healing method developed by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s, based on the belief that a disease or condition can be cured through the use of a substance that causes similar symptoms in a healthy person.
The body's ability to maintain a relatively constant internal environment, despite changing external conditions.
A variety of treatments that take place in or using water, including underwater massage, herbal baths, balneotherapy (fresh or mineral water), thalassotherapy (sea water), Kneipp therapy, Vichy treatments, Scotch hoses, Swiss showers, and bubbles or jets.
Also called a hydrotherapy tub. A special tub equipped with high-pressure jets and a hand-manipulated hose designed to deliver underwater massage and therapeutic baths.
Hot vapors or steam mixed with eucalyptus or other essential oils, inhaled to decongest the respiratory system; breathed through inhalation equipment or in a special steam room.
In the traditional Ayurvedic system, kapha is one of the three doshas. It is a combination of the elements of earth and water.
Active or passive movement of body parts to aid in improved circulation and muscle tone. Also referred to as physiotherapy.
Kneipp therapy consists of a series of cold water treatments, or alternating hot and cold water treatments, on various parts of the body. Herbal extracts are combined with water in an assortment of bathing methods to energize the system and soothe the mind. Certain herbal remedies are used for detoxification.
Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) was a Bavarian priest, naturopath, and hydrotherapist who streamlined Vincent Priessnitz's treatments and combined herbal treatments with water cures.
The German word for cure. Taking a kur means spending time for therapeutic and restorative purposes.
Learned Odor Response
A response that occurs when an odor is paired with a person, place, or thing, to form a memory link that can later be triggered by the same odor.
A coarse, natural-fiber sponge used to slough off rough and dead skin. Body scrub treatments are given using loofahs with gels, herbal soaps, or exfoliating lotions. A loofah scrub can be a dry scrub or a product scrub done with a loofah. The treatment may begin with a gentle, full-body massage using a blend of almond meal, almond oil, or sea salt to lift dead skin cells and stimulate circulation. This gentle massage is followed by a full-body scrub and shower treatment that leaves the skin revitalized, healthy, and radiant.
An Indonesian ritual bath of milk, buttermilk, or yogurt.
A physical process in which the body is rubbed with an abrasive product or with a coarse handheld item such as a loofah.
A spa menu is like that at a restaurant. It lists all of the services that a client can order when visiting.
A bath using a natural mineral spring supply of water, usually at a very specific temperature with a recommended soaking time. Minerals vary from spring to spring, and the mixture of minerals determines the therapeutic effect of the bath.
Naturally occurring substances that play a crucial role in the body's metabolic processes. They are required by the body to function properly.
A type of peat mud known for its anti-inflammatory effects. It is regularly mined and shipped to the United States for spa treatments. Common sources include Austria, Ireland, and northern Canada.
This treatment may be administered as a bath, cloth, or pack, using a preparation of peat or moor mud.
A gelatinous substance found in plants and animals that is extracted for cosmetic purposes from plants such as seaweeds. It is composed of protein and polysaccharides and is used to give cosmetics a creamy substance and to moisturize and protect the skin.
Mud baths are similar to mineral or seaweed baths in terms of temperature and duration, but have their own unique action on the body, determined by the mineral and plant content of the mud.
Olfaction is the sense of smell. An olfactory response includes the mental, emotional, or spiritual changes that may be elicited by an aroma.
Also called enriched aromatherapy, or oxygenated aromatherapy. Humidified oxygen is infused with aromas and flavors for therapeutic purposes. The oxygen is delivered via tanks or a machine that extracts it from the atmosphere.
A mixture of paraffin and fango (a type of volcanic ash) is heated and molded to portions of the body that are sore, tight, or in need of increased circulation. Clients are then wrapped in a sheet and blanket to rest and relax. Parafango has the ability to retain warmth for approximately 20 minutes at a consistent temperature, which allows the body to experience deep heat and relaxation. This treatment may be followed by a back and shoulder pressure point massage that leaves the body totally at ease.
Warm liquid wax used to ease pain and/or rehydrate the skin. Often the wax is infused with substances such as aromatherapy oils.
A soil-like substance consisting of partially carbonized organic matter, formed when plants (especially sphagnum mosses) decompose in water.
The therapeutic use and application of muds.
The technique of tattooing cosmetics, including eyeliner, lip line, eyebrows, eye shadow, etc, permanently on the face. This technique is also used in restorative applications and/or to help correct flaws and scars on the face and body.
In the traditional Ayurvedic system, pitta is one of the three doshas. It is a combination of the elements of fire and water.
Usually a cloth filled with heated herbs, clay, or a medicated product spread on a cloth and applied to wounds or an injury.
In the traditional Ayurvedic system, a person's prakriti is his or her inherent characteristics, including physical type, mental type, and emotional type.
The price the public will pay for a retail item. The business must choose how much of a markup to add to retail items. This marked up price becomes the price point.
The founder of modern hydrotherapy, Vincent Priessnitz (1799-1851) was an Austrian farmer who became famous for his "Cold Water Cure" system, which consisted of drinking large amounts of cold water, and applications of cold water by packing, immersions, and douches.
The kinesthetic sense in which sensory receptors receive information about rate of movement, contraction, tension, position, and stretch of tissue. This information is processed in the central nervous system, which sends motor impulses back to muscle, causing it to contract, relax, restore, or change position.
The measurement of any substance's acidity. Neutral pH is 7.0 (the pH of pure water). Substances with a pH of less than 7.0 are acids; the lower the pH, the stronger the acid. Substances with a pH higher than 7.0 are bases (alkaline); the higher the pH, the stronger the base. Healthy skin is naturally slightly acidic. Substances with a very high or low pH are irritating to the skin and may cause chemical burns.
A process that occurs when the action of one compound in an essential oil is suppressed by another compound, thereby making the oil safer for use.
Radon is a naturally occurring atmospheric gas. It is radioactive and is released when radium content in rocks and soil breaks down. Although it is extremely hazardous to human health, it is sometimes used in trace amounts for the treatment of arthritis and asthma.
A type of steam bath originating in Russia, used to flush toxins from the body.
Also called a salt scrub. A paste made from sea salt and essential oils or water is vigorously massaged all over the body to remove the outer layer of dead skin and clean pores. A fresh rinse and body moisturizing follows.
The Scotch hose is the alternating use of hot and cold water sprays to massage a standing client. It is a relatively high-pressured hose, used at a certain distance, providing a very specific hydromassage of the body.
Multicellular marine-based algae that fall into one of three main groups: green algae (Chlorophycota spp.), brown algae (Phaeophycota spp.), and red algae (Rhodophyta spp.). Many types of seaweed are common ingredients in skin care products.
After a light massage with an essential oil, the body is painted with a seaweed mixture and then may or may not be wrapped in a plastic sheet. Usually no heat is applied, but a specialized electric blanket that is programmed for targeted zones of the body may be used. The wrap is maintained for 20 minutes to enhance perspiration and detoxification. The client is then given a shower treatment and an application of marine-based lotion for maximum skin-tissue remineralization.
An ingredient added to some skin care products, and found naturally in seaweed, that binds water to skin and gives the product a silky feel.
A treatment in which either very cold or very hot water (as low as 46ºF or as high as 104ºF) is briefly applied to the client's midsection, by sitting in water that covers only the hips and buttocks, with the legs and upper body outside the bath. This bath may be used for either healing or hygiene purposes, and the water may contain medication. Sitz baths are often used to relieve pain, itching, or muscle spasms. For example, the baths are often recommended to soothe pain and promote healing after hemorrhoid surgery or an episiotomy. (Adapted from www.nlm.nih.gov.)
The modern usage of the word comes from the town of Spa in Belgium, a health resort known for its curative mineral springs since the 14th century. The word spa has sometimes been described as an acronym for various Latin phrases such as "salus per aquam" or "sanitas per aquam" (health through water), but this is not historically accurate, as acronyms were not used until modern times; the town's name itself comes from espa, meaning "fountain" in the local language.
A genus of moss that grows only in wet, acidic areas. When sphagnum mosses decay, their remains are compacted over time (sometimes with other plants) to form peat. Peat is therapeutically useful for skin and musculoskeletal conditions.
Steam and Sauna
These are highly therapeutic heated rooms (moist and dry, respectively) and are often utilized prior to a scrub, wrap, massage, or hydrotherapy treatment. Temperature in a sauna should not exceed 180ºF–190ºF and steam should not exceed 120ºF. Exposure should be limited and monitored.
The outermost layer of the epidermis of the skin. This layer provides the skin with its barrier function.
A chemical element that is an important constituent of many proteins and is often found in thermal pools and in some therapeutic muds. Sulfur is believed to reduce oxidative stress on the body and is used to treat arthritis, sore muscles, skin diseases, and other conditions.
A Swiss shower is one in which fresh water is sprayed over the standing body from both overhead and side-positioned, needle-like jet valves at varying heights. A massaging and invigorating effect is created by varying the spray velocity and temperature, thus increasing circulation.
When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and those parts are mutually enhancing.
In ayurvedic medicine, taila are medicated oils made by cooking herbs into a fatty base such as sesame or coconut oil. Taila are used as medicine and for external treatments like massage.
Thermal bath. From the Greek therme, meaning heat, and thermai, meaning related to hot springs.
Derived from the Greek word thalassa meaning "sea," this is a hydrotherapy treatment incorporating seawater and marine products.
Mud that comes from an area around hot springs. It can be applied at a spa on location while still hot from the spring water, or it can be mined, distributed elsewhere, and heated before use.
The therapeutic application of heat.
An herbal paste used in ayurveda to support detoxification and smooth the skin. It is applied externally to the body.
Ultraviolet A (UVA) Rays
Sometimes referred to as the "aging rays," these rays from the sun penetrate deeper into the skin than ultraviolet B rays and cause photosensitivity reactions.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) Rays
Sometimes referred to as the "burning rays," these rays from the sun are the primary rays associated with skin damage and skin cancer from sun exposure.
Underwater massage is performed in specialized tubs filled with warm water. The client first relaxes by floating on a continuous stream of air bubbles rising from the bottom of the tub. There are underwater jets to massage the neck, shoulders, feet, calves, thighs, and hips, and to induce relaxation. The client is then massaged underwater with a high pressure hose attachment with optimal pressure used to work on specific problem areas. This form of hydrotherapy is a particularly good treatment for increasing circulation, relaxing sore muscles, and stimulating the heart and other organs in the elimination of toxins.
The policy of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for safety in the presence of blood and other body fluids, which are potentially infectious sources of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and C viruses, and other bloodborne pathogens.
In the traditional ayurvedic system, vata is one of the three doshas. It is a combination of the elements of space and air.
Needle-like showers of alternating cold and hot water are directed from overhead as the client reclines on a table. It is usually followed by a body scrub. European Vichy treatment consists of a very fine shower of lukewarm water over the body, along with a full-body massage done by the therapist in wet room attire. In the United States, the Vichy shower is mostly used to rinse off body scrub or wrap products and not generally used therapeutically.
In ayurvedic medicine, an individual's diet, environment, work stress, mental or emotional trauma, relationships, or physical injury may cause their prakriti (constitution) to become unbalanced. This unbalanced state is referred to as a vikriti state.
The rate at which a compound turns from a liquid to a gas at room temperature (i.e. when it evaporates).
An esthetic hair removal procedure. Warm wax is applied to the skin. Once the wax is firm, it is pulled off, taking the hair with it. There is momentary pain on the surface of the skin as the wax is removed.
A treatment room that contains specialized hydrotherapy equipment, such as showers, hydrotherapy tubs, and Scotch hoses, for treatment use or for the removal of spa products from clients' bodies.
Milium (sometimes called acne albida).