Discussion: Let’s talk about descriptors!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we describe our ingredients and products, and thought we could brainstorm to create a better vocabulary for what certain words mean when we use them to describe oils, fragrances, and such. We could create a glossary of terms here on the blog and in future e-zines and e-books, and I thought it might be cool to make up some little videos for things that can be seen, like shininess or viscosity or colour.

I will be working towards a better description of viscosity over the next little while as I get better to stand and play with my new viscometer!

These are just the ones I’ve thought about, so please add whatever categories, words, and meanings to this list. And this will be an ongoing list, so please add your thoughts on any of these concepts or any that we’ve left out, and I’ll update it. Include your own personal vocabulary for things as those are important, too!

I explain a lot of stuff by sound. For instance, when I make a beverage with one of those Mio type drink mixes, I ask to have enough “squiiiiish” in it. That’s how much I want. Squiiiiiish. Whereas Raymond goes “squish squish squish”. So feel free to include some of your personal weirdness in this list! 


Low notes, like vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood,

Medium notes, like…

Top notes, airy, green or citrus fragrances

Green, like grass or eucalyptus essential oil

Citrus, like orange, lemon, lime, bergamot, grapefruit,

Earthy, like patchouli,

Flowery, like rose, lilac, lily, etc.


Greasy, like sunflower oil, soy bean oil,

Non-greasy, like evening primrose or grape seed oil

Silky, like babassu oil

Matte, leaving behind no shine on the skin.

Shiny, glistening on the skin.

Dewy, looking moisturized but not super shiny

Very light weight, like fractionated coconut oil, cyclomethicone, or esters

Light weight, like sunflower oil

Medium weight, like olive oil

Heavy weight, like castor oil.

Light spreading, like fractionated coconut oil, or many of the esters

Medium spreading, like olive oil or avocado oil



Powdery, like a lotion made with Incroquat BTMS-50

Draggy, the way mango butter spreads on your skin or something with too much beeswax

Waxy, like beeswax or cetearyl alcohol

Occlusive, feels like it’s on our skin

Stiff, for something like a lotion bar it means it’s solid

Plasticized, for things like lip balms or lotion bars, this means it isn’t stiff or powdery


Prills: Little tiny balls

Flakes: As per the picture above, a thin, flattish irregular shape

Pastilles: Little tiny flat circular shapes, like these Polawax pastilles


Lacy glove, describes things like foaming proteins where the bubbles are thinner and look lacy

Elegant, describes something like SCI that has a rich foam that feels luxurious

Flash foam, means it starts to foam when the water hits it

Lather, which is what you get when you start using the product

Conditioned, describes that your hair feels smooth, nicer


Ball bearings, like microspheres or Penstia powder 

Watery, like gels

Cushioned (see below)

A NOTE ON CUSHION VERSUS PLAY TIME (Copied and pasted from Cosmetics & Toiletries)

Oils placed on the skin generally are rubbed into the skin. This rubbing results in the spreading out of the oil. How the oil spreads and the amount of time it takes to spread are respectively referred to as cushion and playtime.

Think of a drop of honey applied to the back of the hand. Rubbing it with a finger results in spreading out of the honey. During the rub out, a film is formed between the finger and the back of the hand. The thickness of this film is generally what is referred to as cushion.

Honey has a good amount of cushion but ingredients like isopropyl myristate have little cushion. Cushion is related to the viscosity of the liquid, the volatility of the liquid, the surface tension of the liquid, and the tendency of the liquid to be absorbed into the skin. Cushion is an important cosmetic property of oils.

Cushion does not last forever, and the length of time it takes for the cushion to disappear is referred to as playtime. Similar to cushion, playtime is dependent upon a variety of factors intrinsic to the oil and how it interacts with the skin.

Okay, so that’s a lot to think about for the day, but I can’t wait to see what you suggest!