Beauty and Makeup Terms: A Glossary for Every Beginner!

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With each passing year, new cosmetic terms and slangs are born with the changing tides of beauty trends. 

And we totally understand if some of you can’t keep up with the pace!

If you are a beginner who’s just about to deep dive into the wonderful world of beauty and makeup, we’re here to make your life easier.

We’ve prepared a guide for you!

A beautiful woman is applying makeup with a brush on a beige background

Consider this your encyclopedia of makeup terminologies and trends.

Below is an alphabetical list of makeup terms a beginner like you should know.

Scroll down to learn more, and bookmark this article for easier reference!

A

Acetone

A volatile, colorless, and flammable chemical that can be found in polish removers. It works by breaking down the polymer molecules in acrylics, gels, and polishes into their liquid form.

Acidic

This means having a pH of less than 7. If the skin’s pH drops into the acidic range (4.5 to 5.5), it increases the chances of inflammatory conditions like acne and eczema.

Acne

This is a common skin condition that produces pimples or “zits,” which occur when pores are clogged with hair, dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria.

This may appear in common spots such as the face, forehead, shoulders, chest, and upper back.

Acne Spot Treatment

This is an over-the-counter acne treatment product that is not meant to be applied all over the entire face but only to specific blemishes.

Most treatments of this kind are made with salicylic acid, which is effective in healing individual pimples.

This is preferably used before you hit the sack and should be left on the face overnight.

Activated Charcoal

This form of carbon is a popular ingredient in skincare that has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. This helps remove impurities and dirt from the skin. 

Airbrush Foundation

a make up artist applying airbrush foundation to her client

A technique that involves loading a makeup foundation into an airbrush gun, which sprays a fine mist on the skin with the help of forced air.

The result? A long-lasting, lightweight finish. 

Alkaline

A pH level greater than 7 means having more alkaline skin.

When this happens, you may suffer from skin conditions like premature aging, fungal or yeast infection, and inflammation.

Ampoule

This term comes from the French word “ampule,” which refers to the vial wherein the liquid is stored.

The tiny, sealed glass contains a highly concentrated liquid treatment applied topically to areas with skin concerns such as dark spots and acne.

Antioxidant

This term refers to a group of ingredients that are infused into skincare products to help reduce skin damage from the sun and other external or environmental factors.

B

Baking

This refers to the makeup technique that involves applying a layer of powder to particular areas of the face to minimize creasing and increase wear time.

Once baking is done, you may dust off excess powder.

Base

Creating a “base” means applying primer, foundation, and concealer to the skin before the rest of the products. 

Applying these products one after the other makes products last longer, evens out skin tone, and covers blemishes. Keep in mind that your “base” should be the same shade as your skin color. 

Baked Eyeshadow

This is an eye makeup term that refers to a type of eyeshadow initially having a wet formula that’s heated and pressed into a powder.

Oftentimes, it is better pigmented than regular dry eyeshadow products.

BB Cream

An alternative to foundation that promises light coverage while being skin-loving. BB stands for different terms such as beauty balm, blemish balm, or blemish base.

Blotting Paper

a woman blotting her cheeks with a blotting paper happily

This is made from an extra absorbent material that’s meant to suck oil and dirt leaving a mattified face.

Blush

This is a cosmetic product that adds warmth to your makeup look.

Although typically found in shades of pink or red, it also has non-traditional shades such as peach, orange, and even mauve or purple.

Bronzer

A makeup product that either comes in a powder or matte formula. When applied, it adds dimension to the skin and creates a sun-kissed look.

Apply this to areas where the sun would naturally hit such as the forehead, temples, and cheekbones.

Brow Gel

This gel product is either colorless or tinted and is meant to fashion brows into one’s desired shape and keep eyebrows in place. If tinted, it makes the brows look fuller with color.

Blackhead

This is a kind of skin blemish that appears as small bumps on the skin due to clogged hair follicles.

They have a black or dark surface and appear in different parts of the body such as the face, neck, back, chest, arms, and shoulders.

C

Cat Eye

This is a cosmetic term that refers to a makeup look where the eyeliner is applied past the eyelid, making the eyes look bigger and/or longer.

It can be achieved through a subtle flick or a dramatic, exaggerated wing that fans out at the edge of the eye and connects along the entire lower lash line.

CC Cream

A makeup term that stands for “complexion corrector” or “color corrector.”

It is a multipurpose product that works as a skincare product and foundation because it offers light coverage while providing anti-aging and anti-blemish properties. 

Collagen

This protein provides elasticity and structure to your skin. 

Color Corrector

A palette of color corrector on top of a green background.

This is a category of makeup or skincare products that offers a reduction of discoloration like redness and dark undereye circles.

Concealer

A makeup product that’s effective in hiding blemishes and discoloration. It usually comes in a liquid or creamy formula and is preferably applied after foundation.

Contouring

This is a makeup technique that enhances your face’s features by creating the illusion of shadows, resulting in chiseled and accentuated angles of the face. 

To do this, use products in neutral tones that are two to three shades darker than your complexion, which can successfully mimic the appearance of shadows.

Cut Crease

A technical makeup artist’s terminology that refers to a technique accentuating the eyelid crease with eyeshadow and “cutting” with a concealer as a base for lighter colors.

This method makes the eyes appear wider, more dramatic, and more even. 

Cystic Acne

This is a general term for a type of inflammatory acne in which the skin’s pores are blocked and infected with bacteria, forming painful and pus-filled pimples.

When the pore wall ruptures, it spreads to the surrounding tissue.

Cuticle Oil

A product used to nourish and moisturize the nail bed. It is recommended that this be applied after a manicure to restore hydration to your nails.

D

Dewy

A close up of a woman's beautiful dewy skin

This is a term describing skin or a makeup finish that looks well moisturized and glowing. 

Double Cleanse

In a guru’s beauty glossary, this term refers to a step in a skincare routine two cleansing products are used, one with oil and another with water, to clean the face without irritating the skin. 

Dupe

This word is the shortened version of “duplicate.” In the makeup world, these products are more affordable and give similar effects as expensive, high-end products. 

DD Cream

A daily defense or dynamic do-all cream product that can prime, perfect, and protect the skin from various concerns. 

E

Eczema

This is a chronic skin condition that’s characterized by inflamed, dry, and scaly patches that appear around the eyes and neck, behind the knees, or on the inner elbows. 

Essence

This skincare product has a water or serum-like consistency that is loaded with active ingredients to hydrate and boost the skin’s overall health.

This is typically applied to the face after cleansing to prepare the skin to absorb succeeding products.

Exfoliator

A skincare product that effectively removes a layer of dead skin and deep-seated dirt from your face. There are two kinds of exfoliation methods: 

1. Physical

This type of exfoliation method requires you to manually rub a product on the skin to remove dead skin cells.

An example of physical exfoliation is using a face mitt, a textured washcloth, or skincare products that contain sugar granules, coffee grounds, or jojoba beads. 

Take note that physical exfoliation is typically done on the body and not the face, as these products may be too abrasive for delicate facial skin.

2. Chemical

This exfoliation method uses acids to dissolve dead skin cells and boost the skin cell turnover cycle to allow the shedding of skin cells. It can be done on the face or the body.

Common types of exfoliating acids and enzymes include the following:

Eyelash Curler

This is a hand-operated beauty tool that curls eyelash hair upwards. Upper lashes are typically curled to create the illusion of wider, brighter eyes.

Eyelash Extensions

These refer to semi-permanent synthetic, silk, and faux mink fibers that are directly attached per strand to your natural lashes using semi-permanent glue. Eyelash extensions give you a fuller, longer, darker lash look. 

Eyeliner

This cosmetic tool comes in the form of a pencil, pen, cream, or liquid.

Through this, you can draw a line slightly above your lash lines or even on the waterlines of the eyes to make the lashes look fuller or to enhance or change your eye’s shape.

Eyeshadow

This is a colored cosmetic powder or cream product applied to the eyelids or around the skin of the eyes to add color or to make them look wider and more dramatic.

F

Falsies

This is the shortened makeup term for “false eyelashes,” which are made of natural or synthetic hair that is attached to a strip.

To apply, just slide a lash glue on the strip and install it slightly above the lash line to get fuller lashes. 

Flashback

This makeup term is used when a makeup product causes a white cast on your face when captured with a camera flash on.

This usually happens when you use makeup products that contain minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, including natural foundations with SPF.

It may also result from using a low-quality base makeup product or choosing the wrong shade of foundation, concealer, or setting powder.

Foundation

This is a liquid, powder, or cream-based face makeup used to create a base and even out your skin tone.

This is ideally applied after the primer and before the subsequent products like concealer, contour, and blush.

Fragrance

A woman smelling a makeup product at the store

This is a general term for natural and/or synthetic chemicals used to scent products such as for skin care. Its presence can cause allergic reactions or irritation in some people.

G

Glycerin

This substance in skincare enables the skin to retain moisture and hydration. It is also an inexpensive ingredient. Glycerin can be found in several beauty products like facial moisturizers, body lotions, and even hydrating foundations. 

Glycolic Acid

This is a type of water-soluble alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that comes from plants, specifically sugar cane. 

Among all the AHAs, this has the smallest size of molecules, enabling easy absorption into the skin and thereby exfoliating it faster. Glycolic acid is a popular ingredient to treat sun damage, acne, and signs of aging. 

Gua Sha

Originating from China, this beauty tradition uses a smooth-edged tool for facial or body massage. This tool helps release tight muscles and reduces puffiness.

H

Halo Eye

From the list of technical makeup artist terms, this refers to an eyeshadow application technique that “sandwiches” a very light color between a darker color on both the upper and lower lids and between the inner and outer thirds of the eyes. 

Highlighter

A cream, liquid, or powder-based makeup product that reflects light.

It is typically applied on the face’s high points such as the cheekbones, brow bones, and nose’s bridge to make these areas pop and stand out.

Hitting Pan

This is a term popularly used by makeup enthusiasts that means using up most of the product’s content and already seeing the pan at the bottom of the container.

Hyaluronic Acid

Found in skincare products, this popular ingredient helps in reducing wrinkles and fine lines by hydrating the skin’s outer layers.

This ingredient can be found in moisturizers, serums, creams, and even oral supplements.

Hyperpigmentation

an illustration of skin hyperpigmentation on a woman's face showing before and after

This is a common skin condition that makes some of the areas of the skin darker. This can be triggered by exposure to harmful UV light, illness, wound, hormonal changes, or certain medications.

I

Injectable

A term of beauty that refers to any substance that can be injected into the body. Derma fillers that help plump out wrinkles are an example of a cosmetic injectable. 

Inner Corner

This is a makeup trend that’s making a comeback lately which means adding a pop of color in the inner corners of the eyes with eyeshadow or highlighter.

K

K-beauty

This is an umbrella term for skincare products that originate from South Korea. Check out some incredible Korean products here.

Kojic Acid

Popular in Japan, this ingredient is used for skin lightening but can cause skin irritation when used in high concentrations.

Kabuki Brush

Regarded as one of the best brushes to use to apply liquid foundation and tinted moisturizer.

L

Lactic Acid

A popular alpha hydroxy acid, Lactic Acid is a common over-the-counter skincare product meant for topical treatments of skin problems like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis.

Aside from that, this is also used for stronger professional exfoliation.

Laser

a woman undergoing laser to get rid of dark spots on her face

It is a concentrated beam of light used to treat several skin problems like dark spots, wrinkles, unwanted body hair, and even spider veins.

Lipstick

Often a waxy cosmetic product, this is applied to the lips for added color, shine, and/or texture. Some lipstick brands now offer SPF protection to the lips.

Lip Gloss

Compared to lipstick, this makeup product gives lips a glossy luster with minimal tint. When applied, the lips can have a glittery, metallic, or glossy finish. 

Lip Liner

This is a lip product that’s meant to create or outline the shape of the lips by filling in the areas on the lip’s outer edges. This usually comes in a form of a pigmented pencil.

Lip Tint/Stain

This product gives the lips a slight stain without much shine or gloss. This is not heavy on the lips, so this is perfect for those who are uncomfortable with the lipstick’s oily or dry formulation. 

Loose Powder

This powder product is usually more finely milled and is designed to set your makeup.

M

Makeup Sponge

Also known as beauty sponges, these come in various shapes and sizes that are perfect to use for blending hard-to-reach areas such as corners of the nose and eyes.

Mascara

In a makeup glossary, this refers to a waxy, pigmented cosmetic product that is sold in a tube and applied to the lashes using a brush or a wand attached to the product’s lid. It gives extra length and a fuller look to the lashes.

Matte

A type of makeup finish that’s non-reflective and eliminates shine.

Melasma

A close up of a woman with melasma on her face.

This is a common skin condition that’s characterized by brown or blue-gray patches and freckle-like spots. This is usually triggered by heat, UV rays, and hormonal changes.

Micellar Water

A kind of skincare product that’s infused with “micelles” to absorb dirt, oil, and makeup. It helps clear out pores, tone the skin, and promote skin hydration.

Moisturizer

A skincare product that restores moisture to the skin, like the face, lips, and neck.

Monochromatic Makeup

A makeup trend that involves using the same color or pigment on multiple areas of the face such as the eyes, cheeks, and lips.

N

Niacinamide

A form of vitamin B3, this ingredient is popular among skincare lovers because of its ability to reduce the appearance of enlarged pores.

No-Makeup Makeup Look

In the glossary of popular makeup terms, this refers to the “clean girl makeup look.” It serves only to enhance one’s features using makeup, but the number of makeup products used is more or less the same as most makeup looks.

P

Parabens

This is an artificial preservative that increases the shelf-life of cosmetic products but is proven to be harmful to the skin. It can sensitize the skin and cause allergic reactions.

Primer

This is a makeup product used underneath the foundation, tinted moisturizer, and eyeshadow. This blurs the appearance of pores and helps makeup stay longer.

Pressed Powder

A woman is holding a compact powder on a wooden table.

A solid form of face powder that’s meant to even out skin tone and mattify an oily complexion.  loose powder products. It has a different purpose compared to loose powder products.

R

Retinol

This is an over-the-counter form of vitamin A that is topically applied to the face to reduce the effects of acne and aging.

Ring Light

A circular light tool that mimics the sun’s shade and enables seamless makeup application and high-quality captures of beauty shots, portraits, and videos.

S

Salicylic Acid

This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) is an FDA-approved skin care ingredient that helps in treating acne problems.

Salicylic acid is a popular ingredient because it has properties that cleanse pores and lessen sebum production. As a result, it prevents whiteheads and blackheads from developing. 

Satin

Can’t choose between dewy and matte finish? Try another type of foundation finish that’s in between dewy and matte called “satin.”

This gives you a subtle radiant glow that doesn’t feel heavy on the face. The bonus part? This suits all skin types!

Serum

A skincare product with a liquid or gel-like consistency that’s overloaded with skin-loving ingredients. 

Setting Spray

A makeup finishing spray that sets makeup in place and boosts hydration. 

Smokey Eye

A makeup term used to describe a dramatic makeup style that consists of dark eyeshadow blended into a lighter eyeshadow to create a “smokey” effect.

Spoolie

A brush with soft bristles that’s meant to comb through, blend, and shape eyebrows.

Squalane

In skin care lingo, this word refers to a moisturizing ingredient that helps seal in hydration and fixes disrupted skin barrier. This is popularly found in products like sunscreen, anti-aging cream, and lip gloss. 

Squalane (with an “a”) is the less oxidized and more stable version of “squalene” (with an “e”), the lipid naturally found in human sebum, plants, and fish oils. 

Strobing

A makeup artist is using a brush to apply makeup on a woman's face

This is one of the hottest makeup techniques of today. It aims to create a glowing complexion by using shimmery shades of highlighter to accentuate high points of the face. 

T

Tightlining

An eye makeup technique that involves applying eyeliner to the waterline to define the eye shape and make the lashes look fuller.

Toner

A skincare product applied after cleansing to remove the last traces of dirt, impurities, and makeup that may clog the pores. It refreshes, hydrates, and protects the skin.

T-zone

Often referred to as the “oily zone,” the face’s T-zone comprises the forehead, nose, and chin.

U

Undertone

This refers to the subtle hue underneath the original skin tone or color.

W

Winged Eyeliner

A close up photo of a woman's eye with winged eyeliner

This is a popular eye makeup technique that involves applying eyeliner on the top lash line of the eyes, which extends past the outer corner, creating a pointy flick or wing.

However, unlike cat eyeliner, winged eyeliner does not include the lower lash line.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do You Call a Person Who Loves Makeup?

A person who loves makeup is typically known as a makeup enthusiast. 

This is someone who lives and breathes makeup, from the tools like brushes to the products like foundations and mascaras. 

What Are the Essentials in Makeup?

The main components of makeup include foundation, contour, blush, eyeshadow and eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick.

Learn more about the basics of beauty essentials here.

Learn These Makeup Terms At Your Own Time And Pace

Learning about the thousands of words for makeup and beauty can be a daunting prospect for beginners.

With so many products, tools, and techniques available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

However, we’re here to tell you that you don’t need to memorize all of them in one go. 

Once you start exploring the wonderful world of beauty and makeup, you’ll be able to meet several terms that go with different trends.

Take your time, follow your pace, and when in doubt, refer to this article for guidance. 

Excited To Deep Dive Into The World of Makeup? 

Check these helpful articles:

Authors

  • Janille Gultiano

    Jan, a distinguished freelance makeup artist, also boasts a BA in Mass Communication, laying the foundation for her diverse talents. For over four years, she's carved a niche as a captivating content writer, with her articles resonating in various spheres. Beyond writing, her expertise extends to crafting robust Public Relations and Corporate Communications strategies. Each endeavor reflects Jan's unique blend of creativity and precision

  • Noelia Genov

    Noelia boasts eight years as a professional makeup artist and 6 years mastering skincare. She is a licensed esthetician and makeup artist in New York and her expertise spans from transformative makeup looks to in-depth skincare solutions.

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