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Learn the lingo: What makeup descriptions really mean

You can speak the makeup lingo, but do you really understand it?

make-up artist applying make-up to model

You hear it every day. TV shows, magazines, beauticians and the lady behind the makeup counter all use makeup lingo to tell us what a product is, how to use it and why. You nod and smile, but do you really know what they’re saying? SheKnows spoke with a few industry experts to get the lowdown on the lingo.


You know you’re supposed to be adding contours to your face, but how do you do that, short of picking up a chisel? Makeup artist D’Angelo Thompson says it’s simpler than it sounds. “Contouring means the artist is trying to play up features like cheekbones or play down a large nose or wide chin,” he said. It’s usually done by using a foundation or concealer that’s a shade darker than your natural color.


They look the same, and they hang next to each other in the makeup aisle, but a kohl is not an eyeliner. According to Kessel, “You’ll draw a nice line with your eyeliner on your eyelid, but you’ll work your khol on your waterline, which is inside your eyes. The khol pen won’t be the best product to use as eyeliner, since it’s supposed to be worked in the eye – it might be a bit greasy and won’t stay as well as eyeliner.”

Waterproof vs. water-resistant

There’s a good chance you’ve seen these claims on makeup packaging and assumed they meant the same thing. Not true, according to makeup artist Melinda Kessel. “Those two terms are usually quite confusing, but the difference is very simple,” she said.

“Waterproof makeup will stay on while you’re in the water. I promise you won’t look like a panda afterward,” she added. “If you are using that kind of product, you’ll have to use some special makeup remover with oil in it. Water resistant makeup will stay on very well, but you won’t be able to keep it on in the water.”


isolated foundation

OK, we all know what nude means, but do you know what it means when it comes to makeup? Kessel says the use of the word “nude” often creates confusion for her clients.

“Lots of people think that a nude look is when you’re not wearing any makeup. Actually, it’s one of the hardest looks to do. It’s a natural look, to enhance someone’s beauty without looking like you are wearing anything. It has to be flawless and totally invisible.”


Colors decoded: Warm colors have yellow undertones, while cool colors are based with blues.

Sometimes, a girl just wants a little sparkle. It’s best to know what you’re asking for, though, or you may end up with more than you bargained for.

“Shimmer and glitter are all very different things,” said Lucy Baldock, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Lucy B’s Apothecary. “A shimmer shadow has small particles of pearl or mica inside. It is softer and finer looking on all skin at all ages. Glitter comes in all sizes and can be in eyeliners, shadows and body products such as lotion and butters.”

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