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Beauty Glossary A-Z

Welcome to Beauty Glossary A-Z, where you can see what these words actually mean – whether it’s tricky makeup techniques, hard to understand ingredients or new beauty trends that you just don’t get.

beauty glossary a-z

Beauty Glossary A-Z

Jump to an alphabet…
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Acne
A skin condition characterized by pimples, zits and blemishes, usually on the face (but it can also happen on the body) due to inflamed or infected sebaceous glands (in other words, your pores). It’s primarily caused by hormones and seen in adolescents.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
In short, it’s a number of acids used in skincare due to their great exfoliating properties; but in scientific terms, it’s an “organic acid containing a hydroxyl group bonded to the carbon atom adjacent to the carboxylic acid group”.

Ampoule
A small tear-open package that is a “shot” of intense, potent skincare ingredients. Very popular in K Beauty and also for bridal makeup.

Antioxidants
Various substances (such as vitamin C) that reduces damage due to oxygen, such as that caused by free radicals. (These include Vitamin C and beta carotene.)

B

Baking
A drag makeup technique that has crossed over to mainstream, but involves adding a thick layer of loose powder and “baking” the foundation underneath to allow it to really sink into skin and last longer.

BB Cream
Short for “blemish balm” and originally created as a post plastic surgery tint, it’s a skincare + foundation item in one.

Beeswax
Self explaintory, used as a moisturising property.

Beta carotene
This is the yellow/orange pigment that gives veggies and fruits their colors, and our human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol), so it’s great for anti-aging. (See Retin-A).

Blackheads
A small black mark on top of a hair follicle that has been filled with oil (sebum). The black mark is due to oxidation.

Blemish
Refers to any skin imperfection, usually a pimple/zit, or post pimple/zit redness, mark.

Blend
What you need to do when applying makeup to avoid harsh lines or color, etc. Blending makeup is critical to good makeup application.

Bikini wax
A beauty treatment in which unwanted pubic hair is removed from the bikini line. Removal is by applying hot wax and quickly pulling out the hair.

Bismuth oxychloride
An inorganic compound of bismuth, from the rare mineral bismoclite. It gives makeup that pearl or diamond shimmery finish, and is a known irritant to many.

Bronzer
A makeup product made to mimic the natural tan and shadows the sun gives you while at the beach during summer.

C

CC Cream
Due to the popularity of BB creams, the CC cream was created and is pretty much exactly what a BB cream is: skincare + foundation in one. In other words, just a marketing thing.

Cleanser
Soap for the face, put simply. The first in any skincare regime, to wash your face in the morning and night, removing makeup, dirt, grim and oil from the face.

Collagen
The main structural protein of our skin (and other connective tissues).

Contour
The makeup technique of “light and dark’, applying shadows and highlights to the face to sculpt and change and/or enhance structure of face.

Crease
The “fold” line on your eyelid.

Cruelty-free
Beauty products that have not been tested on animals. Check out my list of beauty brands that don’t test on animals.

Cushion Compact
A foundation compact that opens up and deposits the foundation on a small like cushion sponge. Said to give a more flawless finish.

Cystic Acne
An abscess formed due to oil ducts becoming extremely clogged.

D

Depilate
Verb meaning removing hair.

Derma-
Anything with “derma” in front of it means skin.

Dermis
Scientific word for skin.

Dermabrasion
Removing superficial layers of skin rapidly with an abrasive tool; intense exfoliation.

Double cleansing
Cleansing your face two times; once to remove makeup, and second to actually cleanse and clean the skin. Said to be the best way to use cleanser, and made popular recently by skin expert Caroline Hirons.

E

Eau de toilette
A lighter, less concentrated form of perfume and its ingredients.

Eau de parfum
A more concentrated perfume.

Eczema
A medical condition where patches of skin become rough, inflamed, itchy, or bleeding.

Electrolysis
Removing of hair with heat. (One word: ouch).

EE Cream
Yet another marketing gimmick deprived from BB cream and CC creams.

Emollient
The property of softening and/or smoothing skin. In other words: moisturising.

Epilating
Removing hair with an electrical device that manually pulls out each hair. Yes, it hurts.

Essence
Basically like a serum, or you can apply it before serum.

Esthetician
A professional specialising in asthetics. A beautician.

Exfoliation
Removal of the first layer of skin which includes dead skin cells, flaky skinny etc.

F

Follicle
That teeny tiny bit of cells and tissue which surrounds the root of a hair.

Frizz
When your hair is sucked out of moisture and becomes a mass of small, tight curls.

G

Glycerin
A colourless liquid formed as a by-product in soap.

Glycolic acid
An Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) made from sugar cane. One of the most well known AHA (see definition above) and is used to smooth out wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and generally improves tone and texture of skin.

Guru
Refers to “beauty gurus” on YouTube, where they diss out makeup and beauty tutorials and tips.

H

Hooded eyes
When your double eyelid/crease is hidden due to a pronounced layer of skin that droops over it. Also known as “bedroom eyes” due to its sleepy, sexy nature.

Hyaluronic Acid
Probably the best moisturising ingredient we have today.

Hyperpigmentation
Darken spots on skin due to sun damage.

I

Influencer
This refers to beauty bloggers, Instagrammers, and Youtubers

Instabrow
A social media beauty trend borrowed from drag makeup techniques, where the brows start with a fade – think lighter to darker in color brows.

Instagram Makeup
Known to be very heavy makeup – think fade out eyebrows, thick foundation and heavy contouring. Unfortunately, not a compliment.

Irritant
Any ingredient that is known to cause reactions to skin.

J

Jojoba oil
Oil extracted from the seeds of an American shrub – a very good skin moisturiser.

Junk face
First introduced to me by the wonderful BeautyEditor, Michelle describes it perfectly as “a blatant act of cross-contamination”; and is when a man – 72% admitted to it – uses the same bar of soap in the shower for his nether regions and his face.

K

Keratin
Scientifically, a “a fibrous protein forming the main structural constituent of hair”.

Keratin treatment
Used today as a hair strengthening treatment. Their thought: apply more protein to the hair and make it thicker and stronger.

Kit
Your makeup bag. Makeup artist term for their “bag of makeup supplies and tools”.

K Beauty
A big explosion in the beauty world, Korean beauty – their products, ingredients, techniques and “looks” are all the rage now.

L

Lactic acid
A colourless syrup organic acid formed in sour milk, apparently. It’s used in skincare as a great exfoliate.

Lanolin
An oily substance produced by the oil glands in sheep’s skin. You’ll find it in skincare, perfume, soaps, cosmetics.

Lemming
A beauty blog term meaning to want something a lot. E.g. “I’ve been lemming that eyeshadow shade all summer!”

M

Melanin
Basically, a dark brown or black pigment in hair, skin, the iris of eyes. It’s the tanning of skin.

Melanoma
Skin cancer.

Micellar Water
A new beauty craze that’s taken overbite makeup and skincare. I personally use it for everything. It’s a gentle, pure water that is used to remove makeup and cleanse face, without having to rinse after.

Mica
A shiny mineral found in granite and other rocks that gives the shimmer and shine to cosmetics.

Milia seed
A small, hard nodule formed on the skin (although it seems way underneath). Usually caused by blocked glands, and since it’s pure keratin, very hard to remove other than at a clinic.

Mineral Makeup
Makeup made of minerals – eyeshadow, for example, is usually pure mica. Pros and cons of mineral makeup, here.

N

Naked
An eyeshadow palette by Urban Decay that was iconic in today’s makeup culture as it brought back the natural makeup colors in a big way.

“Natural”
When makeup looks like you’re hardly wearing any. Natural could also mean organic and naturally deprived cosmetics and skincare.

Neck Tape
What people use to tape up sagging skin on the skin.

Non-comedogenic
Something that does not clog pores.

Nude
Formed from Urban Decay’s “Naked” palette, now explains any makeup shade that is in skin tone, earth, nature colors.

O

Olaplex
A hair treatment getting a lot of buzz in the hair community. Said to reverse and prevent damage to hair.

On fleek
Means something is really hot, cool, sexy. I.e. “my eyebrows are on fleek!!” Must not come out of your mouth if you above 16 years old.

P

Paraben
A group of compounds that as used as preservatives in cosmetics and food.

Palette
A collection of makeup items. Such as an eyeshadow palette, a foundation palette. Think of a painter’s palette of paint colors.

Paraffin
A waxy solid from petroleum.

Petroleum
A thick, oily substance of non-natural origins. Chemist Robert Chesebrough started using it in beauty by distilling and cleaning this think gel found from oil wells. It was first introduced in beauty as Vaseline.

Pore
Really thin openings on your skin. I.e. where your sweat and oil comes out from.

Psoriasis
A skin disease characterised by red, itchy and scaly patches.

Q

Q-Tip
A Q-tip is not the same in beauty! In beauty a Q-tip is used to clean up makeup mistakes, smudge eye makeup and used as a deposable wand to apply cosmetics.

R

Retin-A
A form of Vitamin A that helps skin to renew itself.

Retinol
See Retin-A.

Rosacea
A skin condition characterised by facial vessels enlarging, giving a cheeks and nose a very red, flushed appearance.

Rose hip oil
Pressed seed oil extracted from the wild rose bush. Excellent in anti-aging skincare and said to be nature’s vitamin A, also containing Vitamins E, C and D.

S

Salicylic Acid
A “bitter compound” used as a fungicide. It’s the most common ingredient in acne fighting products.

Serum
A very concentrated skincare, said to be clock full of more potent skincare ingredients and benefits. See also: Is This #1 Selling Anti-Aging Serum Worth the Hype?

Shea butter
An off-white fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree; very moisturising.

Sheet Mask
Popularized by K beauty (see K Beauty, above), it’s a sheet of paper soaked with skincare ingredients to be placed on top your skin, usually for 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry, it includes cut out pockets for your eyes and mouth.

Shimmer
Anything sparkly and shiny in cosmetics. See Mica.

Smoky eyes
A classic, need to know makeup look that is characerzied by dark eyeshadow and eyeliner around the eyes, blended out around to give eyes a deep, smokey, sexy look.

SPF
Stands for Sun Protection Factor. Used in sunscreen and makeup to show how much it protects skin from the sun.

Strobing
A highlighting technique where you apply highlights to the skin, making it look “lit from within”.

T

Talc
Talcum powder. Used as an ingredient in most powder cosmetics.

Tea Tree Oil
Self explanatory! It’s commonly used to treat acne.

Tightlining
When you apply eyeliner to inside of the lash line (not above, like usual).

Toner
A skincare product to use after cleaning, said to remove all dirt, grime from face and prepare skin for moisturizer, the best step in skincare. Said to be kind of a marketing gimmick/scam and not needed at all for skin. Unless it’s an exfoliating toner (such as with AHAs), then it’s useful.

T-zone
The area across your forehead, and down your nose to chin. The T-zone is said to where the skin is producing more oil and therefore has the most blemishes, etc.

U

Undertone
What the “under” color of your skin is. You can have yellow or pink undertones to your skin.

Universal Haircut
Coined by yours truly, the Universal Haircut is just that – a haircut that will suit any woman, regardless of age, face shape, lifestyle, hair type and texture. Try it!

UVA
Gonna need Merriam-Webster for this one, but UVA is “radiation that is in the region of the ultraviolet spectrum which is nearest to visible light and extends that causes tanning and contributes to aging of the skin”.

UVB
Ultraviolet radiation.

V

Vericose veins
Veins that have become enlarged and twisted. Mostly seen on legs and women hate them, as you can imagine. Said to be caused due to age and standing up too much and improper shoes.

W

Whitening
Any product claiming to make your skin brighter, fairer and well, whiter. Controversial in Western part of the world, but in Asia is all the rage.

Whitehead
A tiny little pus-filled bump on the skin.

X

Y

Z

Z Palette
A popular customisable palette (see: Palette).

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