21 Makeup Terminology You Should Know

Stop right there! Bookmark this handy guide of makeup terms, you’ll want to have the definitions of these words at your fingertips.

Crafting fresh, flawless-looking skin with make-up can sometimes seem pretty complicated. There are all these products (foundation, highlighter, primer, powder) and techniques with weird makeup terms (contouring, baking, strobing) to remember. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Before reading up on face make-up techniques like how to apply foundation, how to contour or how to highlight, check out this short list of need-to-know terms—and come back to it if you ever need a quick reminder. Consider it your make-up dictionary.

The Face Makeup Terminology Guide for How to Contour, Highlight, Conceal and More

What is makeup primer (a.k.a. “primer”)

The verb: To prime

Skin primer, also simply called “primer” or “make-up primer,” is a cream or gel substance that helps face make-up go on smoother and last longer. Some primers also reduce shine, hydrate or colour correct. When someone says they’re going to “prime” or “prep” the skin, they’re most likely applying a primer.

Which primer should I try?

If you have an oily complexion, give L’Oréal Paris Infallible Matte-Lock Primer a shot. It creates the perfect canvas for make-up and will extend the wear of your foundation for up to 24 hours, all the while giving your face a matte finish. If you have dry skin, try L’Oréal Paris Infallible Glow-Lock Primer instead. It has the same properties as Matte-Lock, except it will hydrate the skin and give it a soft glow. You can also mix and match if you have combination skin.

What is Foundation Makeup (a.k.a. “base”)

The verb: To even out

Foundation, also called “base,” comes in a wide variety of skin-tone formulas (cream, gel, stick, powder, liquid foundation, cushion compact and even low-coverage options like BB cream, which is a cross between foundation and moisturizer) that offer the opportunity to even out your complexion and mask minor imperfections. They range from light, medium to full-coverage foundation.

Which foundation should I try?

L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Make-up is a safe bet. It’s a non-cakey liquid foundation that offers light-to-medium coverage. It takes the guesswork out of finding the right shade, since it has patented technology that matches your skin tone and texture precisely.

What is concealer

The verbs: To conceal, to spot conceal

Typically with a thicker consistency than foundation, concealer comes in cream, gel and stick formulas. It should be used on areas of the face that require a bit more coverage—like for example dark circles or reddened patches. You can also use concealer in smaller areas such as blemishes.

Which concealer should I try?

Ideal for blurring and disguising dark circles, L’Oréal Paris True Match

Multi-Use Concealer comes in 14 diverse shades and brightens the under-eye area for a refreshed appearance.

What is contour make-up

The verbs: To contour, to sculpt

Face contouring is the method of using contour make-up (neutral shades of make-up slightly darker than your skin tone) to contour or “sculpt” your face and make your nose, cheekbones and jawline appear slimmer or more defined. How to contour? Easy, you apply the darker make-up to accentuate areas where shadows might fall naturally, like on the sides of your nose, in the hollows of your cheeks or under your chin. Are you wondering how to apply blush or how to apply bronzer when contouring? You can add a touch of blush to the apples of your cheeks or dust a bit of bronzer over the areas of your face where the sun would naturally hit it (like the forehead, nose, cheeks and chin)—the same way you would apply blush and bronzer if you hadn’t contoured.

Which contour makeup product should I try?

The L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Contour Contour Palette is a powder contour kit with one light shade for highlighting and one darker shade for contouring. It’s easy to apply and blend (which makes it perfect if you’re learning how to contour) and comes in Light, Medium and Deep combos.

What is highlighter (a.k.a. “illuminator”)

The verbs: To highlight, to illuminate, to strobe

Highlighter, or “illuminator,” is a light-reflecting gel, liquid, powder, stick or cream that can be applied to the high planes of the face where the light would hit naturally—like the cheekbones, brow bones, bridge of the nose and Cupid’s bow. Typically, contour and highlight go hand in hand to create natural-looking areas of light and shadow on the face. When you highlight without using contour, it’s called “strobing.”

Which highlighter make-up should I try?

Give L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer a whirl if you like subtle illumination, L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glow Nude Highlighter Palette for a bit more intensity and L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glow Amour Glow Boosting Drops if you want a megawatt glow.

What is setting powder (a.k.a. “translucent powder”)

The verbs: To set, to finish, to bake

Setting powder is sheer, translucent loose or pressed powder that can be dusted over face make-up to set it for a longer wear and a soft, smooth finish. “Baking” is a technique that uses translucent powder to set under-eye concealer. After applying concealer, leave a layer of setting powder on top for several minutes and it will “bake” the concealer into the skin so that it won’t budge.

Which setting powder should I try?

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Sweep & Lock Translucent Powder controls shine and sets make-up for 24 hours without creasing or caking.

Remember, this guide is always here if you need it! Now you’re ready for beauty tutorials and how-tos.

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