The Beauty Dictionary: A Running List of What's What

If you're new to beauty or just still wondering what the difference is between BB and CC cream - this post is for you. I'm constantly getting questions from friends asking me what something is, is it worth getting, and what works best. But investing in the best products for your style and skin requires a certain level of beauty literacy.

Below I've compiled a list of terms that one should be aware of if walking into a Sephora store makes you feel like you're traveling to another country. As new products and innovations happen, I'll update this post with new terms.


Airbrush - commonly known for its use in editing professional photos, ie. airbrushing or photoshopping; also a type of finish for aerosol foundations. 

Applicator - any tool used for applying makeup, ex. brushes, sponges, mitts etc.

Baking - a term used to describe the process of applying setting powder to the face, letting it sit, and swiping off the excess in order to prolong a makeup look.

Balm - a soft solid or thick substance typically used to moisturize lips and/or cuticles.

BB Cream - a makeup/skincare hybrid product that has both moisturizer and foundation for a perfected finish.

Blend - the process of mixing shades or colors together to create a gradient effect.

Blender - an applicator sponge typically used to apply creme or liquid products as well as blend products together during application.

CC Cream - stands for "color correcting cream," used to reduce the appearance of redness or sallowness in the skin.

Color Corrector - available in several different colors and shades, used to reduce the appearance of redness, sallowness, dark circles, and uneven skintone; can come in liquid or creme formulas.

Compact - typically a small single pan product with a hinge on the back end, sometimes includes a mirror in the upward-hinged area of the packaging.

Concealer - a liquid or creme formula that reduces the appearance of dark circles and discoloration while brightening the face.

Contour - a technique using a combination of light, dark and radiant shades to add structure to your face; basically this can make you look like a different person.

Cremé/Cream - a formula that is thicker than a liquid but not completely solid like a powder.

Edit - a compilation of multiple products in a category or from a certain brand that are being reviewed.

Finely Milled - a formula that is made up of small, fine particles.

Flip - the shine when a pigment has an iridescent shimmer to it; ex. an emerald eyeshadow that has a gold flip to it is an emerald eyeshadow with iridescent gold sparkles.

Highlighter - product applied to the high points of the face to add a glow, shine or brightening effect.

Illuminator - product applied under or over makeup to brighten the face.

Luminizer - oil, cream, or liquid product used under makeup to brighten and add glow to your complexion.

Makeup Tape - tape applied under the lower lash line outwards to the end of the outer brow during eye makeup application in order to make a clean eyeshadow and eyeliner line as well as keep product from dusting under the eye and on the top of the cheekbones.

Matte - a formulation finish that is dull, flat and has no shine.

Monochrome - all one color or the same shade range of colors.

Palette - a container holding multiple pans of product.

Pan - the metal base that typically holds powder products and pigment such as bronzers, highlighters, and eyeshadows.

Payoff - the amount of richness, boldness, and intensity that a pigment gives off when applied.

Pigment - the color particle of the makeup; a product that is highly pigmented has high payoff and is not very opaque.

Pill - when your makeup or foundation forms tiny clumps on your face due to product buildup.

Pomade - a dip gel or cremé.

Primer - a spray or lotion formula that is applied prior to makeup to keep it in place throughout the length of wear.

Radiant - a formula finish that is glowy.

Satin - a formula finish that is natural and glowy.

Setting Spray - a mist that you spray on your face at the end of makeup application to lock your makeup in place throughout the length of wear.

Setting/Finishing Powder - a powder that you apply on your face at the end of makeup application to lock your makeup in place throughout the length of wear.

Spool - a type of brush that feathers out in a coil shape; used for eyebrows.

Stain - a balm or liquid that delivers temporary pigment for a period of time.

Strobe - another word for highlighter.

Swatch - a color sample of a product, typically tested on the inner forearm.

Tint - a formula finish that is opaque and slightly pigmented.

Tinted Moisturizer - moisturizer that has an opaque skin-colored pigment in it.


Applicator Mitt - a mitten used to apply self-tanner.

Cleanser - a product used to remove makeup or dirt.

Collagen - protein in our bodies that aids in skin regeneration, strength and elasticity.

Concentrate - a lot of one element in a product that is not diluted by other materials.

Eau de Cologne - the lowest concentration of a scent in a fragrance.

Eau de Parfum - the highest concentration of a scent in a fragrance.

Eau de Toilette - the medium concentration of a scent in a fragrance.

Essence - a light product such as a mist that aims to provide a youthful complexion.

Exfoliator - a product used to remove dead skin from the body and face.

Extract - an ingredient that has been drawn out of something, typically ending in type of concentrate.

Facial - a multi-step spa skin treatment for your face.

Hydrating Mist - a water- or nutrient-based aerosol used to hydrate and rejuvenate the skin.

Jade Roller - a mini-rolling pin made out of jade or rose quartz used to roll over the skin to promote lymphatic drainage, absorption, tightness, and reduce puffiness.

K-Beauty - Korean beauty products, typically known for their attention to skincare.

Micellar Water - a blend of soft water and cleansing oil used to remove makeup.

Pimple Patches - small stickers applied to acne to extract sebum buildup.

Retinoid - vitamin A derivatives that unclog pores, increase collagen, and promote cell turnover.

Retinol - vitamin A1, a type of retinoid, used primarily to treat wrinkles and acne.

Rollerball - a portable perfume vial applied by rolling the fragrance onto your skin.

Salve - a multi-use balm formulation with moisturizing qualities.

Self-Tanner - a mousse, lotion, oil or aerosol that you self-apply to temporarily tan your skin.

Serum - lightweight moisturizers that penetrate deep into the skin to target specific skincare concerns.

Sebum - an oily substance on your skin, the buildup of which causes acne.

Sheet Mask - a film of paper soaked in a formula that soaks into your skin while wearing the mask.

Spot Treatment - a formula that is applied only to small affected areas of the face.

Toner - a liquid cleanser used to reduce redness or pores.

Want to know what something is but it's not listed? Comment below!