What Those Makeup Descriptions Really Mean

Shimmer. Matte. Waterproof. Contour.

You can't read a blog, magazine, or visit the makeup counter without hearing one or more of these beauty buzz words. But what do they really mean?

"As a celebrity makeup artist, I am very aware of what ingredients are in a product because I don't want my client to have an allergic reaction," Los Angeles-based makeup artist La Toya Nieves told Yahoo Shine.

We asked her to give us the low-down on those mysterious-sounding names and ingredients, so you can make more informed decisions the next time you head out to get some new cosmetics.


Matte means a dull or lusterless surface where the skin doesn't produce a dewy surface, says Nieves. Suffer from an (unwanted) shiny face? Look for products described as matte.

"You can find matte eye shadows, foundations, and lipsticks," she said. "These products appear with a dry finish."

One of the main ingredients in matte finishes is Silica. "Silicon dioxide is a form of sand that is safe to use in makeup due to that they aren't small enough to enter into your pores," explained Nieves. "Its main function is to prevent oils from coming to the surface."


Kohl is found in a lot of different eyeliners and is used to darken areas like the corner of the eyelid, waterline, and eyebrows.

"Kohl is a powder which makes it smooth to move around the surface and easy to pack more color," Nieves said. "The main ingredient in Kohl is Galena, which is a natural mineral form of lead sulfide."


Shimmer can be found mostly in eye shadows and liners, and can be broken down into many different textures, depending on how much shimmer you want, explained Nieves.

"The main ingredient in shimmer base products is Mica," she said. "Mica adheres to the skin and is used to give a luster or pearl finish to any product. It's resistant to heat, sweat, oils, and chemical attack. When mixed with iron oxide, this active ingredient gives off a flakes sparkle with a gold tint."

One ingredient that is used to make shimmer is Bismuth ox chloride (BOC). "A lot of mineral makeup has this active ingredient inside, but it can be a serious skin and respiratory irritant."

Water Resistant vs. Waterproof

You look at two different types of mascaras: One says water resistant, while the other says waterproof. Isn't that the same thing? Nope.

"Water resistant will do exactly what it says: resist water for about two hours. The product will come off easily with an eye makeup remover," said Nieves. "As for waterproof, your product won't go anywhere and will resist water, heat, oils, and sweat for up to eight hours."


Kim Kardashian creates her flawless face with a makeup technique known as contouring. But, what exactly does "contouring" your face really mean?

"A contouring product will help shape the face look slimmer by highlighting the bone structure and making the hallow areas appear slimmer."

More from this contributor:

What Vitamins Do You Really Need to Take?

What Your Beauty Habits Tell Your Boss

What Type of Facial Will Help Your Skin Problem?