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Hair & Makeup Glossary: N-Z

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The manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular level. For cosmetics, this means manufacturing and/or processing ingredients to create incredibly small particles called nanoparticles.


This term is often used on a cosmetic product’s label and means the product does not cause blackheads. Comes from the medical term for a blackhead which is comedo.


A class of chemicals widely used as a preservative in all types of cosmetics. Parabens used in cosmetics are generally synthesised and the common ones used include methylparaben (may be listed as ingredient E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216) and butylparaben.

Permanent hair colour

A hair colouring product that does not wash out and colours all the hair permanently. This includes grey hair. The colour molecules in conjunction with the hydrogen peroxide penetrate deep into the hair’s cortex, changing the hair’s colour.

Pin curl

A traditional technique used to set hair to create a wave or soft curl. A small section of damp hair is wound into a spiral and pinned into place. Once dry, it is combed out to produce a soft curl or wave.

Porosity test

Carried out by a hairdresser before applying hair colour to check how porous the hair. This is how much the hair can absorb moisture or liquids. Porosity is a measure of the compactness of the cuticles of the hair. When the cuticle is raised or torn (often a sign of hair damage) moisture passes easily in and out of the hair shaft, with the result being that the hair feels dry and rough, and looks frizzy. Porous hair tends to process chemical reactions quickly and, therefore, can over-process easily (e.g. absorb hair colour). By running fingertips through the hair from points to roots, you can assess the degree of roughness.


Postiche refers to any item of fake hair, from wigs and hairpieces to beards, moustaches, sideboards, and eyebrows. Can be made from real hair (human, yak, wool) or synthetics (acrylic).

Powder (face)

A finishing makeup product is used to set liquid and cream makeup products. It is also used to matte down the excess shine on skin or tone down special effect makeup like tattoos. It can be either a loose powder or pressed powder formulation. A powder puff is used to apply the power by pressing into the skin. Any excess is then dusted off with a powder brush.


A primer is a makeup product that is used after cleaning the face but before applying a makeup foundation. It preps the skin by smoothing out pores and fine lines, as well as mattifying the skin and helping a makeup application to last longer.


The brand name of a water-based adhesive used to stick medical and special effects makeup prosthetics to skin. Forms a waterproof bond to the skin.


A hairstyle element consisting of a long continuous tube of curled hair. Can be created by wrapping a section of hair around a hot tong, or can occur naturally if someone has long curly hair. Ringlets were popular during various periods in history including the Victorian era.


A transparent makeup product (normally a spray or liquid) that goes over makeup (including everyday makeup, temporary tattoos, camouflage) to help it last longer and resist sweat, water, heat, humidity, and rubbing.


This is the odourless oily substance secreted from the sebaceous glands in our skin, which lubricates and waterproofs our skin and hair.

Semi-permanent hair colour

A hair dye product that is not permanent and lasts 6-8 shampoos.

Skin test

A skin test is used to establish how skin reacts to ingredients or chemical products. A tiny amount of the product is put onto clean skin (somewhere like the wrist or behind the ear) and left for 24 hours. Should always be used before hair tinting, and before using things like latex.


SFX stands for “special effects”. In the world of makeup, this refers to creating specialist makeup looks, from injuries, character transformations (like ageing), creatures, and aliens. It can use various techniques, specialist products, or application of prosthetic pieces to an actor’s skin. Special makeup effects can also be referred to as “FX makeup”.


A technique used as part of contouring to define, change the shape of features, or reduce attention to an area of the face using a darker colour. For example, using a darker colour under the cheeks to define and create contour, or in the socket crease of the eyelid to create depth. It has the opposite effect of highlighting.


This term describes the level of shine that a product has. Sheen ranges from a soft, natural sheen (which can also be called “dewy”) to a high-sheen or gloss finish. A product with no sheen at all is called matte.


A term used to describe how fine or translucent a product is, in particular a foundation. A sheer foundation would be one that has less pigmentation in its formulation (like a tinted moisturiser) and provides a little coverage while allowing the skin to show through, creating a natural-looking base.


A women’s short hairstyle from the 1920s where the hair at the nape was shaved, or very closely cut, under a bobbed hairstyle.


Stands for sun protection factor and is a laboratory-measured level of protection against sun damage (UVB radiation). It is found in sunscreens and some makeup products. Basically, the higher the SPF, the greater the protection offered against UVB, which is the main cause of sunburn.

Spirit gum

Also called mastix. A liquid adhesive that is used to stick hair lace to the skin, for example, wigs and facial hair.


A thick strand of real or synthetic hair that is used to add bulk, detail, or colour to a hairstyle. The end of the switch can have a small elastic loop, making it easier to attach the switch to the wearer’s head.

Temporary hair colour

A hair colouring product that only lasts until the hair is washed. The colour molecules are too big to penetrate the hair and simply coat the outside of the hair shaft, hence it is shampooed off easily.

UV radiation

Ultraviolet (UV) light is found in sunlight and consists of UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation. UV radiation is invisible to the human eye, though most people are aware of the effects of UV on the skin in the form of suntan and sunburn. Cosmetic products can have an SPF element, which helps protect the skin against UVB.


A weft is made by weaving loose hair into a thin thread to create a solid seam. This seam can then be attached to someone’s hair with pins, clips, glue, or simply stitched in. A weft is used to create length or add fullness to hair. It comes in natural hair colours, as well as fashion hair colours.

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