Defining those mystery makeup words

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Hitting pan on a favorite makeup product is downright tragic.

Beauty has a language all its own.

Special lingo comes with every special interest, of course, but not being in the know can make reading some fashion magazines and beauty blogs really confusing.

For example, you might see something like: “After baking her face, she went really heavy on the strobing, and unfortunately hit pan on her favorite highlight.”


Here’s what those mystery makeup words mean.

Baking. Nope, we’re not talking about cake. “Baking” refers to using using excess powder to set your foundation and concealer. The technique, which has been used by drag queens for years, ensures extra-long wear and an extra-smooth finish. Want to bake yourself? You’ll need a beauty sponge (I like the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, $6.99 at drugstores) and a loose translucent powder (try the Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder, $5.97 at drugstores). Apply your liquid foundation and concealer as you normally would. Then, dip the beauty sponge into the loose powder, and apply a comical amount under your eyes. How do you know if you’ve used enough? You’ll look like you’ve been playing in flour, with big white patches of powder on your face. Let the powder sit for five to 10 minutes while your finish your makeup and hair, then grab a big fluffy brush (try the e.l.f. Total Face Brush, $2 at drugstores) and brush away the excess. You’ll be left with a flawless finish that will last much longer than foundation and concealer would on their own.

Strobing is highlighting on steroids. Highlighting, as a refresher, is applying a glowy or shiny product to the high points of the face — the cheekbones, tip of the nose, and (bonus vocab word!) cupid’s bow. (The cupid’s bow is the top of the upper lip, so named because of its resemblance in shape to the bow carried by Cupid, god of desire.) Strobing uses more-intense products, and more of them, to produce an even more dramatic effect. Interested in really glowing? Use your beauty sponge to apply the Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Moonlight, $42 at Sephora. The shine will be visible from space.

A cut crease is a dramatic eye look. Usually when applying eyeshadow, blending is the name of the game. With a cut crease, you intentionally create a harsh line between the color on your eyelid and the color in the crease by using a flat synthetic brush, like the e.l.f. Beautifully Precise Eyeshadow Brush, $5 at drugstores. This can be done with neutral shades or bright colors; either way, the impact is striking.

Hitting pan is the sad sign the end of a favorite product is near — your brush has literally hit the metal pan that holds the eyeshadow or blush. Depending on the size of the product, you probably have several uses left, but if it’s a true favorite, you’ll want to repurchase soon.

Alison Smith never lets not knowing the lingo get in the way of having fun with makeup. Got a burning beauty question? Email