Cosmetics are a category of health and beauty products that are used to care for the face and body, or used to accentuate or change a person’s appearance.
Though cosmetics are commonly thought of as only makeup used to alter a person’s appearance, cosmetics can also refer to a number of products used to care for the skin and the body, as well as those used to add fragrance to it. There are a large number of cosmetics available under these various categories, each designed for different purposes and featuring different characteristics.
Cosmetics are constituted from a mixture of chemical compounds derived from either natural sources or synthetically created ones. Cosmetics designed for skin care can be used to cleanse, exfoliate and protect the skin, as well as replenishing it, through the use of cleansers, toners, serums, moisturisers, and balms; cosmetics designed for more general personal care, such as shampoo and body wash, can be used to cleanse the body; cosmetics designed to enhance one’s appearance (makeup) can be used to conceal blemishes, enhance one’s natural features (such as the eyebrows and eyelashes), add color to a person’s face and, in the case of more extreme forms of makeup used for performances, fashion shows and people in costume, can be used to change the appearance of the face entirely to resemble a different person, creature or object. Cosmetics can also be designed to add fragrance to the body.
Though the legal definition of cosmetics in most countries is broader, in some Western countries, cosmetics are commonly taken to mean only makeup products, such as lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, foundation, blush, highlighter, bronzer, and several other product types.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates cosmetics, defines cosmetics as products “intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body’s structure or functions”.
Types of Cosmetics
Though there are a large number of differing cosmetics used for a variety of different purposes, all cosmetics are typically intended to be applied externally. These products can be applied to the face (on the skin, lips, eyebrows and eyes), to the body (on the skin, in particular the hands and nails), and to the hair. These products may be intended for use as skincare, personal care or to alter the appearance, with the subset of cosmetics known as makeup primarily referring to products containing color pigments intended for the purpose of altering the wearer’s appearance; some manufacturers will distinguish only between “decorative” cosmetics intended to alter the appearance and “care” cosmetics designed for skincare and personal care.
Most cosmetics are also distinguished by the area of the body intended for application, with cosmetics designed to be used on the face and eye area usually applied with a brush, a makeup sponge, or the fingertips.
- Primers are used on the face before makeup is applied, creating a typically transparent, smooth layer over the top of the skin, allowing for makeup to be applied smoothly and evenly. Some primers may also be tinted, and this tint may match the wearer’s skin tone, or may colour correct it, using greens, oranges and purples to even out the wearer’s skin tone and correct redness, purple shadows or orange discolouration respectively.
- Concealer is a cream or liquid product used to conceal marks or blemishes of the skin. Concealer is typically the colour of the user’s skin tone, and is generally applied after the face has been primed to even out the wearer’s skin tone before foundation can be applied. Concealer is usually more heavily pigmented, higher coverage and thicker than foundation or tinted primers. Though concealer is often more heavy duty in terms of pigment and consistency than foundation, a number of different formulations intended for different styles of use – such as a lighter concealer for the eyes and a heavier concealer for stage makeup – are available, as well as colour correcting concealers intended to balance out discolouration of the skin specifically.
- Foundation is a cream, liquid, mousse or powder product applied to the entirety of the face to create a smooth and even base in the user’s skin tone. Foundation provides a generally lower amount of coverage than concealer, and is sold in formulations that can provide sheer, matte, dewy or full coverage to the skin.
- Rouge, blush, or blusher is a liquid, cream or powder product applied to the centre of the cheeks with the intention of adding or enhancing their natural colour. Blushers are typically available in shades of pink or warm tan and brown, and may also be used to make the cheekbones appear more defined.
- Bronzer is a powder, cream or liquid product that adds colour to the skin, typically in bronze or tan shades intended to give the skin a tanned appearance and enhance the colour of the face. Bronzer, like highlighter, may also contain substances providing a shimmer or glitter effect, and comes in either matte, semi-matte, satin, or shimmer finishes.
- Highlighter is a liquid, cream or powder product applied to the high points of the face such as the eyebrows, nose and cheekbones. Highlighter commonly has substances added providing a shimmer or glitter effect. Alternatively, a lighter toned foundation or concealer can be used as a highlighter.
- Eyebrow pencils, creams, waxes, gels, and powders are used to color, fill in, and define the brows. Eyebrow tinting treatments are also used to dye the eyebrow hairs a darker colour, either temporarily or permanently, without staining and colouring the skin underneath the eyebrows.
- Eyeshadow is a powder, cream or liquid pigmented product used to draw attention to, accentuate and change the shape of the area around the eyes, on the eyelid and the space below the eyebrows. Eyeshadow is typically applied using an eyeshadow brush, with generally small and rounded bristles, though liquid and cream formulations may also be applied with the fingers. Eyeshadow is available in almost every colour, as well as being sold in a number of different finishes, ranging from matte finishes with sheer coverage to glossy, shimmery, glittery and highly pigmented finishes. Many different colors and finishes of eyeshadow may be combined in one look and blended together to achieve different effects.
- Eyeliner is used to enhance and elongate the apparent size or depth of the eye; though eyeliner is commonly black, it can come in many different colours, including brown, white and blue. Eyeliner can come in the form of a pencil, a gel or a liquid.
- False eyelashes are used to extend, exaggerate and add volume to the eyelashes. Consisting generally of a small strip to which hair – either human, mink or synthetic – is attached, false eyelashes are typically applied to the lash line using glue, which can come in latex and latex free varieties; magnetic false eyelashes, which attach to the eyelid after magnetic eyeliner is applied, are also available. Designs vary in length and colour, with rhinestones, gems, feathers and lace available as false eyelash designs. False eyelashes are not permanent, and can be easily taken off with the fingers.
- Mascara is used to darken, lengthen, thicken, or enhance the eyelashes through the use of a typically thick, cream consistency product applied with a spiral bristle mascara brush. Mascara is commonly black, brown or clear, though a number of different colours, some containing glitter, are available. Mascara is typically advertised and sold in a number of different formulations that advertise qualities such as waterproofing, volume enhancement, length enhancement and curl enhancement, and may be used in combination with an eyelash curler to enhance the natural curl of the eyelashes.
- Lip products, including lipstick, lip gloss, lip liner and lip balms.Lip products commonly add colour and texture to the lips, as well as serving to moisturise the lips and define their external edges. Products adding colour and texture to the lips, such as lipsticks and lip glosses, often come in a wide range of colours, as well as a number of different finishes, such as matte finishes and satin or glossy finishes. Other styles of lip colouration products such as lip stains temporarily saturate the lips with a dye, and typically do not alter the texture of the lips. Both lip colour products and lip liners may be waterproof, and may be applied directly to the lips, with a brush, or with the fingers. Lip balms, though designed to moisturize and protect the lips (such as through the addition of UV protection) may also tint the lips.
- Face powder, setting powder or setting sprays are used to ‘set’ foundation or concealer, giving it a matte or consistent finish whilst also concealing small flaws or blemishes. Both powders and setting sprays claim to keep makeup from absorbing into the skin or melting off. Whilst setting sprays are generally not tinted, setting powder and face powder can come in translucent or tinted varieties, and can be used to bake foundation in order for it to stay longer on the face. Tinted face powders may also be worn alone without foundation or concealer to give an extremely sheer coverage base.
- Nail polish is a liquid used to color the fingernails and toenails. Transparent, colorless nail polishes may be used to strengthen nails or be used as a top or base coat to protect the nail or nail polish. Nail polish, like eyeshadow, is available in almost every colour and a number of different finishes, including matte, shimmer, glossy and crackle finishes.