All the French Beauty Vocab You Need to Know

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Whether you buy cosmetics in the US or Europe, it’s likely that those luxury creams and powders will have something in common: the label will be written in French. Particularly when dealing with higher-end makeup companies, you might notice that the French name for the product is written larger than the English name, or that French is the first language listed on the back where instructions are warnings are noted. With “French girl style” all the rage (and French makeup being so much higher quality than American makeup), it’s time you learn what a few of those words mean.

When You Wake Up

La crème solaire: Sunscreen. Because no French woman leaves the house without at least an SPF 15.

Un sérum: A lightweight moisturizer that smooths out imperfections and makes pores appear smaller.

L’huile: Oil. A source of vitamins and a means of locking in hydration to keep your face from drying out.

Une crème hydratante: Moisturizer. There are many many types, and a Française would say you need all of them.

Une crème mains: Hand cream. After all, they are the first telltale sign of aging.

Une baume à lèvres: Lip balm. For use before or in lieu of lipstick.


Un rouge à lèvres: Lipstick. Preferably in the classic rouge parisienne color.

Une poudre compacte: Pressed powder. For getting rid of that shine.

Un correcteur visage / un correcteur de teint: Concealer. Because spot treatment is preferable to covering your entire face in foundation.

Un fond de teint: Foundation. Though most French women swear they never use it, there still seems to be a lot of it on the market.

Un base de teint: Primer. Minimizes the need for makeup by glossing over imperfections and making your skin tone more consistent.

Les ombres à paupières: Eyeshadow. Only designed for statement makeup looks like those from makeup artist Violette, not for everyday wear.

Un fard à paupière: Eyeshadow palette.

Un crayon yeux: Eyeliner. For delicate use only.

L’illuminateur / l’enlumineur: An occasional substitution for l’highlighter.

Blush, highlighter, mascara: Exactly the same as their English counterparts. Rouge (as your grandmother might call it) is what 19th-century can can dancers wore. Or what happens when you get embarrassed.

Un parfum: Perfume. Now this is a tricky one. There are actually three categories of perfume on the market today. Parfum, eau de parfum, and eau de toilette. Parfum is the strongest smelling, while eau de parfum is a bit lighter, and eau de toilette even lighter still. When you buy perfume, you’re actually probably buying eau de parfum, as actual parfum is a little too strong for commercial purposes.


Éclat: Radiance. This is a noun commonly thrown in with other words to make an eyeshadow or concealer sound more appealing.

Démaquillante: Makeup-removing. Ever Française knows that it doesn’t matter how tired you are, you need to wipe that junk off your face before going to bed.

Jour / Nuit: Day/Night. Jour products tend to be lighter, while Nuit products are heavier for intense over-night moisturizing.

Nettoyant: Cleansing, as an adjective, and cleanser, as a noun.

Pour le corps: For the body.

Pour le visage: For the face.

Anti-rides: Anti-wrinkle. No one wants them.

Anti-âge: Anti-age. Because you’ve got to start early.

Jeunesse: Youth. You can’t hold onto it forever. But you can moisturize.

Fraîcheur: Freshness.

Repulpant: Plumping. No plastic surgery needed, just a good lip gloss.

At The End Of The Day

Les lingettes démaquillantes: Makeup remover wipes.

L’huile démaquillante: Makeup remover. For use with boules de coton (cotton balls).

Une mousse nettoyante: Cleansing foam. For when your drug store bar soap only irritates your zits instead of zapping them.

Une masque de nuit / une masque de sommeil: Night mask.

Une crème de nuit: Night cream. Not just for 50s housewives anymore.

Le savon: Soap. Preferably something lavender scented from Marseille.

Une lotion / Une crème de corps: Body lotion. For dousing your entire body with post-shower.

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