What To Know When Shopping For Makeup Online

by Miki Hayes

In the wide, wonderful world of makeup, there are endless options. Any color of eyeshadow or lipstick you could possibly want probably exists, and in just about every finish. But what are the different types of makeup and their characteristics? If you can go into a store and swatch products before you buy them, it's much easier to put the name to the face. In the land of online shopping, though, (and don't tell me you don't online window-shop at least a few times a week!), choosing makeup products can be especially difficult.

Because pictures aren't always true to the color, and their smaller sizes make it hard to tell what the finish is of the actual product, and many times we're left to rely on the product descriptions to decide if there's something different enough about that red lipstick to justify adding it to our collections. But what exactly is the difference between a satin and pearl finish? Well, after some extensive comparison research, I've compiled some of the differences between seemingly similar finishes for eyeshadows and lipsticks. So you can shop online for makeup with confidence, here are the basics of some of the most common finishes.


Although there are cream-formula eyeshadows, a cream finish is mainly found in lipstick. As the name implies, the product will look creamy when applied. For a straight-cream finish, there won't be any detectable glitter or shimmer, but depending on the level of creaminess, there might be a glossy or shiny finish. A cream formula will also be somewhat hydrating on the lips, as it won't dry down like a matte lipstick would.


A frosted finish in lipstick (and sometimes eyeshadow) is highly reflective. Iridescent shimmer provides a bright and shiny effect to make lips look icy or, well, frosty.


This one's pretty straightforward. Does it have obvious glitter particles packed in it? Glitter finish! (And who doesn't love a little glitter?)


Another finish found in both eyeshadows and lipsticks, mattes are a little easier to discern than some of their shimmery counterparts. Matte finishes are devoid of any reflective or shiny particles: No shimmer, no glitter. Because of this inability to reflect light, mattes can appear more flat. In application, both eyeshadows and lipsticks can feel more dry than other formulas. While this can make mattes harder to work with, it is usually the most long-lasting and transfer-proof lipstick formula.


Metallic finishes are quite similar to frost finishes, and can be found in both eyeshadows and lipsticks. The main difference between frost and metallic is the tone of the reflective quality. Where frosts tend to have more of an opalescent or icy shininess to them, metallics seem to have underlying gold or silver shimmer to give a more foiled effect.


In eyeshadow, a pearl finish may or may not have glitter particles, but it will have a soft sheen and is often not as pigmented as other finishes. In lipstick, a pearl finish is the less-intense cousin of a frost finish. That is, there will be an iridescent finish, but it will appear softer and require more light to reflect as strongly as a frosted lipstick.


Satin finishes are generally the happy middle-grounds for both eyeshadows and lipsticks, although it means something slightly different for each. As an eyeshadow, a satin finish is somewhere between a matte and a shimmer. It is not as shiny as a shimmer finish, but not as flat as a matte finish. And the texture is usually not as dry as a typical matte finish either. As a lipstick, a satin finish is somewhere between a matte and a cream. It is not as glossy as a cream finish, but not as flat as a matte finish. Texture-wise, it is usually not as drying as a typical matte finish, though also maybe not as hydrating as a cream finish.


When it comes to eyeshadow, "shimmer" is often used as a catch-all to describe any shadow with light-reflecting properties. Generally speaking though, a shimmer shadow is more pigmented than a pearl shadow, and not as shiny as a metallic shadow. It's sort of like the Goldilocks of the iridescent-eyeshadow world.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go swatch all of my lipsticks. I think I'm missing out on some metallic finishes.

Images: shabbysgd/Pixabay