How do we know the holidays are upon us? Besides the omnipresent red Starbucks cups, it's because the makeup counter is suddenly a lot more sparkly. The holidays are when cosmetic brands present their most twinkly concoctions, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a collection that doesn't include at least one shimmery product. But much in the same way that Starbucks invented an entire vocabulary around what was once simply known as "coffee," beauty companies have come up their own packaging language to describe various types of gleam—and in the process, probably made things a little more confusing than they need to be. To help you navigate all the luminous offerings this season, here's a breakdown of what all those different names actually mean—and what they translate to on your skin.
Shimmer: The subtlest type of gleam, shimmer is made of tiny mica particles that are uniform in size and shape. They can be white or colored and they reflect a soft, even sheen (think candlelight, not strobe light).
Glitter: The main difference here is that with glitter, you can see the actual particles in the formula. Glitter is made from a film that's cut into thin, flexible pieces, and it delivers the most obvious sparkle (think strobe light, not candlelight).
Frost: A finish that's made of white glitter, giving the color a bright, icy sheen.
Iridescent (also sometimes referred to as "illuminating"): This is when a shade appears to change color depending on what angle you view it from (as in, when you test it on the back of your hand and move your hand around, the color continuously changes as you move). Iridescent formulas include layers of mica that are coated with a light-reflective substance. The color that's reflected back changes depending on at what angle the light hits the formula, giving the shade a rainbow-like gleam.
Pearl: Made with actual crushed pearl particles, this is a softer type of iridescence that reflects a pink-blue-white mix of sheen.
Metallic: Made from actual crushed metal that's coated with bismuth oxychloride, a high-shine mineral, a metallic finish has the most opaque coverage, the richest pigments, and a mirror-like shine.
PHOTO FROM MAYBELLINE