Beauty and Barber School Glossary of Terms: Useful Vocabulary to Know

The beauty industry comes with a language all its own. Here, we'll look at some words you may need to know as a beauty student, license exam candidate, and beauty professional.

Beauty Career Terms

  • Barbering: The personal care discipline involving working with short hair and facial hair
  • Cosmetology: Study and practice of a wide range of beauty treatments, typically including hair styling, cutting, coloring, toning, and texturizing, skincare, makeup application, nail care and nail art, and other non-medical cosmetic procedures
  • Dermatology: Treatment of skin issues; requires a medical degree
  • Electrology: Technique of using electrical currents to remove unwanted hair; destroys a hair follicle's ability to grow
  • Esthetics: Study and practice of skincare treatments, including facials, exfoliation, waxing, masks, and other non-medical techniques
  • Hair Design: Creating hairstyles that enhance a client's features; uses cutting, coloring, and styling techniques
  • Laser Hair Removal: Using concentrated beams of light to attack hair follicles, reducing their ability to grow hair
  • Lash Extension Specialist: A trained individual who applies semi-permanent lash extensions onto natural lashes
  • Makeup Artistry: Application of cosmetics to clients’ faces for different looks; also extends into advanced techniques such as prosthetics and special effects, particularly for theater, television, or film production
  • Massage Therapy: The manipulation of skin and muscles; promotes client relaxation while relieving tension and promoting wellness
  • Medical Esthetician: Someone who practices esthetics in a medical environment, such as a doctor's office or medspa
  • Microblading: Semi-permanent technique used to enhance the appearance of eyebrows using a handheld tool and pigment
  • Nail Technology: Study and practice of manicures, pedicures, nail art, nail extensions, and other nail care and beautification techniques
  • Natural Hair Braiding: Weaving hair strands into different styles using a broad range of techniques extending beyond braiding specifically, such as twisting, weaving, or adding extensions; typically refers to techniques founded on longstanding practices within Black communities and cultures
  • Permanent Makeup: Application of colors to the skin through tattooing techniques; often used for eyebrows, eyeliner, and lip color
  • Trichology: Studying and treating the hair and scalp
  • Wax Specialist: Someone who removes hair from the body with different types of wax; often part of the study of esthetics

Beauty Treatment Terms

  • Acrylic: Fake nails applied using a combination of a powder and liquid
  • Aromatherapy: Use of essential oils to facilitate wellness
  • Balayage: Highlighting technique that makes hair appear lighter while not impacting base color
  • Chemical Peel: The application of chemical substances to remove outer layers of skin
  • Cosmetic Massage: Gentle massaging technique on the face and neck to enhance circulation, relax muscles, and promote skin health
  • Extensions: Refers to the artificial hair additions attached to natural hair to add length, enhance volume, or change style; includes clip-in, tape-in, and sew-in hair extensions
  • Finger Waves: Pinching hair between fingers and combing in alternating directions to set hair into a particular shape
  • Graduation: The hair is cut at varying lengths to create layers and a tapered or graduated effect
  • Highlights: Sections of hair colored lighter than the base color; adds dimension, brightness, and contrast
  • Lowlights: Sections of hair colored darker than the base color to create depth and dimension; provides contrast in overall hairstyle
  • Microdermabrasion: Non-invasive exfoliating treatment to remove dead skin cells and reveal smoother skin
  • Point Cutting: Cutting hair with scissors to create a softened or textured edge by removing small sections of hair at varying angles
  • Shaping: Process of cutting hair using various tools to obtain the desired appearance
  • Strand Test: Testing out a color or other chemical treatment on a small section of hair to ensure the hair will handle the service well
  • Thermal Styling: Using heated tools like flat and curling irons, and hot rollers
  • Thinning: Reduce the density and bulk of hair, creating a more manageable and balanced style
  • Wet Styling: Styling hair while still wet or damp; often utilizes techniques like blow-drying, setting, and applying products for desired results
  • Wiggery: Art and practice of wig making, application, and styling; often done by hair braiders

Safety and Scientific Terms

  • Breathing Zone: Distance between yourself and a client when using chemicals so you can inhale less of the chemical
  • Circulatory System: Heart, arteries, and veins; controls the movement of blood throughout the body
  • Contraindication: Situation, typically health-related, that prevents a client from receiving specific salon treatments; could include contagious illnesses, allergies to products, or other risk factors
  • Cross-Contamination: transfer of viruses or bacteria from one surface or tool to another; standard hygiene and disinfection processes can mitigate the risk
  • Endocrine System: Glands that impact elements like growth and sexual functions; includes adrenal glands, thymus, pituitary glands, and pancreas
  • Epidermis: Outermost layer of skin
  • Fitzpatrick Skin Types/Fitzpatrick Scale: Classification system for how skin responds to sunlight based on the amount of melanin
  • Follicle: Small depression in the skin where hair grows; contains the hair root and is connected to oil glands
  • Histology: Study of the body's tissues to learn what they do and what they look like at a microscopic level; used primarily when studying skincare
  • Integumentary System: Outermost layer of the body, including skin, nails, hair, and glands
  • Melanin: Substance in the body determining hair, skin, and eye color; more melanin results in darker tones
  • Nervous System: System including the brain, nerves, and spinal cord; allows for communication between the brain and other parts of the body
  • pH: Short for potential hydrogen; refers to the chemical makeup of beauty products and how they can impact the hair and scalp
  • Physiology: Study of the normal functions, systems, and processes of the human body, including hair, nails, and skin
  • Predisposition: Natural tendency toward certain physical traits, conditions, or reactions as they relate to beauty treatments, haircare, and skin care; helps identify a client's possible allergies
  • Skin Sensitivity Test: Using a tiny amount of product on the skin to determine if an allergic reaction could occur
  • UV Light: Ultraviolet light; often used to disinfect salon equipment

Government Entities Related to the Beauty Industry in the U.S.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Regulatory agency that implements certain health-related rules to prevent the spread of diseases and infections in the U.S.; part of the Department of Health and Human Services
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Agency that strives to protect the environment and people's health based on clean air and water, providing accurate, relevant information, reviewing chemicals used and sold, and more
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Agency that protects public health by checking the safety of medications, medical devices, food supply, many potentially toxic cosmetics, and more
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Oversees the rules keeping workplaces safe; part of the Department of Labor
  • State Board: Shorthand reference for the board in each U.S. state that oversees the licensing, rules, regulations, and professional standards for certain regulated professions, such as cosmetologists or barbers

Types and Usage of Professional Beauty Supplies

  • Antiseptics: Chemicals used in cosmetology and barbering settings to sanitize tools
  • Draping: Application of the salon cape to protect clients from cut hair and chemicals
  • Equipment vs. implements vs. supplies: Equipment includes large objects (e.g., chairs); implements are tools used in services (like scissors); supplies are all other things used while working (such as towels)
  • Ergonomics: Study and design of workplaces and tools so you can work efficiently while minimizing the chance of injury
  • Honing: Barbers' process of sharpening a blade's edge to ensure precision cuts and safety
  • Stropping: Barbers' process of running a razor's blade across a fabric or leather strip to help ensure a sharp edge
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