K-Beauty Glossary

Korean Beauty Basics: 45 Essential Terms You Need to Know

Navigating the world of Korean beauty (K-beauty) can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially with the plethora of innovative products and techniques. To help you become a K-beauty expert, we've compiled a glossary of essential terms that every skincare enthusiast should know. 

1. Ampoule Shot: A skincare technique involving the application of a concentrated ampoule or serum to target specific skin concerns, such as dullness or uneven texture.

2. Aloe: also known as aloe vera, is a succulent plant species native to the Arabian Peninsula but cultivated worldwide for its medicinal and skincare benefits. The gel extracted from the leaves of the aloe vera plant has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and skincare due to its soothing, hydrating, and healing properties. Aloe vera gel is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants that provide numerous benefits for the skin.

3. BB Cream: Short for "blemish balm" or "beauty balm," BB creams provide lightweight coverage and skincare benefits, such as hydration and SPF protection.

4. CC Cream: Stands for "color correction" cream, similar to BB creams but with added color correction properties to even out skin tone.

5. Ceramides: Ceramides are lipid molecules naturally found in the skin's outermost layer, known as the stratum corneum. They play a crucial role in maintaining the skin barrier and preventing moisture loss. Skincare products containing ceramides help to strengthen the skin barrier, retain moisture, and improve overall skin health.

6. Centella Asiatica: Also known as "tiger grass," centella asiatica is a medicinal herb renowned for its soothing, healing, and anti-inflammatory properties. It's often used in skincare products to calm sensitive or irritated skin, promote wound healing, and strengthen the skin barrier.

7. Chok-chok: A Korean term used to describe skin that is plump, moist, and dewy. Similar to glass skin, achieving chok-chok skin involves intense hydration and nourishment to create a radiant complexion.

8. Cleansing Balm: A solid cleansing formula that melts into an oil upon contact with the skin, effectively removing makeup and impurities.

9. Cleansing Oil: A liquid formula designed to dissolve oil-based impurities, such as makeup and sunscreen, without stripping the skin's natural oils.

10. Cleansing Water: Also known as micellar water, a gentle cleansing solution that removes makeup and cleanses the skin without rinsing.

11. Cushion Compact: A portable makeup compact containing a cushion soaked in foundation or BB cream for convenient application on the go.

12. Double Cleansing: A two-step cleansing method involving an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser to thoroughly cleanse the skin.

13. Essence: A lightweight, hydrating serum used to deliver concentrated active ingredients deep into the skin.

14. Emulsion: A lightweight moisturizer with a milky texture that provides hydration and seals in moisture.

15. Exfoliator: A skincare product designed to remove dead skin cells and impurities, revealing smoother, brighter skin.

16. Ferments: Fermented ingredients, such as fermented rice, soy, or yeast extracts, are commonly used in Korean cosmetics for their skin-rejuvenating and brightening benefits. Fermentation breaks down molecules into smaller, more bioavailable forms, allowing them to penetrate the skin more effectively and deliver nutrients.

17. Galactomyces: Galactomyces is a type of yeast extract derived from fermented rice or barley. It's prized for its brightening and anti-aging properties, helping to even out skin tone, reduce hyperpigmentation, and enhance skin radiance.

18. Glass Skin: This term refers to skin that appears exceptionally smooth, clear, and translucent, resembling the texture and appearance of glass. Achieving glass skin often involves a rigorous skincare routine focused on hydration, exfoliation, and brightening.

19. Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant that attracts and retains moisture in the skin, helping to keep it hydrated, plump, and supple. It's commonly used in skincare products to provide intense hydration and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

20. Honey Skin: Similar to glass skin, honey skin refers to skin that is exceptionally smooth, radiant, and glowing, resembling the luminous sheen of honey. This term emphasizes the importance of hydration and nourishment in achieving healthy and radiant skin.

21. Hanbang: This term refers to traditional Korean herbal medicine and ingredients used in skincare products. Hanbang-inspired skincare emphasizes natural botanicals and herbs known for their healing and rejuvenating properties.

22. King Swab: Oversized cotton swabs soaked in exfoliating solutions, used to gently exfoliate the skin and promote cell turnover.

23. Lotion: A lightweight moisturizer that provides hydration and nourishment to the skin, suitable for daily use.

24. Low pH Cleanser: A gentle cleanser formulated with a slightly acidic pH to maintain the skin's natural barrier and prevent irritation.

25. Mugwort: also known as Artemisia vulgaris, is a herbaceous plant native to Asia and Europe. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and skincare for its soothing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Mugwort contains various bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, polyphenols, and essential oils, that provide numerous benefits for the skin. Additionally, mugwort has been shown to have antimicrobial properties that can help combat acne-causing bacteria and promote clearer, healthier-looking skin.

26. Niacinamide: Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, is a versatile skincare ingredient that offers a wide range of benefits. It helps to improve skin texture, minimize the appearance of pores, regulate oil production, and brighten uneven skin tone.

27. Peeling: refers to the process of exfoliating the skin to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and impurities from the surface. This helps to reveal smoother, brighter, and healthier-looking skin underneath. It's generally recommended to exfoliate 1 time per week, depending on your skin's needs and tolerance.

28. Peptides: are short chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. In skincare, peptides are often used as key ingredients due to their ability to provide various benefits for the skin.

29. Retinol: is a form of vitamin A that is widely used in skincare for its anti-aging properties. Retinol works by stimulating collagen production and accelerating cell turnover, which helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It also helps to unclog pores, fade dark spots, and improve overall skin texture and tone. Additionally, retinol has antioxidant properties that help protect the skin from environmental damage.

30. Sheet Masking: The practice of using sheet masks, which are single-use facial masks soaked in serum or essence, to deliver intensive hydration and nourishment to the skin.

31. Sleeping Mask: is a type of overnight skincare treatment designed to provide intensive hydration, nourishment, and repair to the skin while you sleep.

Sleeping masks typically have a thicker, more concentrated formula compared to regular moisturizers and are applied as the final step of your evening skincare routine, in place of or on top of your moisturizer. They create a protective barrier over the skin to lock in moisture and enhance the absorption of active ingredients throughout the night.

32. Mists: Fine mist sprays infused with hydrating ingredients, used to refresh and hydrate the skin throughout the day.

33. Mochi Skin: Inspired by the soft and bouncy texture of mochi rice cakes, mochi skin describes skin that is plump, supple, and resilient. Achieving mochi skin involves maintaining optimal hydration levels and using skincare products that promote elasticity and firmness.

34. Mucin: commonly referred to as snail mucin in skincare, is a substance extracted from snail slime. It's known for its hydrating, soothing, and skin-repairing properties. Mucin is rich in glycoproteins, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants, making it effective in promoting skin hydration, improving elasticity, and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, mucin has anti-inflammatory properties that can help calm irritated or sensitive skin and promote faster wound healing. In Korean skincare, snail mucin is often used in serums, creams, and masks to provide nourishment and moisture to the skin, resulting in a smoother, more radiant complexion.

35. Oil: Pure plant oils or oil blends used to moisturize, nourish, and protect the skin, suitable for all skin types. Some of the most popular oils found in Korean skincare products include: Jojoba Oil, Rosehip Oil, Argan Oil, Squalane Oil, Camellia Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Grapeseed Oil.

36. Propolis: Propolis is a resinous substance collected by bees from tree sap, known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It's often used in skincare products to calm acne-prone skin, promote wound healing, and protect the skin from environmental stressors.

37. Sebum: The natural oil produced by the skin's sebaceous glands, which helps to lubricate and protect the skin.

38. Serum: A concentrated skincare treatment containing active ingredients targeted at specific skin concerns, such as aging, hyperpigmentation, or acne.

39. Sheet Mask: A single-use face mask made of fabric or hydrogel, soaked in serum or essence, designed to deliver intense hydration and nourishment to the skin.

40. SPF: SPF stands for "sun protection factor," and it measures how well a sunscreen can protect your skin from the sun's harmful UVB rays. In simple words, SPF indicates how much longer you can stay in the sun without getting sunburned compared to if you weren't wearing sunscreen at all.

For example, SPF 30 means that if it takes you 10 minutes to get sunburned without sunscreen, wearing SPF 30 would theoretically allow you to stay in the sun for 30 times longer (10 minutes x 30 = 300 minutes) before your skin starts to burn.

However, it's important to note that no sunscreen provides 100% protection, so it's still necessary to reapply sunscreen regularly, especially after swimming or sweating.

41. Toner: A watery skincare product applied after cleansing to balance the skin's pH, hydrate, and prepare the skin for subsequent skincare steps.

42. UVA and UVB: Types of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, with UVA causing premature aging and UVB causing sunburn and skin damage.

43. Ulzzang: Meaning "best face" in Korean, ulzzang refers to individuals known for their exceptionally attractive facial features and flawless skin. Ulzzang beauty often involves achieving a youthful and radiant complexion through skincare and makeup techniques.

44. Water-Based Cleanser: A gentle cleanser formulated with water-soluble ingredients, used as the second step in the double cleansing method to remove any remaining impurities.

45. Seven Skin Method: A skincare technique involving the layering of toner or essence seven times to provide deep hydration and plumpness to the skin.

With these 45 essential terms in our Korean beauty glossary, you'll be well-equipped to explore and enjoy the diverse world of K-beauty products and techniques. Happy pampering!