B.B. creams, jimjilbangs, grain ferment… Feeling a little overwhelmed? We hear you. Luckily, we’ve compiled a mini-glossary of basic K-Beauty terms that will make you feel like a pro!
Ampoules are thick, hyper-concentrated liquids that are used to treat specific skin issues such as acne, dullness, wrinkles, and hyper-pigmentation. They are usually packaged in tiny vials. “Ampoule” might be easily confused with “serum” – however, the ampoule is more concentrated and is used before a serum or essence.
“Blemish Balm” creams arguably started the Korean-Beauty domination in the Western world. It is a supercharged, do-it-all foundation that acts as moisturizer, sunscreen, and primer all in one! Although it was first developed in Germany for medicinal purposes, Korean women started using it as a cosmetic when they discovered how easily beneficial a BB Cream could be.
The innovative Cushion Compact is a sponge that distributes the right amount of product with minimum waste. It infuses foundation and sun protection, resulting in an even coverage that creates an airbrushed effect.
With a Korean skincare regime, washing your face once is just not enough. Double cleansing is a two-step process that ensures a deeper clean than single cleansing alone. The first step is to use an oil or water based makeup remover/cleanser to break up sunscreen and makeup particles. Follow this with a foaming cleanser to wipe away oil residue, sebum, and dirt.
Originally, “essence” was the Korean counterpart of what we call “serums” in the west. With K-Beauty’s globalization, these terms are often used interchangeably. Basically, an essence is a highly-concentrated treatment that is often lighter and has lower active ingredients than a serum. It can be applied in place of a serum, or along with a serum, depending on your skin’s needs. It often has a watery or gel texture.
Basic skincare ingredients can be transformed by fermentation, a process that breaks complex enzymes into simpler ones. Why is this beneficial? Your skin loves simplicity – it absorbs these ingredients better and a bit more gently, holding on to all those healthy nutrients and improving the skin’s elasticity.
Nowadays, K-Beauty is almost synonymous with dewiness. “Gwang” is the catchall term for the ever-desirable luminescent finish. Dewiness may vary from super glossy to a subtle glow.
Hanbang is a form of holistic herbal medicine that uses natural ingredients like Ginseng, Lotus Flower, Peony, as well as other botanical and floral ingredients. These ingredients hold anti-aging and anti-oxidant properties that have been proven to encourage cell regeneration and boost skin-firming. These components are now gradually being incorporated into the K-Beauty world, particularly by brands that are devoted to providing green and guilt-free products.
Innisfree is a well-known Korean beauty brand that develops natural and healthy ingredients to yield eco-friendly products.
The jjimjilbang (or Korean spa) is a 24-hour co-ed bathhouse featuring rejuvenating hot and cold soaking pools, massage areas, saunas, and sleeping rooms. Sweating up and scrubbing down in a jjimjilbang are natural methods for relaxing and detoxifying your skin – not to mention they’re a perfect date spot!
Kkul-Gwang – translated as “Honey” Gwang is a type of shine that is so glossy it is almost greasy. It’s definitely on the “ultra-dewy” end of the Gwang spectrum. It looks borderline comparable to spreading honey all over your face… in a good way!
Lactobacillus Ferment is a popular ingredient in Korean beauty. Often obtained from Rice Extract or Rice Milk, this probiotic has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties. This ferment is often found in creams, lotions, and packs – among others.
Mist is a lightweight spritz treatment that can be used after cleansing (or any time during the day) to improve hydration levels. It usually comes in spray-on form and is a perfect pick-me-up after a long day at the office or gym!
A nylon washcloth is a rough, often pastel-hued cloth Koreans use in place of the standard loofa. The washcloth’s coarse texture and rectangular shape allows the bather to deeply exfoliate the skin and scrub areas that might be a little out-of-reach (i.e. the middle of your back).
Oil is one of the most common components utilized in Korean beauty. Due to its ability to remove makeup and moisturize skin, oil can even be considered a staple ingredient. Oils are compatible with all skin types, since they get washed away along with dirt and impurities, but are especially beneficial to those with chronically dry skin.
If you are a fan of Korean skincare, then you have used this word at least once. In Korean beauty, “pack” means “mask.” It can also be used for gel, cream, or clay you put on your face. This super thick cream is left on for a period of time (or overnight) to seal in any essences, ampoules, serums, etc. that you applied beforehand. Packs are intensely moisturizing and deeply hydrating.
Q-tips are a fun and special feature in some K-Beauty product designs. When utilized, they are often pre-infused with the product’s essence for easy and unique application. [See: Papa Recipe’s 2-Step Skin Cleaning Solution]
Resveratrol is a strong antioxidant generally obtained from the skin of grapes. This substance is used to protect the skin from harmful conditions such as pollution and UV rays. It also assists in preventing premature aging, as well as fighting blemishes, redness, and irritation.
In terms of concentration, a serum typically comes between an ampoule and an essence. The thick liquids are usually used to treat one or two specific skin issues and are usually applied after cleansing and toning to brighten or hydrate skin.
Toners are watery liquids with a consistency comparable to that of essences. Toners are one of the basic steps in Korean skincare routines. It is often applied after your double cleansing. It helps close your pores and prepares skin for essences, serums, and ampoules. Unlike in the Western context, toners in K-Beauty do not pertain to overly concentrated astringent used as a second cleansing step.
With skincare constantly in mind, sunscreens are considered a basic first-step in Korean Beauty routines. UV filters are either chemical or physical substances found in Korean sunscreens, often added to moisturizers to protect while conditioning.
Whether it’s Vitamin A, E, or C, K-Beauty products are rich with them! Benefits range from anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory to anti-aging. Don’t forget that everyone’s skin is different, and the need for certain vitamins can vary. Make sure to check the label for that specific ingredient your skin needs.
In K-Beauty, whitening = brightening. “Whitening” is the selling point of most Korean products in order to, yes, achieve an even-toned and dewy look.
Even more than the immediately noticeable effects, what’s great about K-Beauty is the actual experience of trying out the multitude of different products. Whether it’s the cute packaging or the unique style of application, one thing is for sure: Korean Beauty products are never boring.
Yun-Gwang is also known as 3D-Gwang. Similar to “strobing,” it applies a sheen to strategic parts of the face, such as the high planes, top of the cheekbones, on top of the nose, and at the cupid’s bow.
Zzon zzon is an onomatopoetic word that describes elastic skin that bounces, something you’re sure to achieve with your new K-Beauty routine!
There you go, you are now *officially* a K-Beauty expert! Just kidding… that list is just the tip of the iceberg. Dive in and see for yourself! Don’t forget to let us know what terms we missed, we’ll be sure to include them in the next list!