Popular Korean skincare terms explained to help you navigate the Korean skincare world

Popular Korean skincare terms explained to help you navigate the Korean skincare world

𝑨π‘ͺ : No, not air conditioner. AC indicates the product is for acne/acne-care.Β 

π‘¨π’Žπ’‘π’π’–π’π’†: contain a high concentration of active ingredients and are usually packaged in small bottles with droppers. If layering treatments, ampoules are generally used after essences but before serums. A good rule of thumb for layering is to go from lightest to heaviest.

𝑨𝒒𝒖𝒂 𝑷𝒆𝒆𝒍: A Korean skincare treatment that hydrates while gently exfoliating with alpha hydroxy acids.

𝑩𝑩 π‘ͺπ’“π’†π’‚π’Ž: A BB Cream stands for blemish balm or beauty balm. BB Creams provide light coverage along with other skin benefits. They also typically contain SPF although should not be used in place of regular sun protection.

π‘ͺπ‘ͺ π‘ͺπ’“π’†π’‚π’Ž: CC Cream stands for color correction cream. CC Creams are very similar to BB Creams that along with coverage, they also provide other skin benefits and SPF. The difference between a BB and CC Cream depends more on the product than the name.

π‘ͺπ’π’†π’‚π’π’”π’Šπ’π’ˆ π‘©π’‚π’π’Ž: A Cleansing Balm is a cleanser that comes in a semi-solid balm form. They can also be called sherbert cleansers. Cleansing balms are used as the first step in the evening routine to remove makeup and sunscreen. They are put on dry skin and then emulsify (turn milky) when they come in contact with water.

π‘ͺπ’π’†π’‚π’π’”π’Šπ’π’ˆ π‘Άπ’Šπ’: Similar to a Cleansing Balm, Cleansing Oils are another first cleanser used to melt away oil-based impurities, like makeup and sebum.

π‘ͺπ’π’†π’‚π’π’”π’Šπ’π’ˆ 𝑾𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒓: Also known as beauty water or micellar water, Cleansing Waters are multi-purpose waters that gently remove makeup and impurities. Some can also be used as toners and/or exfoliators. With some cleansing waters, rinsing is optional.

π‘ͺπ’‰π’π’Œ π’„π’‰π’π’Œ: Now a household description of positively dewy, moist skin, these two syllables became the standard that moisturizers and hydrating masks strive for. It’s what you want to see and feel after you’ve completed the last step of your evening skincare routine.

π‘ͺπ’–π’”π’‰π’Šπ’π’ π‘ͺπ’π’Žπ’‘π’‚π’„π’•: Cushion Compacts provide coverage, and usually SPF, in a convenient compact. The product is housed in a cushion and comes out only when the cushion is pressed. Like BB or CC Creams the amount of coverage varies between each product.

π‘«π’†π’˜π’š (β€œπ’ˆπ’˜π’‚π’π’ˆβ€) π‘Ίπ’Œπ’Šπ’: Also called glowy skin, dewy skin looks deeply hydrated and glossy, as opposed to matte skin.

𝑫𝒐𝒖𝒃𝒍𝒆 π‘ͺπ’π’†π’‚π’π’”π’Šπ’π’ˆ: Double cleansing is the first step in the evening routine. First you use an oil-based cleanser, which can be either liquid or balm. Oil cleansers are the best way to remove oil-based impurities like makeup, sunscreen and excess sebum. Next, follow up with a water-based cleanser, which removes any remaining residue.

𝑬𝒔𝒔𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆 : An Essence is a skin treatment. It’s normally light in texture and is used after cleansing and toning. Essences generally add extra hydration but some offer other skin benefits such as brightening or anti-aging. TIP: If using multiple treatments, layer from lightest to heaviest.

π‘¬π’Žπ’–π’π’”π’Šπ’π’: An Emulsion is a light moisturizer that has a lotion-like texture. Emulsions add another layer of hydration and would be used after essences and serums. TIP: If using multiple treatments, layer from lightest to heaviest (Toner - Essence - Serum - Emulsion - Cream)

π‘¬π’™π’‡π’π’π’Šπ’‚π’•π’π’“ : Exfoliators remove uneven and old dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. There are two types of exfoliators, physical and chemical. Physical Exfoliators are scrubs that manually remove dead skin, whereas Chemical Exfoliators typically use acids such as AHA or BHA.

π‘΄π’Šπ’”π’•: Mists are toners that come in a misting bottle. They can be used after cleansing in place of a toner or before toning. Mists are also great throughout the day (even over makeup) whenever skin needs a boost of hydration.

π‘³π’π’•π’Šπ’π’: Lotions are another hydrating treatment that are slightly thicker than an emulsion but not as heavy as a cream. In the evenings, lotions can be followed by night creams or sleeping packs.

π‘³π’π’˜ 𝒑𝑯 π‘ͺ𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒏𝒔𝒆𝒓𝒔: Skin needs to maintain a slightly acidic pH balance (about 5.5) in order to function at its best. A low pH cleanser will not only regulate your skin’s pH level but will support a skin-healthy environment.

π‘΄π’π’…π’†π’π’Šπ’π’ˆ π‘΄π’‚π’”π’Œ: Often called β€œrubber mask” for its rubbery, peel-off texture, this mask is used in top Korean skin spas for its ability to hydrate without evaporation. The key ingredient, alginate, which is found in kelp extract, transforms from a powder to a soft gel-like texture when mixed in water. The mask eventually dries to a rubbery finish that stays moist next to the skin, allowing anti-aging ingredients to fully absorb

𝑲 π’ƒπ’†π’‚π’–π’•π’š : The umbrella term used for all Korean beauty, including skincare, cosmetics, terms and trends.

π‘²π’Šπ’π’ˆ π’”π’˜π’‚π’ƒ : King Swabs are exfoliators that look like oversized Q-Tips. They are presoaked with exfoliating ingredients like AHA or BHA. King Swabs are used after cleansing in the evening, 2-3 times a week.

π‘·π’†π’†π’π’Šπ’π’ˆ : Peeling means exfoliating. A couple examples are Peeling Gels and Peeling Pads. Exfoliating always comes after cleansing and should never be overdone, typically twice a week is enough.

𝑷𝑨: PA indicates sun protection from UVA rays. PA ratings range from PA+ to PA++++. More + signs mean longer protection.

π‘·π’‚π’„π’Œ: Another term for mask that usually has a gel, cream, or clay formula. You usually would spread them over your face and eventually wash them off. Sleeping packs are worn overnight for deep hydration.

π‘Άπ’Šπ’: Oils are another skin treatment that are highly-concentrated. Oils can be applied directly on the skin or mixed with a moisturizer.

π‘Ίπ’†π’ƒπ’–π’Ž: Sebum is the natural oil that skin produces. Excess sebum can lead to oily skin which is often associated with acne. Many K-beauty products aim to help control excess sebum.

π‘Ίπ’Œπ’Šπ’: Skin is actually a term for toner.

π‘Ίπ’†π’“π’–π’Ž: Serums are like supercharged essences. They add a layer of hydration, and like all treatments, target specific skin concerns such as age spots or blemishes.

𝑺𝒉𝒆𝒆𝒕 π’Žπ’‚π’”π’Œ: A Sheet Mask is a single-use face treatment with the main goal being hydration. Masks are typically made from cotton fibers or gel-type materials, and they’re soaked in rich essences. Sheet Masks are used after toning and then followed by a cream. You can learn more about sheet masks here.

𝑺𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 π‘Ίπ’Œπ’Šπ’ 𝑴𝒆𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒅: The 7 Skin Method is when you apply up to seven thin layers of toner to your face immediately after cleansing. FYI: Toner is also referred to as Skin in Korea. This layering technique allows your skin the opportunity to easily absorb all the extra hydration without the heaviness or congestion of a thick moisturizer.

π‘Ίπ’π’†π’†π’‘π’Šπ’π’ˆ π‘΄π’‚π’”π’Œ 𝒐𝒓 π‘Ίπ’π’†π’†π’‘π’Šπ’π’ˆ π‘·π’‚π’„π’Œ: A Sleeping Mask is a time-released hydrating treatment that you use at night as the last step in your evening routine. Sleeping Masks are typically used once or twice a week in place of or on top of a moisturizer.

𝑺𝑷𝑭: SPF indicates sun protection from UVB rays. Higher numbers mean longer protection against UVB.

𝑺𝒖𝒏 π’„π’“π’†π’‚π’Ž: Sun Cream is sunscreen.

π‘»π’“π’†π’‚π’•π’Žπ’†π’π’•π’”: In a K-beauty routine, after cleansing and toning comes the treatments. Treatments treat specific skin concerns--wrinkles, enlarged pores, age spots, etc. Treatments include liquids, essences, serums, ampoules, emulsions, lotions and oils. The key with treatments is to layer starting from the lightest product to the heaviest, or thinnest in consistency to thickest.

𝑻𝒐𝒏𝒆𝒓: A Toner is applied after cleansing to help balance skin’s pH levels and prep skin for the following treatments. Toners can be light mists or have an essence texture, aka Essence Toners.

𝑼𝑽𝑨- Long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin's thickest layer and causes premature skin aging, wrinkling and dark spots. PA indicates sun protection from UVA rays.

𝑼𝑽𝑩- Short wave ultraviolet B (UVB) rays burn the superficial layers of the skin and is the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer. SPF indicates sun protection from UVB rays.

𝑾𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒓-𝑩𝒂𝒔𝒆𝒅 π‘ͺ𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒏𝒔𝒆𝒓: A Water-Based Cleanser is the second step in double cleansing and can be used as a morning cleanser. Water-based cleansers come in many forms; Foaming Cleanser or Gel Cleanser.

π‘Ύπ’‰π’Šπ’•π’†π’π’Šπ’π’ˆ: Whitening simply means brightening. Whitening products aim to brighten and even out skin tone. There is no bleaching involved.