Eight confusing K-beauty terms, explained

My heart flutters whenever I hear the word K-beauty! I got started on makeup because of my fascination with K-Pop stars, and I can't help but pay attention when the K-beauty scene raves about a new product or trend. A lot of PV readers commented to say that they've also been loving the steady stream of makeup and skincare we've been getting from Korea, but because they have an entirely different beauty vocabulary (they do speak a foreign language after all) shopping for products and figuring out how to use them can be something of a challenge!

As always, PV is here to help you out. Here's a quick glossary of popular terms used in K-beauty!


In a medical setting, an ampoule is what you call an injectable substance but don't panic! It's the term that Koreans use for extremely potent skin care treatments (aka, what the West knows as "serums"). They have a higher concentrations of active ingredients compared to the rest of your regimen, and are usually only used when needed. Most are packaged like an oil in a small bottle with a dropper, but some masks claim to contain them, too.


You’ve probably seen this in several K-beauty brands, as something like a line of products. They're not simply copycatting each other; AC stands for Acne Care! If you have troubled skin and don't know what to get, products from a brand's AC line are probably your best bet. You can also check out some of Liz's HG pimple cures like the mask above!

Pore Control

Smooth, bright flawless skin is the height of beauty in Korea, so it's no surprise that they have a lot of solutions for large and visible pores. They apply "Pore Control" products to minimize the appearance of an uneven skin texture, so if your makeup lists this as one of its benefits, it probably acts like a sort of primer that fills your pores. Skin care products can have pore control abilities, too, by giving your skin a more thorough cleanse and removing any blockage that can emphasize pore appearance.


While most BB creams only offer light to medium coverage, some will have the Cover description to indicate a higher coverage. What's amazing is that they function like foundation but still have the same lightweight feel and skin-caring benefits of a BB cream!

Image via jjj-shop.com

Image via jjj-shop.com


Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate commonly known as Galactomyces or GFF is, in human words, a really good moisturizer and anti-oxidant. It first became famous for being SK-II's main ingredient but other brands have followed suit and now offer more affordable options. GFF induces the production of hyaluronan or hyaluronic acid in the skin, so the moisture and softness of your skin has a more long-term effect.

Skin Expression

You won't find this on product labels but Korean makeup artists like Jung Saemmool often mention the term “Skin Expression”. It refers to skin that looks bright, vibrant and bouncy! It's a contrast to a complexion that looks dull, dry and basically lifeless. 

Image via sakura-hyoeun21.blogspot.com

Image via sakura-hyoeun21.blogspot.com

Skin or Skin Lotion

It does sound strange and confusing when Korean skin care regimens mention applying "skin" after cleansing. Like, what? Apparently, "skin” or seu-kin is what they call toners! Brands also sometimes label toners as lotion, which led to the term Skin Lotion, but they all basically function the same way. So if you're looking for toners in a K-beauty store, make sure to look for this instead. 

As an aside, Etude House opts for a different term and label their toners as “freshners”.

Image via websosanh.vn

Image via websosanh.vn


I use a Kerasys hair product that says “Perfumed Rinse”. I got it thinking that it was shampoo but when I dispensed the product, it turned out to be conditioner! I guess that makes sense that you "rinse" out your hair with moisture after shampooing off the dirt and oil but like any other conditioner, you still have to wash this off after.

We hope this mini guide helped you decode K-beauty! This is just the basics, and we'd love to hear what other K-beauty terms may still have you feeling confused. Send us your questions in the comment section below, or feel free to share your own K-beauty learnings with us!