Below, you can find the common English terms used in Asian skincare, in particular Korean & Japanese cosmetics and their true ‘meanings.’ This page will be constantly updated.
Conditioner – Typically used as a word substitute for ‘lotion’ products.
Essence – Originally used as a word as a substitute for ‘serum.’ This word is most twisted in the Western world of cosmetics. The Asian cosmetic industry didn’t like the word ‘serum’ since it doesn’t sound good phonetically to them and the term ‘essence’ is more appealing and easier for non-English native speakers to pronounce.
The most famous Asian product however, isn’t even using the term ‘essence’ the usual way in Asian cosmetics. That product is SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence. This product is used more as an exfoliating toner/hydrating toner product. Essence in general in Asian skincare refers to everyday Western ‘serums’ as opposed to the ‘exfoliating toner’ definition that Western brands try to follow through SK-II Facial Treatment Essence.
This term can also be used on top of things for example:
Essence Lotion, this just means its a typical ‘lotion’ type of product but stronger and more moisturising. Typically targeting very dry/mature skin types.
Another use can be something like:
Essence Cheek, which usually means a gel/water base type of cheek colour product.
Often, the word can just be thrown in casually into any type of product that are targeting the moisture market.
Medicated – Products with this term usually means its for acne/blemish prone skin.
Mild – Just means ‘mild.’ Reserved for products meant for sensitive skin types.
Coffret – Instead of ‘set,’ the term ‘coffret’ is preferred since the katakana of ‘coffret’ is more phonetically appealing and luxurious.
DX – Shortform for ‘deluxe.’
Make – Basically used as a word for ‘make-up.’ Used most commonly in Japan.
Keep – This term is usually applied on make-up products that are formulated to last long like ‘keeping’ something longer. Majority of the words that use this term are primers and finishing powders.
Charge/Charger – A rather new term, but it basically means something supposed to give the skin moisture in a stronger dose. Can be used for a product that can be a serum or moisturiser.
Emulsion – A term used for a moisturiser that is typically used for lighter textures. This term is usually reserved for moisturisers that are meant for day-time but not strictly.
EX – How brands used to define something as more intense. Its basically a shortform for ‘Extreme,’ the shorthand is more widely known hence ‘EX.’ Used most commonly in Japan.
Example, a skin conditioner has the term ‘EX’ thrown on it, it means that this product is twice as moisturising.
Milk – The word originated from the use of the word in French cosmetics.
Cheek – Used as a substitute for the word ‘blush.’
Sheet – The English word used for Cleansing wipes since sheet is more widely understood. Also used for ‘sheet’ masks.
Mask Pack – This term is used mostly for mask products that are put into a ‘compact’ format like jar leave-on masks or just mask products in general. Widely used in Japan.
Cosme – Just means ‘cosmetics.’ Used widely in Japan & Taiwan.
Rouge – Lipstick.
Serum – Just means serum, but not widely used.
Balance/Balancing – The term ‘balancing,’ is more widely used and is usually used in skincare lines that target normal skin. Products with this term usually are ‘normal’ and in some cases oily, but its typically used to name after a line that’s the basic line.
Tonic – Usually a concentrated product in liquid form that resembles water consistency. Can be used as a substitute for ‘serum’ in some products. Usually used for hair products that deal with hair loss.
Peeling – The Asian cosmetic word choice for ‘exfoliating,’ since ‘exfoliate’ is harder to pronounce.
Whip – For cleansers, usually means a very thick, dense foam like whipped cream.
Pore – Literally means ‘pores.’ Any product that uses this word targets acne/blemish/black-head prone skin.
Herbal – Natural and organic market brands as well as products that are more ‘herb’ and nature scented focus use this word.