How to Translate a Korean Cosmetics Ingredients List

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A little while ago, I tried out Evas Vitamin Cleansing Dessert Magic Cream Soap in Berry Mix Extract. It’s essentially a solid cleansing oil, which had me intrigued… but unfortunately, the ingredients list only existed online. In Korean. In JPG form. What’s a girl to do but learn Korean?

Luckily, Korean turns out to be a LOT easier than Chinese or Japanese, because it has an alphabet (Hangul), and the ingredient names are transliterations of the English words. So once you translate the word and read it out loud, it’s an approximation of how the English word sounds. There’s a fantastic comic called Learn to Read Korean in 15 minutes here (it’s a bit more complex than he makes out, but it gives you the general gist – there’s a more complex chart here), and a couple of Korean/English ingredients lists here and here, which I used liberally throughout this long and arduous journey.

Here’s the ingredients list:

vitamin-cleansing-dessert-ingredients

I painstakingly typed it out as this, using Microsoft Word’s Hangul character picker:

정제수, 글리세린, 스테아릭애씨드, 포타슘하이드록사이드, 라우릭애씨드, 라우라마이드디이에이, 글라이콜디스테아레이트, 글리세릴스테아레이트, 피이지-100스테아레, 비비즈왁스, 티타늄디옥사이드, 폴리쿼터늄-7, 올리브오일, 판테놀 (100 mg/100g), 토코페릴아세테이트, 산자나무수, 나이아신아마이드, 하이드로제네이티드레시틴, 프로필렌글라이콜, 비에이치티, 에탄올, 마그네슘아스코빌포스페이트, 레티닐팔미테이트, 세라마이드3, 블랙베리추출물, 블루베리추출물, 라즈베리추출물, 아사이야자추출물, 하이드록시에칠셀룰로오스, 잔탄검, 마카다미아씨오일, 디소듐이디티에이, 메칠파라벤, 적색227호, 황색5호, 향료

Now onto the translation part.

Each character corresponds to a syllable. The different bits in each character correspond to consonant and vowel sounds.

For example, let’s look at the second ingredient 글리세린:

글 is G + EU + R/L

리 is L + I

세 is S + E

린 is L + I + N

So, “geulliselin”… glycerin!

Of course, you can stick them into Google Translate too to get a quick translation. There are also a few ingredients that are reasonably common and transliterates to a Korean word that you can’t guess, e.g. ingredient number one, “정제수” or “jeongjesu”, which is water. There are also a few words that Google Translate doesn’t recognise, and you won’t recognise either unless you’re a particularly good guesser who knows every single cosmetics ingredient name (e.g. 하이드록시에칠셀룰로오스 = “haideulogsiechilsellullooseu”, which Google thinks is “hydroxy cellulose paint”) – that’s where Ctrl+F and those Korean ingredient translation lists come in handy. This particular ingredients list was particularly challenging because the resolution of the image made the “notches” hard to make out.

The whole process is actually quite fun if you like code-breaking puzzles, which I do! Here’s the translated ingredients list:

Water, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Lauric Acid, Lauramide DEA, Glycol Distearate, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Beeswax, Titanium Dioxide, Polyquaternium-7, Olive Oil, Panthenol (100 mg/100g), Tocopheryl Acetate, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Water, Niacinamide, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Propylene Glycol, BHT, Ethanol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Retinyl Palmitate, Ceramide 3, Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry) Fruit Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Fruit Extract, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, CI 17200 (Red 33), CI 15985 (Yellow 6), Fragrance

I hope this post helps if you’ve had the same translation problem as me!

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8 thoughts on “How to Translate a Korean Cosmetics Ingredients List”

  1. This is a really cute post! I love how you’re mixing beauty with education 😉 I really appreciate the simplicity of Hangul, I was lucky enough to learn it as a child but my friends picked it up really quickly too. Such a logical alphabet! And a beautiful language too 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks! I don’t know if I’m really in a position to educate about Korean, being not-Korean and this being my first foray into translating a Korean ingredients list, but I thought it might help at least one person out there… and I’ll probably need a reminder next time I try 🙂

      Reply
  2. Great post! Dic.naver.com can be a good dictionary to use as well if you need to translate something from Korean to English, or vice versa 🙂

    Reply

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