Fashion and cosmetics are industries that rely on translation. Nowadays, products are transported through many different countries before they are sold to the consumer. The internet has made it possible for consumers to buy clothing from any country in the world, in just a few clicks. Increasingly, brands are using social media campaigns and online advertising to capture these users’ attention.
Having well-translated content has, therefore, become more important than ever. Fashion and cosmetics translation can present a lot of difficulties for translators. Like many industries, fashion and cosmetics have their own jargon and terminology. Foreign words and terms that mean one thing in one context and something else in a different context can often lead to costly mistakes.
In this blog post, I outline some everyday fashion and cosmetics terms and some important factors that need to be considered in fashion and cosmetics translation.
Cosmetics translation vocabulary
Toner = Tónico
Moisturizer = Hidratante
Cleanser = Limpiador facial/desmaquillador
Foundation = Base
Concealer = Corrector
Primer = Prebase de maquillaje/primer
Blush/rouge = Colorete
Eyeliner = Delineador/lápiz de ojos
Eyeshadow = Sombra de ojos
Lipstick = Pintalabios
Lipgloss = Brillo de labios
Brush = Brocha
Mascara = Máscara
Bronzer = Bronceador/bronzer
Nail polish/nail varnish = Esmalte de uñas
Fake tan = Crema de bronceado
Here are some common fashion words and expressions and the equivalent Spanish translation.
Apparel = Otra palabra para ‘ropa’
Lingerie = Lencería
Baggy = Ancho
Accessories = Accesorio, complemento
Catwalk = La pasarela
Jumpsuit = Mono
V-neck = Con cuello en v
Halter-neck sweater = Jersey con escote halter
Clutch bag = Bolso de mano
Biker jacket = Cazadora biker
Tweed jacket = Chaqueta de tweed
Double-breasted blazer = Blazer cruzado
Common cosmetics expressions
Rejuvenate the skin = Rejuvenecer la piel
Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines= Reduce la apariencia de arrugas y líneas de expresión
Hide flaws and blemishes in the skin = Ocultar defectos y imperfecciones
A natural, matte finish = Un acabado mate y natural
Cosmetics translation terminology
The fashion and beauty industries are constantly evolving and with this constant change comes new words and terms. Here are some common cosmetics terms.
T- zone. Although not a new term, it is one that you’ve probably come across if you routinely buy cosmetics products. It refers to the central part of a person’s face, including the nose, chin and forehead.
Microblading. This is a more permanent solution to fuller eyebrows than HD brows. It means using a tiny needle to tattoo on eyebrows to make them look fuller and thicker.
Contouring. When you use a matte powder, liquid or cream that’s a few shades darker than your skin tone. Used to shade areas that you’d like to define like your cheekbones or nose.
Non-touring. Using a primer, tinted moisturizer and highlighter to give the skin a natural looking glow.
Baking. A makeup technique made popular by various celebrities. It involves applying a thick coat of translucent powder to your face and then letting it sit for five to ten minutes. After this, you dust it away with a fluffy brush.
Common errors in fashion and cosmetics translation
If you are going to translate or localize your content, it is important that you have extensive knowledge of the culture of your target market. Some terms that may be acceptable in your country may sound unintentionally funny, have unwanted connotations or simply be offensive in other countries.
In 2013, the Spanish fashion giant Mango had to apologise after a campaign involving a line of necklaces caused outrage. The necklaces were advertised as ‘slave style’ or style esclave on Mango’s French e-commerce site. The blunder led to a furious backlash against the fashion company.
Cases like this show the importance of researching certain words and expressions and using a translator who is a native speaker of the target language.
A particular term or word can often have different meanings in different countries,— even among countries that speak the same language. In the United States, the word ‘pants’ is used to refer to the British term ‘trousers’. Whereas in the United Kingdom ‘pants’ is used to talk about underwear, so be careful!
In the UK, the word ‘vest’ means ‘a shirt without sleeves that is worn in the summer or for sport’. Meanwhile, in the US, a vest is a piece of clothing that covers the upper body but not the arms and has buttons down the front, worn over a shirt.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is international sizing standards. The UK, US, Japan and Europe have their own clothing and shoe- sizing systems. It’s important that these are localised correctly by the translator. A UK size 10 for women would be size 38 in Europe, for example. A mistake in this area could lead to disastrous results for the client or company and serious harm to their reputation.
Before social media, fashion trends were controlled by a small group of designers. Now, these trends are largely shaped by the people who buy and follow these brands on social media. Furthermore, these consumers now have their own fashion blogs and create their own looks and styles and share them with their followers on Instragram.
With so much competition nowadays for the attention of their customers, it is even more vital that fashion brands and clothing designers produce content that is both well-written and culturally relevant to their target market.
Fashion and Cosmetics translation: A Guide