Just admit that one of the main purposes of going for a trip to South Korea is to satisfy your beauty cravings. By now, everyone knows that South Korea is a beauty hub as not only does it have affordable skincare and makeup products, but also offers items with cute and unique packaging that are to die for.
Daily Vanity has put together a beauty shopping guide in Seoul such that you will know where to go for the best deals, offers and also the best place to experience something new.
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Best places to shop
No other place can beat Myeong-dong as it is swarmed by many tourists and touted a beauty shopping haven. One of the reasons it became a top spot for tourists is because majority of the service staff speaks at least one foreign language, catering to the rising number of tourists visiting that area.
Not only that, some of Korea’s most famous and popular brands such as Innisfree, Etude House, Laneige, The Face Shop, Skinfood can be found easily on the shopping belt.
If you’re looking for internationally renowned brands, they can be found at either Lotte or Shinsegae duty free department stores. Aside from beauty products, there are also many apparel to check out and eateries to try out too!
Here are the must-visit stores in Myeong-dong:
Olive Young, LOHBS, Lalavla
These three drug stores are as well-loved by the Koreans as Watsons and Guardian are to Singaporeans. They offer skincare, beauty, hair products and even diet products that are popular among many young adults Koreans. As it is commonly found also on the streets of Korea, you can check out the bigger branches they have in Myeong-dong for more options.
The first Boots outlet was opened in the middle of Myeong-dong with over three stories worth of beauty products! Not only do they carry Western brands, they also bring in some of the local online beauty products that could only be found in South Korea.
While it is probably less popular than Myeong-dong for its reputation in providing options for beauty products, Garosu-gil is fast becoming one of the hottest beauty hubs, especially among locals.
Apart from the fact that the street filled with stores with amazing bohemian vibe, it also has many cafes with relaxing atmosphere and Instagram-worthy interior designs.
Don’t miss these stores when you’re in Garosu-gil.
Located at the heart of Garosu-gil is the Espoir Market. Its Garosu-gil outlet is one of its biggest stores in Seoul, and is a must-visit if you call yourself a true-blue beauty enthusiast.
Inside, you can explore a huge variety of beauty products – start from basement 1 and then slowly work your way up to level 2! For those who would like to experience having your brows shaped in Seoul, you can also make use of the brow bar available on the second floor.
The prices for Espoir products are at an average of 20,000 won and above, and the brand it is well-received by working adults in their mid-twenties in Korea because of its great quality.
Address: Seoul, Gangnam-gu, Sinsa-dong 532-6
Makeup cafe – L Creer
You most probably may have already heard of cat cafes, dog cafes and even racoon cafes in Seoul but have you heard of a makeup cafe?
Well, this definitely sounds up your alley if you love makeup!
This store is great for those who are unsure of which brands to buy or which colour suits you the best, as you can make full use of the experience while in L Creer!
After getting drinks at the cafe (priced around 3,000 won and above), you’d get to use any of the makeup and tools available for 10,000 won every 30 minutes. Makeup brands include those you can find along the street such as Etude House, Wake Make, and also those in the department stores such as NARS, Urban Decay, and so on.
If you’re a newbie with makeup, there is even a professional makeup artist at the cafe who can help and provide you with advice at extra charges. We’re unsure if the makeup artist is able to speak English, but hey, we believe makeup is one thing that transcends languages! What’s more, it is always interesting to experience something new.
A check online leads us to many reviews written by young women who wish to learn more about makeup that suit themselves. They take the amenities in the cafe as a chance to test out products freely before purchasing them.
Address: Seoul, Gangnam-gu, Sinsa-dong 551-3
This neighbourhood may not always be on the mainstream Seoul itinerary, but the hip crowd know that it’s the place to be if you’re into art galleries and cool bistros. Besides taking your time to check out these trendy spots, Samcheong-dong is also where you can fulfil your beauty shopping desire.
If you’re intending to put this spot into your itinerary, don’t forget to check out these stores:
This Korean brand is backed by YG entertainment, the company that has groomed some of the hottest K-pop sensations such as 2NE1 and Psy. The brand is known for its quality products that can help you create looks inspired by your favourite K-pop stars.
While Moonshot is available at Sephora in Singapore, the brand’s store in Seoul obviously provides you with a fuller range of products and a truly different shopping experience. What are we talking about? The service staff at Moonshot are mostly men, and if you’ve been hoping to have a Korean oppa who is as pretty as you are show you around a beauty store, this is where your dream comes true.
Address: Seoul, Jongno-gu,111 Samcheong-ro,
Those who have been K-drama fans for a long time would probably be familiar with Lee Young-ae of Dae Jang Geum fame. The Korean celebrity has also started her own line of beauty products and they are sold in the LYAnature store.
The products are famous for their organic formulation that are suitable for those with sensitive skin. This is where you can go if you’re looking for gentle skincare and body care products.
Address: Seoul, Jongno-gu, 63-38 Samcheong-dong
4. Ewha Woman’s University
You may know Ewha as an amazing shopping district for clothes, but its proximity to a woman’s university would probably give you a hint that it’s also a great spot for beauty shopping. Popular among local students, the area will also be loved by you because of the variety of brands available and that most service staff are able to speak English.
You’ll be spoilt for choice while you’re there, but here’s what you shouldn’t miss:
Holika Holika has a magical effect on shoppers – the products are so beautifully packaged, there’s no way you’re going to leave the store without at least leaving with one item. While there’s a Holika Holika counter in Singapore, it doesn’t carry very much compared to what the store in Seoul has to offer, of course.
Tips when shopping in Seoul
1. Travelling with your passport
Taking your passport everywhere you go will always be more convenient when it comes to tax exemption. Usually shops will offer you tax refund service on the spot when purchases are made over 30,000 won! As such, you can save some time at the airport when it comes to claiming your refunds.
2.Check official site of Korea tourism for coupons
Before heading to any duty-free department stores, be sure to always check the Korea Tourism Organisation website for information on current promotion and sales.
By checking out the offers available, you can save some of your spending by presenting the coupons when you check out at the cashier.
3. Shop online for more discount
Another tip to help you save money is to shop online on Lotte Duty Free Shop! By signing up on their website, you can receive coupons after keying in your departing flight details from South Korea.
Simply choose and pay for the products in advance and pick them up from the allocated location as noted in your receipt. You can often save at least 10,000 won and more!
4. Figure out sales patterns
Every brand has regular sales patterns and if you’re up for some research by following Korean beauty junkies and their updates, you’ll be in the know too!
For instance, Korean beauty enthusiasts have shared that Innisfree stores hold sales every Thursday to Sunday of the second week of the month. If you’re heading to Seoul and are planning to shop at Innisfree, you should definitely take note of this tip.
5. Check authenticity of products
Nobody would blame you for wanting to snag products at a cheaper price but make sure that you are getting the real deal!
You may find yourself around certain corners of Myeong-dong with sketchy sellers trying to sell you packets of face masks for the price way cheaper than the retail price you might have seen earlier. Some may even try and lure you into the store with a free mask but make sure that you check that the products are truly authentic.
Always think twice and trust your instinct if you think the sellers are becoming too pushy. At the end of the day, it’s always safer to stick to the actual stores by the brands to avoid getting a fake.