For those of us who used to visit Seoul as a yearly beauty pilgrimage but had not done so in the last two years, brace yourself. Quite a lot has changed in the last two years as South Korea stopped receiving as many tourists as before.
Of course, Seoul is still a great place to visit for beauty shopping; it’s just that your old itinerary may not work as well anymore.
Daily Vanity has put together an updated beauty shopping guide in Seoul for 2022, so you’ll know where to go for the best deals, offers and also the best beauty destinations to experience something new.
Where to shop for beauty products in Seoul
Myeong-dong is no longer a beauty paradise for tourists
If you haven’t visited Seoul since 2020, you may still have a fond impression of it as the ultimate beauty shopping haven. Myeong-dong is a top spot for tourists because majority of the service staff speaks at least one foreign language, catering to the rising number of tourists visiting that area.
You’ll also remember rows and rows of standalone stores of popular K-beauty brands and friendly sales assistants standing outside the store trying to lure you in with attractive samples and gifts.
Unfortunately, Myeong-dong was badly hit in the last two years and many stores had to close down. The district certainly isn’t as vibrant as its glory days a few years ago.
There are significantly fewer beauty stores and they are also staffed with just one or two sales assistants. With the reduced manpower allocated, you’ll also no longer be greeted by enthusiastic sales assistants standing along the street trying to give you freebies.
However, the two-storey Olive Young store is still there, so you can mark it in your itinerary!
For the uninitiated, Olive Young is likened to the Sephora of South Korea and is stocked with the most popular beauty and wellness products.
Garosu-Gil / Apgujeong is worth a visit
Just before the pandemic hit, Garosu-Gil was fast becoming one of the hottest beauty hubs, especially among locals. But the district is now more of a fashion destination with indie designers’ stores and Instagram-worthy cafes.
While there aren’t as many beauty stores as before, there are still a few highlights that make it worth a visit for beauty enthusiasts. Here are a few places you can consider visiting:
Jung Saem Mool Plops Store
Celebrity makeup artist Jung Saem Mool is best known for working with K-pop stars and her namesake brand is well-loved by stars including Jun Ji-hyun, Kim Tae-hee, and Song Hye-kyo, just to name a few.
The brand has a three-storey flagship store in Garosu-Gil that offers a different theme at each storey, beautiful displays, and even occasional beauty classes.
While Jung Saem Mool products are available in Singapore at escentials stores, its flagship store in Seoul certainly has the largest collection of products and an exceptional retail experience to boot.
Address: 40 Apgujeong-ro 12-gil, Gangnam-gu
Filter Space in Seoul Dr Jart Flagship Store
Another concept store to visit will be Dr Jart’s flagship store in the same district. The multi-storey store has many Instagram-worthy spots and the largest collection of Dr Jart products you can find in Seoul.
If you’re shopping with companions who aren’t into beauty as much as you, they’ll be happy to know that there are seats in the store for them to wait for you comfortably.
Address: 46 Dosan-daero 11-gil, Gangnam-gu
DECIEM The Abnormal Beauty Company
DECIEM is the parent company of The Ordinary and it’s the only DECIEM store in Asia, which gives you the perfect opportunity to shop for The Ordinary products in person (instead of through online shopping). Staff at this store can speak good English and gives good explanation of the products they offer.
Address: 34-4 Apgujeong-ro 12-gil, Gangnam-gu
For a unique beauty experience, consider visiting the four-storey L Creer, a beauty consulting company that offers classes and makeovers, on top of personal consultation.
For consultations, you’ll get to work with one of their beauty professionals to figure out the right eyebrow shape, hairline, or personal makeup colours, according to your features, skin tone, and face shape.
Prices for consultations start from ￦25,000 (~S$27) for a 15-minute eyebrow consultation; makeup classes are available at ￦40,000 (~S$44) for a 20-minute brow makeup class; and prices for a makeover begin at ￦37,000 (~S$40) for a 20-minute eye makeup.
Address: 47 Gangnam-daero 156-gil, Gangnam-gu
Another Instagram-worthy spot, this is home to 3CE products. We’re pretty sure you’re going to overstay your visit here because of the all the photo opportunities available in the store, so make sure you buffer enough time for it.
Address: 22 Apgujeong-ro 8-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
Consider Samcheong-dong to be with the hip crowd
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.
Psst, this used to be where Moonshot’s flagship store used to be located at, but it has closed down permanently recently.
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: 67 Samcheong-ro, Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu
You may want to give Ewha Women’s University area a miss
Unfortunately, while the district used to be filled with fashion and beauty stores, the pandemic has forced most them to close down and it’s no longer as vibrant as before.
Hongdae is still a popular destination to go to
On the other hand, because Hongdae has always been popular with locals, the district is still thriving amidst the pandemic. Hongdae is bustling and there are many stores to visit.
Espoir’s Hongdae Makeup Pub
For a more unique beauty experience, consider visiting Espoir’s store in Hongdae. A brand by K-beauty giant Amorepacific, Espoir has opened a “Makeup Pub” in Hongdae. The store is furnished to look like a trendy lounge, where customers can experience services such skin tone consultation.
The most interesting thing to check out is probably the foundation dispensers that are made to look like a draft beer machine. This is where you’ll get to bring home the right foundation colour for yourself after the skin tone consultation.
Address: 10 Hongik-ro 6-gil, Mapo-gu
Tips when K-beauty shopping in Seoul
Travel 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.
Check Korea Tourism’s official site for coupons
Before heading to any duty-free department stores, be sure to always check the Korea Tourism Organisation website for information on current promotions 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.
Shop online then pick up, for more discounts
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!
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.