Ask any beauty fanatic, and they’ll agree that Seoul is, without doubt, the beauty capital of the world. A pilgrimage to this city is never complete without scouting out the best buys from K-beauty brands and coming home with a luggage (or two) full of sheet masks, BB cushions, and other innovative beauty products.
So, we’ve put together a nifty beauty shopping guide that will come in handy the next time you decide to visit Seoul – whether for the first time or the fifth!
K-beauty products you need to get
1. moonshot Jelly Pot
K-beauty may be known for its muted, neutral (read: natural) colours, but moonshot is trying to change that by introducing bold and catchy colours into the market.
Created by YG entertainment and fronted by K-Pop superstars G-Dragon (of BIGBANG fame) and Sandara Park (from 2NE1), moonshot offers a variety of skincare and makeup options for women and men alike.
While moonshot is available in Singapore at Sephora stores, the range is limited and products often go out of stock easily. If you find yourself in one of their three flagship stores in Seoul, pick up a Jelly Pot or two!
These are best-selling eyeshadow pots that come in a jelly formula with three finishes – pearl, matte, and glitter. They can also be used as liner when applied with a precise brush!
- Samcheong-dong, Jongno-gu 109-1, Seoul (map)
- Gangnam-gu, Shinsadong 545-15, Cho-il Building, Seoul (map)
- 55-8 Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul (map)
2. banila co. Clean it Zero
Claiming to sell one of these every 4.8 seconds, banila co. has created an all-in-one cleanser that removes makeup while taking care of your skin. The fan-favourite Clean It Zero incorporates papaya extract to gently exfoliate skin and unclog pores while boosting hydration levels.
The sherbet formula is also very effective in removing even heavy makeup without stripping the skin. Clean It Zero comes in 4 versions: original, purity (for sensitive skin), resveratrol (for combination/oily skin), and radiance (for dry, dull skin).
The original version even comes in a “supersized” jar, which has almost twice the amount of the normal version.
While you can buy Clean It Zero online here in Singapore at only slightly above the Korean price, it may be worth it to stock up while you’re in Seoul, because banila co. often offers bundle deals that will significantly reduce the price per jar.
3. Château Labiotte Wine Lip Tint
If there’s anything that’s quintessentially K-beauty, it’s lip tints. Try Château Labiotte’s totally-instagrammable Wine Lip Tints, which come in six wine-inspired shades.
Not only do these lip tints look like mini wine bottles, they also contain actual French wine extracts in the formula, which gives them somewhat of a wine flavour.
They work more like a stain, so you don’t have to worry about transfer once they’ve dried down on your lips. These are also known to be very long-wearing, although the darker shades wear better throughout the day as compared to the lighter shades.
If you’re not into stains, the brand also carries a line of wine lipsticks and tinted lip balms in equally cute packaging.
4. 3ce Treatment Hair Tint
3ce’s latest offering is a hair tint that lasts up to 7 days while moisturising and softening your hair like a leave-in conditioner. Available in five vibrant shades, you can now experiment with fun hair colours without the commitment or the hair damage! The colour naturally shows up better on bleached hair, however.
This hair tint is extremely easy to use; after shampooing your hair, simply apply the tint to wet hair like you would a conditioner, then rinse off after 20 minutes. The innovative formula even restores a healthy sheen to damaged hair, as if you’ve just done a treatment at the salon!
Shopping tips you need to know for your Korea spree
5. Buy in bulk
Beauty stores in Korea will most likely offer bundle deals and bulk pricing, so grab a friend and a foldable shopping bag before shopping to your heart’s content! If you intend to buy some souvenirs back for friends and family, you can also plan accordingly to make use of bundle promotions.
Even if you aren’t buying a certain item in bulk, it may still be a good idea to combine your purchases with a friend as larger purchases will get you more free samples from the staff at the counter, and who doesn’t like free things?
6. Bring your passport around
Most shops, especially those catered to tourists, will offer you a tax refund on the spot when you spend over a certain amount (usually KRW30,000). This will save you valuable time as you don’t have to do your refunds at the airport.
Just remember to bring your passport when you do your shopping to make it easier for the sales staff to give you your rebate then and there!
7. Ask for a map
Whether you’re staying at an upscale hotel or a modest guesthouse during your trip to Seoul, chances are that you can get a local map from the concierge or your host.
Some maps are even specially designed to point out beauty stores in the neighbourhood, which will make planning much, much easier!
Stores you need to shop at
8. Shinsegae or Lotte Department Stores
Department stores in Seoul will offer you tax refunds on your purchases, making it more worthwhile to get your beauty fix there. With a plethora of cosmetics on sale, from international brands to Korean bestsellers alike, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Shinsegae and Lotte are two major department chains that are well known for the size of their offerings. Be prepared for the crowd though, it can get pretty hectic in here during peak holiday periods and customer service may become less than satisfactory.
9. Olive Young
Known as the Sephora of Korea, Olive Young boasts a whopping 500 retail locations – it’ll be hard for you to miss it during your trip. This K-beauty “mothership” carries skincare, makeup, hair and body care, tools, and so on, making it truly a one-stop shop.
Price points are somewhere mid-range (i.e. lower than Sephora), and products differ slightly from store to store. For the full experience, head to larger Olive Young stores, such as the one in Myeong-dong.
When in Seoul, make sure to visit Sulwhasoo’s flagship store in the Gangnam district. You’ll be blown away by the massive five-storey building that includes a spa, museum, boutique, and lounge all at once.
Sulwhasoo is a well-known Korean brand with more than 50 years of heritage that grounds its formulas in herbal medicine and a holistic approach to skin care. It isn’t surprising then that Sulwhasoo is leading the pack in term of K-beauty innovation and progress.
Address: 18 Dosan-daero 45-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
11. Amore Pacific
Amore Pacific is one of the largest Asian cosmetic conglomerates, with 33 health, beauty, and personal care brands operating under it (Etude House, Laneige, and Innisfree are some examples).
The company also launches product lines under the Amore Pacific name. These products are marketed as prestige or luxury beauty items, so you may want to take a gander if you want to pamper your skin with high-ticket ingredients. Their products are usually found at Amore Pacific counters in department stores.
Bestsellers include the Time Response Skin Renewal Crème, which contains green tea stem cells, and the Treatment Enzyme Peel, which allows other products to penetrate the skin better.
Shopping districts you need to visit
If Seoul is the capital of the beauty world, Myeong-dong must be its epicenter. It’s lined with rows and rows of shops by major K-beauty brands, such as Tony Moly, Innisfree, The Face Shop, Holika Holika, Nature Republic, and so much more.
There are also smaller, lesser-known local brands sandwiched between these stores in which you might find your next holy grail. Trust us when we say that you’ll be spending the whole day there without ever getting bored!
If you’re looking for more up-scale shopping, you need to put Garosu-gil on your itinerary. You’ll be getting a good mix of international brands and Korean labels here while café-hopping down the streets.
Beauty-wise, you’ll find more niche and indie brands in this hip quarter than in mass-market Myeong-dong. Make sure to check out the Dr. Jart+ store, which is designed to look and feel like a futuristic science lab where you can get your skin analysed and receive product recommendations.
Also look out for PLOP, a creation of Korean makeup artist Jung Saemmool. In this three-storey flagship store, customers are encouraged to play with makeup and discover colours and styles that suit their personality.
Featured image from here.