Beauty addicts know it all too well: when you go to Seoul, you go with (at least) one empty suitcase. It’s physically impossible to leave without anything when you visit the new Mecca of cosmetics. There are beauty shops everywhere! So today, I wanted to share some of my favorite shopping beauty spots in Seoul with you. Enjoy the visit!
Let me tell you something. During the first days of my trip to Seoul, I was almost overwhelmed by the number of cosmetics shops. Yes, me, the shopping addict, I was intimidated!
Don’t worry, I regained consciousness quickly. But I didn’t expect such a surge of shops dedicated to beauty. The first time we arrived in Myeongdong, the focal point of K-Beauty in Seoul, it was very impressive: we didn’t know where to start! I was with my husband at that point. After 10 minutes, he wanted to run away! The next morning, I left him at the hotel and went back to explore the neighborhood on my own. wink
South Koreans are obsessed with beauty and cosmetics. It’s really not a legend! I found the Korean women beautiful, always elegant and all made up but in a very simple way and with great taste. Most of them have beautiful skin, and they definitely know how to enhance it. Men are also taking great care of themselves. They are paying attention to their skin, and there are lots of cosmetics for men in the shops.
I have a little story: for the first time in my life, I did a manicure with a man. And next to me in the beauty salon, a man, having his nails done (in his case with a woman lol) at the same time as me. The story in the story: manicures in Seoul are insane, they are the queens of nail-art. But they’re also super expensive! Count at least $130 for a gel manicure with a nail art and $50 for a classic manicure. I can tell you that I made mine last as long as I could!
Cosmetics are clearly a very important driving force of South Korea’s economy. People come to Seoul from all Asia to buy beauty products. Westerners are still relatively few in number and besides, good luck finding a sales assistant who speaks English, it’s quite rare. Most sales assistants usually speak Mandarin perfectly (the Chinese are the largest tourist population in Seoul). But they’re all adorable and extremely helpful so after a while, with the help of Google Translate, we could understand each other! wink
I prepared a wish list of products (as long as your arm) to bring back from Seoul, and when I found almost everything, I started to explore a little more in the shops. Seoul is the paradise of cosmetic innovation! Koreans love new products, and there are launches of crazy beauty products almost every week: serums in a spray form, foaming/ bubbling sheet masks, skincare products in single-dose balls, liquid face masks to splash on the face, pressed serums (= basically, it’s cream-serum 2 in 1)… and many more!
Seoul has a head start on the rest of the world for cosmetics and for a beauty addict like me, it’s a fantastic playground! smile
Follow me, let’s visit my favorite places in Seoul for beauty shopping!
Myeongdong, the epicenter of K-Beauty:
If you are a K-Beauty fan, Myeongdong is the promised land, nothing less.
This labyrinth of small streets is full of shops entirely dedicated to cosmetics. It’s noisy, super crowded, there are small stalls of street food in the middle of the street which adds to the noise and the fury of the place… It’s quite exhausting, but it’s clearly an essential place if you like cosmetics. We booked a hotel in the area for a few days, so I spent a lot of time there (mercilessly leaving my dear husband in the hotel room wink ).
After a while, you realize that the shops are mostly the same: cosmetic brands often own 4 or 5 shops in this neighborhood, a few hundred meters from each other. No worries if you’ve forgotten something at Missha, just walk randomly for a few minutes and you’re pretty sure to come across another Missha shop at the next corner! Very convenient. ^^
A great thing when you’re a tourist is that most shops in Myeondgdong deduct taxes on the spot (about 10% discount). If not, they will usually give you a receipt so that you can do a tax refund at the airport when you leave. If you add the special deals they do pretty all the time and considering that the prices are rather low to begin with, it’s so easy to lose your mind and shop until you drop!
My favorite shops in Myeongdong:
– Laneige for the colorful lip masks and their great cushion foundations,
– Etude House for the very girlie makeup and the super pretty customizable lipsticks (photo above),
– Banila Co for the famous cleansing balm, a best-seller,
– Missha for everything (love Missha!),
– Innisfree because the shops are so pretty (the products are not as natural as they pretend, so I didn’t purchase a lot of things, but I still loved the place!),
– Labiotte for the lipsticks which look like a bottle of wine (!),
– A’pieu and The Saem for their super cheap prices,
– Aland because they have some products from the Cosrx brand that I adore,
– Auritaum for their beautiful glitter eyeshadows, the very Korean skincare brand Hanyul and the cult favorite IOPE cushion foundations.
And so much more! smile
Garosugil, the beauty street with Ginkgo Biloba trees:
If you prefer to go shopping in a quieter and airier place, Garosugil is the perfect spot! This street is often compared to Rodeo Drive, but I can’t really confirm that since I’ve never been to Los Angeles.
This shopping street has more or less the same shops that can be found in Myeongdong but the street is much airier, and the presence of the Gingko Biloba trees along the street adds a lot of charm to the walk!
You can still find some more exclusive shops like Su:m37, a more luxurious brand with fermented ingredients (I told you about the awesome rose-cleansing stick in my article on low pH cleansers), Jung Saem Mool the makeup shop/ Academy of the famous Korean makeup artist namesake, more conceptual shops like 11 Village Factory where everything looks like a super girlie lab (see my photos below). There’s even a Deciem store in this area!
It’s a less touristy area, where you can see trendy a lot of young Korean people walking around.
Another story, I heard a while ago about a trend where fashion couples dress matchy-matchy in Seoul, and I can confirm that it’s not a legend! I saw male-female couples and even girlfriends dressed with the same prints (one with the dress and the other with the matching top, for example). It was very curious and super fascinating at the same time! It seems that this trend comes from K-Pop, but I know nothing about it so I can’t really tell. ^^
The drugstores: Olive Young, Watson’s, Lohbs
Drugstores were probably my favorite place to go for beauty shopping. I spent a lot of
money time there. And it didn’t help so much that they were at every corner in any area of the city!
Imagine a mix between a drugstore and a French pharmacie but with products five times cheaper. The dream!
You can find everything there:
– cheap and yet excellent makeup. I bought tons of Japanese mascaras (Kiss Me Heroine and Heavy Rotation), super volumizers and waterproof, my favorites! And also a lot of colorful lip stains and tons of adorable lip balms,
– great quality skincare brands at very good prices. Many are dermo-cosmetic skincare brands like Dr. Jart for example, or CNP, Beyond The Remedy and dozens more, all more attractive than each other,
– and finally hundreds of sheet masks! They’re usually less than a dollar a piece, so I bought a ton! My favorites for now (knowing that I’m just starting to try them): Papa Recipe Honey, the bestsellers from Mediheal, Leaders…
Duty-free shops, a bargain basement:
If you want to try more luxurious Korean beauty brands, but you don’t want to sell a kidney, there’s only one place to go: the duty-free section of the department stores! It’s the same principle as the duty-free airport shops but in a department store in the city center.
Prices are already tax-free, so it’s really worth it, especially for luxury brands. Besides, there’s also a floor for fashion, accessories, food…
However, it’s not really a pleasant experience, its extremely crowded and the sales assistants are super busy. Also, they don’t speak English, so it’s better to know what you want. There are mostly Korean brands but not only. I saw a lot of American, Australian, French beauty brands too. I had to show a lot of self-control not to lose my mind because it was probably the biggest cosmetics store I had ever seen in my entire life (four floors of beauty products, can you imagine???).
My husband stayed with me for 5 minutes, and he ran away as soon as he could ah ah ah
Cree’mare beauty concept store, a beauty addict wonderland:
Let’s end this tour with a true paradise for beautistas! Cree’mare Beauty is a concept store for snobbish beauty addicts like me, who love niche beauty brands!
First, the store is absolutely adorable with its little corner of nature, where you can relax and read a magazine or more likely, take a picture for your Instagram. It’s also rather quiet so you can take your time to watch everything. I spent a whole morning there, I confess!
The selection of brands is quite insane! You can find all the trendy K-Beauty brands like Whamisa, a Korean organic brand, Blithe and all its super innovative products, Heimish and its famous All Clean cleansing balm or Klair’s and its best-selling moisturizing toner.
The makeup is not forgotten with ultra cool brands such as 3CE or Pony Effect, among others.
There’s also a section for hair products, bath, and body, men cosmetics…
In short, it’s a must for any beauty addict in Seoul!
Cree’mare Beauty is located in the Gangnam district, just off the Sinnonhyeon subway station.
I hope you enjoyed the visit! smile
While I was writing this article, I thought how bad a travel blogger I am, with my articles missing addresses or useful information to prepare your trip, I’m definitely better when it comes to shopping! Shopping blogger is definitely a career that I could consider ah ah ah ^^
And you, do you know Seoul and what are your essential beauty shopping addresses?
Credit photo: bonnie-garner.com