Shopping for Beauty Products in Seoul [Go! Girl Guides Article]

Crossposted from Go! Girl Guides, where I’m a contributing blogger. Check out the site for more great articles from other freewheelin’ travellin’ girls that go!

If there’s one thing you notice about the Koreans from their celebrities, other than their perfectly symmetrical faces, it’s their  flawless skin.

Beauty is big business in Korea – for the locals and the tourists alike. Just walking around Myeongdong one evening, there were beauty shops every few steps.

You can always tell that the beauty shops are around – because of their very prominent and enthusiastic promoters each shop employs – whether it’s costumes, loudhailers or just a tug at your sleeve, competition is fierce as they all vie for your attention and for you to walk into their store.

Even if you’re not a beauty product junkie, here’s what you should know if you suddenly get into a shopping mood:


You’ll Get Free Samples, But Are Expected to Buy, Too

Each store’s promoter is usually armed to the teeth with free samples to lure passers-by into the store. It can be anything from a facial mask to a stack of cotton pads. There’s no purchase required for that freebie, but you do have to go look around the store, so if you’re pressed for time, don’t take the freebie and try to walk off or you’ll end up with a very annoyed promoter with a loudhailer! They’re not that pushy so they won’t take offense if you don’t take their samples.

If you’re particularly diligent, you can end up with a whole bunch of different samples in it just by walking into several stores along the same street, even if you don’t buy anything. I’ve ended up with lots of facial masks, sample packs for foot and hand scrubs, a nose-pore pack and packs of facial cotton wool for my shopping troubles =)

Every beauty brand has its own products, so if you’re not particular about what brand you use, do some window shopping to check out the prices and promos before you commit. Actually buying stuff from the store comes with its own perks too, the cashiers usually toss in a few more freebie samples at the counter, so you’ll always come away with more than you expected!


Facial Creams with Snail, Anyone?

Korea is famous for their sometimes wacky ingredients in their beauty products. Some of the beauty trends that were hot in Korea when I was there include creams made up of snail (not as icky as it sounds) and products which came in the cutest containers shaped like tomatoes, apples and other fruits. Be aware that many products also contain bleach.

Be sure to ask if you don’t know what’s in something – most shops have multilingual sales girls who speak the languages of the main buyers, namely English, Mandarin and Japanese.


Buy Local, Save Money

Because of the sheer proliferation, most of the street brands are quite cheap, and they usually are quite a lot cheaper in Korea than they are overseas, so if you do have a favourite product, now’s the time to stock up. I’m not sure about other countries, but the Korean products in Singapore are about two times more than they are in Seoul!

Each brand has a different type of appeal – there’s the girly all-pink Etude House, Gothic-lolita like Holika Holika, Quirky hipster Too Cool For School, modern chic The Face Shop… I could go on! And these are just the street brands – the higher end shopping malls like Lotte and Apjugeong areas have more expensive brands and products if you know what you’re looking for, but nothing beats shopping


Have you visited the shopping havens of Seoul?

You can read my earlier recap of my walk around Myeongdong! Now when I have friends headed up to Seoul, I make sure to get them to help me top up my stash of facial masks and BB cream.

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