Guide To Shopping K-Beauty in Korea Post-Pandemic
Ep-77 of the Korean Beauty Show Podcast
Korea is the undisputed beauty capital of the world and with K-Beauty exploding overseas it’s no surprise that there are literally countless shops devoted to Korean Beauty in Korea
Download Your Free Guide to K-Beauty:https://mailchi.mp/f845eb5d20cd/guidetokbeauty
Today, we’re talking Korea’s biggest beauty stores.
Gyeonggi-do Forest Environment Research Institute has conducted research into the potential for functional cosmetics using "Long Flower Grass" (aka Ground Ivy in English).
The Gyeonggi-do Forest Environment Research Institute has succeeded in developing functional cosmetics based on “flower grass". It is effective in whitening, skin elasticity, and wrinkle improvement as well as antioxidant effects.
Because a lot of these types of weeds are used in aroma therapy for stress relief and skin treatment, the research team pushed for a study to be conducted.
Studies have shown that ethanol or hydrothermal extracts of plant have antioxidant effects that inhibit oxidants DPPH, PF, ABTS, and TBARS. It was also found that it has a whitening effect that prevents tyrosinase and inhibits melanin production.
It also effective in improving wrinkles by promoting collagen formation through activation of pro-collagen in and maintaining elastin. Based on the research results, the plant is ready for commercialisation.
In a country with an estimated 13,000 skincare companies, shopping K-Beauty in Korea is like being in wonderland.
To maximise your shopping time, our Seoul Team is introducing us to Korea’s biggest beauty stores. These are the best K-Beauty stores to hit up if you’re shopping in Seoul!
Like Sephora, Priceline and Mecca in Australia, Korea has a range of popular chain stores. They stock everything from cheap drug store brands to indie, hard-to-find and new releases.
The big names to keep an eye-out for are Olive Young, Watsons, LOHBs, Aland and Chicor. There's also Sephora, which stocks a lot of the same stuff you'll find overseas.
If you’re wonderingwhere to find these in Seoul, get our comprehensive Guidehere.
Olivе Young (올리브영) is Korea’s version of Priceline (Ulta in the US).
It stocks everything frоm supplements and skincare, tо соѕmеtiсѕ аnd accessories. Olive Young is also a known incubator for new brands, featuring the hottest K-Beauty products before they get famous!
Olive Young also stocks a range of other Asian brands, including Japanese labels like Kate, Majolica Majorca, K-Palette and Meg Rhythm.
You’ll find the big western drugstore brands there too, including Avene, Cetaphil, La Roche Posay, Physiogel, Eucerin, Nivea, Neutrogena etc.
Look out for big Olive Young stores at Ewha Women’s University, Myeong-dong and Garosugil.
Lalavla (previously known as Watsons) is a large beauty chain found across Asia, which began in Hong Kong. It changed its name from Watsons to Lalavla in 2018 apparently to appeal more to their target market, Koreans in their 20s and 30s.
It stocks a wide range of beauty, makeup, hair and body products as well as snacks. They stock a range of brands including Zaodam, AHC, Keep Cool, Skin & Lab, Parnell, Scinic, Curesys, True.Lab, Kahi, C-K-D, plus foreign brands like Cetaphil, Bioderma, Neutrogena, Avene, Kerasys, Senka, Kiss Me.
Many of the Korean brands they stock you won’t be familiar with if you live overseas, primarily because they stick to marketing in Korea.
For the western brands, you will notice that some have a different selection compared to the products you’ll find in Western countries. In Asia, the top Western brands make versions of their products that are specifically tailored for the Asian market, so you’ll likely see a whole heap of Maybelline and L’Oreal products you’ve never seen before.
I would say Lalavla is on par with Priceline in Australia and CVC in the States.
You’ll find it all over the country in any of the commercial zones, but there are bigger stores in the main university areas and malls. Keep an eye out in Sinsa, Hongdae, Hyewha and Ewha Women’s University in Seoul. The bigger branches also do tax refunds.
A relatively new entrant on the K-Beauty scene, LOve Health and Beauty (“LOHBs”) (롭스) was founded by the Lotte Group, one of Korea’s largest conglomerates, in 2013.
Similar in price and feel to Priceline in Australia (or Ulta in the US), LOHBs stocks a wide variety of domestic and international brands, as well as vitamins, supplements, snacks and more.
LOHBs is the perfect place to pick up masks, find basic skincare and try out a wide range of Korean, Japanese and other popular brands. The brands differ from store-to-store but you will often be able to find Vely Vely, Medicube, Illiyoon, Dewy Tree, AHC, Mamonde etc.
You’ll get the best discounts if you go on ‘Brand Day’, where individual brands are discounted on different days.
Interestingly, a lot of the top ranking brands at LOHBs are western brands, like Paula’s Choice, Eucerin, Calvin Klein, Bioderma, Physiogel etc.
Although not strictly a cosmetics store (as it stocks a wide range of clothes, shoes and accessories), Aland (에이랜드) has become a must-visit beauty destination for lovers of indie brands. They also stock a couple of K-Beauty brands that are big overseas, like It’s Skin,Benton,AXIS-Y andISNTREE.
Not all the stores stock cosmetics, so if you’re only interested in those head to the big stores in Myeong-dong and Garosu-gil They offer K-Beauty indie wonderlands, with plenty of testers to boot.
The latest beauty playground to hit Korea is its version of Mecca, Chicor. Run by the Shinsegae conglomerate, the Chicor chain is what beauty-holic dreams are made of, combining an eye-watering range of the most popular Western and Asian cosmetics. It’s similar to Nordstrom’s beauty section in the States.
The multi-level stores are perfect for playing, with shop assistants largely staying out of your way while you try on the products to your heart’s content. Chicor also runs demonstrations and beauty classes and you can even book in to have your makeup done – K-style! – while you’re there.
At Chicor, you’ll find all the hottest Western labels (think Benefit, MAC, Bobbi Brown, Nars, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Dermalogica) Japanese brands (Kiss Me, Shiseido), Japanese labels like Dejavu and Shu Uemura, plus an impressive variety of K-Beauty favourites and emerging brands, like Klairs, Huxley, 3CE, Hera, Lagom, Espoir, Unleashia and Femmue.
You’ll find Chicor stores throughout Seoul but the 3 level one in Gangnam Square is not to be missed! Get our Chicor store tour vloghere.
Individual Brand Stores
Don’t forget that many of the larger brands have their own stand-alone stores in Seoul as well. Just some of the names you might want to check out include:
The easiest places to hit up a wide selection of stores in the same district tend to be around the universities (so Yonsei, which is in Sincheon, Hongik University, which is in Hongdae etc)
If you’re after higher end brands like Sulwhasoo, O’Hui, you can also visit the department stores like:
Duty Free Stores
There are specialist duty free stores at the airport and around Seoul, but many of these have closed down during the pandemic. I’m not too sure about the re-openings for these so take a look closer to your travel date. If you haven’t been to Seoul since before the pandemic you’ll notice a lot of things have changed around.
Korea charges sales tax (10%) on all products, but tourists are exempt from paying it!
There are two ways to claim your tax refund – in person at the store in bigger tourist areas like Myeongdong and Ewha Women’s University (don’t forget to bring your Passport), or at the airport on your way out. Just let the checkout staff at the counter know that you’re a tourist (if it isn’t already obvious!) and they’ll give you a special receipt to show at the airport so you can claim your refund – woohoo!
"The big names to keep an eye-out for are Olive Young, Watsons, LOHBs, Aland and Chicor. There's also Sephora..."- Lauren Lee, Host of the Korean Beauty Show Podcast
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