The cosmetics industry in South Korea is serious business and the Korean beauty market has surpassed its other neighbouring competitors in Asia. In fact, its global presence is growing stronger. There are many brands in Korea, in fact too many to list in one blog post, that are with visiting and stocking up your beauty counter with. I will give you my short list of the best brands and my favourite products from them!
Etude House has one of the most amazing and cutest interior designs for all their stores. The theme is always pink, and the make-up is displayed like a princess’s dressing room. They sell cosmetics and other beauty products under their brand. The packaging is also really cool and the products all have fun quippy names such as “Eyes’ Cream” which was a foundation stick for dark circles under the eyes in an ice-cream cone package.
My favourite product is the Dolly Eyes 3-Step Volumcara mascara. This mascara can add volume and density by simply rotating the bottle to add more.
Did you know the staff greet you by saying “Hello Princess” in Korean. However, recently there has been some issues with older customers who don’t like that acknowledgement.
The Face Shop
The face shop is one of my personal favourites. I love their products, and the prices range from KRW12, 000 to KRW40, 000 (R150-R500) depending on the product. They specialise in beauty products and cosmetics for the face, and their products are ideal for those with sensitive skin.
My favourite product here is the foundation powders. They are amazingly light, made for sensitive skin and always infused with a high SPF. Only downside is that it only comes in 3 skin tones. The Gold collagen foundation series is the best and one of its best sellers.
The lipsticks are just as good. I also saw that this brand is sold in South Africa! I couldn’t find an official site for more info, but it’s supposedly in Johannesburg!
I love Olive Young. It’s like a Clicks/Boots store on steroids. I have a membership card there as well to reap the cool benefits from my purchases. Olive Young is Korea’s answer to Watsons, they sell snacks, beauty accessories, products and cosmetics from a variety of brands at good prices. They also sell my favourite Korean skin care brand Dr. Jart.
They sell a variety of international brands here too from L’oreal to Maybelline and other fun brands from Japan.
Skin Foods’ products range for the entire body. While they offer a wide variety of all cosmetics, I like their eyelash glue and make-up cleansing products
Innesfree focuses on natural products using ingredients from vegetables, fruit and even local mud. They package and sell beauty products that emphasise natural and organic ingredients with its distinctive qualities and properties . The bigger stores are always covered in big overgrown creeping ivy leaves. Their prices are good and you can expect products that are friendly for all skin types. Their products have an emphasis on natural ingredients from Korea’s Jeju Island and you will find an array of products contain minerals and ingredients from volcanic soil and sea water.
Their foundation sticks are pretty good and convenient to have in your bag at all times.
Dr. Jart’s products are amazing and you can find the products sold at Olive Young or Watsons in Korea. They have a strong focus on creating real dermatological products for skin problems. They are not a make-up brand, but rather a skin care brand that has an amazing range of products to keep your skin looking and feeling good for all seasons. My favourite product is Every Sun Day SPF 50, which is a non-greasy cream for putting on under your make-up. This is great especially in a humid climate.
While Dr. Jart is not cheap, their products are good value and I feel it’s always best to put in a bit more for the maintenance of your skin.
The Beauty Boom
The brands mentioned here are but a few, to give a full list who probably take 5 different posts in total. In Myeongdong, Seoul city’s busiest and main shopping district, you will find promotion girls standing in the street outside the stores urging customers to come in and get free goods with various purchases. The stores are almost always packed daily. Even outside Myeongdong, make-up stores are always busy. One of the main contributors is Korea’s location strategy in placing numerous chains within an area.
Right now the beauty industry is an overwhelming one in South Korea and continues to grow exponentially every year. Plastic surgery holidays and medical tours are a hot trend right now which in turn complements every aspect of this industry.
I think another contributing factor to Korean beauty being such a global trend is the support Korean brands get from Koreans themselves. Locals swear by their products and local ingredients to maintain perfect skin and hair. Many also prefer locally made beauty products from Korea as opposed to international brands. I know many friends who simply save up every week to hit the beauty shops to buy the latest product after work!
Overall, it’s def worth checking out if you plan a visit to ROK no matter what your budget is!