Beauty shopping in Korea

Thanks to the junkies who commented, I’ve decided to work on this article first 🙂 Hope it helps those of you who are going to Korea!

Ok this part pertains to just shopping for beauty products. I will probably put up another article for shopping for other things if I think I have enough to contribute 🙂

Before you go…

1) Prepare a shopping list. You’d probably be succumbed to a lot of convincing sales talk when you’re there. Armed with a shopping list, you’d at least be clear what are your “planned” items and what are impulse buys.

beauty shopping list

2) Do your homework. According to your shopping list, you’d probably want to check out the prices of the products in Singapore and note it down somewhere to know that whether the item is a MUST-BUY (and must buy a dozen) when you get there. But that being said, even if you don’t do your homework, I can pretty much tell you that products from Korean brands are almost definitely cheaper. So, for the lazy junkies, argh – just go with your shopping list and grab, grab, grab.

When you’re there…

1) You’ll probably realise that shops such as Etude House, The Face Shop, Tony Moly are EVERYWHERE. But I prefer to do the shopping on one day, and at Myeongdong. The reason is that Myeongdong’s stores are catered to tourists (but no, no mark-ups, don’t worry), so most of the sales assistants are able to speak English, Mandarin, Japanese and Thai (I don’t know what else they speak, but these are common languages). This makes purchase a lot easier.

Also, it’s just super fun to see LOTS of cute sales assistants standing outside the stores with small baskets and free gifts, trying to get you in. Stores in Myeongdong are also more generous with their free gifts and samples after each purchase.

beauty stores in myeongdong

By the way, instead of saying “free”, Koreans say “service”. So, if they pass lots of sachets to you, saying “sa-bi-si” (service), they are really telling you “these are free gifts”.

2) If you really like a particular brand, make sure you get everything you want from one store. In Myeongdong, you could easily find several of the same store, sometimes in close proximity too. That means, you see one huge Nature Republic store, walk down the next street, you may just see another Nature Republic store.

So if you love Nature Republic, for instance, choose one of the stores (usually there will be one store that is catered specially for international customers), and buy everything you want from NR there. That’s because the more you spend, the better the free gifts given. So instead of spending 1000W each in five stores, spend 5000W in one store. That way, you’ll probably be able to get a free travel kit (with maybe, a toner, serum and moisturiser in travel-size) and two sachets and two small bottles of products, rather than say, ten sachets of products.

3) No bargaining. Erm, seriously!

4) It might be a “Kristen-syndrome”, but I will usually definitely walk into stores that are not available in Singapore such as Innisfree and Holika Holika, and buy something from there. Coz I know that if I don’t get the things from there then, I can’t get them when I’m home.

Other tips

1) If you’re planning to buy items such as facial masks for your friends, as well as yourself, get the value-packs. Those are usually bundled in 10 per pack, and they’ll usually throw in two free masks or other free items. Get different value packs, share them among those you’re buying them for, you’ll get more bang for your buck.

2) A sales assistant usually follows you everywhere for the entire stay you have in the store, introducing every product on the shelf, bringing you on a tour around the shop, and asking what you’re looking for. Most of them are actually more helpful than irritating. So, feel free to ask questions. Find out about what their bestsellers are, and which items are best value-for-money. However, they can also be a little pushy/overly-convincing. If you’re not intending to bust your budget, then make sure you stick to your shopping list and stay firm! Just tell the sales assistant that you’ve already bought something similar 🙂

Korean beauty products

OK, I think that’s about all that I could offer. Or at least, all that I could think of. Why don’t guys shoot me some questions if you have any? 🙂

Btw, a few other resources that you could look at: This K-blog, which gives a few product reviews and highlights specific tourist areas on Korea. And also this article that I contributed for 8flo Lifestyle 🙂


19 thoughts on “Beauty shopping in Korea

  1. Wao… This is so fast.. i commented on the morning and you already done the post by noon. Effective oui… Thank you so much!! This really help.. Oh ya.. i would like to ask, do we need to print out the discount voucher from some website to got the 5-10% discount or we can just get the voucher from airport? I saw some taiwanese mention that we can get it at airport..

    Thanks =)

    1. Haha! I’m generally a very fast writer (after many years of training. In the previous company, I had to write like… 50+ articles in 3 weeks?), but I gotta feel “in the mood” to write.

      Yes, there’s the KTO website ( that you can go to print out some vouchers. I printed them and brought them along, but ended up not using any because I either forgot or there are specific stores to go to, and it’s just a lil too inconvenient to look for them.

      As for the airport… I’m not sure if they give out vouchers but I suspect they do (because the Koreans are really doing a great job in engaging toursts). Ask your friend to ask the customer service staff there. They can speak fluent English/Mandarin and I believe they can give good advice.

      Hope the info helps! 🙂

      1. Thanks a lot. =) I’ll just print out some voucher for those shop like tony moly/etude/TBS/TSF .. lols.. How i wish i can go.. lols.. Do u have any must buy list for the skincare/ makeup thingy?? I mean something that u thing really worth and work. I heard the olive hand cream is cheap and nice.. izit?

      2. No problem!

        The stuff I bought are detailed here:

        What I’d recommend: tomatox from Tony moly (it’s lots cheaper in Korea) plus it’s good, I’m loving their gel eyeliner too. Bb cream is a must-buy in Korea. Popular ones that I see get recommended by other bloggers include skin79 and my friend thinks bb cream from it’s skin works well. I will usually load up on facial masks because they get marked up so much in Singapore! I think malaysia’s prices are still kept in check. Hmm, étude house was advertising for their lash enhancing mascara when I was there last month. It’s basically a mascara that protects lashes. Kinda interesting, your friend might also like to check it out 🙂

        Olive hand cream – which brand’s is that from?

      3. tomatox from Tony moly, i saw many review about it. yea..i’m going to ask my friend buy it for me. BTW u still remember it’s how much in won? Gel eyeliner, mm.. i’m suck in makeup so mayb just no. I’m using Bb cream too and it’s skin79. I ask a blogger that went to Korea she said it only cheaper if we buy alot, single will be expensive so i think i’ll just skip the bb cream. I have 2 on hand and it will last me quite long mayb until 2011 year end? We don’t have it’s skin here in malaysia. lols.. no idea which product is nice. Facial masks is a must, For mask it’s about Rm6 per piece in store. We can get cheaper price if we bought online. U remember how much Won per piece or pack at korea? étude house lash enhancing mascara ? Mm.. i don’t need that, i’ll just use mascara once in a while…

        Olive hand cream that i mention, i also not sure which brand but it’s purple in colour and they said it’s only 900won. The link is save in my laptop.. show u other time mayb.. =)

      4. I can’t remember the price of Tomatox in Won because it’s been a while. BUT I vaguely remember how much it costs in SGD (because I always mentally do calculations to see if it’s worth it, haha! does anyone else do this?)

        I bought Tomatox in a pack of three. There was a promo going on and each one set me back by about SGD7. (Each pack was something like SGD20+)

        We don’t have It’s Skin in Singapore too. But the stuff there seems pretty ok – more dermatological than others.

        Facial masks range between 1000W to 3000W, depending on brands and types. Go get the value packs if you’re getting a lot!

        And yup, do show me the hand cream that you’re referring to! 🙂 Anyway, I think hand creams are quite cheap in Korea in general. I bought a pack of three too, each one was probably just SGD3 or something.


      5. I’m working in a lab so i need hand cream as i always wear glove my hand is so dry!!! =) I saw the handcream i mention is popular among taiwan i think.

    2. Yea.. me also counting worth to buy or not if i went travelling. Tomatox is only about SGD7? That’s really cheap!! It’s Skin more dermatological than others? I have no idea. Facial masks- Dermal is very cheap right?
      i saw ppl mention value packs is buy 5 pack free 1 pack. and one pack only cost 3000 won. Super cheap. izit true?

      The hand cream i said is Imselene Water Drop Essence Hand Cream, here are the link. U can read chinese?
      It’s Korea Watson product. Which hand cream brand did u bought??

      1. Yup, at least their image is. It’s Skin has sort of the same image as Clinique.

        Facial masks that are not from established brands may cost just 3000W for 5, but I’ve never considered buying them, because I know I can get SGD1 masks in Singapore too, if they’re unrecognised brands. The cheapest from established brands is more like 1000-1500W per piece. And they come in either packs of 5 or 10, with 1 or 2 free masks, or sometimes other travel-size products.

        Yes, I read Chinese! I worked as a Chinese news reporter for a while, in fact :p I bought them from The Face Shop!

  2. Hihi! May I know if they speak Malay? I’m going with my and my mum only speaks Malay.

    I think “Kristen-syndrome” is not uncommon! I would have done it too 🙂

    1. I haven’t heard them speak Malay in Myeongdong. Could be because I haven’t met any Malay-speaking customers too. I heard some sales assistants speaking to a few Indonesian customers in Dongdaemun, though. My guess is that you might probably need to help your mum with some translation 🙂

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