Makeup World and Shopping in Seoul: An Observation

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

If you are a makeup junkie like I am, you would know that Seoul is one of the makeup meccas of the world. South Korean women and men alike are serious about their beauty regime, some have 8 to 12 steps in their skincare routine. I am by no means saying that I'm an expert in K-Beauty, this is coming from the point of view of a general makeup lover.

I am lucky to have been able to visit Seoul several times, seeing the trends and witnessing how massive the beauty industry really is in person (If you are wondering, yes, it IS that hectic). South Koreans highly value their appearance, and like other Asian countries, they love their pale, very pale skin tone. If there is one thing they are known for in terms of skincare, it's their anti ageing products.

It's also interesting to see how in the past several years how social media has affected the beauty world. We have seen how the Western beauty brands are fascinated and influenced by Asian beauty trends, and brands like Lancome to L'Oreal have created products heavily inspired by K-Beauty. However, the last time I'm in Seoul (which is a week ago) I have also seen how the Western world has affected the K-Beauty world. Brands are starting to come out with their version of contouring kits,  although I have never seen a Korean woman with sculpted cheeks before. As I said, they like their skin to be as pale as snow, even if that means wearing a bb cushion that does not match their necks.  Brands like 3CE (which is one of the more well known, edgy Korean makeup brands) now have a collection of 90s brown lipsticks the Western was crazy about a year before.

Another thing I have noticed is also that colour selection in their products have started to change. South Koreans love their milky lip products. Their lip colour shades have a lot of white in them. Either that, or bright, neon colours, or deep shades that they wear as an ombre lip. A lot of times I feel like different brands have very similar colour selection. They look great on South Korean complexion and the style of makeup they go for, but can be tricky for everyone else. Nowadays, newer lip product launches have more depth and wearability. There are more rosey, mauvey pink shades, which I suspect is also because the influence of the west. 

Also, if you are not South Korean and you are looking to buy a foundation/face powder from a Korean brand, it can be a mission to find something that matches you, even if you are NC30. They mostly only make fair shades, and not much else. My IOPE cushion is the darkest shade they have, and it's still lighter than my skin tone (as you can see from my pictures, I am quite light).

The point is, eventhough it seems that you have thousands of options, you have to be patient and diligent in your research because the options can be limiting (depends on your preferences and needs, of course).

Shopping for beauty products in Seoul can be overwhelming, because they are literally everywhere. There are hundreds of brands that you can choose from, with different price points, all in the same area. One minute you see Etude House, the next minute you'll see Etude House again. I don't know why Korean brands have their stores so close together, one Innisfree store can be located just under 100m away from another Innisfree store. I'm talking about Myeongdong here.

Whenever I visit Seoul, I have always stayed in the Myeongdong area. It's a shopping area filled with tourists and at night the street food vendors fill the streets from end to end. Myeongdong can be overwhelming, but I love staying in the area because you find everything there. Good restaurants, good street food, and every Korean beauty brand imaginable has a store in Myeongdong. If you want to shop Western beauty brands, you can always go to the Lotte Department Store across the road and you'll find so many options there as well. Myeongdong is quite central and it's surrounded by a lot of tourist attractions. Also, everything is just a subway trip away.

I have a couple of tips if you are going to shop in Myeongdong:
1. Plan ahead. Research which brands you want to shop from, because if not, there's a possibility that you will get overwhelmed by the options you have. I personally like brands that don't rely much on cutesy cutesy packaging. Innisfree, 3Concept Eyes, and Pony Effect are some of the brands I'd recommend checking out. Moonshot if you like YG ent, but I found nothing that sparked my interest from the brand.
2. Shop in the day or earlier in the morning. Myeongdong is very crowded in the evening, it won't be as enjoyable and relaxing for you. Every time I visit Seoul, there is not one night where Myeongdong was not busy.
3. Curate your shopping list. When you see everything cute laid out in front of you it's easy to get FOMO and then you end up buying everything, but when you unpack you realize there are stuff you probably won't get a lot of use out of. This results in a lot of waste. Get things that would suit your personality and your needs.

Do you have any other tips on shopping makeup in Seoul?

Much love!

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