Kbeauty is a phenomenon and if you have landed on this page it means you already know a little bit about its wanders. If you have already planned your trip to South Korea but don’t know where to buy skincare in Seoul, this is where you will find all the answers to your questions.
Ingrid is a k-beauty skincare addict who has tested tens of brands and hundreds of products during our one year in Seoul. Back home, she also runs an online k-beauty shop, thus she is more than familiar with everything related to cosmetic shopping in Seoul.
In today’s post, she will guide you and help you better understand the Korean skincare market, where to buy skincare in Seoul, what cosmetics you must buy in Korea, why is Korean skincare so popular, and more.
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Table of Contents
Where to buy skincare in Seoul / Cosmetic shopping in Seoul – your complete Seoul skincare shopping guide
- Are skincare products cheaper in Korea?
- What cosmetics must you buy in Korea?
- Why is Korean skincare so popular?
- Where to buy skincare in Seoul
- Other questions you might have about shopping for skincare in Seoul
- Other South Korea Useful Travel Guides
Where to buy skincare in Seoul / Cosmetic shopping in Seoul – your complete Seoul skincare shopping guide
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details, let’s look a little bit at why you will really want to buy Korean skincare while in Seoul.
Are skincare products cheaper in Korea?
The short answer to that question is yes. You must take into account all the additional costs that come into play when buying cosmetics at home: shipping costs from Korea to your home country, handling costs, taxes, and much more.
Moreover, skincare brands and large retailers in South Korea almost always have discounts and special offers you can take advantage of.
On top of that, with your passport, you can ask for a tax refund at the airport (make sure to ask for a special receipt when you buy the products at the store).
What cosmetics must you buy in Korea?
The answer to that question depends a lot on your skin type and preferences. It is worth knowing that certain k-beauty brands that are popular internationally are not really well-known in Korea, thus they might be harder to find.
However, when in Seoul, you should focus on the big brands such as Innisfree, Sulwhasoo, Etude House, Missha, AHC, Lagom, Real Barrier, Round Lab, and more. Some of these brands have stand-alone stores, some you can find at Olive Young, while some can only be purchased in department stores or at their flagship store (but we will discuss this in a second).
Sheet masks always have special offers and you can find special packages. If you love sunscreen, you will find it difficult to only choose a few products to take home. Serums, toner, and moisturizers should all be on your shopping list.
Why is Korean skincare so popular?
There are many reasons why Korean skincare is so popular, but affordability and quality are the top things that come to mind. Korean women have always been concerned with their looks and skin, and they have used the power of natural ingredients to get that perfect-looking skin.
Even today, Korean skincare focuses a lot on the blend of natural ingredients and decades of research.
Where to buy skincare in Seoul
As mentioned above, when you are looking for where to buy skincare in Seoul we should talk about neighborhoods, different types of shops, online stores, or flagship stores. I know this all might sound a bit confusing now, but let’s take them one by one.
Neighborhoods where to buy Skincare in Seoul
If you only go to one place, Myeongdong should be it when it comes to cosmetics. I don’t exaggerate when I say that on these streets you will find tens of k-beauty shops, offering thousands of products.
On my first visit to Seoul as a tourist, I spent hours simply hopping from one shop to the other in Myeongdong.
In this relatively small area located in the heart of Seoul, you will find all types of shops and restaurants, but you should not miss the largest Olive Young store, Innisfree flagship store (with a cafe), or all the other brand-owned shops such as Lagom, AHC, Etude House, Laneige, Banila, Holika Holika, and more.
I remember how difficult it was to walk on these streets when I first visited in the winter of 2019, without someone trying to pull you inside one of the shops and lure you with some hard-to-resist offers.
Myeongdong is all about selling to tourists, thus they are very familiar with the tax-free process. On top of that, many people speak, or at least understand, English so communication is not too difficult.
After some intense shopping, while you are still in the area, don’t skip a facial at the O Hui & Whoo SPA. That’s the shortest treatment, but they provide all kinds of different pampering options, all performed with some of the best skincare products.
Another neighborhood popular with tourists and Koreans alike, is mostly a campus area. Surrounded by some of the most important universities in Seoul, here is where students spend their free time and go partying, eating, and shopping.
As a result, you will find plenty of k-beauty brands in this area, but also hair salons or skincare clinics. From my experience, people in the area speak better English than in other parts of the city (I’m looking at you fancy Gangnam), and here is where I used to go for my laser treatments at the Shinebeam clinic.
Hongdae and Yeonnam-dong are also popular for their countless Instagrammable cafes and restaurants.
On the main boulevard, you will find a few Olive Young stores, a Chicor, and an Aritaum. As you go further back on the crowded streets, you will stumble upon branded stores such as Innisfree, Holika Holika, Laneige, Etude House, and more.
Take your time to explore the area and you will find everything you are looking for.
Gangnam and Apgujeong
Gangnam is one of the poshest areas in Seoul, where you will find some of the top luxury skincare brands with their flagship stores, but also department stores or tens of SPAs and skincare clinics.
Sulwhasoo SPA is next to Dosam Park, and right next door you will find the Dear Dahlia flagship store with a beautiful cafe. You can enjoy a facial or a body treatment at the SPA, and afterward, go for a shopping session in the area.
The Dr. Jart flagship is closer to Apgujeong, and in the area, you will also find the Klairs flagship.
Popular stores where to buy Korean skincare in Seoul
It’s not possible to miss this brand because it has so many shops around the city. Some are smaller than others, but the biggest one is in Myeongdong, on the main street, minutes away from the Myeongdong Theater.
I could spend hours inside this store that carries some of the most popular brands, from Round Lab to Real Barrier, Goudal, Dr. G, and more. No matter the season, you will always find special offers.
They also carry perfume, haircare products, makeup, and more. The flagship store in Myeongdong is set on 2 floors and you will find it hard to leave it behind.
Address: 53 Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
While you will find a smaller store in Hongdae, I suggest you visit their flagship in Gangnam. Here is where you will exclusively find Iope, one of the most loved brands under the Amore Pacific umbrella.
Address: 1F, 1303-37 W Tower, Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, Korea
South Korea’s Sephora, Chicor offers more makeup and perfume products than skincare, but you will still find plenty of beauty options here as well. Come here for Dear Dahlia makeup brand (you will find it exclusively here and at their flagship in Gangnam), or even for Huxley and Dear Klairs skincare products.
There is one big store in Myeongdong on the main street, another great one to check out in Hongdae across the street from the main Olive Young, or inside Shinsegae department stores.
Address Myeongdong: 64-1 Myeong-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Address Hongdae: 147 Yanghwa-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Flagship stores: Innisfree, Style Nanda, AHC, Dear Dahlia, Sulwhasoo, Klairs, Dr. Jart
Flagship stores are big in Seoul and every important skincare brand has one you can visit. They carry special products, some have cafes or SPAs, and they almost always have special offers. The problem with flagship stores is that you will only find one particular brand in the store.
Here are some of my favorite flagships in Seoul, together with their address and what makes them special:
Innisfree Flagship – has a pretty cafe and is located in Myeongdong on the main street.
Address: 13 Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu
Sulwhasoo Flagship – one of my favorite luxury skincare brands, their flagship in Gangnam is over the top! They have a SPA, a museum, and a rooftop terrace. You can book facials or body treatments at their SPA and pamper yourself.
Address: 18 Dosan-daero 45-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
Dear, Klairs Flagship – this is a smaller and more low-key shop, with not so many products on display, but with a super zen vibe. When I visited, I got 5 testers as a gift to try at home. Also, they are in the same building as a cool tea house (Magpie & Tiger).
Address: 44 Nonhyeon-ro 153-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
AHC SPA is not really a flagship but a cool SPA hidden on the streets of Gangnam.
Address: 237 Dosan-daero, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
StyleNanda Pink Hotel – 3CE is mainly a makeup store, but also one of the most instagrammable places in Seoul.
Address: 37-8 Myeongdong 8-gil, Jung-gu
Dr. Jart Flagship store is constantly changing and when we got there they had a game in a place where you would answer some questions and receive some free samples based on your skincare type.
Address: 46 Dosan-daero 11-gil, Gangnam-gu
Amore Seongsu is much more than a flagship store, it’s a skincare concept store. It is set a bit off the beaten path, but the whole experience is well worth it.
Amorepacific is the largest Korean skincare brand, one that gathers some well-known names such as Innisfree, Sulwhasoo, Iope, Etude House, Laneige, Amore Pacific, Mamonde, Primera, Hanyul, and more.
Inside the Amore Seongsu concept store, you will have a full experience – walk through the washing room, choose the perfect skincare for your skin type, apply sunscreen, and finish it off in the powder room. You can try all the products on display, take advantage of discounts, and go home with a few free samples.
On the rooftop, they have a tea place where they serve their famous Jeju island teas, O’sulloc.
Address: 277-52 Seongsu-dong 2(i)-ga, Seongdong-gu (서울시 성동구 아차산로 11길 7)
Hyundai or Shinsegae Department Stores
You will find them around the city center, or you will have to travel a little by subway to get there, but the trip will be worth it. After all, getting around Seoul is fast and easy no matter how you choose to go.
These 2 of the most important department stores in South Korea offer a large variety of cosmetics. While you will find most international luxury brands, there are certain Korean skincare brands you can only shop there, such as Sulwhasoo, The Whoo, Hera, or O Hui.
These are perfect to bring home as a gift but expect to pay substantially more than for the other brands out there. My favorite store is The Hyundai Seoul located in Yeouidae-ro – it has so many stores, a super Instagrammable interior, and hosts one of my favorite coffee places in Seoul (Tailor Coffee).
ÅLAND in Myeongdong
While this is mainly a clothing and accessories store, you will still find plenty of skincare products. ÅLAND is one of the largest concept stores in South Korea.
Address: 30, Myeogdong 6-gil, Jung-gu
Independent stores in Myeongdong or Hongdae
AHC, Lagom, Laneige, Too Cool for School, Skin Food, Missha, Nature Republic, and more have independent small shops scattered around Myeongdong and Hongdae.
You can easily spend hours on end exploring each and every one of these.
The wholesale cosmetics market
I’m selling well-kept information by guiding you to this place. While you will not get there if you only have 3 days or 4 days in Seoul, if you are passionate enough about skincare, want to save a great deal, and want to shop for quite a lot of products, going there might be worth it.
On the subway purple or green lines, you will need to get to KKachisan Station. Getting there from the City Hall is easy on the green line.
From there, you will have a short 10-minute walk towards the Gangseo Distribution Complex.
If you go there, it is worth knowing that you must carry cash (if you pay by card you will be charged an extra 5-10%). Also, I haven’t found anyone to speak English, but many do speak Chinese.
Here you can find Korean beauty products discounted up to 50% and you don’t always have to buy large quantities, even if you buy one or 2 products you can take advantage of the good price.
Other questions you might have about shopping for skincare in Seoul
Is there Sephora in Korea?
While Sephora is not huge in South Korea, with so many competitive local brands, you can still find a few stores around Seoul only. Currently, there are only 4 stores in some of the major shopping malls around town (IFC Mall, Lotte World Mall in Songpa, Parnas Mall in Gangnam, and Hyundai Uplex in Hongdae), or you can order online.
What skincare do Koreans actually use?
When I got to Seoul and started asking some of my local friends about some popular brands I was used to, like Purito or Dear Klairs, they had no idea what I was talking about.
However, Amore Pacific is the market leader in South Korea, thus brands like Innisfree, Iope, Suwlhasoo, and more are among the popular ones.
You can order Korean skincare online, while in Korea
Another great option for shopping for Korean beauty in Seoul is to order products online and have them shipped to your hotel/Airbnb.
Coupang is the local Amazon, but you will need a Korean-issued credit card in order to make payments.
The next best thing is GMarket, but their deliveries take a little longer. However, you can pay with your card, and you will only need a local phone number.
No matter where you choose to shop for Korean beauty products, make sure to come prepared and have extra space in your luggage. Or you can always choose to ship them via post.
How to ship cosmetics from Seoul
I see this question asked so many times that I thought it would be a useful information to include in this comprehensive guide. The easiest and fastest way to ship cosmetics from Seoul (or South Korea) is by post or EMS.
There are plenty of post offices around town, and there’s one only a few meters outside of Seoul Station. You can buy a box directly at the post office, and choose from one of the 5 different sizes available. Next, you fill in a form (sometimes it can be done directly online by scanning a qr code), pay for the package, and hand it over.
You can check an estimation of the price depending on the wight of your package, but also estimated shipping days based on the destination, on their official website.
Where to shop for Beauty of Joseon cosmetics in Seoul
Beauty of Joseon is a Korean skincare brand more popular outside of Korea. However, you will find their products at the Myeongdong Olive Young Flagship store.
Also, Beauty of Joseon is set to open its own flagship store at the end of 2022.
Shop for Korean skincare online at home
No matter if you are visiting from the USA, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, or Europe, here are a few online stores that ship at your door:
Yesstyle is one of Ingrid’s favorite go-to websites for Korean cosmetics. They ship worldwide and carry most of the important and popular brands you will find in places such as Olive Young or Chicor.
Use INGRIDZEN when you place your order and get an extra 5% discount
They don’t only carry skincare, but also k-fashion, and Korean food and snacks.
StyleVana is another great website where you can find the latest and most popular k-beauty brands and products. They always have sales, and flash deals, or you can shop by brand.
They ship to the US, Australia, Canada, and Europe.
SokoGlam offers you the chance to personalize your skincare journey, on top of choosing from some of the coolest Korean skincare products. Here you will find best sellers but also some of the latest brands and products, directly from South Korea.
They ship to the US, but also internationally to Australia, the EU, Singapore, Malaysia, and New Zealand.