The Introductory Guide to Beauty Shopping in Korea

beauty shopping

If you thought a K-beauty e-commerce site was overwhelming, wait till you step foot in the land of the (hardly) morning calm. Seoul is a shopper’s paradise, but you definitely need some direction. Here, our introductory guide to the basics of beauty shopping in Korea.



Beauty shopping in Korea is an incredible experience. From huge shopping malls to small drugstores around every corner, Korea has it all. With countless varieties of shopping opportunities, you may feel overwhelmed in this K-beauty capital. This guide highlights the most popular shopping destinations for all your favorite Korean beauty products.


beauty shopping


Department stores: Lotte, Shinsegae, and Hyundai


The three biggest and most popular department stores in Korea are Lotte, Shinsegae, and Hyundai. These department stores offer more than just beauty products. You can spend a whole afternoon exploring each floor, varying from home appliances to high-end designer clothing. Besides international luxury cosmetic brands, local luxury brands can also be found here, such as Sulwhasoo and Hera. I rarely buy products at a department store, as the product choices are sometimes limited compared to a standalone store (not to mention the high prices!).


beauty shopping


However, department stores are a great place to buy luxury cosmetics and skincare at a cheaper price, as many stores offer duty free shops. This means you don’t have to pay local taxes and duties as a tourist. Another bonus: The “food court” in the basement usually offers quality you wouldn’t expect from a cafeteria style food court in the West. It’s a great place to check out locals grabbing a quick bite to eat as they shop.


Drugstores: Olive Young, LOHBS, Watsons


Wherever you go, there is always a drugstore in your neighborhood. Olive Young, LOHBS, and Watsons are the most well-known drugstores in Korea.


beauty shopping
Olive Young.


Olive Young is the largest drugstore retailer out of the three, founded in 1999 by CJ Group. Olive Young is known for its wide range of Korean, Asian, and Western beauty brands, like Nivea and L’Oréal, but the focus lies mainly on domestic beauty brands, like Pony Effect, Mamonde, ClioPeripera, Leaders, and many more.


Watsons, the largest drugstore chain in Asia, is a more recent entrant into Korea. The Hong Kong-based chain opened their first store in Korea in 2005. Compared to Olive Young and LOHBS, Watsons has a bigger selection of body and hair products. Well-known brands like Dr.Jart+ are offered here.


beauty shopping


LOHBS is the newest contender among the beauty drugstores, founded in 2013 by Lotte. LOHBS stands for Love, Health & Beauty. Like the other two chains, LOHBS offers a lot of international and domestic brands. Unlike Olive Young, however, LOHBS has a bright and modern feel to it with its white walls and red accents throughout the store.


All three chains carry a variety of affordable beauty products and the prices don’t differ much. Inside each store, everything is organized by brand and category such as skincare, hair, makeup, and body, making it easy for anyone to peruse to their heart’s content.


The sheet mask section in the drugstores is popular, as you have many choices ranging from $1 to $5. Whenever I am in need of new sheet masks, drugstores are my go-to choice.


Road shops: Myeongdong, Hongdae, Ewha Womans University


In the Korean beauty world, the term “road shop” is common. But what are road shops exactly?


Road shops are standalone stores lining streets filled entirely with popular beauty brands like Etude House, Skinfood, Nature Republic, Innisfree, and The Face Shop. Because all the well-known stores are located on the same street, we call those stores “road shops.”


beauty shopping
Seoul’s beauty shopping mecca, Myeongdong


Road shop streets are often busy and loud, with all the stores playing loud music, some with mascots and promoters trying to attract you to their store. The most popular road shop streets are in Myeongdong, the epicenter of beauty shopping in Seoul, and my all-time favorite for not only beauty shopping but also delicious street food. Here you can find affordable cosmetics as well as luxury brands.


You can also find road shops in Hongdae, where there’s a vibrant art scene filled with international students and expats. The area around Ewha Womans University also is filled with, not surprisingly, cute cafes, plenty of affordable fashion, and beauty shops galore.


If you are looking to buy products from different brands, indulge in a day of road shopping. To avoid big crowds, I recommend going during the weekday. This way you won’t feel rushed with all the crowds, you can take your time, and the shop staff are more available for you if you ever need advice.


Underground shopping malls: COEX, Jamsil, Gangnam


beauty shopping
COEX Mall. Korea Tourism Organization


Did you know that Asia’s largest underground shopping mall is located in Seoul? COEX Mall, at 154,000 square meters, is connected to the Samsung subway station and is a popular spot for families and couples. With an aquarium, a fancy movie theater, and even a kimchi museum, at COEX, you can find brands ranging from affordable to luxury like InnisfreeMissha, Tony Moly, Labiotte, Banila Co., and many more.


beauty shopping
The underground shopping mall at Gangnam station is now a legit, quality shopping area.


While it’s true you can find these brands in Myeongdong, if you don’t want to deal with the crowds (or the weather), underground shopping malls are a great alternative. I love how these malls are easily accessible. These underground shopping malls are often connected to subway stations, and while most are not as nice as the COEX Mall, these malls do offer tons of small clothing and beauty stores, all at affordable prices. Just get off at Gangnam or Jamsil station, and you can get lost in the maze that is the underground shopping mall.


Have you ever been beauty shopping in Korea? If so, where’s your fave place to shop? If not, what’s your dream shopping trip in Korea look like?

How I Take Care of My Skin With a Workout Skincare Routine

workout skincare routine

Just because you’re going for a run or killing it on SoulCycle doesn’t mean you should skip your skincare. One jiu-jitsu practitioner sticks to the basics with a workout skincare routine to keep her skin healthy while she’s grappling on the mat.



Exercising is not only good for your body but it’s also good for your skin. Working out increases blood flow to skin cells, providing vital nutrients and oxygen as well flushing out waste like free radicals. However, if you don’t maintain a proper skincare regimen, exercising can trigger breakouts, no matter how light or heavy your workout is. Sweat and dirt can clog pores, leading to pimples and blackheads. Fortunately, a simple and quick workout skincare routine can save your skin, even after an intense day at the gym. 


Every morning I head to the gym and participate in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a martial art that focuses on ground fighting. One thing I learned from this contact sport is that this is not an art to practice if you care too much about your looks. I don’t wear makeup when I work out since sweat can get trapped under foundation, which can clog pores and result in a breakout. And of course, with any contact sport like jiu-jitsu, you don’t want to dirty your training partner’s uniform with foundation stains or lose one of your false eyelashes while rolling around on the mat. If you do plan on wearing eye makeup, like Sistar’s Bora and Soyu, stick to waterproof products like Clio Kill Black Waterproof Pen Liner.


So while I’m not someone who heads to the gym with my face fully done, I do focus on a simple yet effective skincare routine to keep my skin healthy and glowing. Here’s how I take care of my skin before and after a workout.


My pre-workout skincare routine


workout skincare routine


Step 1: Cleansing


The Innisfree Green Tea Pure Cleansing Foam is mild and leaves my skin feeling fresh, smooth, and soft. This mild cleansing foam contains fresh green tea extracted from Jeju island and is rich in amino acids and minerals that moisturize and brighten your skin.


Step 2: Toner


After cleansing, I prep my skin with a bit of hydration so it can absorb all following skincare treatments better. Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner is great for people of all skin types. Not only does it balance the skin’s pH, it deeply hydrates and reduces inflammation with botanical extracts and wheat amino acids.


Step 3: Essence


After the toner, applying essence is necessary for hydrating the skin. Etude House Moistfull Collagen Essence never disappoints me. This luxuriously textured essence is infused with ceramide micro-bubbles and baobab tree extracts, giving me the right amount of moisture and fast absorption.


workout skincare routine


Step 4: Cream


As I’ve mentioned before, I love Etude House Moistfull Collagen Cream (read my full review here. It leaves your skin feeling soft, refreshed, and hydrated. It’s the perfect moisturizer before going out.


Step 5: Sunscreen


Sunscreen is an important part of any skincare routine. I don’t like a sticky feeling on my skin before working out, which is why I prefer a water-based sunscreen like the Innisfree Perfect UV Protection Essence Water Base. It moisturizes your skin with hyaluronic acid and ceramide, while providing antioxidant protection from UV rays with sunflower oil, Jeju green tea extract, Portulaca oleracea extract, and Centella asiatica extract, which also soothes the skin after sun exposure.


My post-workout skincare routine


workout skincare routine


After any workout, it’s crucial to cleanse your skin. Sweaty skin is a breeding ground for bacteria, and bacteria can lead to blackheads, irritation, and acne. That’s why I carry a cleanser in my gym bag and use it before I leave the gym. I also make sure to reapply moisturizer and sunscreen, or even better, repeat my skincare routine again.


A useful tip is to carry sample size products in your gym bag. The small samples or testers that you get for free when buying Korean beauty products really come in handy. This way, your skincare products don’t take up much space, and you get to try out different products.


Exercising is good for your body and mind and even your skin; you just have to make sure to care for it before and after your workout. Do you have any special tips for your workout skincare routine? I’d love to know!


How to Contour the K-Beauty Way

k-beauty contour

Forget everything you know about over-the-top Kardashian-inspired contouring. The K-beauty contour is a pretty, subtle alternative, perfect for anyone looking to achieve that fresh, no-makeup look.



When we talk about contouring, you may think of Kim Kardashian and her famous contoured selfie back in 2012. If it weren’t for her, a lot of women would have no idea what contouring is. But Kardashian did not invent contouring; she only injected new life into the contouring makeup trend. In western countries, contouring has been around for a while — it started as a makeup artist technique used in theater and eventually in Hollywood by makeup artists like Max Factor in the 1930s and Kevyn Aucoin in the ’90s.


k-beauty contour
The more subtle Korean contour. 3CE


k-beauty contour
Kim Kardashian posted this shot of her war paint contouring method on Twitter @kimkardashian.


Korean beauty has been slow to pick up on the contouring trend, but since 2015, contouring has gained momentum in the K-beauty scene. One of the first Korean celebrities to jump on this trend was Pony, the makeup artist for the K-pop singer CL. Pony’s informative (and transformative) YouTube makeup tutorials has made her a worldwide beauty guru, and she even came out with a contouring palette as a part of her Pony Effect makeup collection. Another contouring devotee is Jessi, the breakout star of the music competition show Unpretty Rapstar. Known for her “heavy” makeup look, Jessi says she contours her face on a daily basis.


k-beauty contour
Clockwise from top left: Music competition show Unpretty Rapstar’s breakout artist Jessi; 2NE1’s CL; Pony doing a contour for her Taylor Swift transformation.


These days, Korean women consider contouring an essential part of their daily makeup routine — but with a twist. If you’re not a fan of the Kardashian contoured look, you may like the K-beauty contour to achieve subtle but flattering dimension and structure.


So what is contouring?


Contouring is giving definition and shape to an area of the face using shading and highlighting to enhance one’s facial structure. Basically, it’s a way to reconstruct your face without going under the knife.


Women in Korea have very different beauty standards from their counterparts in the West, and this can be seen in their makeup looks. While western makeup tends to look more “fierce,” with smoky eyes and arched eyebrows, the Korean makeup look is closer to a “no-makeup” look, with natural eyeshadow shades and healthy glowing skin.


This difference is also reflected in the K-beauty contour. The western contouring style aims for chiseled cheekbones and sharp features, while in Korea, they prefer a smaller face with a “V-line” (as opposed to a more square jawline). Therefore, the focus in Korean contouring is creating the illusion of a slimmer face while maintaining the naturally flawless “no-makeup” makeup look. The good news is, unlike the chiseled Kardashian look, the Korean style of contouring works well on almost anyone.


How do I do the K-beauty contour?


k-beauty contour


To achieve the K-beauty contour, you basically want to frame your face so that your face looks slimmer. Instead of focusing on shadowing underneath your cheekbones, the goal is to contour around the periphery of your face. Using a contouring powder like Etude House Personal Color Contouring Palette or a contouring stick like 3CE Duo Contour Stick, start by shading along the jawline. The jawline is the area many Korean women feel is too wide, so the goal is to slim that area.


Move onto contouring your hairline. For Asian women, hair loss is a common issue that often starts with a thinning hairline. Hence, many women use the darkest color in their contouring palette to fill in sparse areas, the same way you would fill in your eyebrows.


Next, contour all along your forehead and the sides of your face. Use any remaining product on your brush to contour your cheeks.


Besides the V-line, Korean women also contour the sides of their nose to create a more defined silhouette. Generally, they contour along the inner eye sockets, the bridge of the nose, and the sides of the tip of the nose.


k-beauty contour


For a thinner looking nose, lightly draw two lines down the sides of your nose, beginning at the brow bone all the way to the tip. Finish with a touch of highlighter down the middle of the nose and at the tip.


If you want your nose to look shorter, darken the tip of your nose with a contouring powder or contouring stick, and blend it out well. Apply highlighter to the bridge of your nose, but only halfway down, as this gives the illusion of a shorter nose.


The key to a good, believable contour is to start out lightly, as you can always build up the contour. And always, always blend well as you go. For a quick and easy video how-to, check out Pony’s tutorial using her Pony Effect Contouring Master Palette below.



What contouring products should I use?


If you are new to contouring, powder is the way to go. Contouring powder is easier to blend; it’s also better if you prefer a matte look. But be aware that powder on dry skin types can emphasize fine lines and make you look chalky, so powder may be better for those with normal to oily skin. When using contouring powder, make sure to work with a good angled or domed contour brush.


For full coverage or a more dewy look, cream contouring or a contouring stick may be your best bet. Cream contouring products can accentuate oiliness on oily skin types, so opt for this option if you’re on the drier side. A beauty sponge or angled blender brush are your best friends when using cream contour. A sponge works well on large surface like the cheeks and forehead, while an angled blender brush helps you reach smaller areas like the sides of your nose and the eye sockets. Some swear by beauty sponges and others use only a brush, so have some fun and experiment with both.


To get you started, check out some of our favorite K-beauty contour products below. And let us know your favorite contouring tips in the comments below. Good luck!


How to Pull Off Pink Eye Makeup Like a K-Beauty Pro

pink eye makeup

Think pink eye is something to avoid like the plague? Not this season. Korean celebrities and beauty vloggers show that adding a pop of pink is right on-trend.



If you follow Korean beauty on social media and the vlogosphere — or even Korean pop culture in general — one thing soon becomes apparent: Pink is the new black. Actress Kim Tae Hee’s wedding makeup look featured pink eyeshadow. Lee Sung Kyung’s title character dons a monochromatic makeup look, including a pinky-peach eye color, in the popular drama Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo. Indeed, championed by popular beauty vloggers like Pony and Saerom Min, and with practically every K-beauty makeup brand featuring pinks and peaches in their eye color collection, pink eye makeup is a trendy must-have for Korean women this season.


Baek Jin Hee in Marie Claire Korea pink eye makeup
Baek Jin Hee in Marie Claire Korea.


Surprisingly, pink and peach are versatile shades for the eye. Baek Jin Hee’s recent editorial for Marie Claire Korea offers a soft windswept option with a monochromatic peachy-pink makeup look. Choi Yujin, in her promos for CLC’s comeback song “Hobgoblin,” is proof that a slash of bright pink can be as bold and fierce as black liner. And beauty vlogger Saerom Min deftly uses a wine-tinged pink as an accent color in her Romand GRWM tutorial (watch at 31:20).


pink eye trend2 pink eye makeup
Clockwise from top left: An ad for Etude House; Pony; Lily Collins at the Golden Globes; Choi Yujin from CLC,


It’s a trend that seems to be infiltrating the red carpet looks of Hollywood celebrities as well. At the 2017 Golden Globes, Lily Collins showed off her flawless skin with a dusty rose eye look to match her gorgeous gown, while Emma Stone kept it subtle with a soft, silvery-pink glitter eye shadow and a warm neutral pink lipstick.


Of course, pink eye makeup can be challenging. It can look cartoonish if the shade is too bright, and even the most beautiful model can look like she’s sick if you apply the color incorrectly. To make pink less challenging and more fun, take a cue from some popular Korean vloggers on how to properly wear pink and peach eye colors. You’ll be surprised at how wearable — and how pretty — pink eye makeup can be.


Pony’s Romantic Pink Eye Makeup Look


pink eye makeup pony pink shadow


If you want all eyes on you, try this mesmerizing look from famed Korean makeup artist Pony. In her tutorial titled “Girlish Pink Makeup,” Pony uses three different eye shadow shades: a shimmery peach (Innisfree Mineral Single Shadow Shimmer in No. 1), a pink with gold glitter (Innisfree Mineral Single Shadow Glitter in No. 7), and a matte purple-brown. Using her fingers, Pony applies the peach shadow all over the lid as well as along the lower lash line. She then applies the pink glitter shade on the inner half of the upper lid and the center of the lower lid. To ground all the pink, she applies the purple-brown shade to the outer third of the upper lid and accents with a brown gel liner. She pairs the eye look with light brown brows and a good amount of pink blush high on the cheekbones. (If you really want to go all-out, she suggests lightly tapping pink blush on top of your brows.)


The takeaway: Anchor your glittery pink eye shadow with a matte purple shade and brown eyeliner.



Ches’s Edgy Grapefruit Pink Eye Makeup Look


ches pink eye pink eye makeup


When you think pink, you may be picturing an electric Barbie-pink color. But there are a variety of shades of pink and peach that are completely wearable, as long as you know how to apply it. Korean YouTube beauty vlogger Ches uses golden and red shades to create a grapefruit pink eye makeup look (a mix of pink, orange, and peach) with a bit of edge.


After contouring her face, she applies a shimmery golden shade all over and then a reddish shade on the outer and inner corners of her lids. Make sure to blend well. To emphasize the resulting grapefruit pink hue, Ches accents with a burgundy eyeliner on the upper and lower lids. She finishes off the look with a coral blush high on the cheekbones and a bright pink ombré lip.


The takeaway: Mix different shades in your palette to create a custom pink or peach color.



So Young’s Femme Fatale Pink Eye Makeup Look


so young pink eye pink eye makeup


Nothing beats getting together with your girlfriends and having a fun girls’ night out. This is the time to experiment with your makeup a bit more — girls just wanna have fun, after all. Korean beauty vlogger So Young shows you in her “Reddish Pink Makeup” tutorial how to use bolder pinks to achieve a fun party look.


After a wash of rose beige shadow all over the lid, she applies a brighter pink shadow on the outer third of the upper eyelid. Add depth to the eye with a matte brown shadow on the outer edge of the lid, while a touch of light glittery pink shadow on the center of upper lids provides an eye-opening effect. Ches finishes the eye look with a bold black wing using liquid liner and fake lashes.


The takeaway: Brighter pinks work well with black winged liner.



Does pink work for your eye look? Let us know your pink eye makeup tips, tricks, and questions in the comments below.


My Top 5 Etude House Products — and None of It Is (That) Pink

etude house banner

There’s more to Korean beauty brand Etude House than hyper-girly packaging and bubblegum pink overload. Contributing writer Neng Neng wades through all the fluff to get to some seriously great products that will have you rethinking the brand.



If you’re new to the K-beauty scene, you may find it a bit overwhelming and may not know where to begin. A great place to start if you’re interested in exploring Korean makeup is one of the most popular (and affordable) brands, Etude House. Known for their cute, princess-like packaging, Etude House has taken over Asia and is slowly moving onto the rest of the world. What makes Etude House so great is their high quality products at a very affordable price.


Established in 1985, Etude House is inspired by the Études of Frederic Chopin, which was considered a revolutionary playing style for the piano at the time. In the same vein, Etude House wants women to try something new, experiment, and have fun with makeup, rather than seeing it as a repetitive daily routine.


Etude House impact resized


Over the years, many A-list celebrities have been the face of Etude House, from Jun Ji Hyun (My Love from Another Star, The Legend of the Blue Sea) to Song Hye Kyo (Descendants of the Sun). More recent spokespeople include Go Ara (Hwarang, Reply 1994), Sandara Park of girl band 2NE1, and even the boy band SHINee. Since 2013, f(x)’s Krystal has been the main face of the brand.


etude house celebs
Clockwise from top left, the many faces of Etude House: Go Ara, Song Hye Kyo, Sandara Park, Krystal, and SHINee.


My first introduction to Etude House was when I saw an Etude House commercial starring Go Ara and actor and singer Jang Geun Suk. From that moment on, I fell in love with Etude House’s cute designs, but what really captured my heart was their affordable skincare and makeup products that work so well. So if you’re interested in checking out Etude House, here are my top 5 products that I think every K-beauty lover should try.


Moistfull Collagen Cream

etude house moistfull collagen cream


Etude House’s best-selling, award-winning product is the Moistfull Collagen Cream. The cream might appear thick, but it is actually very lightweight with a nice fresh, floral scent. The cream absorbs within a minute into your skin without leaving a sticky feeling, leaving your skin soft, refreshed, and hydrated. This cream is perfect as the last step of your skincare regimen before applying makeup. And I love to use this cream in the evenings during the summer because its “Super Collagen” water particles have a cooling effect on my skin.


Look At My Eyes Shadows

etude house eye shadows


For good quality and affordable eyeshadows, Etude House is the place to go. The Look At My Eyes Shadows offer plenty of different shades to choose from, from classic neutrals to trendsetting brights. The brand’s eyeshadows are loved by many because they blend really easily to create your desired look. Even better, the eyeshadows come in transparent plastic containers, making it easy to find the color you want. Another great way to organize your eyeshadows is with an empty palette into which you can depot the shadows. This way you have your own customized palette with your favorite colors within easy reach.


Beauty Shot Face Blur



Just like its name says, this primer will “blur” your skin like the “beauty shot” mode on your camera. It brightens, smooths, and helps minimize pores for a flawless, beautiful radiance. Unlike other primers that usually include silicone, this primer is made of “airy skin powder” for a lightweight and comfortable wear that really lasts. You may not even have to wear foundation with this primer — that’s how good it is.


Double Lasting Foundation

etude house double lasting foundation

Also known as the dupe for Estée Lauder Double Wear Foundation, Etude House Double Lasting Foundation is loved by many beauty bloggers and YouTubers. Even though it feels very lightweight, this foundation offers full coverage for a flawless complexion. It has a matte finish and blends easily, whether you’re using a blending brush, a beauty blender, or your fingers.


Another great thing about this foundation is that it’s available in eight shades, ranging from their lightest shade fair to their deepest shade amber, a true rarity in Korean makeup.


Real Art Perfect Cleansing Oil

Real Art Perfect Cleansing Oil

This lemon scented oil cleanser delivers a deep cleanse while infusing skin with moisture. When you apply the oil, softly massage your face with it. This helps melt your makeup. Little by little, add water while still massaging. When you add water to the oil, the oil will turn milky white. Rinse with lukewarm water until you no longer see any milky liquid and your skin does not feel oily anymore. A small amount is enough to remove heavy makeup, even waterproof mascara.


There are so many more amazing products at Etude House. What have you tried and what do you love (or hate)?



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