A few weeks ago, I went to Korea for the first time – mainly to shop, but also sight-see and go to some main touristy destinations. At first, I had planned to buy as much as I could when I got there, but I realised how unrealistic that was because there is no way that I’m going to be able to find everything that I want, let alone being able to use everything up before they expire. So I made a list of brands that I knew I wanted and had to absolutely get, and looked at where I could buy them. Before Korea, I was in Hong Kong for a bit, so I hit up a few shops there to do some price comparisons before I headed to Korea so I knew where to buy what I wanted.
My main focus was to get brands that I couldn’t buy in Canada for a much cheaper price, or brands that I can’t get in North America at all (aka indie brands). Since my main focus was on skincare, I didn’t really spend much time looking at makeup (which I regret slightly, but it’s okay). Anyways, this is a really basic guide since I didn’t really have much time in Korea (5 days), and had to cram other tourist-y things in between. I hope this helps for those who are just planning to make a quick one stop shop in Korea though!
LOHBs – Love, Health & Beauty Store
LOHBs (롭스) is a beauty/health store under Lotte. You can find them in almost all the touristy areas of Seoul (literally, there was one right outside of Anguk Station – which is near Gyeongbokgung Palace). They carry a variety of health products, vitamins, supplements, skincare, makeup and sheet masks.
If you’re all about that Instagram Beauty Community, here are some popular brands on IG that you can find at LOHBs:
- Huxley (헉슬리) – only saw this brand at the Hongdae and Garosu-gil branches
- make p:rem (메이크프렘)
- Cremorlab (크레모랩)
- Polatam Sheet Masks (폴라탐)
- COSRX (코스알엑스)
The locations in Seoul that I found had the most varieties were:
- Exit 8 Hongik University Station (You can take Line 2 or AREX), walk straight and you will see it on your right
Sinsa-dong Garosu-gil (신사동 가로수길)
- Exit 8 Sinsa Station, walk straight and turn left on the 4th road and that should be Garosu-gil Road. When you’re on Garosu-gil Road you should see LOHBs on the left side of the street if I remember correctly.
Tip: When you’re paying at the counter make sure to ask them for samples/gifts, otherwise they won’t give anything to you no matter how much you bought. You can also get a VAT Tax-Refund here.
Olive Young (올리브영)
The Olive Young (올리브영) of Korea, is like the SaSa/Colormix/Bonjour of Hong Kong. It’s like your local drugstore or like Watsons (if you have it in your country). But if you’re Canadian, the closest thing we have here to Olive Young is probably … London Drugs? The Beauty section of T&T Supermarket? Somewhere along the lines of those stores. This place is SKINCARE and MAKEUP GALORE. Ask for samples, and they shall give. Tax-refund is also available here!
They have a flagship Olive Young in Myeongdong, but let me warn you… it’s packed full of tourists, locals, … humans, etc. But this is also the Olive Young with the most brand variety in terms of makeup and skincare. Some brands that you can get here are:
- Round A Round (라운드어라운드)
- COSRX (코스알엑스)
- Papa Recipe (Myeongdong Flagship store)
- NEOGEN (네오젠)
- isoi (아이소이)
- Sheet masks, modelling masks, any masks…
- Oh! You can also get those funky herbal smelling pads here. They are.. probably the best pads I’ve ever tried??
Myeongdong Flagship Location (명동)
- Walk straight from Exit 6 Myeongdong Station (Line 4), then left on the 2nd street an walk straight until you hit Olive Young
The great thing about Olive Young is that you can you find them literally anywhere. Go to any suburb and you’ll probably see it near one of the popular exits. Or maybe you’re staying at a hotel and you decide to wander around your area? BAM, you’ll probably run into it around the corner. On the contrary, LOHBs’ doesn’t have as much of a presence in comparison to Olive Young.
Locations with most variety: COEX mall, Myeongdong, Garosugil
- COSRX (코스알엑스)
- heimish (헤이미쉬)
- dear Klairs (클레어스)
- Beauty People (뷰티피플) (seen at COEX mall location & Garosugil)
- Thank You Farmer (땡큐파머 공식 사이트)
- ALand’s own in-house brands
I personally think COEX mall and Garosugil ALand locations are the ones that are worth going to and checking out. If you had to choose between the two, I’d pick Garosugil over COEX mall. I can’t exactly remember the location of ALand in COEX mall or Myeongdong, but I do for Garosugil (which is good since it’s one of the better locations imo).
Sinsa-dong Garosu-gil (신사동 가로수길)
- Exit 8 Sinsa Station, walk straight and turn left on the 4th road and that should be Garosu-gil Road. If you walk towards the end, you’ll see ALand on your right.
Golden Eight (골든 에잇)
How would I describe Golden Eight? It’s like those one-off wholesale shops, that somehow managed to be the only place that sold the one brand that I was looking for. Simplistic Skin. I only went there to buy the cleanser from Simplistic Skin, since I got a sample from it from Beautibi and it felt incredibly gentle on my skin. They have Guerisson, sheet masks and other snacks at a pretty decent price. Tax-refund is also available here. Golden Eight can be found near Ewha Women’s University!
- Exit 1 of Edae Station/Ewha Station, walk straight and before you hit the first street, you’ll see it on your right.
Oh Myeongdong. Such tourist, much crowded. One good thing about Myeongdong, is that they are well-prepared to sell you things at all times. Sales people will shove masks in front of your face, and if you take one, you need to go into the store. You can subtly pretend to buy something, but not buy anything and then leave with the freebie that was shoved in your face. You can find both ALand and the Olive Young Flagship Store here (to satisfy any Klairs, COSRX needs). You can also find WATSONS here too, which I will talk about more below!
The Sock Store
The best part about shopping in Korea was getting a pretty dang good deal on some really cute socks. You get to choose from ankle socks, to those kind of long socks in the photo, as well as those non-ankle socks that I can’t think of what they’re called at the moment.. Why was it a good deal? Because I could choose these not terrible quality socks at a price of 10,000 Won for 11 pairs!
Some places in the markets sell 16 pairs for 10,000 Won, but the patterns and designs weren’t as nice (in my opinion) compared to the place I went to. I swear, that tiny shop on the street became my go-to sock store.
- Exit 6 of Myeongdong Station (Line 4). Walk straight for about 15 seconds? And you’ll see it on your right (Head in the same direction towards the street where the Olive Young Flagship store is located)
Literally the most popular Korean Skincare brands that you can imagine can be found here, and you’ll see multiples of the same stores near each other too:
- Nature Republic
- Holika Holika
- LEADERS (can find their masks in LOHBs and Olive Young as well)
Brands here automatically give you samples, but if you decide to shop in a less touristy location you should ask the sales associates for samples (if they don’t give you any).
ARTBOX (Myeongdong branch)
Artbox sells a bunch of cute usable things such as bags, pencil cases notebooks, bottles, headbands etc. Anything that can be cute-ified can be found there. BUT, I did see some skincare products at the Myeongdong Branch. Well, I was looking for Scinic Ampoules and I saw them there for 9,900 won. Unfortunately, I bought them from Watsons for 10,000 won extra, because I didn’t know that I’d be able to find them there. I didn’t get the best deal, but I can’t do much about it!
Watsons is literally everywhere in Asia. You can see it in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea! Or at least, that’s where I have seen it so far.. I quite like the Watsons in Korea though, because you can find a whole bunch of masks, and KBeauty brands that you might want to try! They’re not as populated as Olive Young and LOHBs, but if you spot one, head on in and take a look. The thing about shopping here though, you need to price check a lot of the products and brands you want to buy, because you might be able to find it at another store for cheaper (like those Scinic Ampoules ;n ;).
Brands you can find at Watsons:
- COSRX (코스알엑스)
- Sheet masks (LEADERS, Mediheal)
- Scinic Ampoules (Ewha University Station, Exit 2)
- Mamonde (마몽드)
If you’re not Korean (hoho), and you’re only there for a short visit you can get TAX REFUNDS on your purchases. I have no idea how they calculate them, but you get a certain percentage of tax back. There’s a catch – you have to spend more than 30,000 won in order to qualify for a refund. Most stores in Myeongdong can do the refund for you right away. But a lot of the stores outside of Myeongdong can’t – so you’ll have to bring your receipts to the airport and do your refund there. If you hit 30,000 won in any store, I would just ask if they do tax refund (because you might as well try!). I don’t think the ALand inside the Lotte World Mall does tax refund – or at least when we asked for it, they didn’t do it for us (so maybe steer clear of that ALand?)
Places I want to go to but couldn’t
I first heard of this store from Joan Kim’s Vlog (which I will link here). They carry Whamisa, and a ton of indie brands I wanted to try, but I didn’t have time to do a quick stop here. My fam was pretty much done with my random shopping sprees.
Lotte Duty Free
I didn’t do this, but I’ve read that you can get better deals here if you want to buy popular and high-end brands such as Innisfree, Nature Republic, Skinfood, Sulwhasoo, The History of Whoo, Laneige.
I would love to try Sulwhasoo and The History of Whoo someday, but I just can’t afford those brands right now.. Buut I did manage to buy the new Laneige Two Tone Lip Tints for 31USD because it came as a buy 1 get 1 deal for certain shades.
The best place would be to order on their mobile app or website because you can get the best deals there (all prices in USD). The online website also sells products cheaper than Wishtrend and a lot of other online stores. Brands that I found that I had my eyes on include:
- I’m from
- Soroci (소로시)
- Cremorlab (크레모랩)
- … Give a search for the brands that you’re looking for because chances are, they’re probably up on the site!
Whew, that was lengthy! Hopefully, this kind of helped you out if you’re planning to go shopping in Seoul for a quick few days! :)