South Korea Skincare & Makeup Haul (Plus Shopping Tips!)

♫ Taylor Swift - ...Ready For It?

Any skincare and beauty junkie who is going to South Korea will tell you this: make sure you bring a HUGE luggage bag so that you have enough space to haul back plenty of loot! For my first ever trip to South Korea this September, I brought along my largest suitcase (26") which was barely enough to fit all my things - and that's considering I didn't buy half as much as I thought I would!


That said, I think I still managed to lug back a substantial amount of skincare and makeup stuff. So, are you ready for my South Korea shopping haul? It's going to be a rather long one, so brace yourselves...

(Warning: Lots of photos ahead!)
(Disclaimer: Several of the photos are a little dim because they were taken indoors at night (after I'd unpacked my luggage), while others were taken on different days, so you'll likely see a marked difference in quality/lighting/background for the photos in this post.)

First up, are the sheet masks.

Brand stores usually display their mask bundles outside the store.
The mask aisle at an Olive Young outlet.
The Dr Jart counter at Shinsegae Duty Free. Prices are quoted in USD but you can pay in KRW too.
Sheet masks here are crazy. They're sold in packs of 10 at brand stores, often bundled as 10 + 10, and usually go for really cheap, so it can be pretty overwhelming at times. Best to share with a friend, or go for brands you've never tried before, or just haul your favourites if they're on sale. Otherwise, you can head over to all-in-one stores like Olive Young, where you can buy individual mask sheets. Good planning and strategy is required, y'all.

Note: Items with $ are at duty free; ₩ are at regular stores.

What did I get? Well, this is basically a summary of my sheet mask haul:


That's right. With the exception of the white-green ones on the left (helped a friend to buy those), the 150-odd pieces of masks seen here are my personal mask sheet haul. Enough to last me about a year, even after deducting the ones given to friends and relatives as souvenirs.

(I'm already getting tired of the phrase "sheet mask" by now, and I've barely gotten started.) 😐

Ariul Seven Skin Solutions - 7 Days Mask Set (₩ 9,500)
Purchased from Olive Young. I thought these were cute, so I decided to get this set (7+7), which is cheaper, instead of buying them individually. It's a good way to try out each variant, and basically Buy 1 Free 1. Score!


Missha Assorted Mask Bundle 30's (₩ 10,000 each)
We were at Lotte Duty Free in Busan, and this was our first mask purchase. These were 30-piece packs bundled at ₩10,000 each, which was a total bargain! (They were also pretty heavy to lug around all day, lol.) I bought 2 packs, one Aloe Vera and another one mixed Almond Milk and Red Ginseng. Great for distributing as souvenirs back home, but not very good in terms of effectiveness.


DearPacker Jeju Flower Mask 20's ($20 for 2 packets)
I've always wanted to try these DearPacker masks because of the eye-catching packaging, so I grabbed a couple of these at Shinsegae Duty Free. The green is Cactus, while the red is Camellia Flower. I highly recommend these, as they contain a lot of essence, fit well on my face, and are very refreshing as well as hydrating. πŸ‘


The SAEM Pure Natural Snail Mask (F.O.C.)
Received 3 pieces of The SAEM Pure Natural Snail mask sheets absolutely FREE from Shinsegae Duty Free - details at the end of the post! 😁 Quite interested to try these out, because they're from the slightly more premium (read: expensive) mask sheet range.


VPROVE Phyto Therapy Mask 40's ($16 per box)
Let's be honest here: I bought these two boxes of masks mainly because it had Park Bo Gum's (a.k.a. Bogummy) face on it. It wasn't 100% the reason though; each box had 40 - FORTY - pieces of masks, and at $16 it was a total bargain! There were only two variants when I was there, so I took one box each of the Polyphenol (Aloe) and Isoflavone (Soy Bean) masks. These are really quite good, and suitable for daily/alternate day use.

The Instant Cooling Eye Mask (light blue box) and Snail Essential Mask Sheet were freebies given by the SA because I purchased several items from the VPROVE counter. :)


Now, on to the other items!

su:m37ΒΊ Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick ($20)
I'd read rave reviews about this facial cleansing stick, so I just had to add this to my Korea shopping list. It's a lot bigger than I expected (which is good), but what makes it such a unique product are the rose petals embedded in the retractable stick. The scent is absolutely lovely, and not in the artificial rose kind of way. It's also handy for travel since it's in solid form.


The History of Whoo Gongjinhyang Luxury Lip Rouge ($34)
This is hands down the most expensive item in my haul. πŸ˜… I already own two of the Gongjinhyang Mi lipsticks, so this was the newest addition to my collection. To be honest, I prefer the Lipstick series, which has a nice hefty weight to its metal body, unlike this new Rouge which feels very light and plasticky. Can't bear to use it yet, because it's so luxe and pretty.


VDL Satin Veil Primer Sparkle ($20)
Look at the sparkly gold flakes inside! I'm not a big fan of primers, but after testing this at the counter and using it for the past two months, this VDL primer has honestly changed my mind. Admittedly, I bought it because of the ++sparkle++ factor and the fact that VDL's primers have been one of their bestselling items for a while now. It definitely has that super smooth, silicon-y texture once spread out, but it doesn't irritate my skin and really helps my foundation last longer. Worth it.


Holika Holika LAZY&JOY Photo Ready BB Cushion [Case + Refill] (₩ 10,000)
The SAEM Disney Edition Saemmul Mousse Candy Tint (₩ 6,000)
Basically, I bought the Gudetama cushion because I'm a BB cushion hoarder, it was cute and on sale. Same goes for the candy tint; I thought the colour was pretty and the packaging very quirky and unique.


Etude House Play Color Eyes eyeshadow palette ($18 each)
I was super stoked to get my hands on these two palettes - Cherry Blossom and Wine Party - and even more elated when I used the ₩10,000 gift card to pay for part of the purchase. 😁 Both palettes are fairly similar, with lots of pink and red tones. I haven't really used them yet - only a few shades from the Cherry Blossom one for simple looks - but so far I find the colours to be either hit or miss. Will be doing a separate review post for each soon.


VPROVE Cooling & Lifting Eye Serum ($18)
Besides the two huge boxes of mask sheets, I also picked up this eye serum from the VPROVE counter to support my Bogummy because I wanted something to reduce my wrinkles *gasp*, eye bags and dark circles. I started using it the very day I bought it, and while there's no significant result, it does help to moisturise my undereye area, so I'm trying to finish it up ASAP.


KLAVUU Urban Pearlsation Shimmer Eyeshadow (₩ 10,000)
I've already reviewed this in a previous post (review here). I wandered into their shop early in the morning on my last day in Seoul, and was pleasantly surprised. The shade I chose is Rose Gold, and it's a very pretty colour that can be worn alone or blended with other colours. It's a little pricier than most of the usual brands, but its quality, pigmentation and lasting power is good.


Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner (₩ 12,000)
I was really glad to find this, because my previous bottle had run out about three weeks prior. It's one of the best - if not the best - toner I've ever used, and now I'm seriously wishing I had bought another bottle or two as backup. πŸ˜… It's suitable for sensitive skin, and the slightly viscous texture ensures you have sufficient time to gently pat it into your skin for maximum absorption. The scent (sorta like a mixture of slightly herbal essential oils) might be a little overwhelming at first though.


Assorted nail polish from Tony Moly and Nature Republic
I honestly cannot remember the prices for these, although I vaguely recall the Tony Moly x Pokemon ones were 1+1 at ₩3,500, which I purchased purely for the Pokemon design. I've not been doing nail art for quite a while now, but when I do paint my nails, I tend to pick pastel or neutral shades, like the Nature Republic ones you see below.


That's pretty much it for my Korea skincare and makeup haul. 😊

I honestly did not buy as much as I thought I would, mostly because 1) a lot of the products didn't interest me, 2) the exchange rate wasn't too ideal, and 3) the ones that I did want were either out of stock or a bit more expensive than I thought. 😒 That said, plenty of items are cheaper (by at least 30%) and there's definitely more choice (newly launched products) than what's available in Malaysia, so make sure you come prepared if you're planning to stock up!

A tiny Nature Republic outlet inside one of the subway stations.
One of the many makeup choices at Olive Young.
More makeup from brands I've never heard before but look pretty good.
Myeongdong in the morning. The shops open pretty early.

Laura's 5 Seoul Searching Shopping Tips!

#1 - Shop at Duty Free malls (Lotte, Shinsegae, Doota) if you're planning to buy a lot of skincare and cosmetics for personal use. I highly recommend going to Shinsegae Duty Free in MyeongDong, because not only is it easily accessible from the MyeongDong main shopping street, it also houses a LOT of regular and high-end brands.

Pros:
✓ No hassle with tax refund at the airport
✓ Cheaper price up-front
✓ Can pay by cash or credit card; USD($) or KRW(₩)
✓ Everything in one place, from Etude House (affordable) to History of Whoo (high end)

Cons:
✗ No samples (unless you buy a lot and ask from them)
✗ Less 'bundle' packages
✗ Some items may not be available, especially new launches
✗ Some items can only be picked up at the airport during departure (e.g. Doota)


#2 - It was a stroke of luck that we happened to visit Nami Island (where they filmed all the iconic scenes in Winter SonataπŸ’“) before going shopping, because we got a Shinsegae Duty Free tourist voucher card with some sweet perks, including:
  • Free Gold-status membership with 15% discount (on top of the duty-free prices!)
  • Free 3 pieces of The SAEM Pure Natural Snail mask sheet
  • A free cup of coffee from their event space
  • A ₩10,000 gift card to be used in-store
  • Discount vouchers (varies according to amount purchased)

#3 - I'm not a fan of Doota Duty Free, particularly the one in Dongdaemun, for several reasons. First, there are not as many brands available there, and secondly, there was this super weird (and illogical) issue where the su:m37ΒΊ SAs told me (when I was buying the rose cleansing stick) that I couldn't buy anything there, because my departure was from Busan instead of Seoul. Like, wtf? πŸ˜’ Luckily with the help of a tourist translator-guide guy, it was finally resolved and I managed to buy it. My friend, who bought another item there, had to pay there and then only collect her item at the airport before we left, instead of getting it rightaway like mine. Overall, Doota left a bad impression on both of us.

No comment on Lotte Duty Free because I did not have enough time to go there. 😞 But you HAVE to try Lotteria burgers! πŸ˜‹

#4 - If you spot something you like, and you feel the price is reasonable (e.g. lipstick + casing, BB cushion case + refills, 1+1 deals, newly launched limited edition items, etc), buy it! I should not have waited to buy some items later, because Seoul is the epicentre of shopping for tourists from all over, so it's best to act fast *coughkiasuabitnvmcough* to avoid disappointment.

#5 - Unfortunately, most shop assistants are only fluent in Korean and Mandarin Chinese - that includes Duty Free as well as the brand shops outside. If you're not good at either of these languages, it's best to just show them a picture of the product you want to find. They will then show you the price on a calculator.

Prepare your money and stomach for food and shopping in Myeongdong when night falls!

What other shopping tips do you have for visitors to Seoul? Or what are your favourite places to shop? I'd love to know! 😍

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