Shopping for K-beauty in Seoul

Hey Everyone,

Just got back from my holiday from Seoul.

When you’re a K-Beauty addict you know this the best place to get your fix!


Let me share my experience and tips to get your money’s worth.

First of all, this is not the first time I have been to Seoul. The last time I was there was back in 2014, so it was inevitable for me to compare my experience from back then.

I was in Seoul during their sale period and Chuseok. There was a lot special sale, offer during Chuseok.


This was the first shocker during this holiday.

The customer experience has changed drastically …in a bad way.

Back in 2013-14 you use to have a lot of “barker” in front of store and once your eyes would meet they would hand you a basket with a first freebie like some cotton pads or a mask.

Now you have someone in front of the store who would call out to people and wave a mask out, but as soon as you walk up close to them they WILL NOT GIVE YOU A FREEBIE. They won’t make eye contact and pretend they didn’t see you. They will just follow you around the store and only start talking if you touch something.

Major letdown and did not make me want to shop in those stores. This is like 70% of the stores in Myeongdong now…

Some stores don’t even have anyone on the street so you can walk in with ease and start browsing, if you’re lucky someone will greet you and will give interest in you as a customer.

Another thing that changed a lot is the sample stores provides.

In Myeongdong they barely give samples even if you buy for more than 30 000 Won . They use to give customers a handful of sample. Even if you buy for less than 10 000 they would at least give you one sample.

I was really disappointed by Innisfree and Etude House where we had purchased for more than 100 k and 50k each but didn’t get much.

Myeongdong is no longer the place to be. I would only recommend it:

  • for the streetfood
  • visit Boots if you are looking for non Korean cosmetics
  • visit the biggest Olive Young, shopping there can be a hassle as it’s usually full with too many tourist.

The only K-Beauty store I would recommend visiting in Myeongdong are :

  • A’pieu and VDL as they are super generous with samples
  • Mamonde because their store is super aesthetic
  • Chosungah 22 because the sales clerk were really nice even if you don’t buy anything

Shopping recommendation

So where should you shop?

You really have a lot of choice as there is a beauty store in every corner in Seoul.

  • Don’t be afraid to buy in beauty stores in the subway. They are usually nice and will give out samples.
  • Go to Ehwa University.

You have 2 major streets with lots of beauty store . The first one is the streets that goes straight to the university’s entrance and the street to the right of the university.

The beauty stores here are usually not at crowded as in Myeongdong, the sales clerk will greet you when you enter the store and they provide samples for any purchase.

Stores are open until 10 PM so if you shop at night it’s even calmer.

You’ll also have more chances to find “older” products from special collabs here.

  • Shop in Insadong, here the sales clerk are pretty nice as well and will give out samples no matter how much is purchased.
  • Visit “smaller” Olive Young, Watsons and LoHB as you have much more chances to get the special freebies when there is a special offer. Check all three stores to find the best prices and offer.
  • Go to Lotte young plaza if you are looking for brands like April skin or Lapcos. You can find smaller less known brand here.
  • Go to Artbox. This was a nice surprise as I found they sold so many different mask of brands you would not even find in LoHB, Watsons or even Olive Young.
  • Check Daiso out as well as they also sell sheet masks here and other beauty product at a very affordable price.
  • Go to Hongdae, but shop on the side after the crossing where you can find the trick eye museum. The sales clerks here are friendlier and will give out samples more freely for any purchases, even below 10k. If you shop on the other side , where you can find the metro exits, the sales clerks aren’t as friendly and barely gives out any samples. It felt a bit like Myeongdong actually.

Where not to shop for K-Beauty

This is based on my experience and preference :

  • Myeongdong as it’s no longer what it used to be and the customer experience has definitely gone down
  • Lotte fitin in Dongdaemun : it feels quite outdated and messy
  • Doota duty free : their duty free prices are actually more expensive than buying at the actual store…
  • Stores that looks like The face shop but are not. If it’s called nature something, don’t go in and look for an actual The Face shop store.

Final tips

Once you decide to go shopping, do bring your own bag as many stores now charge for a bag :the extra charge will range from 20 to 100 won. You’ll save a bit of money and you’ll have less bags to throw afterwards.

Many stores now offer immediate tax refund, starting 30 000 Won. You just need to show your passport and you’ll get an extra reduction on the final price to price. Just look for the sticker on the cashier or ask the sales clerk to be sure.

In some store they will tell you that you can get an immediate tax refund but only if you have a credit card… Or just the old way where you can claim the taxes at the airport or other special offices around Seoul but this can be such a hassle.

One last tip

This was quite a surprise to us and a definitely great tip for K-beauty lovers

Go visit the K Hub style, the latest Korean tourism office close to the Cheonggye stream and Jonggak station.

This is a 5 level center where you can try a hanbok for free, try special traditional korean craft for free, try Korean food and cook , take pictures with kpop artists and get more info about Korea.

Where is the kbeauty in that?

On the second floor you have the medical tourism part where :

  1. You can check your heart rate and stress level
  2. Your body’s condition
  3. You can have a skin analysis but you need to come without makeup
  4. A tea test
  5. A herbal pouch

When we got there there was a special event that if you share a pic of their office on your social media, you’ll get a travel pouch with travel size cosmetics.

We also got 2 masks for completing a survey.

Then the person helping us advised that there was a special event on their site thay if we showed a coupon, they would give us more products.

At the K style hub there is free wifi so tadah we showed the coupon and they gave us a pouch with 5 masks and a set of traditional soap.


Do check out their webpage on the event section. This offer is valid until the end of the year.

Shop shop shop

There I hope these tips will help you out… Don’t blame me if you have excess baggages after.

Shopping in Seoul is always such a pleasure , and pain as you need to know when to stop and say “no” to a good deal.

If you’re going to Korea soon or want to share your experience ,I would love to hear about it.

Happy shopping!

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