What to buy from South Korea? (Part 2 of 3) Skincare & Beauty Products

Shopping for skincare and beauty products has never been such a big thing for me in my teenage years and when I started working after graduation until when I first went to Korea a few years back and I’ve been hooked on Korean brands since then. Mainly because they are very affordable, that’s why I just buy without thinking. But seriously, did I even have skin problems before I buy and use these additional ‘wants’? No. I was merely keeping up with the trend of what we Singaporean ladies love to do when we are in Seoul.

You can say this is retail therapy but it is also a purchase of hope to feed our endless appetite for the sake of pure vanity. It’s like buying lottery. Knowing that the odds of winning is very low, we still buy it for that little ray of hope and anticipation to win something.

So I guess when I buy beauty products, it’s the same rationale as I assume the products will make me look good. If it does boost one’s confidence, why not?

As I mentioned earlier on my Part 1 post (What to buy from South Korea? Snacks Attack!), I had gone long-distance shopping with my husband in Seoul, South Korea which was just as enjoyable. In fact, he was on constant alert for promotions and discounts that he seemed far more excited than me, just to grab some really great deals. For a guy who knew nothing about women’s stuffs, he was certainly doing better than I expected. Why? Because he had bought a whole load of The Face Shop’s masks from Myeong-dong (one of the most famous shopping streets in Seoul) for me but had everything (except freebies and product samples) returned and refunded the next day because The Face Shop counter at Lotte Mart was having a 50% off sale! I salute him for going through all that trouble! =p

And yes, for those of you who are into The Face Shop’s products, you may wish to know that The Face Shop counter at Lotte Mart does have regular sales and promotions. So does the one at Namdaemun Market. The only difference is, The Face Shop at Lotte Mart doesn’t give freebies (product samples) but the one at Myeong-dong does. If you want to save money (like 50% off), then head to Lotte Mart. If you prefer paying the original prices but get lots of samples instead, then the branch at Myeong-dong will suit you fine. Do keep in mind, if you’re buying in bulk, it’s not worth spending the money at Myeong-dong as product samples are cheap anyway and definitely not worth the value of that extra $$$!

Here’s our loot from The Face Shop at Lotte Mart –

What to buy from South Korea

Everything here was going at 50% off!

Real Nature Mask Mung Bean 500 won/piece (S$0.60)
Real Nature Mask Cucumber 500 won/piece (S$0.60)
Clean Face Sebum Control Soothing Mask Sheet 1000 won/piece (S$1.20)
Essential Pearl Mask Sheet 500 won/piece (S$0.60)
Chia Seed Watery Eye & Spot Essence 9450 won/tube (S$11.00)
Natural Cleansing Sea Sponge 800won/piece (S$0.94, this was bought at their outlet at Namdaemun Market and it’s 20% off original price of 1000 won)

Plus a bunch of freebies (bottom right of picture) from the Myeong-dong outlet which the husband went to on first day.

On average, each mask sheet costs between S$0.60-S$1.20 and is way much cheaper than buying them in Singapore which retails for 3 for S$10.00 or 4 for S$10.00. The same products can also be bought off Qoo10 at lower prices, close to buy-direct-from-Korea price range.

But a word of caution. Not every seller on Qoo10 sells legitimate products even if he or she may be located in Korea and/or your order is shipped from Korea. This applies to all Korean brands of skincare, beauty products and cosmetics. I run my own retail business too and I have met a number of suppliers in China with factories that produce imitation skincare products. The packaging is exactly the same as the one you get from retail stores but when you start using the product on your skin, you’d notice the difference in quality. This happened to me when I first bought a Missha BB Cream off Qoo10 because it was cheap and when I started using it, my skin started having an allergic reaction and was red and itchy. Also, the cream didn’t smell as nice as the actual product. Neither did it do the proper job of evening out skin tone. It’s still advisable to buy products only from authorised distributors and retailers!

Speaking of Missha, of course I have to get the husband to buy my favourite brand of BB Cream –

What to buy from South Korea

Perfect Cover BB Cream in #23 Natural Beige for 15,800 won/tube and 3 product samples. This is about S$18.50 after currency conversion. Missha in Singapore sells this for S$42.90! As for Qoo10, yes it’s cheap, but no way I am risking buying another fake product! Just not worth it.

Lastly, another big brand that has been made famous by Korean actress, Song Hye Kyo…LANEIGE! Unfortunately, Laneige outlets normally don’t have promotions or sales so the best bet is to buy them from The Shilla Duty Free Shops (husband got mine from Incheon Airport). Even though prices are in USD, it’s still slightly cheaper than buying them from Laneige shops in downtown Seoul provided the current USD-SGD currency exchange remains.

What to buy from South Korea

Firming Sleeping Pack at USD23 (S$29)
BB Cushion at USD29 (S$38)

Although buying skincare products from Korea is much much cheaper than from Singapore, it doesn’t mean an air-ticket to Seoul comes cheap! So grab the opportunity to shop and buy in bulk when you’re there for holiday or if someone you know is heading there (like how I ask my husband to help!). Good thing is, the expiry date of these products is at least 3 years (till 2016) so you don’t have to worry about overbuying as you can keep for later use!

With 80 over mask sheets plus firming & whitening products, I think I have a plenty to pamper my skin with. I told the husband once everything is used up, we have to go back Korea to replenish stock (and visit the brother and sister-in-law too! Husband’s older brother married a lovely Korean lady!).

Husband exceeded his baggage load by more than 5kg, otherwise there’d be more stuffs to grab from other Korean brands I adore like Skin Food, Innisfree, Beauty Credit, Nature Republic and more. Till next time, I shall make the trip myself! But it’s good that the husband is now more in tune with skincare products! So whenever I do my eye mask or face mask, he joins me πŸ˜‰

I will be doing product reviews of all these items once I start using them for a period of time. Lots to use, lots to write about. So stay tune,Β lovelies!

In Part 3 of this post, check out my yummy recommendations from Paris Baguette, one of the top bakery chains in Korea. Read What to buy from South Korea? Paris Baguette Cheesecake & Breads.


  • Jenny says:

    Is it cheaper to buy faceshop products in Incheon Airport? Does Faceshop has 50% sale in the airport duty free shop? Or as you mentioned on your website that there is 50% sale for faceshop products in Lotte Mart?

    Where to buy faceshop and etude house products? Lotte Mart, Myeondong or duty-free shops in Incheon Airport. Kindly advice. Thanks.

    • Hello Jenny, thanks for stopping by. The 50% sale at The Face Shop is more of a Lotte Mart’s promotion. This sale is not on-going all the time but happens regularly so it’s advisable to drop by Lotte Mart on a weekend to check if it’s on. You may wish to know that Lotte Mart provides tax refund service for purchase of 30,000 won & above so this can be savings on top of savings.

      I don’t think there is an Etude House counter at Lotte Mart so you can go to the outlet at Myeondong that often have special promotions and gifts with purchase anyway.

      Do note the duty free shops are also available in Seoul besides Incheon Airport. Check out their websites Lotte Duty Free and Shilla Duty Free for more info. Prices are mostly in USD so unless the currency exchange rate is attractive, then shopping there (for some international brands) will be worthwhile.

      If you’re not sure if you’re getting a good deal, one tip is to get a prepaid SIM card at the airport when you touch down so you have a data plan for surfing net. Cheapest plan is 5,500 won for 100MB. Check out Evergreen Mobile Card. With access to internet, you can better compare prices back at home and decide if it’s worth a purchase. Of course, this is also useful for communication purpose. Kill two birds with one stone.

      Hope this helps.

      Have fun shopping in Korea!

      • Julianna says:

        Hi there! There are many lotte mart branches all over in Seoul. Where do you recommend with lots of shop variety and sales around? Think myeongdeong is the biggest lotte mart if I’m not mistaken. Also, I heard snail mask is popular as well there, any brand in particular u r recommending? How does the tax refund in lotte mart works?
        Thanks hope to hear from u soon!

        • Geri Tan says:

          Hi Julianna, I’d recommend the Lotte Department Store (flagship branch) at Myeongdong because it’s where the skincare/beauty brands will go on sale very often. Also, as it’s near to the respective brand outlets along Myeongdong shopping streets, you can do a quick comparison of prices too so you’d know if you’re getting the best deal. Takes a bit of effort though but worth it if price matters when you buy in bulk. (Largest Lotte Mart in Seoul should be the one next to Seoul Station if I recall correctly – best place for snacks and groceries)

          I have tried snail mask sheet from Missha and snail cream mask from Tony Moly previously but they didn’t quite work for me. I might be sensitive to certain ingredients in them as it caused my T-zone to be more oily and there were more frequent breakouts of small pimples and white heads too after using the masks. Snail slime extract is probably as overrated as 24k gold extract so just have to exercise caution when using such new products on your skin. A rich, intense mask (no matter how raving the review is) may not be suitable for everyone.

          You will be eligible for a tax refund with a mininum purchase of 30,000 won at Lotte. When you’re making payment at the cashier, just request for a tax refund receipt. Bring the receipt, your passport and credit card to the tax refund booth at 1F and you can receive your tax refund in cash. Your credit card needs to be produced as a guarantee because they’d have to charge the total refund amount to your card initially and once you’ve brought the items out of Korea, that charge will be removed.

          When are you heading to Korea? Have fun! πŸ™‚

          • Julianna says:

            Thank you sooo much for ur informative info! I ll be leaving on next Monday weeeeeee :):) the tax refund only apply if I’m using credit card to pay for my purchase? sorry im a little confuse.. Coz I’m bringing my card it just that I try not to swipe anything there.. Everything will be by cash if possible..

          • Geri Tan says:

            You are most welcome πŸ™‚ I don’t think mode of payment matters as the tax refund receipt will be the same. Just remember you need to have your credit card with you when you claim tax refund at Lotte Department Store itself, otherwise you can only do it at the airport and that’s a lot more hassle. The beauty booth sales are within the supermarket so be sure to check it out. The Lotte Mart at Seoul Station may have really good deals too. Prices are cheap but no freebies given. Only the outlet stores give extra samples. Just know, unless there is sale, then buy from Lotte. Hope the sales are ongoing when you’re there next week! Enjoy your holiday and safe travels πŸ™‚

  • Melissa Chan says:

    Have you been to Busan? I love all the snacks and skin care from your blog. Its so detailed from explaining the product to the pricing. But i will be travelling to Busan and Jeju Island.

  • Jeanne says:

    Hi Geri! Thank you for this post. I find it very informative and this will be of great help on my travel on the 14th πŸ™‚

  • Serene Liew says:

    My friend and I are heading to Seoul this June. Do you know where may I get the Lady & Skin products? Thanks.

  • Jeyna Grace says:

    I have a few questions: the duty free shops have cheaper prices for Laneige but they don’t give samples? Roughly how much cheaper? And, are the varieties the same? Thanks!

    • Geri Tan says:

      Hi Jeyna, thanks for stopping by. Yep, that’s right. The duty free shops didn’t give samples when I purchased from there, only the independent outlets do. In terms of pricing, it really depends on the currency exchange rate because Laneige products are priced in USD at the DFSs and may fluctuate too. Based on my most recent experience, I’d estimate a 10-15% cost savings. Hope this helps! Cheers.

      • Jeyna Grace says:

        Thank you for the info! 10-15% is quite a lot πŸ™‚ I think I’ll just shop there instead. Though there’s no harm walking down the streets of Myeongdong and collecting free samples along the way, right?

        • Geri Tan says:

          You’re welcome πŸ™‚ a quick tip is to look around the DFS at Incheon Airport when you arrive to get a feel of the prices and currency exchange rate then when you head to Myeon-dong and Lotte Mart, you can compare prices again to decide. Oh, and there are DFSs downtown too so it’s pretty convenient. Normally the brands would give more substantial samples when you purchase something from the shop and the more you buy, the more samples they give. But some brands like Γ‰tude House uses freebies to entice customers to walk in (like facial cotton or furry feather pen) and if you decide not to buy anything, you can just take the freebies and go. When are you heading to Korea? I’m feeling excited for you already lol πŸ™‚

          • Jeyna Grace says:

            I’m actually going to Jeju first and then I’ll take a domestic flight to Gimpo. So I won’t be able to see the DFS in Incheon until I leave. Do you know if the airport in Busan has a DFS, because I’m transferring from Busan to Jeju.

            I’m heading at the end of September πŸ™‚ It’s a short trip though, so I’m not sure if I have time to compare prices.

          • Geri Tan says:

            I haven’t been to Busan so I’m not sure about that. Wherever you make your purchase, so long it’s in Korea, I’m sure it’s still at a good price comparing to SG’s inflated prices πŸ™‚ enjoy your coming trip and safe travels!

          • Jeyna Grace says:

            I’m from Malaysia actually, but like you said, it’ll definitely be cheaper πŸ™‚

            Btw, have you ever needed to declare your cosmetics at the customs before departure?

            Thanks for the tips! They are very helpful πŸ˜€

          • Geri Tan says:

            Yep, so buy in bulk πŸ™‚ they have long expiry dates and are usually fresh batches too so don’t have to worry πŸ™‚ nope I have never declared cosmetics at customs before unless you’re lugging bags and bags of them to sell back home then you probably need to, lol. But I guess it’s also because skin care and beauty products from Korea are generally cheap (mask is only under a dollar each from Faceshop!) so even when I bought like 2-3 years worth of products, they still didn’t cost a bomb so there wasn’t a need to declare.

          • Jeyna Grace says:

            Ah, ok πŸ™‚ I’ll definitely do so!

  • Annabelle says:

    Hi Geri,

    I am going Korea on Next week. I would like to go there to shop for cosmetic. I would like to know does Lotte Duty Free and Lotte Mart is the same? I go on tour group and will be visiting at myeongdong and Lotte Duty Free. I would like to purchase at cheaper price for the cosmetic instead of going for more freebies. Therefore would like to know I can purchase at a cheaper price at Lotte Duty Free? Or i have to go to Lotte Mart instead? If I have to go to Lotte Mart for a cheaper price on cosemtics, do you know the operating hours?

    • Geri Tan says:

      Hi Annabelle,

      Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚ Lotte DFS and Lotte Mart are under the same parent company but are different businesses. The former specialises in lifestyle, luxury & beauty items (prices are tax-free and very likely to be in USD) whereas the latter is more of a departmental store + supermarket (like Takashimaya, Isetan, etc) with a wider range of products (this is also where you can find lower range brands like Face Shop). Whether or not the DFS can offer cheaper prices really depends on the brand of cosmetics you’re going for as well as the day’s currency exchange rate (and your mode of payment because if you use credit card, the exchange rate would be even less advantageous). Previously when I was at the DFS, I paid with USD cash as I just happened to have USD with me so the Laneige stuff I bought there was reasonably cheap. Generally, I would say Lotte Mart is a better option for deals because most of the time I was there, they had sale on beauty and skincare products and were much cheaper than their outlet shops at Myeong-dong. For DFS, prices do fluctuate because of exchange rate so can be more unpredictable.

      For operating hours, just click on the link to Lotte Mart above. The page shows all branches and their opening hours.

      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip and safe travels!

  • Worshiper says:

    Hi Geri,
    Thanks for your helpful blog. I am going to lay over in Korea for 23 hours and I am planning to go sightseeing for a little bit there. Where did you stay in Korea and how did you get to the shopping areas from incheon airport?
    I heard it is quite far from downtown Seoul and to take a cab it could cost around US$70 per trip. I love Korean skin care products as well (Sulwhasoo in particular) and would love to buy products there. However I am unsure as to how the price is going to be to be compared from the price of the products here in Washington DC.
    I haven’t been to Korea and am wondering if Myeong Dong is far from the downtown Seoul and since I only have 23 hours before I will need to catch my next flight, which place should I go to. I will be traveling with my 16 month old baby.
    Any recommendations will be greatly appreciated! πŸ™‚

    • Geri Tan says:

      Hello Audrey, thanks for stopping by.

      I’d tried out a few hotels at different parts of Seoul but my favourite of all was Best Western Premier Hotel Kukdo which is in the middle of Myeon-dong and Dongdaemun plus the subway station is within walking distance so getting anywhere is just so convenient. To get to downtown Seoul from Incheon Airport, I’d recommend taking the airport limousine bus which is the most cost effective method compared to taxi (need to pay some toll fee at the bridge plus traffic is just too unpredictable so the fare might be rocket high if you’re caught in a jam). From the arrival hall, you can approach the airport bus info desks for help. Let them know where you’re heading to so they can advise you on the right bus to take. There are two types of buses available – deluxe (prefer this as it makes less stops hence saves time) and standard. The rate I paid for deluxe to get to my hotel (it stops right at the entrance) was about 14,000 won if I remembered correctly.

      Myeon-dong is in downtown Seoul and it’s the main shopping and entertainment district in Seoul. I don’t recall seeing Sulwhasoo retail outlets at Myeon-dong but I’m sure Lotte carries the brand so you might check Lotte out. Generally, made-in-Korea skincare & beauty products are sold at lower prices in Korea itself. But it also depends on currency exchange rate that will determine how much savings you will get by making your purchases there. I think the duty-free shops sell Sulwhasoo too and most likely will be priced in USD so you can then make a comparison if it’s worth buying or not.

      23-hours is really quite short to explore Seoul in proper. If you just want to have a leisurely day, doing some shopping and trying out some local food, etc, I suggest you visit Dongdaemun (the largest wholesale fashion enclave in Seoul) – it’s such a colourful place with so many different malls and retailers – and it’s the best place to really get into the Korean fashion scene, see what’s hot, try street foods, etc. Myeon-dong is also a must-go haven for skincare and beauty products – it’s a less hectic place to shop than Dongdaemun. A 3rd place I’d recommend is Nandaemun which is Seoul’s oldest market so you can appreciate the local way of living and see a different side of Seoul. All 3 places are accessible via the subway and are not far from one another so that saves you some travelling time.

      Hope this helps πŸ™‚ Enjoy your trip and safe travels!

  • Kim Z. says:

    I have been using korean skincare products since college as well, and one of my personal favorite mask is the Laneige water bank overnight mask. When you wash it off in the morning, I actually notice a whitening effect that is much more obvious than other masks. And it keeps your skin super hydrated all day!

  • Zetty Yusof says:

    Hi Geri,

    I’ll be having 11 hours layover in Incheon on my way back from LA to Kuala Lumpur. I’m planning on getting out and on the bus towards Myeondong. My concern is that, say i’m leaving the airport with only my bagpack and if i buy a lot of skin care stuff (those watery ones like toner and essences and what not) will I be able to just clear through airport security without having to check in another bag? Im worried ill be stopped and wont be able to check in with my stuff.

    • Geri Tan says:

      Hello Zetty, unless you’re buying liquid skincare products from the departure hall at Incheon (which they would then seal up in plastic bags and you’d have to present your receipts when you cross security checks before getting to your departure gate), it will not be possible for you to check in liquids bought from outside the airport as with all other international airline or airport regulations. Cream based products are fine though – just not liquids. Good luck!

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