During my one and only visit to Seoul I spent a couple of hours shopping for skincare products. If you are not familiar with Korean skincare and beauty products you may find that a strange thing to be doing when in a new foreign city! But if you ARE familiar with Korean skincare products, you’ll know that they’re some of the best in the world and skincare shopping a must-do when in Seoul!
As a flight attendant I need to take care of my skin. This can sometimes be a costly affair to keep buying lots of good quality but expensive lotions and potions. So when you go to Seoul you make sure to go shopping and stock up on their top quality skincare products! You can get these K-beauty brands a lot cheaper here in Seoul than you can find them online!
But you may find it overwhelming when you get to the famous Myeong Dong Street (명동) – the main shopping street in Seoul as there are so many flagship skincare and beauty shops here! It can be hard to know what to choose! So let’s look at the best brands and the best products so you know what to buy next time you find yourself skincare shopping in Seoul!
Myeongdong Street is a shopping Mecca and is a very popular place for Koreans. There is everything you could need here and a visit is definitely a must do, even if you don’t plan to buy any skincare products! The atmosphere here is really lively and there are lots of things to keep you occupied for an afternoon. The name Myeongdong means ‘bright tunnel’ and this is the perfect way to describe this street as it is full of colour during the day and during the night all the neon lights come on! If you’re lucky you’ll even spot some K-pop stars!
In Myeongdong Street you’ll find the best brand names in Korean Beauty and Skincare, with a variety of very affordable and slightly more expensive products, but all are of a very high quality.
There are lots of skincare brands on Myeongdong Street but some of the more well-known ones include:
Skin Food, Laneige, Innisfree, Olive Young, Nature Republic, StyleNanda 3CE.
You will even find the British store “Boots” here, which is great if you want to buy a mix of Korean products as well as the more familiar brands you will know from home such as Clinique, Clarins and MAC.
If you are looking for more premium (expensive) brands such as Amore Pacific, Sulwhasoo or History of Whoo then head to nearby Lotte Department Store.
Why are Korean beauty products so popular?
Korean beauty products are known the world over for using high quality natural and nourishing ingredients and many retailers in different countries sell K-beauty products.
The best part about shopping on Myeongdong Street is the free samples! You will get so many without even having to ask! So long as you actually go inside the stores, take one of the shopping baskets and browse around a little bit, the store attendants will just drop samples into your basket as they walk past! They do this as a marketing technique and I love it! It did actually work too as it made me buy several products I wouldn’t have even looked at in the shop! But equally don’t feel guilty if you get free samples and don’t buy anything as this is quite normal and you aren’t expected to buy.
If the shop is a little busy the shop attendants may not be able to walk past and drop free samples in, in which case don’t be scared to ask for samples as they will readily give them to you! You can walk away from Myeongdong Street with literally hundreds of samples – just make sure you bring a bag big enough to carry them all!
Instagrammable Places on Myeongdong Street!
Yes even the skincare and beauty shops here on Myeongdong Street will have some beautiful Instagrammable corners! Lots of the shops will have beautiful aesthetic interior designs but StyleNanda Pink Hotel (not actually a hotel!) has the best interior design for Instagram pictures! There are photo opportunities everywhere in this pink store, and upstairs in the Old Hollywood theme section you’ll find the iconic pink bathtub filled with flower petals!
Tax Free Shopping!
Many of the stores on Myeongdong offer Tax Free shopping. You buy the product (including tax) at the store and then the tax (10%) can be claimed back at the tax refund counter at the airport. Just remember to bring your passport when shopping!
When you make a purchase of more than 30,000 South Korean Won (about £20) at one of the shops, the cashier will give you a tax refund slip along with your receipt, providing you show your passport. It must be your original passport and not a photocopy! Do not lose the receipt or the tax refund slip!!
You can either claim the tax back at one of the certified tax return agencies on Myeongdong Street (easier) or at the airport (harder).
Claiming the tax back at the airport can be a little bit of a hassle and can often take a long time so it is best to do it at one of the certified tax-return agencies on Myeongdong Street . At Incheon International Airport the tax refund counter is in front of gate 28 in Departures (third floor). You can get a cash refund as long as you show your passport, credit card, receipts and tax refund forms.
Bear in mind if you buy products that amount to more than KRW 1 million (£650) you will need to show them to Customs though!
Stop for a coffee!
If you need a break from shopping then some of the shops have a cafe upstairs where you can stop for a cake and coffee! Innisfree has a lovely cafe on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The food is great and the cafe is decorated beautifully.
Check the discount corner and buy in bulk!
The price of skincare products regularly changes at Myeongdong and you can often get some really good deals at the discounts section, especially if they see there is a group of you. Plus if you buy in bulk you’ll get great value deals (often buy one get one free!) so it can be a really good idea to team up with a friend and go halves on the products if it is too many for you to buy! Also remember that during the holidays lots of things are a lot cheaper here.
What to buy on Myeongdong Street!
Face masks! The face masks here are great so get a few packs, especially because the more you buy the cheaper they cost! They make great presents for people back home too!
Try a Hana Mud Spa!
Get your skin super soft and cleansed by having your entire body coated in Boryeong mud at a Hana mud spa!
Lockers at Myeongdong Station if you have too many bags!
If you have too many things to carry and would rather shop without carrying them, then don’t worry as at Myeongdong Station there are lockers where you can store things! The lockers are located at exits 2 and 3. You’ll find instructions in English and it costs KRW 3,000 (£2) to store your things there for 4 hours. Just make sure to remember exactly where your locker is as Myeongdong Station is very big!
Myeongdong Street Food!
Taste some of the street food along Myeongdong Street, but not too much as it is more expensive here! And when all that gets too much you can wander into the clothing stores – they offer really trendy clothes at very reasonable prices!
Be aware that many of the staff might not speak English very well. They will often use a calculator to show you the price. In contrast, as Myeongdong Street is very popular with Japanese and Chinese tourists who come here to buy products you’ll often hear many of the shop assistants speaking Mandarin.
You’ll see lots of money exchange centres if you need to exchange any currency into South Korean Won (KRW), although the shops all accept card. Just be familiar with Korean currency to ensure you give and receive the correct money as it can be a little confusing.
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