Get the most out of beauty shopping in Seoul — without being a cheapo

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    Scene of Myeongdong
    jgmarcelino @flickr

    Ladies, if you’re planning to do some serious beauty shopping in Seoul, you’re in luck! We’ve come up with 10 great ways to get the most out of beauty shopping in the bustling capital. More importantly, you’ll be able to enjoy better deals without coming off as a cheapo.

    But even if you’re not planning on stocking up your year’s worth of makeup and skin care during the trip, you’ll probably end up buying a good deal of beauty products — after all, the myriad beauty shops are a huge part of Seoul’s shopping experience. Besides, local brands such as The FaceShop, Etude House, Innisfree and Tony Moly are mostly cheaper anyway.

    These 10 tips have served us well during our trip. Hope it’ll be as useful for you.

    1. Choose where to shop

    Where you choose to buy your stash counts, not because prices vary between shops of the same brand — but because it determines the amount of freebies you’ll get. Go for the larger shops and at places where there’s lots of competition because these shops tend to give out more samples to attract customers –sometimes before you even buy anything. Places like Myeong-dong and the Ehwa shopping belt are good choices.

    Beauty shopping in Seoul
    More beauty shopping at Ewha Womans University

    2. Consolidate your buys

    Tourists enjoy tax or VAT refunds for purchases above 30,000 won (around S$36) at participating stores. Remember to ask for a tax-refund receipt at the cashier. Collect all receipts above 30,000 won and get your refund at the airport. You’ll be glad to know that the refund process is relatively quick and hassle-free.

    3. Buying in bulk may not be cheaper

    Korean beauty shops are very good at this but don’t fall for it. Before pulling the trigger on that bundle pack of 10 foot masks or a twin moisturiser set, do your math to see if it actually works out to be cheaper. You’ll be surprised that the price per item works out to be the same when you’re buying in bulk versus individually.

    4. Facial masks are normally the exception to the above

    However, we’ve found that facial masks are the exception to the above. Lot of beauty shops tend to throw in bonus masks so buying them in bulk of 10 or often more works out to be a better deal. The downside, though, is you don’t normally get to choose which masks you want.

    seoul-beauty-shopping-etude
    Buy in packs of 10 for a better deal

    5. Say ‘yes’ to the shopping basket

    Before you turn down a shopping basket typically handed out by one of the cute promoters at the entrance, peer inside (only so discreetly, of course) to see if they’ve thrown in a freebie.

    6. Don’t be afraid to ask for samples but only if you’re actually buying something else from the shop.

    If you just walk into a random shop and ask for samples outright, chances are you’re going to come across as a freeloader.

    7. When you’re offered a free sample, ask what the product is for

    It’s hard to tell the difference between a sample toner from, say, a serum, just by looking at them. Bring along zip lock bags and label them with names such as “toner”, “serum” etc. Drop the samples in the respective bags as you receive them.

    8. Ask for a Chinese or English speaking promoter when you’re stuck

    Thanks to the boom of tourists visiting Seoul in recent years, it is not unusual to find Chinese and sometimes English speaking customer service staff on hand. So if you get stuck with certain products, whose descriptions are mostly in Korean, ask if you could speak to someone who understands Chinese or English.

    9. Compare prices before you go

    If it’s a Korean brand, it must be cheaper in Seoul, right? Well, don’t just assume. Certain items under Laneige (yes, including the well-loved water sleeping pack mask) and Sulwhalsoo may cost less at duty free shops in Singapore.

    10. Don’t just stick to familiar brands

    There are a number of quality Korea beauty houses beyond The FaceShop and Etude House. Less familiar brands such as Banila Co and Iope under the Pacific Amore group (which also owns Laneige) are also very popular among the locals. Be sure to check them out too.

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    Puffer fish
    Unlike its moniker, Puffer fish is actually quite friendly and approachable. Unless you’re out to eat her lunch – or dessert — to be precise – then be prepared that she might raise her spikes at you. Good food is just one of her many likes, Puffer Fish also loves visiting new and familiar places around the world because she believes there are always new discoveries and adventures to be had. She considers herself one lucky ass to be able to put her editorial background to good use by sharing her travel and gastronomical adventures online via Gratenews. She hopes readers get as much enjoyment and insights from her pieces as she has writing them.