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One of my to-do list when we recently took a family vacation to Seoul, South Korea was to replenish my stock of facial masks and maybe pick up a couple of skincare products. Those who know me well would know that I rarely wear makeup, only when I really need to! The most I would put on my face when I go out is sunblock, BB cream, and lip gloss. And that’s not even all the time.
But one thing I enjoy most is my skincare routine (especially nighttime!) The condition of my skin is far from perfect, with blemishes, the occasional breakouts and all that. I’ve never really fully understood the importance of proper skincare routine and why we need to start developing one as early as possible. I used to only wash my face using a non-fancy facial cleanser, apply moisturizer only when I remember, and random visits to a dermatologist and facial spa treatments. I didn’t even know that toning is essential and that applying moisturizer is also necessary even for oily skin.
Fast-forward to a trip to Hong Kong with my family, my skincare-loving Aunt gifted us with ang pao to be spent on our choice of skincare products. SK-II has been receiving a lot of rave reviews at that time so we all got a set and several Kiehl’s products to start with. And then the following year, a family Christmas vacation to Seoul resulted in a massive skincare shopping haul. From BB creams, to face masks, and all sorts of creams at really affordable prices, I was instantly hooked.
Six years later, I’m back in the land where cosmetics are constantly innovated. I didn’t go all crazy, like what my husband probably imagined on his head, but I did score enough products to last me for the next year or so.
Just a few tips about shopping in South Korea: Almost all (if not ALL) cosmetics/beauty store in Seoul will have some type of promotion going on, usually with face masks (10+10 or 50% off). To give you an idea, the average price of a single face mask is somewhere between ₩1000 – ₩2000 (90¢ to less than $2 per sheet) and premium masks will cost more than ₩5,000. So a 10+10 face mask promo for ₩10,000 ($8.98) is considered a good deal. Other cosmetic products will usually have a similar promotion, they like it when you buy in bulk and when you buy a lot. It is also a common practice for beauty shops in Korea to give out “freebies” like a face mask, sample serum in tiny bottles or hand creams, to draw customers in. However, I remember them being more generous with their freebies a few years ago compared to now.
My Korean beauty/skincare shopping haul:
1. Mask Sheets from seaNtree
I’ve never heard of the brand seaNtree nor do I remember seeing their store or products being sold in any shop when I first came to visit Seoul back in 2012. There was a seaNtree store close to our guesthouse in Myeongdong and we passed by it several times until my husband finally told me to buy some face masks because they seem to be running a good promo compared to others. They were selling 10+10 face mask sheets for only ₩6900 ($6.20)! That’s only 32¢ per sheet! I knew that I needed to buy plenty of face masks not only for my personal stock but as gifts for friends and family back home so I went ahead and bought five sets in different varieties; Green Tea, Aloe, Collagen, Snail and Horse Oil. I got an instant tax refund too plus a free hand cream and some single-use serums.
So far, I have already tried the Collagen, Snail and Horse Oil (sounds gross, I know) face masks and for its price, it was good enough for me to use regularly, maybe twice a week. I like the Collagen variety the most. The essence though is not thick, especially the Horse Oil, compared to the ones that I regularly use so it dries up more quickly. But there is enough essence on each pack that it should be okay for you to hydrate your mask again or just use the liquidy essence on other parts of your body. I’m also planning on just draining the excess essence in a bottle and just buy generic paper sheets for a DIY face mask.
2. Essence Masks from MJCare
I thought that the seaNtree face masks were already cheap but we found these face masks from MJ Care on sale for only ₩5000 (about 23¢ per sheet) with the same 10+10 deal! I’m not familiar with the brand and we bought this from a local drugstore in the less crowded area of Myeongdong. I did a little digging and found out that this brand is manufactured by Mijin Cosmetics who also develops several other types of face masks and other skin and body products.
I honestly like this better than seaNtree’s face mask, because of its thicker essence. I think its quality is comparable to The Solution Mask, Real Nature and Innisfree (brands I regularly use) although theirs will have a little more essence than this one. The mask sheet itself is bigger than most so it covered my entire face quite nicely. It has eye flaps which I don’t really use because I like to do other things while I have my face mask on but you can actually cut them up, put them in the fridge and use them as an eye mask right before you go to sleep. Sounds nice, right?
They have different types of mask available but what I bought were 20pcs of the Snail Essence and 10pcs each of the Hyaluronic Acid, Brightening, Pearl and Placenta Mask. I wish I had also purchased a few single pieces of the other types (I’m a face mask addict, I know!) but at least I found some online sellers. You can actually buy an MJ Care mask variety pack. Check out the link if you want to try this face mask.
3. Toplook Aqua Daily Mask Sheet from Artbox
This Aqua face mask was something that I randomly picked out while we were in Artbox looking for a power bank. It’s a hydrating mask with hyaluronic acid. This mask is exclusively distributed by Artbox and I bought 2 masks for only ₩2,000 (less than $2). I couldn’t find any online sellers for this specific mask but I did find something similar from Lapcos, which is also a Hydrating Mask.
4. Ariul’s 7 days Mask from Olive Young
Ariul’s 7 days mask comes in, you know it, 7 varieties (Tea Tree, Pomegranate, Avocado, Green Tea, Lemon, Aloe and Bamboo Water) and each one has a different purpose. This Avocado variety is supposed to be for Nutrition and Protection. I got this 2-pack mask from Olive Young for ₩1,300 ($1.17).
5. Dr. Jart+ Soothing Hydra Solution from Olive Young
I haven’t tried this Dr. Jart+ Hydra Face Mask yet because I’m reserving it for when my skin needs some serious hydration. They have this on sale at Olive Young for ₩4,000 ($3.59) a pair.
6. Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch from Olive Young
I’ve read a lot of blogs raving about Cosrx and Nexcare acne pimple patches and because I have acne-prone skin, I knew that I had to get one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any Nexcare pimple patch but Olive Young has these Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch (24 pieces) for ₩3,500 ($3.15). A little pricey considering that there are other brands selling more patches for an additional ₩1000 but I wanted a good, well-known brand so I got three packs.
A few days after we got back from Seoul, I had a couple of breakouts and one of them was a cystic pimple. It was big, reddish and painful to touch. I waited for it to ripen and for the pus to be visible and ready to come out (sorry for being so graphic), picked the biggest round patch (each pack has different patch sizes) and stuck it on to my zit overnight. The following morning, all the pus was pulled out by the patch and when I touch the still reddish lump, it doesn’t hurt anymore. I definitely recommend this but will probably still purchase the Nexcare Pimple Care Patch when I can just so I could compare the two.
7. Elizabeth Blackhead Nose Strip from Daiso
This 6-pack Elizabeth nose blackhead strips from Daiso was only ₩2,000 (less than $2). The first time I tried using it, I misunderstood the instruction and had moistened the nose strip before peeling it off the transparent film. The second time, I got it right. For me, though it was just an okay product. I still prefer using The Face Shop Volcanic Clay Nose Mask.
8. Face Mask Sheets from The Saem
These Natural Mask Sheets from The Saem are ₩10,000 ($8.98) for 20 pieces (another 10+10 promo). I picked Avocado for moisturizing and Rice for brightening.
9. Snail Face Mask from The Saem
My aunt asked me to buy some good quality face masks for her and The Saem seems to have a special line of snail essence products. These Snail Masks were prominently displayed in front of their stores and there was a man giving a sample to lure customers. I went in and oh boy, I probably shouldn’t have! The pushiest salesperson I’ve ever encountered in Seoul followed me around, talked non-stop and rubbed different products in my hands. I had every intention of buying this for my Aunt, what I didn’t plan is buying two more products from The Saem‘s snail essence line.
10. Gold Snail Wrinkle Plumper from The Saem
I bought the Gold Snail Wrinkle Plumper as a set together with Gold Snail Cleansing Foam and the Snail Face Masks (10 sheets) for ₩50,000 ($44.89). Quite pricey but considering the individual cost of the three Snail products, it’s not that bad.
I have been using this wrinkle plumper since we got back and I’m actually liking it. Basically, it’s an eye cream on a syringe-like container, and a silicone tip so you can squeeze a little cream out and massage it in your eye area. It supposedly has EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) which stimulates skin or cell growth and increase collagen production.
I needed a good night eye cream so even though I got kind of harassed by the saleswoman from The Saem, I am still happy with this purchase. Their strategy was to try and make it seem like your getting the cleansing foam and face masks for free if you buy the wrinkle plumper, but in reality, you’re also paying for the “freebies”. She also tried to convince me of buying in bulk (is she crazy?!) and even showed me a photo of a Filipino Celebrity who I guess was a frequent buyer of this product. Sorry, but I’m just a stay-at-home mother who’s only looking for some pampering time at night.
I also read a few reviews online and many users can attest that this product can also be used as a blemish spot corrector, to fully take advantage of the snail essence brightening properties. This additional benefit made it all the more a good buy for me! Maybe I should do a before and after review?
And yes, they all had the same harassing experience from The Saem sales staff, so beware! It’s too bad because I think their products are great but because of this experience, I’ll be avoiding them on my next visit to South Korea. I can just purchase their products online. It costs a little bit more but at least, no pushy staff to harass me.
Keep this in mind if you want to check out their store when you’re in Seoul. Trust me, you don’t want to get hooked into buying something you don’t 100% want (or need).
11. Gold Snail Cleansing Foam from The Saem
This Cleansing Foam is for my mother-in-law. I can only hope it’s as golden as it looks. I think anything with Snail essence is a good skin product so I have high expectations for this one!
12. CC Intense Cover Cushion from The Face Shop
I’ve never heard of CC Cushions until I read a few blogs suggesting which Korean brands have the best Cushions. So when I went inside The Face Shop and saw some on display, I knew I had to try it.
I absolutely love this CC Cushion from The Face Shop! Cushions are a new thing (at least for me) and the ease of application is perfect for women like me who like to keep it simple. Just a few pats from this cushion to your face and you’re done! No more messy creams to apply using your fingers, beauty sponge or foundation brush. There are plenty of other CC Cushion brands on the market now, so take your pick and see which one will suit you the best. Beauty bloggers rave about Moonshot Microfit Cushion, Iope Air Cushion, Etude House Any Cushion and The Face Shop Ultra Moist CC Cushion. I’ll be enjoying this for now until it’s time to try a new one. I got this for ₩20,000 (about $18).
13. Gold Collagen Ampoule Foundation from The Face Shop
My aunt also asked me to buy her a Snail BB Cream from The Face Shop but that product was already phased out so the sales staff suggested this Gold Collagen Ampoule Foundation instead. This costs ₩22,000 (about $20).
If I didn’t have enough BB creams and liquid foundations to last me for at least the next couple of years, I probably would have bought a bottle of this for myself as well! It is lightweight, blends well with my skin tone, and leaves a nice, smooth finish.
14. Sunblock and Kids Sun Cushion from the Nature Republic
Nature Republic Green Derma Sunblock and Kids Sun Cushion were sold as a set for ₩24,000 ($21.55). The Sun Block is for me, and I really like it because it is very lightweight, doesn’t leave a greasy film and I like the scent. The Kids Sun Cushion is for my little girl. It’s easy to apply on her face, I don’t need to worry about cream getting into her eye area. I use it too and because it’s a cushion, I can always have it on my bag for easy touch-ups.
15. UV Double Cut SunBlock Gel from Etude House
This Sunblock Gel from Etude House was on sale, buy 1 take 1 for ₩12,000 (about $11). Anyone looking for a good and lightweight sunblock, this is a really good choice. The gel is not sticky and dries up a few seconds after you put them on.
16. My Foundation Brush (Glow) from Innisfree
This foundation brush from Innisfree is for ₩15,000 (about $13.50).
17. Foundation Brush from Innisfree
And this smaller foundation brush is for ₩8,000 ($7.18).
18. Hand Butter Cream from seaNtree
This was the free hand cream from seaNtree worth ₩5,900 ($5.30). I really like this and use it at night before I go to sleep. It doesn’t leave a sticky feeling after and has a nice mild scent.
19. Olive Farm Animal Face Mask from Daiso
These Olive Farm animal masks from Daiso were only for ₩1,000 (90¢) each. I thought it was cute.
20. Olive Farm Hand & Nail Cream from Daiso
This ₩1,000 (90¢) hand cream smells nice. There were other scents available but they didn’t smell as nice as this one.
21. Hair Curler, Concealer, Eyebrow Pencil and Eyeliner Pencil from Daiso
A few pieces I picked out randomly from Daiso at the last minute. The hair curler, eyebrow pencil and eyeliner pencil were just ₩1,000 (90¢) each and the concealer was for ₩2,000 ($1.80). Wish I had picked out the black eyeliner instead though.
22. Laneige Skin Refiner and Water Sleeping Mask from a local mart (MDHMart)
This was my very last purchase, right before we left our Guesthouse to head for the airport. I was looking for a surprise egg for my daughter at a local grocery in Myeongdong when I came across these sample bottles of Laneige products. I’ve read a lot of rave reviews for Laneige Water Sleeping Mask so I decided to pick up the sample. The Water Sleeping Mask is only ₩2500 ($2.24) and the Skin Refiner is ₩1000 (90¢). I alternate this with my other serums and creams so I’m pretty sure these small bottles will last for a few months.
Honestly, I still have a long list of products that I had wanted to check out (not necessarily buy) but shopping is not the priority of this trip, family bonding is. My family comes first and I want my husband and daughter to enjoy their first trip to Seoul (and they did!). I am lucky because I have the most supportive and generous husband I could ever ask for and he allowed me to indulge in a bit of shopping.
Most of these products are available through Amazon and eBay and other online shops, although of course, usually at a higher price. I’ve included the links to some in case there’s something in this post that you want to try out.
Because most of the instructions on these products are in Korean, I use the Google translate app to take a picture and translate the Korean or Hangul characters into English. The translation is not perfect but should be easy to understand.
I hope you enjoyed reading this Korean Skincare Shopping Haul post!
Seoul Travel Diary Series:
Seoul in 7 Days: An Itinerary for First Time Visitors
K-Guesthouse Myeongdong 3 Review
Bukchon Hanok Village and Insadong
N Seoul Tower
Myeongdong Street Food
Everland Theme Park
Namdaemun Market and Kalguksu Alley
Gyeongbokgung Palace and National Folk Museum of Korea
Eland Han River Cruise
Dongdaemun Toy Market
30+ Top Things to do in Seoul with Kids
Photo Gallery: Seoul, South Korea