Today is all about the online retail stores where you can shop Korean beauty products. There are a ton, so I'll get started. The sellers featured in today's post are my trusted retailers that I have actually purchased from. I can get a bit slutty with brands and retailers so there are a lot of them. These are the retailers that at this point in time I feel have the ability to deliver a great customer experience as evidenced by the large volumes they're doing.
So what are my retail biases?
You'll see some of the usual suspects, but there are also some newer retailers popping up here and there that have been starting to ruin my bias list!
|GOMF. You're ruining everything TOP!|
There are many different types of retailers.
(1) Stores you probably already frequent (if you live in North America, anyway)
(2) North America-based kbeauty boutiques
(3) Asia-based kbeauty malls
(4) eBay sellers
(5) Amazon sellers
(6) Official brand storefronts
(7) Beauty box companies.
There are also some stores that are based in Europe (ex: Cult Beauty), but being from North America, I'm not that familiar with them. As such, I won't be covering them today.
Also, full disclosure. I've linked the stores below, but as always, like everywhere else on this blog.. some of the links may be affiliate links. For more information, see my disclaimer.
STORES YOU ALREADY SHOP AT
Strengths: What's great about these stores is that you can just pick a Kbeauty item up to try out while you're doing your other shopping. And nothing really beats being able to run to the store to try before you buy. They have great customer service and return policies, along with free shipping thresholds. Shipping is fast and your shipment is tracked from when the order is placed to when it lands on your doorstep. The last draw is that if you're already a rewards club member at any of these retailers, you'll earn points at a store you know you like.
Weaknesses: The selection of brands is really small. Growing! But still small. The prices are also often double what you would pay for an item had you picked it up in Korea or at an Asia-based retailer. And you will not get free samples at the lower end stores.
AERIE (www.aerie.com) carries Tony Moly masks.
ANTHROPOLOGIE (www.anthropologie.com) carries a limited selection of Mizon and Blossom Jeju products.
BIRCHBOX (www.birchbox.com) is discussed in the Beauty Box section below.
BLUE SCANDAL (www.bluescandal.com) an affordable beauty store has quietly added a large Korean beauty section including some lesser publicized brands in the west.
DEPARTMENT STORES like NORDSTROM (www.nordstrom.com) and BLOOMINGDALES (www.bloomingdales.com) etc. carry higher end brands like 3LAB, Sulwhasoo, and Amore Pacific.
DERMSTORE (www.dermstore.com) carries Dr. G.
FOREVER 21 (www.forever21.com) carries Holika Holika and Peripera.
JOYUS (www.joyus.com) carries Kocostar.
RICKY'S NYC (www.rickysnyc.com) carries Kocostar, Skinfood, Y.E.T. Korea and more...
SEPHORA (www.sephora.com) carries Dr. Jart, Chosungah 22, Tony Moly, Amore Pacific, among other brands. And PSA: apparently they will begin carrying one of my most recent "discoveries" Too Cool For School.
TARGET (www.target.com) carries Laneige, Missha, and Mizon. Go here if you missed my kbeauty brand overview.
TILLY'S (www.tillys.com) carries Tony Moly.
ULTA (www.ulta.com) carries Tony Moly, Goodal, and Leaders Insolution.
URBAN OUTFITTERS (www.urbanoutfitters.com) carries Tony Moly, Be the Skin, Holika Holika, Peripera, Skinfood, among other brands.
One last shout out to your local neighborhood Asian or Korean supermarket, many markets have started carrying a limited selection of beauty products. Whole Foods, TJ Maxx and Marshalls have started carrying Asian skincare here and there as well.
NORTH AMERICA-BASED KBEAUTY BOUTIQUES
Strengths: Online US-based retailers have a good size selection of some of the most popular Kbeauty brands. They usually carry at least 10 different brands that are curated by industry insiders. They also offer fast shipping, free shipping thresholds, and great customer service. Your shipment is tracked from when the order is placed to when it lands on your doorstep. I've also noticed that these retailers frequently run giveaways and promotions so it is worth getting on their email lists. Lastly, some even accept referrals, where shoppers can earn cash for referring their friends. Oh, and how could I forget. They send free samples with your order.
Weaknesses: These stores also offer products at quite a high markup when compared to Asia-based retailers. They also do not offer that many brands in the grand scheme of things, though I'm sure they're working hard to change that.
I tend to shop these stores when I want to buy gifts, to make sure they reach me in time. Sometimes I'll pick up a few things that I would like to try out (without doing a larger haul). I've highlighted the ones that have become my go-to vendors.
GLOW RECIPE www.glowrecipe.com
Glow Recipe currently offers only skincare. There may be a cushion compact or two, but their focus seems to be all-natural, premium skincare. They also run a Youtube channel and collaborate with the folks over at Dramafever on videos that are extremely helpful and informative to those interested in starting a Korean-style skincare regimen. The link above gets you $5 toward your first purchase.
Memebox has the largest selection of products of any stateside retailer. I counted at least 50 brands. They also offer beauty boxes, though they are sold a la carte, as opposed to with a subscription. They also have an in-house line where they will often release products with popular Korean and American Youtube beauty content creators. This link gets you $10 toward your first purchase.
PEACH AND LILY www.peachandlily.com
Peach and Lily offer both budget and premium brands. While they do carry some "cult" products, many of the brands are lesser known gems. The brands tend to lean on the more natural side of the spectrum as well. Shoppers can earn $10 towards their first purchase by using a referral link. I've provided mine in the link above. Peach and Lils also slay at social media and sometimes offer deeply discounted deals on beauty boxes of things you actually might want.
Although I have yet to purchase from SokoGlam, but they are one of the more prominent retailers out there and are often featured in the media. They carry both affordable brands and some premium brands. The focus is on skincare but they also carry a substantial amount of makeup. Founder Charlotte Cho is a licensed esthetician and they have an awesome blog.
There are many more, and I've listed them below.
Bisou Beauty Bar (CA)
ASIA-BASED KBEAUTY MALLS
Strengths: These stores are where you will find the biggest selection of products at the lowest prices. For example, the same sheet masks you find at Sephora for $4-$5 a piece, may be $1 at these stores (not factoring in shipping costs). These stores also run promotions, making it worthwhile to sign up for emails and follow them on social media. Some also have rewards points programs and coupons for select products (coupons are available per item as opposed to applying to a whole cart full of items). They send copious amounts of free samples with each order, and what's more, you can even purchase the samples themselves in order to try an item out before committing to a full-size purchase. A few offer free shipping thresholds, and while shipping from Asia is generally more expensive, the shipping costs have become more manageable.
Weaknesses: Shipping can take anywhere from 5 days (with "EMS" shipping) to a 3+ weeks depending on the shipping method you choose at checkout. Of course, as I mentioned, shipping from overseas costs more. Returns are also harder to deal with and they take off holidays on a Korean schedule.
I tend to buy from these sites when I am planning to make a bigger purchase that is not time-sensitive. I enjoy having access to a large catalog of products, and the shipping seems less costly (in proportion to the cash I'm already spending on the haul) this way. My personal favorite retailers in this category are...
Jolse is famous for being the most generous with free samples (at this moment in time anyway). They offer free shipping worldwide, a large catalog, and low prices. Shoppers earn $3 towards their first purchase as well. Jolse also runs an Amazon shop and an eBay shop called iamlove-shop.
Koreadepart has one of the largest catalogs of products and carries maybe over 100 different brands. They have tiered shipping costs based on your zone. Asia falls within the fixed cost zone while the rest of the world, pays a little extra. There are two types of shipping, EMS which is quick, and Registered Air Mail (RAM) that is slow. Link to shipping charts here. They send a ton of free samples with your order, have a rewards program, and often have coupons for various products. Link to beginner's guide here.
W2Beauty again has a large catalog and prices that are pretty low, though not the lowest to be found. They also offer free samples and full-size items (in some cases) with every order. Link to tiered sample/gift policy here. There is a free shipping threshold, and they offer the faster EMS type shipping at a reasonable rate. They are quite reliable!
Other honorable mentions:
Kooding - U.S. based, but distribution in S. Korea carries Mamonde and Beyond and The Face Shop
A word of caution...
I try to stay on top of when others report poor customer experiences with vendors... and the sellers listed below have had some marks against them.
Many of these stores still remain popular options and I have purchased from some of these stores myself without any issues. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt as any store turning over large volumes of business will rack up some demerits on their record, but I just wanted to call them out specifically.
Strengths: Prices on eBay stores are often on par with the Asia-based retailers. In fact, some eBay stores are run by the Asia-based retailers. You are informed by the eBay seller rating system as to which sellers are trustworthy, and furthermore you are protected by eBay marketplace buyer protection policies, and Paypal should the need arise to take action against a seller. Shipping is often faster than when buying from a standalone Asia-based site.
Weaknesses: I don't particularly enjoy navigating eBay as a store, but those that are eBay power users may not view this as a weakness. I have never purchased a fake item from eBay, but if it does happen, even if I am protected, it's just a hassle I would rather avoid.
I don't purchase from eBay too often but these are some of my trusted sellers.
Tosowoong *official brand store
A word of caution... again for the following stores...
Strengths: Faster shipping, in fact many Korean beauty vendors are starting to get Amazon Prime status, which means you can get free 2-day shipping on those items if you are already a Prime member. You can find low prices, similar to those offered by the overseas shops. There is also a level of protection offered by Amazon. If a seller sends you a fake, Amazon will terminate their status.
Weaknesses: While I do shop Amazon fairly often, I don't like the user interface for shopping beauty or fashion products. I have also purchased fake products before through Amazon (non-Prime) sellers. Though I was reimbursed in the aftermath, it was just a hassle that I'd rather avoid.
I tend to pick up single items when I am restocking things from Amazon as the shipping is more economical.
My trusted Amazon sellers are:
OFFICIAL BRAND STOREFRONTS
Strengths: Official brand stores that ship internationally are rare gems. They're trustworthy, meaning they are guaranteed to offer authentic items, and are usually wallet-friendly. Signing up for brand newsletters are also a great way to stay current on new releases and sales, which happen often.
Weaknesses: Though they often run clear out sales, the items may have an older manufacturing date. Being prudent sellers, they wouldn't sell you an expired item, but the items can be aged. Also, hot new releases sell out extremely quickly.
I buy from these shops during promotions, or if I want to get my hands on hot new releases.
The Face Shop (CA)
BEAUTY BOX SUBSCRIPTIONS
Strengths: For a fixed monthly fee, you can receive a curated box of products which means you can try before you buy a full-size product. The fees are usually low and the boxes offer a lot of value. These are great for people who love an element of surprise.
Weaknesses: You caan't always get what you want.. basically you don't get to pick the items in the box.
I haven't purchased one yet, though I will be trying out Mishibox soon. Reports have been favorable towards the following...
Birchbox - well-known beauty box purveyor that has started to slowly bring on Korean brands like Chosungah 22, and Dr. Jart.
Kokobox *New* Take 20% off first box with code EARLY20
A PRICE COMPARISON ENGINE
If you are a bargain shopper, one extremely helpful and skilled person on the Asianbeauty subreddit (/u/vertigocrash) has coded a search engine that only pulls up shopping results from stores that are trusted sellers. It has its drawbacks since it won't take into account discount codes, referral rewards, etc., but it is very useful when beginning your hunt for a specific product.
So there you have it! There are a million ways to buy Korean beauty in the West and each store has their strengths and weaknesses. I'm pretty seller agnostic i.e. I will choose to shop from the store that fits my needs at any particular moment in time. As you can see the competition is fierce, I'm really interested to see who ends up on top.
There are also ways to buy hard to find products on Korean websites that do not ship abroad by using a buying service called Avecko, but I will save that discussion for another day (specifically Part 8 of TG2KB).
I mentioned in last week's post on Korean beauty brands that I'd let you know what each of the maps stood for, so here goes!
Prestige brands are pictured next to a map of Manhattan because 6 of the 10 highest earning zip codes in the U.S. are in Manhattan.
Clinical brands are displayed atop a map of Boston because Boston had the most dermatologies per capita (back in 2010).
Hanbang was pictured next to a map of Korea because it is skincare based on Korean herbal medicine tradition.
Mass-market brands were atop a map of Memphis, Tennessee because it is the city with the cheapest cost of living in the U.S.
Natural brands surrounded a map of Hawaii because it is famous for its natural beauty, with Kauai dubbed as the "Garden Isle".
And lastly, trendy brands were pictured on a map of Brooklyn, currently viewed as the creative heartbeat of New York City.
Did I miss anything? Or do you have any questions? Thanks for reading, and do share your experiences!
If you're curious about my policy on press samples, affiliate links, and sponsors, see my disclaimer and policies.
INTRO TO KBEAUTY
Part 1. Introduction to Korean Skincare
Part 2. Introduction to Korean Makeup
BRANDS & STORES
Part 3. The Brands
Part 4. The Retailers
-> Link to a Price Comparison Search Engine (Results from verified sellers only)
RESEARCHING KBEAUTY PRODUCTS
Part 5a. Researching Products; How to Figure Out What You Want to Buy - CosDNA, Popular Products w/ International Stockists
Part 5b. Researching Products; How to Figure Out What You Want to Buy - AllofCosmetics, Korean Products w/o Strong International Presence
Part 5c. Researching Products; How to Figure Out What You Want to Buy - Blogs and Youtube Channels
KBEAUTY STARTER SKINCARE ROUTINES
Part 6. My Skincare Routine & Reasoning
Part 7. Wishlists, or "Make Me a Routine"
Part 8. "Advanced" KBeauty - Buying Services & Korean-Korean E-tailers
Using Avecko by SnowWhite&thePear
Using 11st by SnowWhite&thePear
Part 9. Navigating the Korean web: Naver Blogs, Korean Youtubers. Coming soon.
Part 10. Guide to the Hwahae App
Part 11. Beauty Shopping in Seoul