The SoKor Beauty Tour: Where to go to get pretty in South Korea

People travel to soul-search, take a break from work, and to immerse themselves in a new culture. Why not travel for beauty? Seoul has been touted as the new beauty capital of the world, and it's not hard to see why. K-beauty is on the cutting edge of advancements in beauty, and shopping directly from brand stores (as opposed to online!) makes it possible to do a 10-step routine even on a budget. Beauty shopping is high on the list for any SoKor itinerary but there are a lot more kikay activities available that you shouldn't miss out on!

DIY Delight

Ready for a breath of fresh air? Well, it’s more like a whiff of fragrant air! If you find yourself searching for a special scent that’s oh-so-perfectly suited to your personality and preferences, then you’ll appreciate the art of bespoke perfume over at Aromind. The 2-hour workshop features a quick introduction to the basics of fragrance composition, selecting base, middle, and top notes from 30 different perfume oils, and mixing everything together to create a 12ml sample spray and a 50ml bottle of perfume. Workshops go for 60,000KRW (PHP2,700+) per person, inclusive of all materials to be used, and can be conducted in English.

The workshop location is in a beautifully preserved traditional Korean village near Gyeongbokgung Palace, so it feels a bit like learning the ancient art of perfumery!

Aromind - 19-7, Bukchon-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul. Inquire on their Facebook page for more info.

Innisfree your mind (and the rest will follow)

Walking up and down Myeongdong in search of the best shopping finds can be tiring, so it’s time to take a break at the gorgeous Innisfree Café . As the brand prides itself on a close-to-nature image, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery indoors, minimalist interiors, and café  fare that’s almost too pretty to dig into. As an additional attraction, there is a VR station with several scenarios to choose from, one of which includes a date with Lee Min-ho. *ehem, ehem* Customers can also avail of the locker service, so that you won’t have to lug around all those shopping bags while you browse and dine.

At the ground floor, the Innisfree store is a playland with tons of testers. There’s a wall display with all the makeup you can swatch, and you can choose a special, patterned cushion compact case from another wall display. Don’t be surprised if you end up spending all your shopping time here.

Innisfree Cafe - 13, Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea.

Nailing it in Gangnam

If you’re like me, your impression of the famed Gangnam-gu was probably shaped by a combination of Koreanovela references and the hit Psy song. The posh district is made up of a collection of modern-style office buildings and fancy boutiques. In Sinsa-dong, you will find the two-storey Dashing Diva where you and your besties can cap your trip with a nail pampering sesh to help your hands and feet recover from all the walking and heavy lifting (of shopping bags). The clean, comfy interiors and friendly staff make it easy to slow down and enjoy the services. Their specialty? Nail art and gel manicures! They also have a wide range of nail polish shades to choose from, including a whole album devoted to glitter. Bonus points for the nail artists having light hands that we didn’t even feel a thing when they used nippers on us!

Dashing Diva - 656-21 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.

Spa Day at Sulwhasoo

Aside from polishing up on your nail game, you can take the lavish and luxurious route to relaxation with a spa day at the flagship store of one of Kbeauty’s most luxurious brands, Sulwhasoo. After the sensory overload of trying to absorb the sights and sounds of the city, refocusing your senses can be an excellent way to wind down before going home.

The aesthetic of the Sulwhasoo flagship spells elegance and luxury with the endless gold lines that create the illusion of seclusion in the otherwise open floor plan of the building. You can request for a store tour to learn more about the origins of the brand as well as their “secret ingredient”, ginseng. You’ll also be able to catch a glimpse of the luxurious experience that their VIP clientele regularly get: private sampling and consultation lounges, a workshop area, and a rooftop lounge. Spa services are free-of-charge for the VIPs, but are also available for everyone. The offered services include face or body massages using Sulwhasoo products. (Think an elevated Philosophy Peel Cabin experience!) Spa rates start at 150,000KRW (PHP7,350).

In case you’re wondering, an accumulated spend of 2 million KRW (P98,000) at the flagship store will get you that coveted VIP status!

Sulwhasoo Flagship Store - 18 Dosan-daero 45-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.

In need of some girl bonding time? Round up your besties and book a flight to Incheon via Cebu Pacific for budget-friendly tickets! They may even have an ongoing seat sale so better check and plan for your trip soon!

For more info on tourist attractions in Korea, go to Visit Korea.

Disclaimer: Cebu Pacific and Korea Tourism Organization sponsored this writer's trip to South Korea.