New York's Best Stores For Korean Beauty Products — & What To Buy There

Korean beauty products are having a major moment in America right now. Sure, there are tons of U.S.-based e-commerce sites dedicated to the covetable goods (and hotspots like Sephora and Urban Outfitters have even hopped on board), but if you're lucky enough to live in New York City — or are visiting anytime soon — the full spectrum of K-beauty is as close as a subway ride away.

To find the best places to shop (and what to buy at each), we picked the brains of some of the city's best Korean-beauty entrepreneurs — Charlotte Cho of Soko Glam, Alicia Yoon of Peach & Lily, and Christine Chang and Sara Lee of Glow Recipe — and narrowed the top areas for goodies down to Chinatown, Koreatown, and Flushing (take the 7 train to the end of the line in Queens, and you’ll find yourself in K-beauty heaven — who knew?).

In addition to pro recommendations, we poured over Yelp reviews and hit the streets to pick up some tips and tricks firsthand. What we learned? Be prepared to discover some products not labeled well in English; if it doesn't have an English ingredient list, skip it (you want to know what you’re buying, right?); be sure to take advantage of the generous sampling (ask for samples if they’re not offered, and you’ll likely get handfuls); and get really, really excited. Where else in the world do you have such international availability at your fingertips?!
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Photo: Courtesy of The Face Shop.
The Face Shop
Attached to lit haven Koryo Books, this small yet well-merchandised shop is home to hundreds of products in an array of different lines (how they managed to fit it all into such a narrow, galley-shaped space remains a mystery).

The store's sheet-mask selection ($2 to $6), which takes up about a third of one wall, is highly impressive; niche collections — like hair-care products, men’s products, and baby products — are also well represented. There is also a small selection of color cosmetics, but they aren’t as prominently displayed as the skin care.

The two salesgirls present were pretty hands-off while I browsed, but were helpful and knowledgeable when I started asking questions. And, while the staff tossed a few samples my way at checkout, they weren't as generous as some of the other stores I visited.

The Face Shop
, 35 West 32nd Street (between Fifth and Sixth avenues), 212-967-0515; 6 Elizabeth Street (between Canal and Bayard streets), 212-608-1988; 13662 39th Avenue (between Union and Main streets), Queens; 718-888-0546.
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Come here for:
Sheet Masks: When I visited, the shop was having a “buy 10, get three free” mask deal. It also offers a loyalty program, and I racked up a kingly $6 credit (hey, that’s three masks!) during my visit.

Applicators and Accessories: Proper application is everything when a dewy, perfect complexion is the goal, and the store features a huge selection of foundation applicators, sponges, brushes, and cotton pads. I left with a $6/80 box of lush cotton pads whose luxurious feel rivals that of Chanel’s famously pricey ones ($20/100).
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Photo: Courtesy of The Face Shop.
Blackhead, Blemish, and Pore Products: If you are the type that analyzes every single blackhead in a lighted magnifying mirror, this is the place for you. There are a multitude of toners, emulsions, essences, spot treatments, and blackhead strips to wage war on every perceived imperfection.
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Photo: Courtesy of Skylake Skincare.
Skylake Skincare
This tiny jewelbox of a store is a hidden gem for skin-care junkies looking for serious products; most of the items for sale feature traditional herbal ingredients used in Asian medicine, such as ginseng.

The sheet-mask selection is more tightly curated than other shops', but Skylake sells the Leaders Insolution line, which Christine Chang, co-founder of Korean-beauty site Glow Recipe, calls the number-one-selling mask brand in Asia (hint: try the coconut gel version). I snagged a botanical 15-sheet mask sampler by Balhyo Nature for $20.

The lone salesgirl was friendly and helpful, and after taking a good, hard look at my face, she directed me to the best products for "ooh, you’re dry and flaky!” skin. The prescribed solution? Sooryehan, a range with prices around the $70 mark for a face cream.

Note: The color cosmetics selection, which features mostly Clio products, is small. Here, skin care is truly king.

Skylake Skincare
, 29 West 32nd Street (between Broadway and Fifth Avenue); 212-560-0700.
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Photo: Courtesy of Skylake Skincare.
Come here for:
Gift Sets (For Yourself, Obviously): There were tons of boxed sets by several of the brands for under $100, featuring smaller versions of many complete lines. That way, you can try out full regimens — toner, essence, serum, cream, and eye product — without having to commit to the full-size (and full-price) versions.

Traditional Ingredients: While not strictly 100% natural, the emphasis here is definitely on botanicals. I personally loved the Skylake herbal cleansing powder, which comes packaged in tiny, medicinal-style vials.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tony Moly.
Tony Moly
Tony Moly, the Willy Wonka of Korean makeup brands, is getting easier to find in New York City; Urban Outfitters carries a large selection, and Sephora has just started stocking a few items. If you're looking for the full, sensory-overload experience, pay a visit to one of the label's two New York locations. But, fair warning: Its two narrow aisles make for a tight squeeze.

When you enter, you’re greeted by a wall of small, white cubbies housing the brand’s most recognizable products. Here, you’ll find lip scrubs, balms, face creams, and body creams, all packaged in adorable, plastic, fruit- and animal-shaped containers.

The salespeople on duty the day I went were a bit bored-looking, but perked up when I bought a few things and were generous with samples. Be aware, though: Prices here are steeper than you would expect. A top-of-the-line hydrogel sheet mask, for example, goes for $8.

Tony Moly, 316 Fifth Avenue (between 31st and 32nd streets), 212-967-7669; 136-20 Roosevelt Avenue (between Union and Main streets), Queens, 917-622-6663.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tony Moly.
Come here for:
Food-Shaped Products: There are tiny egg containers holding tiny soap eggs; lip balms that look like cherries; and peach hand creams that look like, well, honestly, they kind of look like boobs. But, these are the happiest beauty products in existence — trust me. They’re perfect for gifting or cheering up your dreary cubicle.

The BB Cream: The is one of the brand’s best-sellers (right), according to the salesgirl. I’ve tried many BBs, and while this one is on the sheer end, it did leave a beautiful, non-sparkly glow on my face.

The Lip Tints: Tony Moly lip tints (try cherry pink!) get rave reviews from both Korean-beauty and lip-product aficionados.
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Photo: Courtesy of Club Clio.
Club Clio
This makeup giant, which also owns skin-care brand Goodal and younger-skewing makeup line Peripera, recently opened its first outpost in Manhattan after a few successful years in Flushing, Queens.

The new store feels industrial, with concrete floors, steel shelving, and lots of pops of neon, which are a fitting backdrop for the absolute rainbow of products you’ll find here. Clio’s Kill Cover Pearlfection Sheer Blenders and Gelpresso and Kill Black eyeliners are legendary — and you can play with it all in the store.

Be sure to check out Goodal’s new Waterest skin-care line, which has sold out multiple times in Korea. If you're into lips, Peripera’s various tints will give you any level of coverage imaginable.

The salespeople are very helpful and attentive, and they are generous with the deluxe-sized samples at checkout. Sheet masks are normally $3, but when I went, they were on sale for just $1. The store also offers a "buy 10, get five free" deal.

Club Clio
, 11 West 14th Street (between Fifth and Sixth avenues), 212-804-7625; 136-86 Roosevelt Avenue (between Union and Main streets), Queens; 516-714-3953.
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Photo: Courtesy of Club Clio.
Come here for:
The Free Stuff: The store is running some mind-blowing deals to celebrate its grand opening and generate buzz. There's "buy one, get one free" deals, as well as free gifts — like full bottles of skin-care products, lip tints, and brush sets, to name just a few — depending on the amount of money you spend.

The Cushion Compacts: Widely touted as the new BB cream, cushion compacts are now offered by every K-beauty line worth its glow. Clio has several, including a new, fuller-coverage version.

Goodal’s Sleep Masks: Available in brightening, anti-wrinkle, and moisturizing versions, these have been selling out left and right at Urban Outfitters. You can also get sample sizes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Amore Pacific.
AMOREPACIFIC
AMOREPACIFIC is sort of the Korean version of Estée Lauder, and you can get your hands on many of the company’s brands here, from the high-end Sulwhasoo to the Target-stocked Laneige and the hard-to-find Aritaum.

Don’t be put off by the decor (or lack thereof) in this nondescript shop tucked away in Chinatown. There’s a good mask selection (the deal was "buy 10, get five free" while I was there) and a wall full of skin-care products and testers.

The sales staff was pretty laid-back, but was able to answer questions I had about specific products. The store also has a great selection of Korean hair dyes, tools, and cottons.

AMOREPACIFIC
, 7 Catherine Street (at East Broadway); 136-20 Roosevelt Avenue (between Union and Main streets), Queens.
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Photo: Courtesy of Amore Pacific.
Come here for:
The Full Laneige Line: When Target started stocking products from this brand, K-beauty fans rejoiced. And, while the retailer has upped the number of products available, you still can’t get the complete line there. You can at Amore.

The Iope Cushion Compacts: Widely touted as the best cushion compact out there (AMOREPACIFIC was one of the first to patent the technology), this one is a cult fave that was previously difficult to find Stateside. Here, you can actually test out colors to find the finish that works best for you — without the online guesswork.

Mamonde Perfume Hand Creams: The tubes are beautiful, and they all smell gorgeous. They make fantastic, unique hostess gifts (I picked up a bunch when I was there so I would have a stash).
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Photo: Courtesy of Nature Republic.
Nature Republic
I did not want to leave this cozy, welcoming enclave once I was inside; with exposed brick and blonde wood, the vibe of the place really comes through.

As the name suggests, there is an emphasis on natural, botanical ingredients — in fact, the brand’s aloe vera gel is one of its best-sellers. Plus, it’s a mask aficionado’s dream; they range in price from $1.90 for a basic sheet to $9.90 for the snail-slime and gold-hydrogel version (Readers, I bought one!). The staff was really helpful and not pushy at all.

Nature Republic
, 151 Centre Street (at Walker Street), 212-219-0810; 136-80 Roosevelt Avenue (between Union and Main streets), Queens; 718-888-9097.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nature Republic.
Come here for:
Affordable Skin Care: While there was a $143 face cream for sale, the vast majority of products were in the $15-to-$25 range.

The Staff: Of all the employees at the stores I visited, the ones here were by far the most helpful and knowledgeable about products and ingredients. If you’re new to K-beauty, come here and learn.

The Beautifully Packaged Samples: While most stores are generous with samples, Nature Republic went above and beyond. I received a gorgeously wrapped package stuffed with deluxe-sized goodies.
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Photo: Courtesy of Skinfood.
Skin Food
While you can get several of Skinfood’s products at Urban Outfitters, the brand's store is a must-visit. Since it’s not in Manhattan, space is plentiful. The interior is pristine, with lots of light-colored wood, reminding me of a country store, which is intentional.

The schtick is that all of its products contain food ingredients. There’s also a full-service nail bar for manicures and nail art, and an area for makeup application. In simplest terms, the store is well stocked and highly accessible.

Skin Food
, 136-89 Roosevelt Avenue (between Union and Main streets), Queens; 718-353-0031.
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Photo: Courtesy of Skinfood.
Come here for:
Korean Beauty Products 101: If you’re a K-beauty newbie, this is a great place to start. All of the packaging, from the ingredients to the instructions, is in English, which is not the case with many other Korean brands at the moment. Pretty much every category of product is represented here — essences, peel gels, serums, cushions, sheet masks — and the staff is more than happy to talk you through how to use it all.

The Black Sugar Mask: This is the brand’s runaway best-seller, which is unusual, because you don’t tend to see a lot of physical exfoliators in K-beauty lines. It has that satisfying rough texture, but is uber-gentle and smells like a giant caramel. It also comes in various sizes to suit your budget and fickleness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Everyday Beauty Supply.
Everyday Beauty Supply
This jam-packed shop has not one, but two outposts in the New World Mall (also home to Tony Moly and Amore stores, both of which are bigger than their Manhattan counterparts). Aside from a huge selection of Korean beauty products (which make up a majority of the stock), it also has offerings from Japan, China, and even some French pharmacy brands like Bioderma. Warning: It can be overwhelming at first if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Start at the mask section (which is enormous!) to get your bearings, then work your way around the store. I discovered some hard-to-find acne brands like A.C. Care and cult brands like Banila Co., which makes the best oil cleansing balm around.

The salespeople pretty much ignored me when I was in there, but they were friendly at checkout. Bonus: They gave me a huge box of Chinese hazelnut chocolates alongside my handful of beauty samples.

Everyday Beauty Supply, 136-20 Roosevelt Avenue (between Union and Main streets), Queens; 718-353-8808.
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Photo: Courtesy of Everyday Beauty Supply.
Come here for:
Missha Products: Missha, sort of the L’Oréal of Korean companies, is one of the most well known, affordable, and popular brands out there. You can find many of its offerings here, including makeup.

Japanese Mascaras: Okay, I know this is supposed to be about Korean beauty products, but Japanese mascaras are some of the best on the planet. I couldn’t resist scooping a few up with my stack of Leaders sheet masks.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Yeon.
The Yeon
Alicia Yoon, the founder of Peach and Lily, calls this “one of the best multi-branded beauty-supply stores in NYC.” It was the last one I visited, and I have to agree. In addition to producing its own brand, it’s huge and carries dozens of other labels; I was told to try The Yeon’s Hallabong Serum, so that’s the first thing I picked up.

When I entered the store, a salesgirl followed me around the entire time, which was helpful, but also a bit intrusive. If you already know a bit about K-beauty and have tried the more popular lines, this shop is a must-visit.

The Yeon
, 136-62 39th Avenue (between Union and Main streets), Queens.
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Photo: Courtesy of Style Nanda.
Come here for:
Hard-To-Find Brands: I spotted one of my favorites, Be the Skin, which I hadn’t seen at other shops. The Yeon also has an impressive array of 3 Concept Eyes cosmetics, which I consider the NARS of Korea; it’s sleek and sophisticated, not cutesy. There were also some small, super-luxe brands like Hanyul.

The Hallabong Line: The entire line smells citrusy and is an immediate pick-me-up.

The $0.69 Hydrogel Eye Patches: Snail-mucus undereye patches for less than a buck? I loaded up! Plus, they tossed a bunch of free ones (and three full-size face masks!) into my bag at checkout.
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