The Best Foreign Beauty Buys You Can Score Stateside

This story was originally published on July 2, 2016.

Every time we travel to a foreign country, we like bringing home a few souvenirs — even better when they're rare beauty finds that aren't available stateside. After all, if you’re a beauty connoisseur, you know that some of the very best buys come from abroad. Sure, these coveted foreign goods work, but they also hold an exotic allure because of their inaccessibility.

However, not all of us spend our summers jet-setting; plenty of us aren't going further than a foreign supermarket. Fret not if you’re not planning on racking up the frequent-flyer miles, because it's possible to shop previously hard-to-find items right here in the U.S. of A. In fact, we’ve tracked down exactly where you can score some of the top cult foreign beauty products.

The secret? All you have to do to find beloved Swedish hair products or sought-after South Korean skin care is branch out from your current shopping standbys. Read on for our guide to nabbing the best international beauty loot, no passport required.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
Beauty buffs flock from all over the world to shop at French pharmacies, which bear little resemblance to the American version. But if a trip to the City of Lights isn’t in the cards for you this summer, head to Target — or shall we say Tarjé? — for all your pharmacy beauty buys. The ubiquitous superstore boasts a variety of coveted skin- and hair-care exports from France.
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Hairstylist Jacques Dessange may have a flagship salon on the Champs-Élysées, but luckily for us, his line is available stateside exclusively at Target. The brand’s known for scalp-care products, like this green-clay mask specifically formulated to balance oily roots. Used once a week, the pre-shampoo treatment is able to absorb sebum and regulate oil production, resulting in a purified scalp and healthier hair.

Dessange Paris
Purifying Clay Balancing Pre-Shampoo Mask, $11.99, available at Target.
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It’s tough finding a sunscreen that layers well underneath makeup and doesn’t cause breakouts or irritation. Enter: La Roche-Posay. The popular French pharmacy brand caters to sensitive skin, so its oil-free, non-comedogenic Anthelios 60 Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen is a safe bet for your face. The matte-finish formula dries quickly and provides a wearable base for foundation.

La Roche-Posay
Anthelios 60 Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen, $19.99, available at Target.
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Thanks to its multitasking abilities and effective formula, Embryolisse’s Lait-Crème Concentré is a cult favorite. The hydrating powerhouse — a soothing combination of shea butter and aloe vera — works as a makeup remover, daily moisturizer, after-sun soother, and more.

Lait-Crème Concentré, $16, available at Target.
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L'Oréal-owned Vichy has a range of oil-free skin-care products designed to combat breakouts and shine. The star of its Normaderm line? This mattifying gel formula — a combination of salicylic acid and micro-powders — which has a blotting paper-like effect on skin.

Normaderm Total Mat, $25.29, available at Target.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
South Korea
K-beauty has become such an international phenomenon that you can shop some of South Korea's most coveted brands at Sephora or Ulta Beauty. But if you’re seeking harder-to-find products, head to your local Korean market (or just know exactly where to look online).
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Snail extract is a buzzy ingredient in South Korea, and Mizon’s All In One Snail Repair Cream packs a whopping 92% in its best-selling formulation. Before you shudder at the thought of smearing snail secretion on your face, consider this: The highly effective gel moisturizer is formulated to do more than just sound novel — it helps to fade acne scars and blemishes, as well as improve the appearance of fine lines.

All In One Snail Repair Cream, $38, available at local markets or Peach & Lily.
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Cushion compacts — which allow for more breathable application — originated in South Korea. The trend kicked off with BB creams and foundations, and then expanded to include other makeup, like Peripera’s wildly popular blush. The vitamin E-enriched formula hydrates your cheeks and lends a radiant glow while providing a believable pop of color.

Ah Much Real Cushion Blusher, $16, available at local markets or Peach & Lily.
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TonyMoly may have a penchant for playful packaging, but the South Korean beauty brand is serious when it comes to performance. Its primer is made with an ingredient formed from vinegar-fermented eggs and packed with calcium, vitamins, and protein. The nutrient-rich formula cleverly masks pores and provides a silky-smooth canvas for makeup.

Egg Pore Yolk Primer, $19, available at local markets or TonyMoly.
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Son & Park’s “plumping and shaping” pencil may sound like a face-contouring tool, but the double-ended tool is actually for defining your eyes. The fine tip helps create depth at your crease, while the other end is a pearlescent highlighter to brighten the inner corners of your eyes.

Son & Park
Plumping & Shaping Pencil Duo, $19, available at local markets or Soko Glam.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
As you’d expect of the Scandinavian nation that gave us Ikea and H&M, Sweden has a hold on impeccable design and careful attention to detail. The country’s best beauty companies apply the same philosophy to their pretty, yet potent products. Instead of booking a flight to Stockholm, all you have to do is hunt down the following brands, which are available at luxury department stores or retailers.
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A matte formula that refreshes hair, boosts volume, and provides structure, this volumizing powder spray is Sachajuan’s answer to dry shampoo. Better yet, it features all the hallmarks of the lauded Stockholm-based line, like premium ingredients and clean, minimalistic packaging.

Volume Powder, $35, available at Barneys New York.
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Another Swedish company renowned for both its stunning graphics and high-performing formulas, Verso focuses on anti-aging skin care. All of the brand’s products, including this splurge-worthy concentrated facial oil, contain its patented Retinol 8 — which is supposed to be eight times more effective than typical retinol in the same dosage.

Facial Oil, $195, available at Barneys New York.
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For the past nine years, sensitive complexions have relied on Estelle & Thild, which uses Ecocert-certified organic ingredients to treat various skin concerns. The brand’s anti-redness serum helps soothe and hydrate irritated skin with powerful black-elderflower, apricot, and oat extracts.

Estelle & Thild
BioCalm Anti-Redness Rescue Serum, $52, available at Net-A-Porter.
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A Scandinavian brand known for its use of natural, plant-based ingredients, Kerstin Florian isn’t available just anywhere. To track down the brand’s products — like its wonderful nourishing essence that protects skin, restores moisture, and helps prevent free-radical damage — visit your local luxury or resort spa (like Shutters on the Beach’s ONE Spa in Los Angeles) or order online.

Kerstin Florian
Rehydrating Capilar Essence, $90, available at local luxury spas or Kerstin Florian.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
When it comes to Far East beauty, Japan and South Korea have historically received most of the fanfare and attention — but China isn't one to ignore. Many of the country’s skin-care companies are grounding their products in traditional herbal-based formulations. With a little luck, you can find some of the following at your local Chinese market or online. (Sunday afternoon in Chinatown, anybody?)
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Beautiful-sounding ingredients like Tibetan chrysanthemum, black soybean, and lotus blossom are commonplace in Wei Beauty’s extensive skin-care line. The Chinese brand’s sheet masks, which come in attractive tubes, are especially sought-after. If you have imbalanced or blemish-prone skin, try the mung-bean version, which is meant to exfoliate, hydrate, and heal all at once.

Wei Beauty
Mung Bean Sprout Stress-Relieving Soothing Mask, $12, available at local markets or Wei Beauty.
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Shanghai-based Herborist blends traditional Chinese herbology and cutting-edge formulas. Take its stimulating eye gel, which, aside from looking otherworldly and cool, also refreshes and de-puffs tired peepers with vitamin E, aloe vera, Chinese yam, and bamboo orchid. Store in your fridge and apply for an instant cooling effect.

Silky All Day Moisturizing Eye Gel, $46, available at local markets or Amazon.
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Blackhead-plagued skin will benefit from Pilaten’s peel-off mask, which acts like a vacuum to pull out dead skin cells and other impurities (it’s called Suction Black Mask for a reason). After the formula dries to a taut, shiny finish, gently peel it off to reveal a purified and oh-so-clean complexion.

Suction Black Mask, $7.99, available at local markets or Amazon.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
Several Japanese beauty brands have already experienced international success (Shu Uemura, Shiseido, and SK-II, just to name a few), but the Land of the Rising Sun is home to dozens more that fly under the radar outside its borders. Walk into any drugstore in Tokyo and you’ll find an astonishing number of skin-care and makeup products crammed onto the shelves. Thankfully, you can also shop for the following favorites at your local Japanese market or at select online retailers.
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DHC has been around since 1980, which means it’s been the vanguard of innovative Japanese skin-care technology for a while. For example, its eye masks — yes, sheet masks specifically for the eye area — treat puffiness, creping, and crow’s feet with a combo of collagen-boosting multipeptides, hyaluronic acid, and the brand’s signature ingredient, olive oil.

Rich Eye Zone Care Pack, $17.50, available at DHC.
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Shiseido-owned Majolica Majorca hawks a variety of successful mascaras, but Japanese women rave the most about Lash Expander — the brand’s lengthening and separating formula. The number of customers who complain about how stubborn the mascara is to remove at night is a true testament to its long-lasting formula.

Majolica Majorca
Lash Expander Edge Meister Mascara, $14.12, available at local markets or Amazon.
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Last year, Japanese cosmetics drugstore giant Canmake released a clear lip gloss that delivers customized color, depending on how much moisture is in your lips (think a shinier version of Dior’s Addict Lip Glow). Better yet, the cool concept comes with SPF 15 and doesn’t wear off easily throughout the course of the day.

Your Lip Only Gloss, $42.30, available at local markets or Amazon.
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Packed with oleic acid (also found in olive oil), the all-natural camellia oil is a runaway success in Japan. It can be used for a multitude of purposes: to repair split ends, nourish dry strands, moisturize your face, or deeply hydrate patchy, dry areas of skin on your body. It’s also odorless — which is a huge plus if you’re sensitive or averse to fragrance.

Oshima Tsubaki
Camellia Hair Care Oil, $15.79, available at local markets or Amazon.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
United Kingdom
It’s easy to see why the U.K.’s cosmetics companies are making a splash on this side of the pond, too. Not only do the goods achieve real results, but few come with the sticker shock so often associated with premium beauty brands. If you’re a skin-care or makeup aficionado on a budget — with no plans to touch down in London Town this summer — make a beeline to your nearest Ulta Beauty to stock up on these quintessentially British must-haves.
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In the U.K., No7 is as omnipresent as CVS — except the British pharmacy carries its own collection of prestige skin care and cosmetics. Its anti-aging serum, which helps restore elasticity to sagging skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, is a crowd-pleaser — and you’d be hard-pressed to find a product of similar efficacy with the same price tag.

No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum, $29.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Established back in 1834, the iconic Rimmel London counts Kate Moss as one of its famous faces. It’s also known for bold, trendsetting makeup colors — like the unapologetically red shade of its hydrating Moisture Renew Lipstick, which comes in many other look-at-me-now hues.

Rimmel London
Moisture Renew Lipstick in Red Alert, $6.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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London-based Eyeko specializes in eye makeup, so you can bet that its liquid Black Magic Eyeliner is wonderfully precise, allowing you to draw on flawless winged cat-eyes. If you need another reason to try it out, the liner even contains ingredients designed to enhance lash growth.

Black Magic Eyeliner, $22, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Soap & Glory’s blush powder is pretty — a multi-shade palette of shimmery pinks and bronzes — and also boasts an emollient base that smoothes and hydrates skin. Feel free to use one, two, or all three shades for a natural-looking, luminous glow.

Soap & Glory
Love at First Blush, $15, available at Ulta Beauty.
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