K-beauty shopping tips in Seoul: Sigi Skin’s founder on hottest products, getting discounts, spotting fakes
From big brand names to indie labels, CNA Lifestyle finds out what's in Xenia Wong's shopping cart.
Fun fact: Though Singaporean beauty label Sigi Skin may fly the +65 flag high, every single item of theirs is in fact formulated and produced in Seoul, South Korea, revealed its founder, Xenia Wong.
Which explains why the 28-year-old is a K-beauty pro in her own right. “Korea is the hub for all things beauty. All the latest trends and innovations are from Korea, which also means that their technology is the most up-to-date. Also, they produce things that work for Asian skin, which is a really important consideration for us as a Singaporean brand,” shared Wong.
Since borders reopened in 2021, the entrepreneur has made seven trips to the home ground of BTS and Blackpink. “I was in Seoul in February to finalise the launch of our next big thing, the Daylight Oasis Vitamin C serum which is due to hit the shelves in April,” she divulged.
“The formula took nearly three years to perfect as it’s one of our most complicated formulas yet because of its high concentrations of L-Ascorbic acid (also known as the king of Vitamin C). To ensure its efficacy, the glass bottle it comes in is custom-made.”
When in Seoul, Wong’s time is spent rubbing shoulders with celebrated makeup artist Pony (who incidentally adores Sigi Skin’s Youth Beam and Morning Glow Physical Sunscreen) and working alongside Korean beauty formulators – they let her in on a best-kept beauty secret, that double cleansing doesn’t necessarily start with cleansing oil.
“This narrative is being pushed to sell more products. A Korean consumer survey showed that not many Koreans use cleansing oil, they prefer cleansing with cleansing foam," Wong told CNA Lifestyle.
"Double cleansing simply means cleansing your face twice. Using a light cleanser such as Sigi Skin’s Kaleanser will suffice. It is safe to use around your eyes, and is especially handy for those who have eye lash extensions and therefore, can’t use a cleansing oil.”
What’s a work trip without a hit of decadent R&R? The self-confessed beauty junkie shared with CNA Lifestyle that despite her busy schedule, she never leaves Seoul without indulging in her fair share of K-beauty shopping and other indulgences that she amounts to “research”.
WHAT’S IN HER K-BEAUTY SHOPPING CART?
The burning question is of course: What exciting K-beauty products did she buy when she was in Seoul?
“The scent of Tamburins’ Showery Body Wash is really comforting. In fact, I am captivated by their entire new body line. Word is that Blackpink’s Jennie is a fan too."
“I’ve heard so much about Nonfiction, they are immensely popular in Korea, so I really want to try the Gentle Night Body Cream which is one of their best sellers. The packaging is so sleek which I love, however, the product is heavily scented and that didn’t work out well for my sensitive skin. My friends have no issues with it though.”
“Cosmetic label Naming is extremely popular as well. Though it’s a Korean brand, it is surprisingly even more popular in Japan, possibly because of its muted colour palette. I tried their Fluffy Powder Blush which contains Sliding Fit Powder that absorbs sweat and sebum. The colour is vivid yet still natural looking."
“I swear by The Tool Lab Brush Foundation Brush Cleanser! It really gets rid of all the dirt and gunk effortlessly. It is the one product I always stock up when I am in Korea.”
“I have never been able to get my hands on the Ameli Baked Powder previously because it is always sold out. Thankfully, I managed to this time. After trying, I now get its cult status. The powder is finely milled plus it’s affordable.”
“I really love the Amuse Vegan Jelly Cushion. Its so lightweight and it doesn’t dry skin out. But I think it might not be suitable for people who have oily skin though.”
“Suquu is not available in Singapore. They recently launched a glow cushion compact so I had to try it since I love their foundations. I like that it leaves a nice glow without feeling heavy and more importantly, it doesn’t crease.”
K-BEAUTY TRENDS ON THE RISE: BODY CARE AND K-SCENTING
“Body care is huge in Korea now, with many rising brands such as RboW and Nonfiction championing it,” pointed out Wong, who thinks the dry climate is likely the reason behind the surging trend.
Besides its ultra-hydrating body lotion and wash, RboW is also known for its line of fragrances that are formulated in with French perfumers Symrise and Firmenich. Like RboW, Nonfiction’s success is founded on perfumes, with Santal Cream, Gentle Night, Gaiac Flower, Forget Me Not and In The Shower rounding up its signature scents.
MULTI-LABEL STORES, DISCOUNTS AND COUNTERFEITS
Checking out flagship stores is a whole lot of fun, but Wong also enjoys sniffing out under the radar brands like Hince, Naming and Amuse at multi-label stores such as Olive Young, Chicor (the equivalent of Sephora in Korea), as well as department stores.
While multi-label stores offer an 'under one roof' convenience, Wong cautions that counterfeit Korean beauty products are a huge issue even in Korea. “Some of these counterfeits may surface at small unofficial stores in Korea. To safeguard your purchases, buy from an official stockist and check that the products have authenticity seals.”
If you’re on a lookout for discounts, the entrepreneur suggests shopping at supermarket chains such as Lotte, Shinsaegae or Hyundai. The 28-year-old offered, “Interestingly, some skincare brands that are targeted towards the anti-ageing crowd offer discounts at supermarkets since that’s where their target audience frequent. Brands like Missha, Chogoongjin and Sooryehan are what you’ll likely find at a discount at these supermarkets.”
“When in Seoul, I always make time for a haircut and quick treatment at A by Bom,” Wong harked back to her visit to the hair salon frequented by the celestial likes of Sandara Park, Jessica, Boa, Han Ye-seul and Park Soo-jin.
“The space is really chill and spacious which makes you feel very relaxed instantly. Despite its celebrity status, it’s quite easy to get a booking and the prices are affordable when you compare them to the same level of haircut you get in Singapore. They also have their own brand of shampoo and conditioners that are free of silicone, they’re pretty good and not expensive,” she added.
If you pay close attention to Korean idols, you would have realised by now that many of them have impeccable teeth. And because celebrities know best, Wong went with another celebrity-approved address.
“A friend told me about Park Avenue Dental Clinic. The walls of the clinic are decorated with photos of all the celebrities who go there – apparently, Britney Spears is also an alumni. The sessions are relatively painless, even for teeth whitening. Overall, it’s a lot more affordable than Singapore.”
While massages are not nearly as big in Korea as it is in Bangkok, that didn’t stop Wong from trying one out. “Lush, yes, that Lush synonymous with bath bombs, has a massage bar in Seoul. I tried the Karma massage, a four-hands massage, I must say they're pretty good. Though it is definitely different from say Sulwhasoo since Lush focuses more on body. I’m sure fans of Lush will love this since you can’t get this in Singapore.”