It’s no secret, Korea is known to be the world’s skincare mecca. In an interesting 2017 beauty industry Deloitte report, South Korea was referred as the “global innovation leader in skincare”. Obsessed with beauty, Koreans are trendsetters. They are willing to go to great lengths – including changing their full appearance – to align themselves with their beauty ideals. A recent BBC article shared that Korean beauty appears to be 10-12 years ahead of the rest of the world!

Curious, we decided to go check it out for ourselves. Dr. McGillivray, Bev and Vanessa (referred to as his “entourage”!) hopped on a flight to Seoul in search of inspiration and to exchange with Korean physicians.

After a smooth flight we were greeted by our driver Mark. He and his team immediately welcomed us, giving us a taste for South Korea. We were about to discover how kind and inviting Koreans are.

Seoul is a large city of 10 million citizens separated by the Han river (to give you an idea, Vancouver has a population of 600,000!). One side of the river is referred to downtown and we were staying on the Gangnam side of the city which is only about 20 years old. Gangnam was made famous by the popular song “Gangnam Style” which was viewed more than 3 billion times on YouTube! They even built a stage and bronze statue in its honour for bringing awareness and interest to the city! Obviously, we went and had to recreate the dance while there. That was a blast!

In a jet lag induced daze, we had an opportunity to visit the beautiful Bongeunsa Temple on our first day (it was conveniently located across the street from our hotel). Built in 794, the site was incredibly peaceful, quiet and enchanting. The contrast with the busy city surrounding it sure was interesting.

That night we had our first taste of Korean cuisine with a traditional (and yummy) hot pot dinner. Interesting fact: if you want service, you must ring a bell otherwise no waiter will come and see you (we discovered this after waiting for 30 minutes!).

The next day we took advantage of the glorious weather to hit the streets of Seoul. We wanted to discover the best skincare stores and see if Korea held up to its reputation.

One word: wow. It was store after store. With so much competition, each brand is compelled to cleverly communicate their differentiation points and invest in creating a customer experience. Skincare stores were for the most part big with unique (and very Instagrammable) designs! While North Americans tend to have a skincare routine utilizing 3-4 products, Koreans have beauty regimes involving up to 12 steps, primarily focusing on delivering ingredients and hydration to the skin. The trending ingredient: snail mucin. We’re not sure what to think about it just yet but it was everywhere!

Local celebrities!

Here are some of our fave finds:

Dr. Jart+ | The #1 skincare brand in Korea. A fusion of results-focused products and art.

EC3 | A skincare brand developed by the Korean apparel company Stylenanda and recently purchased by L’Oreal. The design reminded us of a beauty parlour, very playful (and pink!). Their products were inviting and the packaging was so fun!

Beaudiani | This brand offered the only all-natural based product option we could find.

Sulwhasoo | Their flagship location is hosted in Seoul and is primarily visited by Chinese consumers. The spectacular building features a two-storey retail store including a museum revealing the history of their power ingredient, ginseng. A vast spa and rooftop complete the experience. Sulwhasoo’s claim is “holistic beauty from Asian Wisdom”. We tried getting in for a facial to experience it but there was no availability left during our stay… a sign of its popularity!

Tamburins | We were blown away by this two-storey location in prime Gangnam. Not only did it feel like a carefully curated art museum with an upbeat feeling but it also featured a mere portfolio of only seven products. Primarily known for its cream perfumes, Tambourins offers a minimalist packaging and simple yet beautiful formulations.

Jung Saem Mool | Named after one of the most popular make-up artists in Korea, Jung Saem Mool offers make-up products that are known to introduce first to market trends. The current trend is gradient lip colour using their high tinted lip lacquer; so pretty!

Stay tuned for #PStakesAsia Part II, all about the Master Physician Program in Seoul, South Korea!