(image from www.selfridges.com)
I have to say that, personally, purely in terms of beauty shopping, London can’t really compete with Tokyo or Taipei. But it is one of my favorite cities and it does still have plenty to offer when it comes to beauty.
- WHERE TO GO -
If you have One Day
Oxford Street is your best bet, particularly Selfridges Department Store (Bond Street or Marble Arch Underground Station), which I think has the best beauty department in the UK. Apart from almost all the high-end brands (including one of the few Giorgio Armani counters in the UK), it also has a good selection of Japanese brands, such as Shiseido (carrying the usual lines sold in the west), SK II, RMK, and SUQQU. (The SUQQU counter is the only one outside Asia, and three RMK counters in the UK (Selfridges London, Selfridges Trafford Centre Manchester, and House of Fraser Glasgow) are the only ones outside Asia as well.)
If you have more time, head towards the nearby Boots store (on the other side of Oxford Street and slightly more towards Oxford Circus). It is a great place to browse through mid-range and budget British beauty lines, such as Ruby & Millie as well as Boots’ own No. 7, 17, and Natural Collection.
- You can stay on Oxford Street. There are several more department stores further towards Oxford Circus. Debenhams has a great fragrance department, while House of Fraser has a ck Calvin Klein counter. For those of you in Asia where Smashbox is not easily available, John Lewis has a Smashbox counter.
- In the Knightsbridge area (Knightsbridge Station), you can find both Harrods and Harvey Nichols. Apart from probably the best fragrance department in the UK, Harrods also has one of the remaining Kanebo International counters (carrying the Sensai line) in the UK. Over in Harvey Nichols, you can find Chanel Studios, featuring Chanel makeup and skincare items exclusive to the North American and Asian markets. (I have seen many Japan-exclusives there over the years.)
- If you are a beauty fan and have a few days in London, why not indulge in a British beauty experience? Some of the brands might be available where you are, but I think the experience will be more unique. Apart from the very widely known The Body Shop and Lush, try Eve Lom, Liz Earle, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Penhaligon’s, Jo Malone, Molton Brown, Culpepper, and Floris. (Please check the websites for store locations.)
- Try one of the Space NK boutiques to be surrounded by high-end beauty brands like Chantecaille, By Terry, Darphin and Jurlique. There is a Space NK concession in Harvey Nichols as well.
- If you would like to test out items from Paul & Joe, you can either visit Harrods or Fenwick (Bond Street Station). I’d suggest the counter in Fenwick, which is wider and airier. (The concession in Harrods is currently more of a shelf than a counter.)
- If you are a fan of Japanese cosmetics but don’t usually have easy access to Japanese beauty magazines like Biteki and Voce, do definitely head to JP-Books in Mitsukoshi London and the book shop in Japan Centre. Both are literally seconds away from the busy Piccadilly Station and stock all the major Japanese beauty and fashion magazines. The locations of these two are so central that there is almost no excuse not to have a quick look if you want to check out the latest beauty products and makeup looks from Japanese as well as international beauty brands.
(By the way, the food section of Japan Centre carries lovely (and affordable) bento boxes, which are some of the yummiest and healthiest meal options while you are out and about in London.)
- WHEN TO GO -
I think a good time to go to London for beauty shopping is during the summer/winter sale period. (The summer sale starts in late June and most stores start the winter sale on December 27.)
During the sale period, many high-end brands have about 30% discount (and sometimes 50%) on surplus stock, soon-to-be-discontinued items, and past limited-edition items. (Last year, I was able to purchase Paul & Joe’s Light Cream Foundation, Face Powder and Pressed Powder at 50% off at Harrods and Fenwick. Also, a couple of weeks ago, I saw YSL’s silver makeup palette from last year’s holiday collection in Harrods and a few items from Guerlain’s Pucci summer 2007 collection in Harvey Nichols.)
Also, I have seen brands like YSL and Guerlain start carrying new fall/spring collections during the summer/winter sale period (particularly in top-end department stores like Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Selfridges). These exclusive releases can sometimes be slightly earlier than those in North America and Asia.
- NOTE -
- Just like Japan and Taiwan, opened and used beauty items are usually not refundable.
- Check out this post from Kiss & Makeup for a list of British beauty brands.
- One of the best resources for beauty shopping in London is TimeOut London’s Shops & Services guide (9.99 GBP for the 2008 edition, currently on sale on TimeOut’s website). It is updated annually and the latest edition usually comes out in November.
It covers virtually everything you need to know if one of the reasons for your London trip is to shop. (It is also helpful if you are going to live in London for any period of time.) The Health & Beauty section covers beauty stores, perfumeries, salons, spas, and hairdressers, and all the practical details are listed. (It should be available in most major bookstores in the UK. I think it is worth having even as a souvenir for your one-off London shopping extravaganza.)
This concludes my mini-series on Beauty City Guide, at least for the time being, I hope. I have been to other places like Paris and Hong Kong, but I don’t think I know enough at the moment to bring you my personal recommendations. Hope one day I’ll be able to share my thoughts with you! (But do please e-mail me if you would like a few quick suggestions.)
Related Posts:Beauty Phenomenon: Seasonal Sale on Cosmetics in the UK
Japanese Beauty Brands in the UK