I had to go makeup shopping last weekend. You may not believe me, but it’s not always an enjoyable experience, especially on a crowded Saturday afternoon, and as I take my makeup shopping seriously, it’s usually an expedition with more than one mission involved. It’s actual work. So there I was, list in hand, eyes on sticks, on the beauty floor of the fairly new Nordstrom Vancouver, when lo and behold I spotted a sign that caught my attention. K Beauty, a recent phenomenon of the beauty world, has arrived for a limited time.
When I shop for makeup, for myself or anyone else, which I do frequently, it’s mostly to the same places I’ve known and loved long long time. My choices are probably the same as your choices if you’re near a large town or city and in the western world. I do a round of the counters of the established beauty giants: NARS, Charlotte Tilbury, Chanel, YSL, Laura Mercier, Tom Ford Beauty, M.A.C, Stila, Bobbi Brown etc etc, the doyens of the industry. Nordstrom has all of them and many more. It can be a whole-day beauty bonanza if you’re so inclined (do not go to the strategically placed bar on the first floor…shopping after cocktails is a dangerous activity). So seeing the sign for the K-Beauty pop-up shop immediately piqued an interest and of course I had to investigate. There, in the corner of the colossal ground floor, amongst the elegant grown-ups of the beauty world, I had some fun and felt like a rookie. All over again.
There is no one product line called “K-Beauty“. It’s an umbrella term given to the lines that come out of the South Korean industry. The fad of Korean beauty products gained popularity worldwide last year, particularly in the U.S. where they went a bit bonkers for it, and focuses on health, hydration and lots of natural oils. BB Cream, once a mystery to the west but now in loads of makeup bags, originated in Korea.
There are some kooky ingredients to be found here and not the norm of western products: snail slime, bee venom (an anti-inflammatory “faux-tox” alleged to relax facial muscles), moisturizing starfish extract, and egg yolks. There are vegan and cruelty-free lines available, be sure to ask which ones: Color Buckat and Touch In Sol are and there’s more. Korea is already in the process of phasing out animal testing for cosmetics by 2018. The bill entered into law earlier this year.
The boom in sheet face-masking can be “blamed” on the influence of K-Beauty which started in earnest in 2016. The market is now inundated with sheet masks. They are quite fun and very effective so I’m not complaining. Korean skincare regimes involve a series of steps including cleansing rituals (oils are preferred), sheet masks, essences, serums, moisturisers, cushion compacts, fermented products, and essential sunscreen (at night, the sunscreen is replaced by a “sleep cream”), so to the uninitiated it’s rather a complicated business and one I admit I knew little about. The sheet-masking step is essential, and a ritual I’ve taken to happily. I got my hands on another one of the cult Egg Cream Masks (I got one for Christmas) which sell out everywhere in minutes flat.
With so many steps to the regime and so many lines and products to choose from, the curated pop-up shop is a brilliant introduction to the best of the best of K-beauty, and a stunning marketing idea. Well done Nordstrom for giving many brands their “stateside debut” and for giving us a glimpse into another world of beauty, for both women and men. And thanks to Olivia Kim (http://fashionista.com/2014/11/olivia-kim) for hand picking these gorgeous goodies. Brands showcased in the pop-up include Huxley, BelleMe, Color Buckat, Too Cool For School, Touch In Sol, Za, Onnu, Twenty Four/Seven, DTRT. That’s just for starters.
First impressions were all about presentation. K is for kute and kitch with packaging which is immediately eye-catching and draws you to look closer. K is also for klever. These are the kinds of things you want in your handbag, on the makeup table, to give to friends, to keep for yourself, because they are cheerful and funny. Lots of these products put the girly back into glamour, and not even in a retro way like so many other lines do. The pink faux-fur ball chairs for resting on didn’t hurt either.
Get ready for a barrage of fun photos – I couldn’t stop! So many delightful things. It’s a wonder I put the camera away and made time to actually try stuff.
Time to think pink…
Gorgeous smelling facial mists and sunscreens are as essential as sheet masking, and there’s loads to choose from.
And then there’s the makeup, starting with some rather excellent primers and skin beautifiers…
I thought these were brilliant, and it tastes really good too. A yummy honey moisturising treatment.
So here’s what I came away with…
Although skincare reigns supreme, there’s lots of makeup to play with too. Top picks: these amazing eyeshadows, from Belle Me. I couldn’t not; you can never have too many brown shadows (my weakness) and the colour of the sun kissed one is glorious. They are silky and shimmery, with a remarkable colour payoff and are VERY long lasting. Impressed. And less that $10 each! I have to go back for more.
These eye tints, also from Belle Me are to die for and take me back to Miss Selfridge makeup days, except then they were in purple and pink. These ones have a creamy constancy and with a sponge applicator in tube, they blend to luscious sparkly textures in gorge colours, and last all day. I’ve been working 16 hour days and they’re still on at the end of it. Same with the shadows above. Brilliant. Less than $20. Also brilliant.
Another thing I found with incredible staying power are these gel liners, the Dessert In My Eyes range, from Belle Me. The box of four was $31.25. Such great price points. I’ve already worn the lilac/brown, Macaron, a fab soft colour for a sophisticated way to do purple, and Chocolat, which smudges but then doesn’t move. I’m serious.
it didn’t stop there. Behind this New York skyline lies another thumbs up for my makeup kit. It’s Too Cool For School.
Almost last but not almost least, a very juicy rosewater gel from IPKN. With 20% pure rosewater, it tones and soothes. Can also be used as a soothing sleeping mask, a body gel cream or a hair treatment. Thirty dollars well spent. Like most everything here, silicone-free, phthalate-free, paraben-free and sulphate-free. Even better.
And of course an Egg Cream sheet mask. They have the All-In-One Mellow Soothing Cream with added collagen, in stock but I had to walk away at some point. Until I go back before Saturday! Fingers crossed.
Quite a good haul for an unexpected bypass. I spent so much time with K-Beauty the rest of the counters were a rush job but that’s ok. This one is temporary. Have to make the most of it.
Another thing I like about this pop-up, apart from it’s great lighting and knowledgeable but laid-back sales team, is their inclusive advertising – these “models” are friends of the photographer from Seattle. Real, interesting faces representing world beauty (but not all ages) was a refreshing change.
Seeing all of it, new and exotic, made me feel like a beauty newbie, in the most delightful way, which is no mean feat for someone so long in the makeup tooth. My makeup intern too had a blast; she’s gifted with great artistic ability, as you can see…
If you want some makeup joy in your life, head down there, you’ve got until March 26th. I’m quite sure I’ll be going back myself. But I’ll try not to get another brown eyeshadow, promise. If you’re lucky, Kevin, who is vastly knowledgeable about what’s on the shelves, will be on duty to point you in the right direction: towards South Korea.