Let me just say I’m going to restrict the shopping to mostly makeup/ cosmetics and the location to Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley because this is where I’m familiar with.
Drugstore Makeup and Skincare
Over here, we call our drugstores a “Pharmacy” and most major drugstore makeup brands are represented. The major pharmacies with a better selection of cosmetics are Guardian and Watson’s and you can also get medication, vitamins, personal care products etc here. For a better selection of pharmaceutical items or brands, I find that Caring Pharmacy is a better bet.
Larger Guardian and Watsons stores can be found at the main malls in the city – Suria KLCC, MidValley Megamall, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Sg. Wang Plaza etc. The larger outlets have a better selection of products.
Among the major drugstore brands available in Malaysia are: Maybelline, L’Oreal, Bourjois, Catrice, Kate, Revlon, ZA, Pond’s, Olay, Uriage, Eucerin, ROC etc Some product lines in each brand may not be available in Malaysia and ranges might be limited but we get most of them Do note that many major international brands carry products exclusive to Asia or Asian formulations in Malaysia.
Japanese or Asian Cosmetics
In the course of correspondence with visitors, I’ve often been asked where they can go to buy Japanese or Asian cosmetics. There are a few places you can hit up:-
Department Stores : Kanebo (Lunasol, Kanebo and Impress skincare), Shiseido (Shiseido Makeup, Ibuki skincare, Ultimune, Shiseido skincare, Maquillage makeup), Laneige, Kose are all well represented in most department stores. Anna Sui is available at most Parkson and Isetan department stores while Paul & Joe is no longer available in KL. Shu Uemura has its own boutiques in 1 Utama, MidValley Megamall, KLCC, Empire Shopping Gallery and counters in most major department stores. For luxury brands, Cle de Peau is available at Pavilion KL and Isetan KLCC.
Watsons Personal Store: You will find a Watson’s pharmacy or personal store almost everywhere you go. Here you can get pharmacy/drugstore makeup brands Kate, ZA, Clio, Silkygirl. Not Asian, but you can also get Bourjois at most Watson’s stores.
Guardian Pharmacy: There is a smaller selection of asian makeup here but you can also find Silkygirl, and Kate in some stores and possibly Catrice in some of the larger stores.
Sasa: Sasa here is less well stocked than in Hong Kong but still a good place to go for Asian makeup and cosmetics and fragrances that are sold slightly cheaper than retail. The sales assistants in most Sasa outlets do tend to stick close to you and be suffocating but if you can ignore that, you can pick up some gems here from brands like Kate, CyberColors and various other random Asian cosmetics bits and bobs.
Korean cosmetics brands: The few Korean brands I know that are available here in Malaysia are Laneige, TheFaceShop, SkinFood and Etude House. They are available in their own booths or stores in major malls. I don’t pay a lot of attention to Korean cosmetics so I’m sure I’ve missed a ton of others.
Do note that Elianto is NOT a Korean brand – it is a local Malaysian brand and it is available at certain standalone counters or stores.
Niche cosmetics or popular but smaller cosmetics brands like Caudalie and REN Skincare are available at KENS Apothecary. Laura Mercier has counters at The Gardens, MidValley city, KLCC and Bangsar Village 2. Niche fragrances like Annick Goutal, Diptyque, Penhaligons etc are available available at Kens Apothecary as well as Isetan KLCC.
Department stores and Malls in Kuala Lumpur
If you are looking for department store cosmetics, you can find them in most major department stores in the Klang Valley – Estee Lauder, Lancome, Dior, Chanel, Clarins, Kanebo, Shiseido are easily found in most department stores and most ranges are represented.
Major malls in Klang Valley are found in 4 areas:-
Heart of KL City – Pavilion Kuala Lumpur (Parkson, Tangs), Lot 10 (Isetan), Starhill Gallery (major luxury brands), Sg. Wang Plaza (Parkson) are all within walking distance of each other. For electronics, go to Lowyat Plaza behind Sg. Wang Plaza. Suria KLCC (Isetan has an impressive new Beauty Hall, Parkson) at the Petronas Twin Towers is a short taxi ride away.
Sunway and Subang, Selangor – Sunway Pyramid (Parkson, Jusco), Subang Parade (Parkson), Empire Shopping Gallery (newly opened in May 2010)
Mutiara Damansara, Selangor – 1 Utama (Parkson, Jusco) and The Curve (Metrojaya) and Ikea is a taxi ride away from the heart of KL.
Where to go if you don’t have the time
If you don’t have a lot of time to go to the different malls, I’d recommend going to MidValley Megamall or 1 Utama depending on whether your trip is based in the city or outside the city. I find both these malls easier to navigate and in both, you get a good mix of mid-high end and low end brands whether for fashion or cosmetics and a wide variety of food to boot.
If you are looking for more high-end or luxury products, go to Pavilion Kuala Lumpur and then hop across the road to Starhill Gallery to get your luxury product fix or hit up Suria KLCC at the base of what was once the tallest buildings in the world! You can walk from Pavilion KL to KLCC through the elevated walkway that’s a nice walk and air-conditioned
For beauty buffs, Sephora Malaysia at Starhill Gallery is open! Take a virtual tour of the store here. Another Sephora store is also open at KLCC, Avenue K, Mid Valley Megamall and in various other malls. Sephora stores are surprisingly plentiful!
Are cosmetics cheaper in Malaysia than elsewhere?
This is a subjective question and much depends on where you making your comparison to and where you are coming from. Do note that as of 1 April 2015, Malaysia has imposed GST on all consumer goods. The current rate of tax (2015) is 6% and you may find that prices of cosmetics maybe cheaper at the airport where it is sold at duty-free prices. If you’re a tourist, you will also be entitled to claim back this GST from your purchases – just ask at the cashier.
- Many European brands e.g. Dior, Lancome etc are slightly cheaper here in Malaysia compared to Europe or the USA or even Hong Kong.
- Estee Lauder, MAC and Bobbi Brown are slightly more expensive than in the USA.
- Some department store Japanese brands (e.g. Lunasol, Coffret D’or, Shiseido) are slightly cheaper here than Hong Kong or Japan but in the majority is priced slightly higher. Shu Uemura is cheaper here compared to the USA or Europe.
- Korean brands are more expensive here compared to Korea.
When you take into account exchange rate fluctuations, cosmetics may end up being cheaper in Malaysia compared to Singapore. Honestly, I don’t have much to complain about in terms of pricing and availability of brands and products in Malaysia and I think we have a decent enough choice too – less than in some other countries, but certainly enough to keep us entertained (and broke!). In any case, the range of brands and products are certainly expanding at a good rate which I am happy about
This is pretty much just a taster for anyone visiting Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur in particular. It is by no means exhaustive so do feel free to fill in the gaps or ask any questions in the comments. If I can’t help you find what you want, I’m sure someone else can! 😀