If you go to Hong Kong, by just looking at the proliferation of cosmetics stores, you’d think every woman there is made up to the nines. Its not quite true. But the women in Hong Kong do take more trouble with their appearance or so I find. When I go to the business areas of Hong Kong, I see the women executives made up carefully in light colours and dressed well. Even on a weekend, the girls of Hong Kong are well dressed in their casual outfits and with casual light makeup on.
While we are seeing more of this in Malaysia, I do still think women in Malaysia don’t take as much trouble especially working women. All that said, beauty and cosmetics is a HUGE industry in Hong Kong and the stores are there to prove it, and not to mention even advertising the latest Autumn 2008 collection on a tram!
Here are the places I like to visit in Hong Kong for my beauty and cosmetics fix:-
This Hong Kong based cosmetics chain store is found on nearly every street. Sometimes, one street may have 2-3 Sasa stores! What it sells is a huge variety of perfumes, cosmetics and skincare. It is easy to get confused in the store because there is so much to see. To make it easier for you, remember this:
- The products are arranged and grouped in the order of product category. e.g. Toner, Cleansers, eyeshadows, lipsticks etc… Once you get the hang of it, its easy to find what you want.
- The more expensive skincare products which include department store brands like Lancome or Estee Lauder are found towards the back of the store where there are less crowds.
- Sample sizes of skincare are found in abundance at low prices but they can work out quite expensive if you buy a few at a go. Its good if you just want to buy to try but not if you want to stock up.
- More expensive makeup (usually Western brands like Dior or Lancome) are found in the glass cases near the cashier and at the back and do not have testers. Ask a sales person to help you.
- Sasa has limited supplies of Majolica Majorca makeup but it is only in certain stores, not all. I only saw a few palettes, mascara and lip products at one of the Sasa stores in Tsim Tsa Tsui.
- Not every Sasa sells the same stuff, so you may find what you want in one store but not in another.
I find that Sasa stocks more fragrances (full sizes) at discounted prices than Bonjour below so if you like fragrances, then you might find that Sasa is your perfect place to go.
Popular Brands you can find in Sasa:
Majolica Majorca, Dior, Lancome, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Shiseido (sub-brands as well as Shiseido brands), Kate, Fasio, Revlon, Maybelline, L’oreal, Olay, Palgantong, Kanebo (sub-brands as well as Kanebo brands).
Bonjour is similar to a Sasa store except I find that it has better stocks of certain Japanese products. As usual, you will find the perfume and skincare samples in abundance, and their products are categorised in the same manner as that of Sasa stores i.e. by product category. Bonjour sells a very good selection of beauty tools too e.g. makeup sponges in various sizes, manicure sets, brushes, false eyelashes at really cheap prices.
Bonjour doesn’t sell as many high end department store brands although if you use Estee Lauder products you may find that they can be quite heavily discounted here. I had bought it before a couple of years back when I was using Estee Lauder. Sometimes, you find a gem or two – I picked up Chanel lip glosses and eyeliners for under RM30 but you really have to take your time to look.
Update April 2009: I found that Bonjour now stocks lots of China made cosmetics which do not interest me at all. If you dig through you may still find some cheap deals on more popular brands but sometimes I don’t bother. There are also many different brands of BB Creams for those who are interested in them.
Popular Brands you can find in Bonjour:
Dior, Lancome, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Shiseido (includes sub-brands like Maquillage), Kate, Fasio, Revlon, Maybelline, L’oreal, Olay, Palgantong, Kose (includes sub-brands like Softymo), Kanebo (includes sub-brands like T’estimo and Coffret D’or), Etude
Angel, Aster, Colormix
These stores are all like Bonjour and Sasa stores except they are smaller and have a smaller selection. That said, they sometimes have really cheap gems. If you have the time, its worth popping in to see what there is.
Watsons and Mannings Pharmacies or Drugstores
We are familiar with Watson’s since we have them in Malaysia too. But the Watson’s in Hong Kong is far more extensive in terms of brands and product range. The brands they carry in terms of makeup are Revlon, L’oreal, Maybelline, Bourjois, Sofina Aube and some even have Maquillage.
Mannings is less familiar until you realise that it is what we call Guardian here in Malaysia. Similarly, range and brands are more extensive with brands like Max Factor and Bourjois included among the usual drugstore brands.
The Facesss I know of and have visited is in Harbour City (Tsim Tsa Tsui) – a higher end mall. Head towards the Ocean Terminal and you will see Facesss opposite Lane Crawford. In here, you can find higher end makeup brands including:-
- Make Up For Ever
- Cle de Peau
Of course, the usual Dior, Lancome, Estee Lauder etc are represented as well. Prices are high but that is the price of exclusivity.
Lan Lan Cosmetics
Lan Lan Cosmetics is a little store that specialises in selling Japanese makeup. In here you will find brands like Lavshuca, Shiseido Maquillage, Cle de Peau and Jill Stuart. I went to the one in Manning House in Central (Queens Road Central). It is next to H&M and is on the 1st floor. Look at the building directory and you’ll see it listed.
I tried to check out the Jill Stuart palettes which I’d heard a lot about, but was told that you have to order it as they don’t keep ready stock of the products. I can see why. One 4 pan palette retails for HKD480. OUCH!
Any department store in Hong Kong will have the usual major brands that you can find here in Malaysia. The difference is that they may get the new collections faster and choices seem wider because there are more brands available.
I saw a sign saying that a Sephora is opening in Hong Kong soon. This is in Mongkok. I’m not sure when it will be or what it will sell. Honestly, I don’t know if it can compete with all the other cosmetics stores that are already so established in Hong Kong! But I guess they’ll try.
Update April 2009: Here’s my view of Sephora Hong Kong
Update April 2010: Sephora closes in Hong Kong
Are cosmetics cheaper in Hong Kong?
Yes and no.
I find that pharmacy or drugstore Western brands (L’oreal, Revlon, Olay etc) are highly marked up. Olay Total Effects moisturiser for example is nearly double the price in Hong Kong, retailing at over RM70 a bottle. The Body Shop Vitamin C Skin Boost is retailing for nearly RM100 in Hong Kong compared to RM79 here, so you do the math! Prices of department store brands are about the same as here in Malaysia and it might even be cheaper in Malaysia for most major brands.
By contrast, Japanese skincare and makeup is cheaper. The best example I have is Shu Uemura. If you are a fan of Shu Uemura cosmetics, Hong Kong is your paradise because it has the cheapest Shu Uemura in the world! (Believe me, I was a huge Shu fan and I did the math!) A Shu Uemura eyeshadow used to cost something like RM40 each. It might be slightly more now but still cheaper than in Malaysia. I’m told that Japanese makeup is cheaper than even in Japan so if you don’t have access to Japanese makeup where you are, its a good time to grab it up.
However, I found that brands like Kate and Coffret D’or are cheaper in Malaysia compared to Hong Kong. The only difference is that Hong Kong gets the latest collections faster but if you are prepared to wait, then you can get it cheaper here. Kate is between RM5-10 cheaper in Malaysia while Maquillage and Coffret D’or is about RM10-20 cheaper here. Not much cheaper, but still cheap enough.
Prices aside, what Hong Kong has that Malaysia lacks is choice and variety. Go into any of the stores I listed above and you will be bombarded with tons of choices for every category of makeup and skincare you can imagine. It is very easy to get carried away by it all. What I particularly like is that there are many sub-brands of major Japanese cosmetic brands represented e.g. Shiseido (Majolica Majorca, Integrate, Maquillage), Kose (Softymo) and Kanebo (T’estimo, Coffret D’or, Lavshuca). I get my cleansing oil stock every time I go to Hong Kong simply because its so cheap there ranging from only HKD25-35 a bottle for Kanebo or Kose Softymo oils. Fans of Japanese makeup too will be spoilt for choice because of all the variety.
Before I left for Hong Kong, I was told that it was easy to find Lavshuca in Watson’s pharmacies. However, I hit every Watsons I came across and did not see any Lavshuca at all. Perhaps it is no longer sold there? Whatever it is, know your prices and you’ll be able to work out what’s cheaper and what’s not.
Update April 2009: Lavshuca, Gransenbon, Tony Moly, Tiffa, Majolica Majorca etc have counters at Watsons Causeway Bay near Times Square (opposite Sogo).
If I am short of time, where is the best place to go to?
Go to Mongkok. The MTR stops at Mongkok station and when you exit, you will be thrown into a frenzy of people and stores ranging from fashion to cosmetics. There is a Sasa at every corner (look out for the pink signboard) and one of the larger Bonjour stores at a corner. There is also a Laneige store and a DHC store as well as an Angel and Colormix if I’m not mistaken. I find that Mongkok is one of the better places to go to for an all-in-one experience of shopping in Hong Kong. For something more upscale yet with a good mix of cosmetics stores, go to Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island.
Update April 2009: Also hit up Causeway Bay where you can find a big Sasa near Sogo with a very good selection of cosmetics and deals. Some are not available in other smaller Sasa stores. There is also a very large Watson’s store that has a lot of Japanese drugstore cosmetics near Times Square. Opposite Times Square is a Shu Uemura, DHC and Laneige store. There is also L’Occitane, The Body Shop, Kiehl’s and Lane Crawford in Times Square has Chantecaille, Paul & Joe and Nars to name but a few leading brands.
I hope this helps anyone planning to go to Hong Kong soon. If you have more to add, do leave a comment. 🙂
If you are reading this in preparation for a holiday to Hong Kong, enjoy your trip, the shopping and the food! 😀
Update: I will update this post if I come across new finds. However I’ve had to close comments as I’m not based in Hong Kong and I cannot tell you where to find the specific items you want. This is but a rough guide which I hope you find a useful starting point.