When I lived in Korea, I didn’t spend too much time in Korean beauty shops unless I absolutely had to, simply because a shave, a shampoo, and deodorant application were my idea of “beautification.” Of course, that was the ideal, but I actually “had to” spend quite a bit of time in such stores, whenever I was hanging out with my girlfriend in Seoul or Ilsan. When we moved back to the U.S., any idea that my days of exploring Korean cosmetics/personal care stores had ended – or at least gone on hiatus – vanished when I saw the sheer number of such stores located throughout Bergen County.
This isn’t surprising, though, when you consider that Bergen County has one of the highest concentrations of overseas Koreans and Korean-Americans in the country (a fact I didn’t know until I moved here). So, if you’re in Bergen County and in the market for Korean beauty products and cosmetics, and happen to be traveling up or down Broad Avenue – through Ridgefield, Palisades Park, and Leonia – then you’re really in luck. Bergen County truly is one of the best places this side of the Han River to find the perfect addition to your look.
Club Clio Professional, Leonia
They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and if you’re in Leonia and looking to make your peepers a bit more soulful, you might want to drop into the local Clio store to see what they can do for you. My girlfriend tells me my eyes and eyebrows are already dark and soulful enough on their own – and then some – but if you’re not as lucky as I am (I mean, who is, really?) then stop in here and check out their Tinted Tattoo Kill Brow set, which I was told is one of the most popular products for sale. Your brows will thank you.
This location of Clio is the genuine article, a bona-fide corporate store rather than a franchisee. The atmosphere is warm and inviting – the day I stopped in, I was able to chat with the manager, and if she’s as kind to paying customers as she is to a random guy popping in off the street and asking to take some pictures, then the high customer service alone makes this store a desirable stop along Broad Avenue, just before Fort Lee Road. Again, my eyes are pretty enough, but if you’re looking to accentuate your own, stop by!
Nature Republic, Palisades Park
Last year, after finishing my daily set of classes in Seoul, I’d often wait for my girlfriend to arrive at Hapjeong station after she finished work. There weren’t many places to comfortably wait in the station (unless waiting by an escalator is your idea of fun), but there did happen to be a Nature Republic store a short walk from the platform my girlfriend would arrive at. It wasn’t really a store in which I’d find much to buy, but it was nice to look around and sample (okay, smell) some of the products and testers.
The Palisades Park branch of Nature Republic isn’t like other locations you’ll find in the U.S. or Korea, though. Rather than limit itself to being a mere brand store, this location specializes in providing a wide variety of Korean beauty products to local consumers. They also make a special effort to price their products – Nature Republic, Skinfood, et al – in a way that makes them about as affordable here as they are in Korea, taking away one of the major obstacles to expats who want to buy foreign-made products, but don’t want to pay a premium for doing so.
The Face Shop at Super H Mart, Ridgefield
After entering this store, for the first time since returning to America from Korea, I finally felt as if I were really at a proper Korean beauty store…not in Ridgefield, Bergen County, New Jersey, but Myeongdong, Seoul, Korea. Conveniently located within the same complex as a Super H Mart supermarket, this location of The Face Shop seems to have it all. The manager and an employee informed me that the most popular products are part of their skin care line, with their Full Stay CC cream particularly popular this summer.
Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure what CC cream is or what it is supposed to do, but I did go into the store with a sense of mission: I’m just about out of the hair glaze I’d bought at a The Face Shop location in Hongdae, and brought with me back to the States last September. Lo and behold, I found it at the Ridgefield location! While it’s a bit pricier than in Korea (there it was ₩4000, but here it is $9), that’s a price I’m willing to pay for the help in taming my sometimes (that’s a lie – I should say, “usually”) unruly hair.
Where Else Can I Get This Stuff?
There are other places to find Korean beauty products these days; a visit to a busy Sephora is bound to turn up a product or two, and you can even find some at Target. However, going to a genuine K-beauty shop might offer more benefits than those other options. Unlike major cosmetics retailers, Korean beauty shops with locations in the U.S., like Tony Moly, The Face Shop, and Aritaum, have an interest in keeping their prices more or less on a par with the stores in Korea…above all, they aim to please.
Beyond that, though, there is just something about visiting a proper, specialized Korean beauty shop in America that sets it apart from Ulta, Sephora, or even your local drug store. Why shop in a big box store, with employees who aren’t dedicated to any particular product line? Whether you’re a Korean expat looking for a taste of home, or a fan seeking out the latest Korean product being touted by your favorite Korean YouTube vlogger, the many K-beauty stores in Bergen County should be on your list of stores to visit.