Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NOW KPOPPING: Mel Beauty Blogs about K-Cosmetics (& KPOP, obvs)

Apols for being MIA for a bit. I pinched a nerve in my left hand (a residual problem, I'm afraid -- darn you, carpal tunnel) so the thought of typing more than necessary (I "moonlight" as a Social Media professional) didn't exactly enthrall me. Before I jump into all the goodies I've been listening to (Tegan & Sara! SHINee! AlunaGeorge! Demi Lovato!), I have gotten a lot of requests on the Twitters (follow me via @melismaticdiva) regarding my trip to The Face Shop here in NYC. I am by no means a beauty blogger (what's up, LesleyKat!) but for you Americano KPOP fanaticals (don't deny the madness, ya'll) who were asking for more info, this one's for you...

(Some) of The Face Shop's private label makeup.
Back in January (aka the height of Girls Generation's "I Got A Boy" campaign -- it feels like eons ago, TBQH), I took a trip to Koreatown here in NYC. For those who don't live in/haven't been to New York City, Koreatown isn't nearly as "large" as it's name suggests -- it's basically a two block radius right off Herald Square (where the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is spotlighted) around 32nd Street in Midtown. It's mostly eyecatching for its plethora of Korean BBQ restaurants (I've yet to be disappointed no matter which restaurant I end up choosing), but in the middle of 32nd between 5th Avenue & Broadway there's a little blink-and-you-miss-it beauty store inside of a bookstore that is a literal goldmine for KPOP nerds like you and me. 

You'll notice a brown awning with Hangul and the words "Koryo Books" in white English lettering with KPOP posters in the window display. If you hit the cute little French meets Korean (Frerean?) cafe Tous Les Jours (yes, the same franchise that Super Junior Eunhyuk's fam co-operates), stop where you are and look around. It's right next to it.

It's called The Face Shop (apparently there is another one in Chinatown in NYC -- near Canal Street, but I haven't been there so I can't totally verify) and it's one of South Korea's largest, most well-known beauty stores. However, here in America, it's basically a single aisle of beauty goodies imported from South Korea, complete in cutesy packaging (pots of lip balm with kitties on the cover? ERGMAGAH) and unique ingredients. When I say single aisle, I mean it, folks. It's basically like a closet stocked with beauty goodies -- from face masks, to skincare, to makeup removal cloths, to BB cream (oh, the BB creams!), cheap makeup, tools and applicators. 

When I walked in, I was inundated with a large photo of a smiling Won Bin (squee!) lobbying your interest for a particular BB Cream (which I bought, obviously). KPOP music blared as I shopped the small shelves. I had a bit of an awkward moment when I was suddenly the sole shopper amongst the two (Korean) ladies who worked there and 2NE1's "I Love You" came over the sound system and I inadvertantly (I swear) started humming along. One of the girls asked me if I knew the song, and I said yeah -- "I'm a big fan of CL and 2NE1." Her whole face lit up and she told me she saw 2NE1's Korea. I nodded and said I also saw them in New York. Ahh, international bonding.

I ended up purchasing a handful of things -- overall the prices were pretty agreeable ($2 for a face mask? Hell yeah.). I will definitely be going back for more in the future. Here's what I bought:

All of these items are The Face Shop brand. Above you see: Herb Day Cleansing Wipes for Makeup Removal ("gentle yet thorough cleansing wipes with plant extracts"); Face It Power Perfection BB Cream with SPF 37 in Light Beige; Face & It All About Lipstick in Semi-Matte PK101 (yes, that's the name; Incorrect Usage of Ampersand, Party of You -- "intense color and matte cream texture for sophistication and staying power"); and three Face Mask Sheets in Supreme Cereal Soybean, Pearl and Black Bean.

The Chia Seed Moisturizer Cream samples were thrown in as a bonus gift with purchase. Samples are provided every time you shop and the selection always varies depending on availability.

My Korean BB Cream, swatched on my hand for effect. It's not as glossy as it looks when it's applied.
Overall, I was obviously most pleased with the BB Cream -- I've been burned a bit by the American interpretations of this "miracle" cream and was dying to try the real thing. The Face Shop had quite a few different types or styles of BB Cream that provided different "benefits" depending on your skin type (moisturizing vs. not; matte vs. glossy; etc.) but for those of you ladies who have darker skin, I'm sorry to say you might be out of luck. At most, I saw two different shade options for the creams, and the majority of the styles had only one shade. I'm lucky in that sense, as I'm pretty vampiric pale -- and couldn't be more ecstatic with my choice.

On the box, the only English (other than the title) is: "A BB Cream providing total skin treatment to achieve power perfection skin by imparting proactive care to overall skin problems, including bagginess, roughness and dryness."

Ms. Melismatic
I would describe BB Cream as something in between a liquid foundation and a tinted moisturizer. It can be used instead of foundation for light coverage, or it can be used in tandem with it. I couldn't be more pleased with the Power Perfection, and I will probably be buying more once I run out. You don't need much at a time -- a little goes a long way -- and unlike many of the American BB Creams, it comes with a pump dispenser top so you don't waste the product by squeezing out too much. Literally -- one pump and you're good for your whole face. 

It was available in two sizes at the store, and I opted for the smaller one as I didn't know what to expect. I have been using it pretty steadily since then and it still feels pretty full -- so it's a pretty good bargain. To the right is a photo of yours truly, rockin' my dewy-faced BB Cream-ed look. I did not wear any foundation that day -- just the BB Cream over my usual moisturizer (it's by Benefit, if you care to know details). I do have a bit of occasional acne around my mouth and chin and I find this BB Cream covers redness very well.

PS - Notice the snow in my curls? That was the day of Hurricane Donghae Nemo!

For a bit more about Korean BB Creams from a Western point of view (and not from a makeup guru), check out the fab folks at Eat Your Kimchi.

As for the lipstick, that I was a bit disappointed with. The color I chose wasn't the most flattering (I blame the lighting in the store), and the texture was a bit chalky (maybe because it was the Semi-Matte?) so it bleeds very quickly and doesn't like to stay put. Next time I think I will opt for more of a gloss or less of a matte texture.

I should note though that both the BB Cream and the Lipstick have very distinct smells that I can't quite place. This might be off putting to some so buyer beware. I don't find it overwhelming but it is noticeable.

The face masks come in a little plastic square package as shown, and inside is a cloth that is in the shape of a face with folded flaps for your eyes, nose and mouth that is soaked in a thick, almost jelly-like substance. Basically, you look more than a little demonic when you put these suckers on. You leave it on for 20 minutes, then pull/slide it off and rub in the remaining whatever into  your face. I've tried the Black Bean one and found it incredibly cooling, and left my face looking very fresh and bright. Again, for reference (and lolz), see EYK.

Example of Engrish on the Packaging: "Mask sheet made of pure cotton that contains Korean black bean extract makes your skin elastic." (Fon-tastic. Eh-lastic. Ring ding dong. Ring ding dong. Ding. Ring a ding. Ring a ding ding ding.)

Directions for the Black Bean Hangul.

The Face Shop is basically inside a "Korean Book Store" -- real name: Koryo Bookstore, so once you pay for your goodies, swivel your head to the left and even more treasures await. The vast majority of the store is made up of actual books in Korean or about Korea/Koreans, but a large corner is alotted to all things KPOP, and another toward all things KDRAMA. However -- while the prices at The Face Shop are awesomely budget-friendly, I can't really say the same for the KPOP merch featured at Koryo. Be prepared to pay quite a bit more than you would at To be fair though -- you will have the product in your hands immediately, and as a person who waited a month for her Sexy, Free & Single album, that is pretty gratifying.

Imagine my utter euphoria to walk amongst all of this.

Top Shelf: All things 2NE1 (and a bonus Trouble Maker). Bottom Shelf: All things SNSD/Girls' Generation.

It should come as very little surprise to you that the major three labels were very present in extreme abundance with SM being the obvious King. It can be argued that because Girls' Generation were in active promo mode for "I Got A Boy", it would make sense to see them literally everywhere, but I would venture a claim that a good 30% of the KPOP selection there was solely GG with discs and photobooks and DVDs galore. Don't forget, I Got A Boy (not unlike Mr. Simple) was released with different covers for each of the nine members. As I was walking out, a group of boys made a beeline for the disc and I overheard one grumbling (in English) about no TaeYeon-featured covers being left. I did spy HyoYeon, Yuri and Sunny being bright and center.

Top Shelf: All Super Junior, including the "U" single(!). 2nd Shelf: SHINee (hello, topless Minho). Bottom Shelf: 75% Infinite (right); 25% Teen Top (left).
They also had Super Junior merchandise like pens and calenders but I was already feeling a bit self-conscious being the sole White Girl taking photos of SHINee albums, and decided to call it a day.

Random Tidbit: While I wasn't looking too in depth, I did not see one piece of merch for JYJ. Sad face, even though a dark part of me expected it. I was, however, pretty surprised to not find one bit of merch for B2ST (beyond that Trouble Maker album in the first photo). Hmmm. Overall, it was much more Girl Group heavy than Boy Bands.

In the wake of the "I Got A Boy" mixed-bag-of-feelings fallout, I was quick to assert on the Twitters that it was very clear there was a reason SM was pushing the Goddesses Nine in the American market. Homegirls were the only group there that had multiple shelves completely to themselves.

That's a lot of GG (oh-mo!). You can see a bit of Wonder Girls, f(x) and KARA in the bottom shelves. GG also had a whole other wall display in addition to this.

So much good, right? Hope this was as detailed as some of you were hoping for! Next time, I'll be sure to duck in to Tous Les Jours as well...

All of these photos are mine, but feel free to use if them if you want to (shrug). A link back to would be just dandy. For more random photos like these (along with lots of random weirdness, live concert events and lots of nail polish), follow me on the Instagrams via @melismaticdiva.

So non-NYC KPoppers, are you jelly yet? What are you lemming for? Have you been to The Face Shop/KPOP Book Store? If so, what did you buy? Let me know in the comments.

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