There’s nothing we love more than a little retail therapy. Scratch that—there’s nothing we love more than a little retail therapy in one of the world’s top beauty shopping cities. From the aisles of French pharmacies to the all-natural beauty meccas of Copenhagen, the world is teeming with beauty wonders just waiting to be swatched, slathered, and snatched up (sorry, credit cards). With that in mind, we took it upon ourselves to put together a definitive guide to the best cities in the world for buying beauty products. Whether your tastes are luxe or you thrive in a Technicolor drugstore, you’ll want to bookmark this list—then book your next plane ticket.
Paris and beauty practically go hand in hand. We could go on and on about the wallet-friendly skincare wonders in French pharmacies (and we have), one on every corner. If you’re more of a makeup person, niche stores like Mademoiselle Bio and Plein Fard carry an assortment of all-natural and professional beauty brands, respectively. If your tastes veer on the more luxe side, make sure to stop by the beauty parlor at the famed Le Bon Marché—a “little grocery store of beauty” that houses only the finest prestige brands. To find out more about where to shop for beauty products in Paris, feel free to refer to this makeup artist–curated list.
Australia, land of surf, sun, and sun-kissed sand, also happens to be a major beauty mecca—the city of Sydney in particular. Sure, Sephora recently opened its doors there in 2014 (finally), but Australian women were flocking to Aussie-owned beauty superstores like Mecca Cosmetics (aptly named) long before Sephora landed. Along with that, you’ll also find botanical beauty products aplenty—from cool-girl haircare lines like Original Minerals and Mr. Smith to the your much-loved red tube of Lucas Papaw Ointment ($11).
Our Anglophile selves would say that London is an amazing city for any type of shopping, but beauty in particular stands out. Stop in any Boots or Superdrug and stock up on cheap but good drugstore finds (the one pound Make Up Academy lipsticks are so good), or discover new, niche brands at beauty emporiums like Liberty and BeautyMart, a store founded by a former Vogue beauty director and makeup brand founder. If you’re a perfume fanatic, Harrod’s Salon de Perfume is your idea of heaven—5000 square feet of the world’s finest fragrances housed under one gilded roof—while British natural fragrance brand Neom’s airy space is another must-see.
The city that never sleeps also happens to be one of our all-time favorite beauty shopping destinations. Whether you’re a budget-loving Ricky’s NYC devotee or prefer to spend your time perusing the Instagram-worthy aisles of the Diptyque flagship on Bleecker Street, New York has plenty on offer from SoHo, Harlem (make sure to check out Vivrant Beauty), and beyond. Organic beauty lovers will find plenty of new products to try at the all-natural beauty boutique that is CAP Beauty, while Shen Beauty in Brooklyn offers a meticulously curated collection of good-for-you beauty products, both local and from across the pond.
Austin, Texas, might not be the first city that springs to mind when you think about beauty shopping—it might not even be the fifth, or 10th. Anyone who’s been will tell you it’s a hidden shopping gem, however, with chic yet inviting stores like By George, Spartan Shop, and JM Dry Goods offering carefully curated beauty selections from overseas brands like Grown Alchemist, as well as niche products by locally owned businesses. Don’t leave without stopping by the W3ll People flagship or picking up a deliciously scented body product from the Milk + Honey spa.
French pharmacies may get all the glory, but Tokyo drugstores are a wonder in their own right—mainly that they are opposites in every way. Filled with flashing advertisements and brightly packaged products that range from ordinary to unexpected (collagen drinks, being one), the stores offer plenty of skincare and makeup products galore—sheet masks and mascara being crowd favorites. For haircare, snatch up Japanese masstige brand Tsubaki, which is especially good for super-thirsty strands. Want a more subdued shopping experience? Find respite at smaller beauty “libraries” like the one designed by Nendo, an organic beauty boutique-meets-café—it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
If you’re a green-beauty devotee, we recommend taking a trip to Copenhagen sometime in the near future. Often said to be the mecca of green beauty in Europe (fitting, since it won’t the European Green Capital award in 2014), the Danish city is teeming with organic beauty products, both home-grown and from abroad. Magasin du Nord is the main department store and houses brands like Dr. Hauschka and Aromatherapy Associates, as well as lesser-known brands like Nilens Jord and Benecos. Pure Shop houses only organic beauty goods and is said to be Europe’s largest organic-only shop, while Matas offers a great natural beauty selection, along with killer sales.
And of course, no shopping guide would be complete without mentioning Seoul. Korean beauty is having a moment (or rather, many, many moments), and Seoul is the heartbeat of it all, with new products and innovations being developed on the daily. Make room in your suitcase if you’re planning a visit, and prepare to fill it with everything from kelp sheet masks to snail cream overnight masks. Check out our K-beauty correspondent’s complete guide to beauty shopping in Seoul.