Living in Canada, the online beauty shopping options tend to be quite restricted compared with the US and, I think, even the UK. Here, I most often shop online with Sephora, beautyBOUTIQUE (Shoppers Drug Mart), and Well.ca—though I used to shop more with Hudson’s Bay—with the occasional order from Nail Polish Canada and, more recently, DECIEM. There are some international sites I’ll occasionally shop with, but generally I avoid those because I dislike having to pay high duties and customs fees, which are sometimes levied on incoming packages valued at CA$20 or more.
[Side note: Boy, do I miss ordering nail polish from the discount trifecta: 8ty8beauty (do not forget the “beauty”!!), Head2ToeBeauty, and TransDesign/NailSupplies! Shipping costs have just become too prohibitive over the years. I occasionally order from NailSupplies and have it delivered to my US relatives, but it’s happening less and less since my visitors don’t always have check-in luggage when they fly.]
I love shopping online. I love the convenience, the ability to easily research products before purchasing, and the online deals. We also don’t have a car, and anyway, driving/busing around to hunt down products is not my idea of a good time. All this is why I love shopping at Korean online beauty stores. They sell so many brands and products, making it way too easy to enjoy browsing, making a wishlist, filling up a shopping cart, and eventually placing an order. The hardest part is simply waiting for an order to arrive! (Not a problem for me: I enjoy the actual research and shopping, then I promptly forget about the order and get a lovely surprise in a few weeks when it finally arrives.)
Also, I’ve never been charged duties on my orders from South Korea! I used to try to keep the package values under $30, but it appears that Canada has a deal in place with South Korea (2014’s Canada-South Korea Free Trade Agreement) so that goods made in South Korea generally are no longer subject to duties.
My first Korean order was from Cosmetic Love (referral link), and they remain my favorite for good selection, great customer service, and an attractive, easy-to-use website. I have also had a good experience with Jolse, though due to Canadian postal issues, they no longer offer free shipping to Canada, so I’m not shopping with them for now.
I thought I ought to branch out and try different sellers, just in case anything happened with my favorite, so I made up a shortlist of RoseRoseShop, Tester Korea, and Sweet Corea. Rose Rose Shop ended up temporarily pulling free shipping to Canada like Jolse did, so they’re sadly off the list for now, since the new shipping costs are too high.
That left Tester Korea and Sweet Corea, so I’ve placed first orders with both.
Last week, my first order from Sweet Corea arrived.
I placed it on April 27, and Sweet Corea shipped it on May 9 (apparently it was a holiday period for them; I looked it up and Children’s Day is May 5, and this year Buddha’s Birthday was May 3). The package arrived on June 1, making the delivery time just over three weeks, which is about how long it takes with Cosmetic Love, as well.
I kept my first order to about CA$30, not including shipping which was $17. This is one thing I dislike about Sweet Corea: their product prices are lower but shipping costs are higher. Cosmetic Love does it the other way around and maintains higher product prices, but shipping on all orders is free. My order worked out slightly cheaper at Sweet Corea than it would have at Cosmetic Love, but the drawbacks to me are:
- I have to order a certain amount at Sweet Corea to make the shipping cost worthwhile.
- It annoys me to have to calculate how many items, and which items (shipping is calculated by weight) I can put into my order to keep it at a certain shipping cost tier.
It’s just nice to be able to throw an item or two into my order and check out like I can at Cosmetic Love, though obviously if I have a larger order in mind, it’s probably worth my time and effort to sort out an order with Sweet Corea. Because of the shipping charge by weight, cheap and heavy things are better bought at Cosmetic Love, and pricier, lightweight things are a better deal at Sweet Corea.
Sweet Corea’s website can be a little unwieldy to navigate. Things I don’t like about their store:
- Products are sorted only into high-level categories: for example, you can look at a category of eye makeup, but you can’t filter that by mascara, eyeshadow, or eyeliner. Ugh. Luckily, their search does work pretty quickly.
- I can’t sort categories by “Best selling”. I’m not a Korean beauty connoisseur; I like/need to know what’s popular! Or what’s on sale! (They do have a sale section, “365 Outlet”, but you cannot even filter that by category.)
- The site keeps logging me out every thirty minutes or so, and I like to keep a session open forever, so that vexes me. But at least they save my shopping cart. I hate sites that delete my shopping cart! Why would you ever do that?!
- They have very little nail polish. 😞
- Finally, I noticed that when I first signed up for an account with my email address and a new password, the web page was not secure (https). It was secure once I logged in with my new account, but I did not like that my initial password was sent insecurely. Just remember to use an email and password that you don’t also use for anything important (like your bank account).
Things I like about their store:
- The website layout is tidy and easy to use, and it loads quickly.
- Prices are on the lower side (even after taking shipping into account).
- Order arrived in good time and was well-packed. All items were in fine condition.
- Generous free samples.
This is what I got in my first order (prices are in US):
- COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, $4.68
- COSRX Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Overnight Mask (10 samples), $1.65
- COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask (10 samples), $1.65
- Holika Holika gudetama Lazy & Joy Egg Bun Puff, $2.57
- Mamonde Moisture Ceramide Skin Softener, $11.01
- Mizon Good Night White Sleeping Mask, $2.73
- The Saem Fruits Punch Hand Cream in Mangosteen, $2.48
- Secret Key Snail Repairing Emulsion, $3.94
- The Face Shop Eco Natural Sun Power Long Lasting Sun Cream (free sample)
- O HUI Chrysin Perfect Sun Red (free samples)
- Skinfood Ginseng Fruit Revital Capsule Essence (free sample)
- Skinfood Lemon Verbena Body Wash (free sample)
Shipping was $17.22, so just add an additional 56% to the above prices! Not as cheap as it looked, right? Haha. But just as an example, on Cosmetic Love, the regular price of the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser is $11. Sweet Corea’s price, factoring in my shipping cost for this particular order, is $4.68 × 1.56 = $7.30. Even when Cosmetic Love runs a typical 15%/20% off sale ($9.35/$8.80), Sweet Corea still works out noticeably cheaper.
I’ve been so curious about these two sleeping masks, and these samples are a nice way to try them out without ponying up for the full sizes.
These are the free samples Sweet Corea included:
Fun fact: The Face Shop and O HUI are both LG brands (yes, the same South Korean company that makes your refrigerator/dishwasher/washing machine).
I’m very pleased with my first Sweet Corea order, and there’s definitely a place for this online store in my future shopping!