In the States, they have drugstores round every corner and the UK is dominated by High Street favourites Boots and Superdrugs… but what about beauty shopping on a budget in Hong Kong, where it often seems that designer brands are queen?
Actually, there are plenty of bargain beauty buys lurking on the shelves of your local pharmacists, supermarkets, Sasas or Watsons/Mannings (we still get them confused!). Here are my top picks of great items, all easily available for well under $100.
Vaseline Lip Therapy
Vaseline’s Lip Therapy made it into my hallowed hall of make-up miracles years ago – and it’s still going strong in my make-up bag today! Vaseline have been producing their much-loved petroleum jelly for well over one hundred years now, and there’s something comforting about bringing out that retro tin my mum introduced to me in childhood. Not only is it a winter essential for dried chapped lips, but it also gives them a super slick shine that most glosses would be jealous of! It works a treat on other patches of dry skin (flaky sinuses from too much nose-blowing anyone?!) whilst people are always chipping in with new tips and uses; so far, I’ve heard about smearing it around your nose to prevent hayfever (it’s supposed to catch the pollen), using it on eyelids for added shimmer, as an au naturel lash-extending substitute for mascara, to help protect and heal cuts and even as a make-up remover (we’re not going to discuss the naughtier suggestions!).
St Ives Apricot Scrub
There’s a reason why one of these is sold every 20 seconds around the world! With a yummy fresh apricot scent that acts as a zesty wake-up call to the skin, these invigorating blemish-fighting scrubs are simply some of the best, yet cheapest, exfoliators around. St Ives use 100% natural extracts, no nasty parabens and phthalates and have an ethical eco-friendly stance; their signature scrubs combine powerful anti-oxidants and nourishing oils from the apricots with natural exfoliants found in walnut shell to slough off dead cells, providing a deep clean that leaves your skin instantly softer, smoother and glowing. There are several varieties available, including ones specifically designed for brightening, fighting blackheads or sensitive complexions, so finding the right one for you is a piece of (apricot!) cake.
One of my favourite cosmetics brands is Urban Decay, who constantly deliver an amazing range of colours and products at brilliant quality and reasonable prices. Sadly, Urban Decay isn’t available in Hong Kong (hope you’re reading this UD head honchos!) so Gosh, a funky make-up brand from Sweden that is available at selected Watsons, is basically the next best thing. The packaging is (whisper it) slightly Mac-esque but at a fraction of the price, whilst all their make-up comes in an array of rainbow colours, bound to please even the peacocks amongst you! I particularly love their range of durable nail polishes, their super-dazzling loose-pigment Effect Eye Shadows and their colour-popping variety of different eyeliners. Gosh also have a small skincare range, also very reasonably priced, and I’m a big fan of their non-acetone nail polish remover, which gently swipes off your varnish with none of that typical harsh sting (and scent).
Sebamed Hand & Nail Repair Cream
A combination of the ever-present drying Arctic blasts of air-conditioning and the amount of moisture-stripping hand sanitizers we subject ourselves too means a good hand cream is an absolute essential for all HKers! I’ve tried fancier hand creams, I’ve tried better-looking hand creams and I’ve tried more expensive hand creams yet so far, Sebamed’s no-frills lotion beats them all hands down (excuse the pun!). Another of my make-up miracles that boasts great word-of-mouth Stateside and is often recommended by dermatologists, it might look plain on the outside and has an unremarkable scent and consistency, but it’s the only hand cream that’s gone some way into mending my dry hands and cracked fingers. Neither too rich nor too oily, it’s formulated to a neutral pH of 5.5, the precise pH of healthy skin, and does a gentle job of softening skin and strengthening nails.
My Beauty Diary Face Masks
These have become a bit of a cult amongst beauty bloggers; if you see any of them posting a ‘Hong Kong haul’ of purchases from our fair city, you can be certain to see My Beauty Diary masks lurking in their loot! It’s partly down to the lovely girlie packaging, partly down to the huge number of “flavours” available and partly down to the great results you get for such a reasonable price. These sheet masks deliver intense nourishment for your face, plus a relaxing blast of scrummy scents, that will leave your complexion soft, smooth and radiant. There are many different varieties designed to target different problems, so whether you have ageing, sensitive, dry or oily skin, or need deep moisturising, soothing, brightening or firming, there will be something for you! Perfect for rejuvenating tired and dull skin, their newest “Teatime” range, including Earl Grey Tea & Macaroon and Chocolate Truffle marks, is particularly adorable too!
Need a freelance writer? Have products for review? Or just want to borrow some nail polish? If so, drop Rachel a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more from Rach by visiting her blog, Through the Looking Glass.