I’ve been promising you this post for nearly a year and it’s finally here! I am lucky enough to be able to visit London roughly every six months or so, and every single time I tell myself that I’m not going to buy any more beauty products… and then I invariably spend vast amounts of money on new makeup and skincare that I definitely don’t need! In my defense, London has become a beauty mecca – the UK market is forecast to grow by 21.1% over the next five years and will be worth £27bn by 2022! Do your bit to keep the industry afloat by shopping at some of my favourite beauty destinations the next time you’re in London:
Situated just north of the river in London’s West End, surrounded by many of the city’s cultural and culinary hotspots, Covent Garden has always been one of my favourite places to visit. The shopping is fantastic and recently the area has started to attract a number of luxury beauty brands who have all opened standalone stores. In fact, the “Beauty Quarter” has more standalone beauty boutiques and concept stores within one square mile than anywhere else in London! Here you’ll find Charlotte Tilbury, NARS, Bobbi Brown, Burberry, Diptyque, Chanel, Jo Malone (flagship), Urban Decay, Dior and Clinique. There is also a big Deciem store there where you can buy products from Hylamide, The Ordinary, NIOD and the rest of their brands under one roof. Full list of stores here.
The Oxford Circus tube station is the starting point for many shopping trips in London, especially for tourists, but it’s also the easiest way to get to some of my favourite beauty shopping destinations. Instead of going down Oxford Street itself, take the Argyll Street exit and walk down towards Liberty (2 mins). Here, you’ll find the entrance to Carnaby Street, home to the largest MAC Pro flagship store in the world, as well as Too Faced, Birchbox, Pixi, Benefit and Urban Decay.
There are a couple of very worthwhile beauty shops on Oxford Circus too – pop into the big H&M there to browse the makeup (I love their lipsticks, blushes and hair styling products especially) and inside Topshop on the ground floor you’ll find BeautyMART; a curated collection of cult beauty products, including tons of Korean goodies. You can also obviously buy Topshop makeup there – my favourites include Mohawk bronzer, and their kohl eyeliners, lip products and Glow Pots.
London’s department stores have really caught the beauty bug in the past few years, offering customers a much more luxurious and well-considered shopping experience. My favourite has to be Selfridges, which has a huge luxury beauty hall but – more excitingly, I think – an equally large section showcasing new and harder-to-find brands, called the Beauty Workshop. Here you will find brands like Ouai, Zoeva, Tata Harper, Tony Moly, First Aid Beauty, beautyblender and loads more. It is 5000 square feet of beauty junkie crack.
Liberty is another huge favourite of mine, because it offers a more curated selection of brands. You won’t find big names like Estee Lauder and Dior here, but you will find a selection of some of the industry’s best-performing products from Hourglass, Chantecaille, Sam McKnight, NARS and Laura Mercier. They also carry a lot of beautiful fragrance brands, like Le Labo, Diptyque, Escentric Molecules, Frédéric Malle and Byredo.
Fenwicks in New Bond Street have also upped their game in recent years and are now offering a selection of beauty-related services alongside the retail experience. You can have your brows done at Blink, visit the Chantecaille Healing Spa, get a manicure at Nails Inc Luxe or give your locks some love at Radio London Hair Salon.
If you’re looking for Fenty Beauty then you’ll find it exclusively at Harvey Nichols along with a seriously gorgeous beauty hall packed with every luxury beauty product you can think of. Debenhams has most of the big beauty names but is also good for brands that are otherwise tricky to track down in the UK, like Kat Von D, Make Up For Ever and Korres.
There is something about Space NK that just really gets my juices flowing. I love the store experience, the merchandising, the brand selection, the Instagram feed… everything! It feels very much like a store that is designed by beauty lovers for beauty lovers. The range available in-store and online is extremely comprehensive, from well-known names like NARS, Hourglass, BECCA, Cover FX and Kevyn Aucoin to smaller labels like Herbivore, Sunday Riley, Dr Barbara Sturm, Emma Hardie, IGK, Oskia and Sarah Chapman. My favourite branch is the one on the King’s Road, especially at Christmas time when the gift sets come into stock.
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In my opinion, this sister brand to H&M is a massively underrated part of the London beauty scene. Sure, they also sell extremely lust-worthy clothing, shoes and jewellery but their beauty range is the real star of the show if you ask me (it’s also much more affordable than everything else in the store!). The bath and body range is the standout to me – they make the best body scrubs, lovely lightweight body lotions, and crazy good handcreams, all in sophisticated, well-balanced scents. I love Sicilian Sunrise, Fig Fiction, Moroccan Tea, Arabesque Wood and Havana Blues, but there are also loads more I haven’t yet purchased. They have an equally wide makeup range that is beautifully packaged and seems very well made – definitely worth a look although I haven’t bought much of it myself.
By far the best place to go on a rainy shopping day in London, Westfield (I go to the one in Shepherd’s Bush) will keep you busy for hours. The range of beauty stores includes Charlotte Tilbury, Aesop, Jo Malone, Kiko, Neal’s Yard and Rituals. There is a massive, two-storey Boots as well as a good Superdrug and a number of department stores (John Lewis, M&S, Debenhams) that stock a variety of beauty brands. It’s also just opened a £600m extension that includes 90 new stores, making it the largest shopping centre in Europe.
Independent boutiques & pharmacies
There are a few specialty makeup shops and independent pharmacies dotted around London that are well worth the hunt. London’s oldest pharmacy, John Bell & Croyden is a gleaming, 12,500-square-foot megastore in Marylebone that carries over 1,000 different products. On the other end of the scale is Zest in Soho, a tiny pharmacy with a surprisingly wide range of popular brands, especially cult classics in the French skincare scene. For professional makeup products, Guru Makeup Emporium (Kensington High Street) and ScreenFace (Shoreditch) stock everything from HD foundation to special effects paraphernalia.
Some of the best beauty shopping in London can be done in the most unexpected places. For example, the natural and organic beauty range at Whole Foods will blow you away, especially at the big one in Kensington High Street. You’ll find some amazing Japanese beauty gems in Muji, including miniature cotton buds, compressed face masks (like a dry, squished up sheet mask before the serum is added), refillable travel size bottles and really good quality cosmetic cases. Urban Outfitters is another surprisingly good place to find beauty products – among the brands they stock is Mario Badescu, Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant, Mane ‘n Tail, BH Cosmetics, Pixi, Dr Bronner’s and Frank Body.