One of my favourite beauty hotspots of London away from the glitz and glamour of the department stores was the lovely little standalone boutiques and stores in Covent Garden- this is a makeup addicts mecca- where you can find Charlotte Tilbury, a MAC Pro Store, Nars, Urban Decay, Chanel, Dior, YSL, Rituals, 3ina, Kiko Milano and The Body Shop all within a literal stones throw of each other. I would definitely recommend first and foremost to pop here first if you're looking to whet your London beauty appetite.
It's well known that the euro is going strong against the sterling since the disastrous Brexit referendum results last June, and it's also well known that some brands tend to fleece Irish customers compared to their UK customers with a very unfair exchange rates imposed on their goods (i.e. that dress in Shop X that will cost you £20 or €50). I didn't really set out to buy anything in London that I could easily get here but I did find myself rationalising any purchases on the basis that it would be cheaper to buy them in sterling in London than it would be to buy them in euros in Ireland. One such instance of this was in the flagship Charlotte Tilbury store on James Street in Covent Garden (immediately facing the Covent Garden tube station). Now I am not a huge lover of the brand - I've said before I think it can be hit and miss and I find it to be overhyped by UK online influencers in particular, but I had a few things on my wishlist and I wanted to check out the flagship store. I have to say, it was an amazing experience - the staff in there were busy but so incredibly helpful, not at all pushy, they just knew their products inside out and were enthusiastic to be given the opportunity to demonstrate them. I picked up a new Cheek to Chic in Sex on Fire, the Instant Look in a Palette in the Natural Look, the Matte Revolution lipstick in Very Victoria and what I actually went into the shop for, the KISSING lipstick in Valentine. I saved almost €30 on Brown Thomas prices by paying in sterling which was not bad going.
The Body Shop is another culprit of inflicting inexplicably higher prices on Irish customers. I knew before I left that I wanted to pick up a backup of my beloved Spas of the World Japanese Camellia Cream which is my all time favourite body moisturiser - so much so I've actually finished two giant pots which is unheard of for me because body moisturising goes right down my list of priorities but I adore the scent and texture of the Japanese Camellia Cream. I also purchased the Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask to see if it's a more affordable version of Glamglow. Together these would have cost me €64 in an Irish store but they came to £41/€48 in a London store.
Lastly but not leastly in Covent Garden, I have to give a shoutout to the NARS Boutique which was incredible - all the NARS products you could imagine. You all know how much I adore the Audacious lipsticks from NARS - they are my favourite lipstick formula of all time ever - so I picked up two new shades - Vanessa and Vivien - and the Soft Matte Concealer in Vanilla. The very nice assistant spent so much time going through a variety of products with me and very generously threw in some free gifts after I had paid for my bits and pieces.
Kiko Milano is a good example of where it's not necessarily more cost effective to purchase beauty in the UK - a product that cost €9.90 on the website or in a European store would cost £9.90 in London. I'm kind of all Kiko'd out since my Italian trip last year but I did see a lipliner that I liked the look of so I picked that up. There are a few Kiko Milano stores sprinkled around London city centre - the one in Covent Garden and the one on Regent Street (near the Oxford Circus end) spring to mind. The one of Regent Street is massive - much bigger than the brand flagship store in Milan as a matter of fact - I couldn't believe there were two floors full of Kiko makeup!
I didn't notice that much of a difference in price/ product between Space NK in the UK versus Space NK in Ireland and I wasn't really planning on buying anything in the Knightsbridge store but it was love at first swatch when I swatched the Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Blush Palette so I had to have it there and then on the spot just in case. Usually I would try to purchase in Ireland because you cannot get your Ndulge points on a ROI card in a UK store.
Aside from the standalone or specialist stores, I had an overwhelmingly positive experience in the larger department stores in London that I visited also and lord knows you don't have to walk too far to find a department store in London!
I had never been to Harrods before as Knightsbridge is a little more off the beaten track but I was mighty glad to have visited there because the beauty halls (yes, multiple halls) were exquisite. I've been to loads of department stores before but none of them have felt as opulent and luxe as Harrods. There was a gorgeous perfumerie room with all of the perfume bottles glistening like jewels, luxurious carpets where your feet would sink 6 inches into glorious cushy comfort, and even though the place was an absolute maze as we tried to navigate our way around the multiple rooms and passages, every single room was an experience in itself. In terms of beauty offerings, Harrods don't disappoint. When we got off the tube, we ducked into the nearest entrance which conveniently led us straight into the beauty department and as the MAC counter was directly in front of us, I said I would chance my arm and ask if they perchance had any of the MAC x Harrods eyeshadow palettes left. I really didn't fancy my chances as this was released on Boxing Day and usually limited edition collections sell out in hot minutes but low and behold, I was able to get my hands on one. I also made a beeline for the Marc Jacobs counter because I wanted to pick up one of their new Le Marc Liquid Lip Cremes and I ended up purchasing two in the shades Slow Burn and Truth or Bare. There were absolutely loads of beauty counters in Harrods - all the usual suspects like Chanel, Estee Lauder, YSL etc. but also some rarer treats like Marc Jacobs as I mentioned and even Huda Beauty!
On Oxford Street, I called into Debenhams to see the first Kat von D display and it was larger than I expected but not quite as extensive as the US displays in Sephora that I had seen. The newer products i.e. the new Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks were not available for purchase but I think most of the other products were - eyeshadow palettes, foundations etc. Something else that they had in the Oxford Street store was a giant Illamasqua stand which is a novelty for Irish beauty lovers.
The flagship Selfridges store on Oxford Street is also a must-visit destination for beauty lovers - rows and rows of shiny beauty counters in a layout more similar to the traditional department store. I swung by the Chanel counter because I was interested in getting shade matched for the new Le Teint Ultra Tenue foundation and after extensive trialling, I ended up settling for shade 10. This set me back £37 in London but is for sale for €50 in Ireland so I made a decent saving unbeknownst to myself.
Last but not least, Liberty London just off Regent Street is a department store housed in an adorable Tudor style building. It reminded me very much of The Apprentice this year as a whole task was set up here. It's quite an old fashioned, quaint department store with a variety of different goods on offer, it's such a pleasure to walk around as it's very different from the corporate clean lines of your standard twenty-first century department store. I wasn't expecting to purchase anything in the beauty hall but I came across the Pixi/Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse Balm/Cream Cleanser and I was bursting to try this for myself. There were a lot of the lesser known brands in the Liberty Beauty Hall but from what I can remember there were huge Bobbi Brown and Kiehls counters too.
All in all, bearing in mind that we really only had two days of sightseeing around London city centre as we were at a show in the ExCel all day Sunday, I think we did quite well in terms of beauty shopping. There were obviously many more beauty outlets around the place but these are the ones that stuck out to me on this occasion. I didn't bother with any of the pharmacies e.g. Boots, Superdrug as I don't think there are any brands available in the UK now that we cannot get here. I'm just not that impressed by the likes of MUA and Makeup Revolution so I passed on those on this occasion. I hope that if you're a beauty nut like me and you're considering going to London and would like to indulge in some beauty shopping that this might be a helpful starting point for you.
It was just a whirlwind trip to London so I'm sure I have not even scratched the surface of what the beauty shopping scene really has to offer but I hope that this post would be helpful for anybody thinking about making a trip in the near future,.Are there any London beauty meccas that I haven't listed here that you think my readers should know about (and that I can mentally catalogue it for my next trip)? If so, please do share the knowledge!