25 May 2012

Where to Buy Nail Polish in Hong Kong

Despite my growing interest, I was stymied for the longest time by the fact that I had no idea where to buy nail polish in Hong Kong. Many salons here sell OPI, but they charge around $17 US a bottle. As an alternative, people often recommend Sasa, which is a chain of beauty supply stores that sell everything from eyelid tape to designer perfumes, but while their nail polish is much, much cheaper, the stock is unpredictable and unfamiliar. Between these two extremes it was difficult to get a good lacquer fix.

Weeks of frustrating web searches for "nail polish" and "Hong Kong" either led me to the OPI Hong Kong collection or online/eBay retailers that are based here but don't seem to have an actual store, but after a lot of digging I finally found Cher2.

Cher2 carries OPI, China Glaze, essie, Jessica, Orly, Color Club, and Zoya for about the same prices you'd find in the US, and their selection is just amazing. Here are some of my most recent Cher2 finds:

Cher2 OPI, China Glaze, Orly, and Zoya

Cher 2 China Glaze and OPI glitters

Cher2 Jessica, Orly, essie, and Zoya

Like many retailers here, Cher2's stores are on the small side and all but impossible to stumble across if you don't already know where to look, but they're well worth the effort to find. Location addresses in Central, Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, and TST are listed on their website, which posts updates when new collections arrive. Cher2 participates in the "No Fakes Pledge" overseen by the HK Intellectual Property Department, which means their polishes aren't knock-offs or dupes.

With a vastly improved collection, I was ready to take another look at Sasa. It's the only place I know of to find Nicole by OPI (NOPI) in Hong Kong, but those can be hit-or-miss when it comes to newer collections. They also carry Sally Hansen top coats and treatments (edit Sept 2013: last time I hit a Sasa, they had also stocked some Sinful Colors). This chain's bigger draw, what makes it such a popular place to shop for polish here, is its bargain bins. There is simply no telling what you'll find in these from visit to visit. Most brands will be totally unknown to Western shoppers, but it's easy to take a chance on an "unknown" this cheap. The most expensive brands I saw in the bins are Revlon, which is still only about $3 US, and the comparably priced Sasatinnie (the "house" brand). Here's what I dug up on my first trip:

nail polish from Sasa


A little more searching online revealed that in addition to having a Sasa just a few minutes' walk from my apartment, I'm also just as close to both a Bonjour and a Colourmix. Like Sasa, their polishes are also piled into bins. Bonjour had more brands I'd never heard of before (some of which appear to be Korean), but again, they were cheap enough that I didn't mind shelling out a dollar or two US on the off chance that this glitter or that duochrome might be a winner (I also grabbed a couple of super cheap clears to try my hand at mixing some polish myself). They had a few nail art supplies as well, so I picked up a set of brushes for under $4 US, plus some tiny bottles of micro beads. A word of note about Bonjour's bin polishes, though: the chemical smell from them can be quite strong. I'd be greatly surprised if any of them is 3-free.

In addition to the bin polishes, Bonjour also carries some Bandi, a Korean brand I've shown a few times here, as well as occasional the OPI and Essie from past collections.

Bonjour nail polishes


The bins at Colourmix weren't as "bargain" as the others, but a few minutes' digging yielded some great results. Not a day after I saw Revlon Whimsical online and lamented that it would be all but impossible to track down here, I found it sitting right on top of the bin at Colourmix! I also found a cute lime green by The Face Shop (a better known Korean brand), as well as a stash of Nfu Oh GS01. Is it glitter? Flakie? A flakie-glitter? Don't know, don't care. Nabbed it.

Colourmix nail polish finds


When it comes to Konad I've only found Purple House in Mong Kok (store 149 in Sino Centre on Nathan Road). The store is downright claustrophobic, bursting at the seams with all of 6 people inside, but I came away with all the necessaries to give stamping a try, as well as a few nail art extras.

Konad plates and supplies from Purple House



The two main drugstore chains in Hong Kong are Watsons and Mannings. Unlike American drugstores, most don't carry cosmetics, but some of the larger branches do. The Watsons near me carries mainly Revlon, the selection of which is relatively large but doesn't update very often. It also carries some Bourjois, a few Max Factor polishes (alas, no Fantasy Fire), a handful of Kate (a Japanese brand), a couple of Majorica Majorca, and similar. Mannings has an even smaller cosmetics selection than Watsons, but the one by me does have a rack of OPI. Again, though, it's not a very large selection for the same price as at a salon, $132 HK a bottle, which is about $17 US. Ouch. Occasionally, however, they run a "Buy 3, get 2" special, which is *much* more reasonable.


So many brands are simply not available here, but my collection is starting to fill out nicely. I'm going to continue the hunt for more retailers, though, so I'll be back to this post with an edit if I find another one worth sharing. Meanwhile, it's nearly time to tackle my next challenge...storage for this growing collection!


Updates, April 2013...

Deborah Lippmann
Yes, I finally found it! Several Joyce and Joyce Beauty locations in Hong Kong have Deborah Lippmann counters. Among them are two in Central (Queen's Road and IFC Mall), as well as Admiralty (Pacific Place), Causeway Bay (Times Square) and TST (Harbour City). DL's website has a full listing of these locations.

Skinfood
This is the brand, the stores that sell the adorable little milk bottle minis, as well as the Vita line that has such great pigmentation and coverage.  I shop at the one in Causeway Bay, which is around the corner from where the Internet says it is. Basically just cross the street, and you should be able to see it from the corner. Their website lists 17 locations in HK, but given the way commercial properties move around in Hongkers, you might want to try phoning first before striking out for one of the others.

Etude House
Etude House is a popular Korean cosmetics brand that recently came to Hong Kong. Their nail polish selection seems to change fairly often, depending on what's new and/or in stock, but they generally have a selection of bright cremes and adorable glitters. Etude House's style is cute and trendy, so it's pretty crowded at peak hours. Incidentally, this is where I bought the brush I use for nail clean-up; it's a flat, black, angled brush that's supposed to be for, I think, eyebrows? But whatever its intended purpose, it's great for manicure clean-up.

Etude House's newest location (as of April '13) is in Causeway Bay, right across the street from MTR exit E. Their HK website also lists two locations within blocks of the Mong Kok MTR station. The first, in the Fook Tai Building, is on the corner of Soy Street and Sai Yeung Choi St. S, just off Nathan Road on Mong Kok. Basically, you take MTR to Mong Kok Station and go out exit E2. Nathan Road will be right behind you. Turn North (should be your left, facing Nathan Road with E2 behind you) and walk about two long city blocks until Soy St., which is a pedestrian plaza. Turn left, and Etude House is on the far corner. To reach store 2, come out of D3, and Argyle St. will be directly behind you. Turn right on Argyle, and Etude House should be about a block down on the right.

Purple Words (website)
Purple Words has locations in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok and carries OPI, China Glaze, and Essie. Decent selection of recent collections and occasional HTF surprises, at least at Causeway Bay.

Kiss Beauty Boutique
Locted in iSQUARE, in TST (right outside MTR exit C1) at 63 Nathan Road. Kiss carries butter LONDON, Deborah Lippmann, Orly, and a couple of other Western brands. The prices are very high, though. Serious import mark-ups, but for a tiny shop, the selection is quite good.

Missha  (website)
This Korean brand has a few locations in HK and stocks their nail polish lines. They have a gorgeous selection and variety. Their polish lists at about twice the price here as it does on the US website, though, I don't shop there often.

Chanel and Dior
These and other designer brands like Estée Lauder, Lancôme, and YSL. can be found at SOGO (Causeway Bay), Apita/Uny (Cityplaza in Tai Koo), Harbour City (TST), and other malls with higher-end makeup counters. SOGO also carries NARS and M.A.C.

Harbour City
Harbour City is more than just a department store; it's a street of department stores stretching several blocks, starting at Hong Kong Harbour and running along Canton Road in TST. If you can check the website before you go and pinpoint the location of the store(s) you want to hit, you can save yourself a lot of the wandering-in-search-of that I did on my first visit. Towards the Harbour end is Faces (aka Facesss), a whole area of smaller cosmetic counters in which I found Spa Ritual, NARS, and M.A.C. (which may or may not have polishes, depending on the current collection). There's also a Deborah Lippmann counter in the Harbour City Joyce.

29 comments:

  1. This is such an awesome post! I doubt I will ever be in Hong Kong, but it was really cool to see all of the different brands you can find there. If you ever wanna do a swap (especially when you come to Cola) please let me know!!

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    1. I will, Brandi, thank you very much!! So glad you enjoyed the post too!

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  2. What Brandi said! I am happy to do a swap as well! :) I love seeing what other countries have.

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    1. I would totally love to swap with both of you guys--thanks so much for the offer! I'm trying to get my wish list in some sort of coherent order before I hit the States later this summer, and I'll definitely pop in and see if there's anything on your lists I might be able to get my hands on here!

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    2. How fun! OK! :)
      You are a Southern girl yes? What takes you East, if you do not mind me asking?

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    3. Gah, I just spotted this--sorry for such a late reply! Yep, I'm a Southern girl. Grew up in New Orleans and lived in Atlanta for years. Husband worked there for Turner/CNN, and we came to Hong Kong with the job. Absolutely love it here, too!

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  3. OMG What an amazing haul! I want to go back to HK, I haven't been there in like 17 years! My grandmother has an apartment right upstairs from Australia Dairy Co on Parkes st. I remember going there being able to get a seat whenever without the mob scene it is now...I miss their steamed egg custards...

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    1. Steamed egg custard sounds SO good right now, Cee! If you do make it over this way again, I'll be happy to give you he "HK nail polish" tour! ;)

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  4. i think the polishes you got from sasa are really cool! i'm kinda tired of all the mainstream brands here so i've been branching into asian brands and indie polishes, but they're both so hard to get a hold of! i wish sasa had those polishes on their site >___<

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    1. I'm totally crushing on so many indies, but yeah, actually *getting* them can be a pretty big challenge...even when you don't live on the other side of the planet. ;p

      And yeah, how weird is it that Sasa doesn't even list their house brand polish on their own website?! I wonder what's up with that...

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  5. Wow that looks like some fun polish! Glad you've found some great polish stores, and the prices sound great. Really enjoyed your blog!

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    1. Thank you, Anne--I'm so glad you enjoyed it! ^_^

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  6. SRUIHIUGHSIFNG Interested in swapping? As the other ladies (Brandi and Tara) already stated. (=

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    1. I'm *always* interested in swapping--just give me a shout! :)

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  7. awesome finds!! I was in hong kong couple of weeks ago tryin to hunt for some nice polishes since I dont get much variety in India!! :)

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    1. Hope you had some good success while you were here! If you found any places I missed, I'd love to add 'em. :)

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  8. Hi

    Would you happen to know where to buy things for nail art? Like metal studs? I usually go to Sham Shui Po for crystal accessories but I didn't see any metal studs there...

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    1. I've seen some small packets of metal studs at the Cher2 in Central, but I haven't tried them yet myself. If you don't find them anywhere else here, I've seen repeatedly that you can get a lot of them, inexpensively, from bornprettystore.com, which ships free to HK and Singapore.

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  9. How do you actually get to Cher2? I went to Hong Kong last year but I had no idea where to go! I knew it was in Mong Kok and I checked the address but apparently it's hidden o_o

    Brilliant post by the way!

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    1. Thank you, Ivy! Sorry you had trouble finding it. :-/

      MongKok is actually the one location I don't think I've been to yet, but if it's anything like the others there's probably not a lot of signage on the street to indicate where it is. I did just look up the address on Google Maps, and it shows Mong Kok City Centre right where it's supposed to be, and Cher2 should be there on the 8th floor...

      Of the 3 I've been to, the one in Central was definitely the easiest to find.

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  10. I'm currently in HK now visiting family and just came across your post. Being a fellow nail addict it's a God send especially as my Chinese is awful and wouldn't have had a hope in hell finding any of the little stores. Thank you x

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    1. So happy I could help, Anna! Will let you know the Central location is currently closed for CNY (will reopen a couple of blocks away on the 21st), but I just hit the TST store a couple of days ago, which should be open during regular hours.

      I really do need to update this article, but if you check back again, I wanted to mention that you might also look up Purple Words in Causeway Bay, a small store that occasionally has some HTF China Glaze an OPI colours. There's also a Skinfood (Korean brand) in Causeway Bay, which has some fun colours, and if you're looking for Deborah Lippmann while you're here, you can find stands in several Joyce locations. FACES in Harbour City has a lot of makeup brand kiosks, including Spa Ritual and NARS.

      Happy polish hunting, and have a great visit! ^_^

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    2. Dur, specifically meant the Central location of Cher 2. ;)

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  11. Amazing thank you so much for the extra tips! I'll definitely be keeping an eye out!
    Not sure if you're looking for Butter London but I saw a small shop in Yuen Long New Mall (the one the MTR goes into). The store was closed but they had a few in the window. There is also a Toly Moly stand in one of the malls in Yuen Long as well. Ah had I known about your blog before I came here I would have brought over some UK goodies for you :)

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  12. Thank you so much for the post, I really appreciate it:)

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  13. I just adored that FACESHOP lime green color!
    I live in hong kong, and I know a lot of brands are not available in here.. ;(

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  14. I'm so glad I found this page! Thanks so much!
    I have family that lives in HK and I'm going to visit them soon, so I've been making a list of polish I want to buy because so many brands are either super expensive to buy or super expensive to ship to Australia. (Zoya and OPI, I'm looking at you -___-) I'll see if I can get to the TST Cher2, because I'll be staying in TST when I go to HK!

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