Discount stores can offer better deals for cosmetics than malls

Don't blow your budget on expensive make-up at mall shops. Try the discount stores that specialise in grey-market goods

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 3:30am

The constant upkeep of a woman's appearance requires time, effort and most of all, money. But products vary wildly in terms of prices, so where does one start for decent and affordable cosmetics?

Make-up pro Kathy Sung, at Plush Agency, says that it all begins with the face. She recommends starting with a simple face cream, like an Australian lanolin cream, before mixing and matching with a range of make-up.

"For primer, I use L'Oreal's Studio Secrets Magic Perfecting Base - it's great for covering pores and is reasonably priced. For Foundation, I use Estée Lauder and Bobbi Brown's cream foundation and powder, both have smooth finishes. For eye shadow and blushes, I use Naas and Mac, because the colours are sharp and long lasting," she says.

Now, where do you buy the products cheaply? Sung says ditch the overpriced department stores and head to local shops like Sasa. "Sasa's products are cheap and they sell sample sizes of big-name brands," she says.

Hong Kong's lenient parallel import laws allows stores such as Sasa, Bonjour and other names to import small shipments of cosmetics from neighbouring Asian countries, where the prices are cheaper.

But Sung warns there are drawbacks: the cosmetics aren't regulated, meaning prices differ from store to store and the products are sometimes expired, so make sure to hunt around.

To circumvent those issues, it might be better to purchase online: Sasa and Bonjour have website stores that offer free shipping in Hong Kong with purchases over HK$150. Other local cosmetic stores are catching on to the trend, ditching the high rents of physical stores to offer the best possible deals online.

Strawberrynet.com and Aster.com.hk are two of the most popular for everyday cosmetics, with average savings of around 25 per cent and free shipping. Beautybay.com is another favourite, but the site caters to more upscale clientele with its range of specialised brands.

But in your search for the best deal, don't ignore popular chains such as Watsons or Mannings, with both starting to stock generic brands. The former's By Watsons label sells similar products to major names, with their collagen-based facial products being one-third cheaper than other brands. Mannings, meanwhile, caters to Western skin types with its affordable make-up from major UK pharmacy Boots.

Finally, there are the bare essentials: visit one of the many independent pharmacies located in your district.

They often either parallel import or buy in bulk, meaning products that make little difference in terms of brand - such as body wash - are sold at significantly less than at a chain store.