This week marks seven months of my arrival in London. I've been reasonably restrained in my beauty-related purchases since I've been here--Paris doesn't count--and this has involved scoping out the beauty landscape. I imagine a lot of this applies to the rest of the UK as well. Here's what I've made of it so far.
The two big players, Boots and Superdrug, are fairly similar, and you'll usually find one within spitting distance of the other. Superdrug tends to have a wider range of brands at properly drugstore prices (Make Up Revolution, MUA, GOSH), as well as stocking the product lines from the Gleam bloggers (Zoella, Tanya Burr, Ruth Crilly's COLAB). Actually, speaking of the Gleam lineup, the Real Techniques range by the Pixiwoo sisters are stocked at both chains, but the Bold Metals collection is only stocked at Boots.
Boots has a better loyalty scheme (1 point per £1 spent at Superdrug versus 4 points per £1 at Boots; 100 points converts to £1), and the bigger store have serviced counters (Estee Lauder, Clinique, Dior, Liz Earle and the like). Both Superdrug and Boots also do their own in-house brands -- Boots has their No.7 and Seventeen lines, while Superdrug has the B. range -- and often have bonus point events.
One tip: download the mySupermarket app, which lets you compare prices across Boots, Superdrug, and the various major supermarkets.
Lloyds Pharmacy isn't as widely found around London, but I find that they, along with the independent pharmacies, stock a way bigger range of French pharmacy brands (Avene, La Roche Posay, Vichy, Nuxe) than Boots/Superdrug. Hunt those places out if you can't make it across the Channel and don't want to shop online.
The Department Store Beauty Halls
Beauty halls here are incredible -- unsurprising, really; it was Harry Gordon Selfridge who pioneered the "theatre of retail", so what better place to see it in action than London? All the department stores stock the usual roster of mid- to high-end brands like Chanel, Dior, and YSL, but each will have exclusive brands and/or products within ranges that are sold elsewhere. Selfridges has Charlotte Tilbury (which is also stocked online at Net-A-Porter), Liberty has Surratt, Harrods has Sensai. I'm keen to try some more Suqqu -- their brow powder was great when I tested it at a counter -- and they can be found at Selfridges and Harrods. Liberty regularly collaborates with brands to create special designs, and Harrods have exclusive products as well.
In terms of stores with reward schemes, I quite like Debenhams. I signed up for their card when I saw that they were running a promotion; you could pick two free samples (I think I chose an Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner, which wasn't very good, and a perfume sample from Givenchy). Supposedly you can show your card at any counter and get a free sample of their latest launch or a popular product, as well as mini makeovers, although I would argue that this is standard practice at most serviced counters. You can also get a free birthday brow wax at Benefit -- I've just realised that I've missed out on claiming this! It's probably the best place to grab your MAC staples, especially when the store does their 20% off beauty promotions.
Speaking of rewards cards, how beautiful is the one from Liberty? When I signed up I received a £15 off voucher (for a spend of over £100) -- I've been eyeing up the Surratt range...
The Clothing Stores
What would a post about London beauty shopping be without mentioning Topshop? Admittedly, I haven't bought anything from them while I've been here, but I've had a good play at the cosmetics section in their flagship store on Oxford Street. Their new lip bullets have some great colours, and their nail polish is cheap and cheerful. The Oxford Street store has also partnered up with BeautyMART, so you can try their selection of cult industry products in person. It's the only place in London where I've seen Daniel Sandler blushes in the flesh, as well as the Balmain range of hair products.
My personal favourite is & Other Stories. Their nail polish range is stunning, their skincare uses simple, effective ingredients, and their range of bath and body products are well-formulated and sophisticatedly-scented (sorry Body Shop) -- all of this at drugstore pricing. They also stock a small selection from other brands like The Balm, Uslu Airlines, and Percy and Reed.
I haven't spent a lot of time at Urban Outfitters, but they have a wee beauty section too in their bigger stores. These contain some of the quirkier or less easily available brands like Anna Sui and DHC alongside classics like Tweezerman and Carmex.
That's enough for today, I think -- I might make a series out of this! What do you want to read about next? Where to go for cruelty-free and naturally-focused brands? Bespoke beauty products? Perfume -- oh god, I haven't even talked about the perfume halls! Where and what are your favourites in the big smoke?
*All photos are taken from my Instagram account -- it's easier just shooting with my phone when I'm out!