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Shop Like a Local

Tired of shipping your favorite face creams from back home? We've got you covered.

by SHFamily | Tue, May 16, 2017

by Tatum Hawkins

When first relocating to Shanghai, your beauty and cosmetics stash alone probably took up half the shipment space. The other half, likely consisting of enough diapers and wipes to last the entirety of a three-year assignment for both your toddler and baby. A mother can never be too prepared

After living here for a while, that frantic need to replenish your trusted supply of tried and true goods actually begins to dissipate. Chinese products don’t seem so “weird” anymore – in fact, they’re “intriguing.” Eventually, you’re perusing skincare shops you’ve never heard of, purchasing products with ingredients written in a language you can’t read, and you even find those slimy, paper-thin facial masks with eyes, nose and mouth holes are now part of your regular me-time ritual. But whether you’re brand new to Shanghai or fully integrated, we’ve rounded up a few local brands to help understand what’s out there.


“I wouldn’t know what to do if my bottle of Aveeno face wash ran out ... I think I would have been too overwhelmed and probably ended up paying for something really overpriced and imported.”

Tori Gilbert, a young mother of two from the United States

These feelings and concerns are all too common, and Chinese beauty company Herborist seems to completely understand. Subrina Liu, Herborist’s head of marketing, proclaims she has “dreamed of making a Chinese brand international,” and knows that if Herborist is to succeed in “balancing the diverse needs of Chinese and Western consumers,” (AdAge 2015) then creating natural products that are consistently safe and reliable is key. What makes Herborist unique is that their products are designed and based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) techniques that have actually passed scientific lab tests. Over 100 years old, the company has also stood the test of time and it doesn’t hurt to know they enjoy a cult-like following in fashion-forward countries like the UK and France. 

Not sure which products to start with? Try the T’ai Chi Detoxifying and Nutrient Clay (¥380) for cleansing and revitalizing your face. Made with peony root extracts there are two elements to this product. Step one: the black cleansing cream, and step two: white face mask – which should be applied to damp skin following the cleanser. Put your feet up and relax for around 8 minutes before removing the white face mask to reveal radiant skin. Follow with the Brimful Moisturizing Facial Cream (¥480) – perfect for all skin types – and you’re good to go.


Hailing from the land of beauty, South Korea, but luckily found everywhere in Shanghai, the brand Innisfree is a cosmetics group that claims its products are the perfect combination of high-tech and nature. Innisfree’s ingredients include exotic extracts from nature’s gems such as green tea seed, the calamus herb, and opuntia, which is an extract from the prickly pear cactus known for its soothing, deeply moisturizing components. These, among many others, are grown on the mountainous ranges of Jeju, home of Innisfree’s “pure” island farm. 

“Shanghai is a city which is damp and seriously polluted. Moreover, Shanghai is different from the weather and the situation of your own country ... As a result, your skin may be more sensitive here, and knowing how to protect it is the key to living in Shanghai ... The best solution is to use products which contain natural ingredients to fight sensitivity. ”

 Annie You, head of Innisfree’s marketing communication team. 

To lift the daily grime from your pores, go for the Jeju Calamus City Defender Cleansing Bubble Foam face wash (¥130), cleverly designed with a gentle brush attached that pumps the soap out while you simultaneously scrub the impurities from your skin. After rinsing with warm water, try the Green Tea Seed Serum (¥210), perfect for deep moisture and nourishment.


If you like to support fellow expats’ entrepreneurial endeavors, then check out Lalu for natural skin care products handmade right here in Shanghai. Founded by Adja Sy, Lalu is passionate about the idea of feeding one’s skin with nature, or “beauty food” as Sy calls it. Gathering ingredients from super-foods and super-plants from all around the world, Lalu mixes up so-good-you’ll-want-to-eat it beauty products to nourish, revitalize and protect your skin. In addition to ready-made goodies, Lalu also focuses on customization. Depending on your skin type, age, and any trouble areas, Lalu can help pull together all the best ingredients (already sourced and on hand) to empower you with valuable information and recipes so you can apply the best solutions tailor-made for your skin. Sounds like every woman’s dream!

“The number one skin issues for ladies in Shanghai are, no surprise, due to pollution and water ... At Lalu, we recommend our mud masks (¥60) to get rid of the accumulated dirt and pollution of the city and our multi-functional Hibiscus Tri-phase Toner (¥98) to get rid of excess chlorine [from the water].”

Adja Sy, founder of Lalu

Many skin care products in Shanghai are perfect for us ladies, as they’re made for big city living. The idea of nasty little micro-particles flying about so recklessly and abundantly can give you (and your pores) nightmares, so it’s great news there are plenty of local brands to help you fight back. To top it off, buying local also means you’re not paying an arm and a leg to replenish your stash of “safe” imported brands. And no, not all Chinese skin care products contain scary whitening agents! With all cosmetic products it’s important to be careful and safe, so do a small skin test first. Here’s to beautiful, clean, and healthy skin – the Chinese way.

Lu Ming Tang

Born and nurtured by French founder Marie Amiand in the enchanting tea-harvesting mountains of Longjing, close to Hangzhou, Lu Ming Tang is a high-end skincare brand empowered by detoxifying technology. They harvest the active power of tea through cutting-edge bio-science to detoxify, depollute and revive the radiance of urban skins – perfect for refreshing yourself at the end of a day in the city. Naturally safe and effective, their products are formulated under dermatological control in Japan and blended in Suzhou close to tea fields. Up to 99% natural formulas, only plant oils and no mineral oil, no paraben, sulfate, phthalate or other harmful chemical ingredients.

From light-as-dew textures to the subtle, refreshing scent of natural tea leaves these will give your skin a delightful spring freshness. Try The Wulong Tea Dew With Snow Lotus (¥98) to tackle dehydration and uneven skin tone throughout the day, whilst calming your busy mind. With just one spritz, even on top of makeup, and you'll feel revitalized and awake. Or for your weekly primping routine check out the Miraculous Detox Paste (¥285) – supercharged with a blend of Yunnan Black Tea with anti-oxidant Longjing Green Tea and enriched with Traditional Chinese Medicine "superfoods". Apply like a face mask, leave for 3 minutes – perhaps even make yourself a cup of tea in the meantime – and then wash off. Black Tea and Bamboo Charcoal will buff away tired skin cells for a fresh feel.

1. Herborist Brimful Moisturizing Facial Cream/¥480,

2. Herborist T'ai Chi Detoxifying & Nutrient Clay Mask/¥380,

3. Innisfree The Green Tea Seed Serum/¥210,

4. Lalu Hibiscus Tri-phase Toner/¥98,, WeChat ID: LaluNaturalSkincare

5. Lu Ming Tang Miraculous Detox Paste/¥285,

6. Innisfree Jeju Calamus City Defender Cleansing Bubble Foam/¥130,

7. Lu Ming Tang, The Wulong Tea Dew/¥98,