Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lost in Concession

Dangerous for shopping: Changle Road

On a recent quick trip to Shanghai, I once again found myself lost in the French Concession. I wasn’t really lost of course. In fact, I know the area quite well by now. But I did roam aimlessly and float around its many clothing boutiques, little cafes, bookstores and beauty product shops for a good two hours wishing I could stay lost in that abyss forever. It is wonderfully magical and charming with its little alleyways, brick buildings, and the leafy Platanes (London Plane trees) planted by the French at the turn of the 20th century…but unfortunately, it is also heavy on the pocket! You will usually end up blowing your budget once you see the many wonderful finds available along the concession’s many streets…especially along Changle Road and Fumin Road where I stopped by a few beauty gems. 

Shanghai's French Concession

327 Changle Road, Shanghai
Open 8:30am-5:30pm

Casa Mia at 327 Changle Road
Casa Mia is a haven for new moms and anyone at all with dry, sensitive skin which are often prone to rashes and allergic breakouts. This little store may be small but it packs a punch with its complete array of imported skin and body care products especially made for babies or people with very sensitive skin. I was impressed by the complete range of Aveeno products (including sunscreens, lotions/creams, anti-aging moisturizers, body and bath, hair care and lip care). The store also carries well-known natural and organic brands that are completely free of harmful chemicals such as Weleda, Bella B, Burt’s Bees and California Baby. If you have very dry skin and are in need of some intense lotions, this is the store for you!

152 Fumin Road, Shanghai
Open 10am – 10pm

The Herb Store at 152 Fumin Road
This store has been a favorite of mine for awhile ever since discovering it two years ago when I first visited Shanghai. The Herb Store specializes in a more natural approach to beauty which you can feel the moment you enter the place. The smell of delicious teas and the potent aromas of essential oils float through the air and it is almost like entering a nature spa in the middle of the city. The store offers 100% natural products and traditional herbal remedies from a variety of herbal and medicinal teas, potted herb plants, oil burners, essential oils for aromatherapy and even natural skin care such as facial soaps, toners and facial beauty oils. My favorite is their Rose Hydrosol Water 100ml. (129Rmb/US$20). You can spray this on your face directly for a quick and deeply hydrating refreshing mist. It can also be used with cotton and applied to the face as a toner.

1221 Changle Road by Huashan Road, Shanghai
Open 10am-9pm

The entrance to Ba Yan Ka La
Ba Yan Ka La is my latest luxury discovery and my new favorite store in the French Concession. After reading about it in That’s Shanghai magazine, I couldn’t wait to track it down. I’ll give you an idea of what attracted me with a little introduction. Ba Yan Ka La is the first local cosmetic company to use 100% organic-certified formulas. This luxury skincare line is made from China’s finest raw materials, and only uses active ingredients made up of natural essential oils, vegetables and herbs such as Goji Berry, Chinese Mulberry, Tibetan Roseroot, Lotus Seed and Organic Coix Seed. Aside from this, all the products are formulated using the pristine water sourced and bottled at the mineral glacial spring in the spectacular Ba Yan Ka La mountain range on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. And if this wasn’t enough, Ba Yan Ka La fuses the holistic powers of nature and incorporates the wisdom of ancient Chinese healing and medicine into all of their products. At first glance, I thought, now this is quite unique but most of all, the whole thing…just sounds promising! I felt myself looking younger and staying younger forever just reading about it! 

Ba Yan Ka La's window display
So I wandered over to the store and was not disappointed. The beautiful boutique invited me through its glass doors and I was just immersed in product heaven. They have testers for all their products so you can try all of them before purchasing any. Choose from five different skincare lines and a variety of handmade soaps, shampoos, body washes, creams and lotions. Prices are a bit steep so you might want to start out sampling one or two products first, but after buying two products and trying them myself, I can tell you they are absolutely worth it.

I bought the Goji Berry Beautiful Hand Cream 75ml (88Rmb/US$14) and the Coix Seed Illuminating Facial Cleanser 100ml (188Rmb/US$29). Their star products are the Lotus Seed Precious Shower Oil, Chinese Mulberry Body Milk, Tibetan Roseroot Holistic Shampoo and Conditioner, Coix Seed Ultra Radiance Repair Cream and the Goji Berry Beautiful Hand Cream.

Coix Seed Illuminating Facial Cleanser & Goji Berry Hand Cream

Ba Yan Ka La is also committed to environmental sustainability and fair trade agreements with local producers. They are also against animal testing.