Six Specialty Beauty Stores Worth an In-Store Visit

Shopping at Sephora is a lot like buying groceries—all the free samples, wide shiny aisles and, like, 15 versions of everything. Same deal with its website, which refills medicine cabinets the same way FreshDirect does fridges.

The following specialty stores, however, don't provide the same kind of homogeneous online experience. Laden with beautiful packaging and imported goodies, they are the patisseries, tea emporiums and spice stands of the beauty world—always worth the special trip. Unfortunately, most of them only have a few locations, and some only one. Click though the slideshow to plan your vacation/weekend/this evening accordingly.


Woodley & Bunny

Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles, CA

Expect to find the best products from indie labels you've never heard of, wrapped in all manner of printed paper and seaglass jars. It's not all fancy packaging, though! Everything I've ever bought here has graduated from a one-off whim to part of my regular rotation.

Woo Skincare and Cosmetics

Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA

While there's a nice mix of some of my favorites, like Tokyo Milk perfumes and foundation by Bobbi Brown, I'm most interested in the (Plā) Beauty line carried here. It comes in super-pigmented, super-pretty colors, is paraben-free and supports Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Oh, and it's nearly impossible to find outside of Woo, so you'd better stock up!

Shen Beauty

Brooklyn, NY

Miranda would've been much less grumpy about moving to Brooklyn if Sex and the City had a Shen. There are enough cult products here (many, like the Amanda Lacy and Georgia Louise lines, are hard to find outside the UK) to satisfy even the pickiest Manhattanite.

Gee Beauty

Toronto, Canada and Bal Harbour, FL

From the completely natural (Tata Harper, Sunday Riley) to the dermatologist-developed (Dr. Sebagh, Dr. Brandt), there's a skincare line here for everyone. Facials, brow shaping and makeup/eyelash application are also available, along with a selection of cocktail jewelry. So much more fun than getting ready in your bathroom, right?

Aaron’s Apothecary

Chicago, IL

It's really easy for foundation refills to turn into full-on beauty binges at Aaron's, with all its hard-to-find-elsewhere imported labels. (Bonus: Doggies are welcome! Bring your canine friend and she'll receive a free all-natural biscuit from the back counter.)

Aede De Venustas

New York, NY

Rare perfumes and candles are this boutique's specialty, along with its signature fresh flower gift wrap. Which, yes, looks even more awesome than it sounds.