If you follow me on Twitter, you know I was recently in the Bay for over a week for work and business (and some leisure 😉 ). While I was up there I had more time off than usual, so I decided to do something I’d thought about for a while; find the “happening” San Francisco Bay Area beauty spots.

Well. I tell ya. I was initially a little disappointed, particularly with San Francisco. Being the hip, “West Coast New York” that it is, I was expected to find my hip, funky little ‘off the beaten path’ stores. Instead, I was surprised to find mostly the same large beauty chains that one can find in most cities. I’m sure the hip little stores do exist and I’ll try finding them again on future trips. What I did find in visiting the big stores, however, was that these stores often carry brands and products that other stores in the chain might not. Here then is what I found on my first SF Bay beauty excursion;

5 ) Kryolan – One BIG perk for Bay Area beauty shoppers (or those visiting) is that the US Headquarters for the Kryolan brand is located in San Francisco. Kryolan is a professional/theatrical brand en par with Ben Nye and Mehron who make a wide array of products that are suitable for professionals and individuals alike. The space open to the public is not a store where all the product is out and you can just take what you like, but instead it is a bright and airy showroom where (most of) the products are on display and you can test and play to your hearts content. Then, once you are ready to buy, you can make a list of what you want to purchase and one of the friendly staff members will get your items for you. Also, if you have any questions on products, product usage, etc., the staff are there to help. I didn’t really need anything while I was visiting, but it’s a great spot and I will be back (I am a huge fan of Kryolan’s Dermacolors concealers palettes).

4 ) Sephora, Powell Street – I have no idea what possessed me to go to the stores on Powell street on a Saturday afternoon but I did. The area where Market and Powell converge is Tourist Central, so you will find a wide variety of stores there but you have to be prepared for crowds and craziness. As a reward for your bravery, however, most of the stores are Flagships for the store-brand and carry items that aren’t available in other stores. While I was there I noticed Sephora on Powell carried full line of the Japanese-inspired (but designed by Italian artist, Simone Legno) hipster brand, Tokidoki as well as the full line of Illamasqua.

Tokidoki Sephora Powell san francisco bay area beauty
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Tokidoki cosmetics display in Sephora on Powell, SF (photo taken on my BlackBerry Curve, so apologies for photo quality...)

Also located near Sephora in the general Union Square area are Victoria’s Secret, Jo Malone, Lush, Bath & Body Works, and yet another Sephora further up on Market street (going towards the Embarcadero).

3 ) Shu Uemura, Fillmore Street – Get it while you can, the mighty Shu Store on Fillmore closes in early June. The Shu Store is the Anti-Powell Street experience. Serene, peaceful, well lit and beautifully displayed, losing this store is going to be a significant lost for both the artist and beauty consumer communites in SF. Shu Uemura products will, however, still be available online but as beauty shoppers we know that’s just not the same. Le Sigh.

Also located near Shu on Fillmore – Keihls, and Benefit Cosmetics.

Outside of the city, there is GREAT shopping in the East Bay and I actually found that part of my shopping excursion much more enjoyable.

2) Benefit Cosmetics, 4th Street, Berkeley – I picked Benefit just because they are one of my personal favorite brands. I often go to this location when I’m working up north because the service at the 4th Street Benefit is great, and they often have new products in the line before other locations (which is probably also true of the Benefit store in SF, as Benefit is an SF based brand, but honestly I prefer this location). However, Benefit is but one of many great stores as the shopping on 4th Street is plentiful. From beauty to clothes to housewares to pets, if you’re a shopper you should be aware of 4th Street in Berkeley. The vibe on 4th Street is very comparable – in my opinion – to the vibe of Montana in Santa Monica, CA. I describe it as “low key Money”. Instead of the in-your-face wealth of a shopping area like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, 4th Street maintains it’s laid back, bohemian Berkeley rhythm, while providing mid to high-end shopping for the East Bay shopper. Areas like these are great places to get those mid to higher end brands you may be interested in without being in an intimidating or uncomfortable environment. And there is a great Peets Coffee on 4th street. Can’t beat that!

Also located on 4th Street in Berkeley – MAC, Bare Escentuals, Keihl’s and a stand-alone Aveda store.

But of all my shopping explorations, the Belle of the Ball discovery goes to;

1 ) 100% Pure Apothecary, College Street, Berkeley – 100% Pure is part of the growing trend of naturally derived and organic bath and beauty products. They have a quaint little store-front in the Elmwood section of Berkeley (another great shopping area), and their headquarters is in San Jose so they are 100% Pure Bay Area as well (yeah, that was corny). They have recently expanded the Color line, and it’s fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that I am actually not going to go to into it here because I’m going to feature 100% Pure in a separate article. In the meantime take my word for it; Once you go to the store, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say this is a special treasure trove of a spot.

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