London is on everyone’s radar right now, Hello 2012 Summer Olympics! And at the city’s most influential beauty destinations—from Selfridges department store to Space NK to tastemaker boutique Lost in Beauty—customers are looking for products with real results, particularly in the skin care category. Here’s what retailers said are driving sales now.

“The customer is becoming a lot more savvy,” observes Mark Tranter, Selfridges’ fragrance and beauty buyer. “On skin care, they want scientific knowledge behind it: They want proof, they want evidence. They want something that has an actual dermatologist attached to it, like the Dr. Sebagh’s and Dr. Brandt’s of this world—not something that’s just an extension to a range, but something that’s got a little more authority behind it.”

“People are looking for experts in whatever field,” confirmed Space NK founder Nicky Kinnaird. “It’s more likely to come out of a niche brand, because very often it’s centered around a particular area of excellence.” This is proving the case in many beauty categories, including fragrance and nails (where for Nails Inc, which began as a manicure-orientated business, nail polishes now account for approximately 50% of business). At Selfridges, for example, the small Bella Bellisima fragrance line, founded by former magazine editor Bella Crane, has done well, aided by many personal appearances by Bella to discuss each scent’s inspiration and composition.

At Lost in Beauty, organic and natural products are still strong, provided they’re truly effective. “I’m seeing more and more organic lines that are a bit more scientific and high tech,” says the store’s founder, Georgina Hamed. “People don’t want parabens but they also want to see results from their products. Many clients here are happy to pay the price but need to see a difference.” Along those lines, Georgina carries brands like REN, Environ, Skinceuticals and Oskia skin care.

Lost in Beauty also offers facials and other treatments in its downstairs therapy rooms. Particularly popular right now (as they are in America) are semi-permanent beautifiers such as lash extensions and CND Shellac manicures. All three retailers said nails were doing extremely well, and are considered more of a fashion accessory these days than just a beauty item. It’s worth noting that this marks quite a shift in the U.K., where up until a few years ago, many women reserved manicures for special occasions. To speak to that demand, Selfridges is adding a nail bar to its beauty department in August, designed mostly for a quick polish change with color choices from a wide array of brand as opposed to an intensive manicure.

Stores are also stressing the link between beauty and fashion, whether that’s launching a fashion brand’s clothing and makeup simultaneously, as Selfridges does with Tom Ford, of which it’s only one of four doors that carries the beauty line in the U.K., or spotlighting colors including coral and turquoise that work in both arenas. “It’s about having that synergy between beauty and fashion,” says Selfridges’ Mark Tranter. “There are some fantastic fashion-driven looks from brands like YSL, Dior and Chanel.”

Still, there’s one genre of skin care products British women may never fully embrace. “Sunscreen we’re a bit behind on here,” admits Lost in Beauty’s Georgina, “because we’re not really used to seeing the sun.”