The reputation of Taiwanese skincare has been steadily rising over the past couple of years, giving the region some prominence amidst its other East Asian neighbours, Korea and Japan. Skincare and beauty in Korea and Japan has grown into distinct cultures unto their own, and this has, in some way influenced the Taiwanese market to expand in tandem.
Shopping for skincare in Taiwan is an experience that easily compares to walking down Myeongdong or Shibuya. Towering drugstores such as Watsons, Cosmed, Tomod’s and Japan Medical are sandwiched next to multi-brand boutiques like Paris Strawberry, S3 and 86 Shop, each boasting exclusive deals to outdo the other. Find yourself in the right place, at the right time, and you’ll even be able to bag a cult product about S$10 cheaper than its rival store, or snag sweet buy-one-get-one deals with free gifts to reward your strategic shopping.
Though you can easily find popular Korean and Japanese brands there, it is the homegrown labels that deserve your attention. Taiwanese skincare often comes with either a clinical focus, incorporating acids and DIY peels, or Chinese herbal and botanical ingredients to boost or heal your complexion. Masks are also a massive thing there, not only available at your usual cosmetic stores, but convenience shops like 7-11 too.
As a nascent skincare junkie, and a sheet mask addict, going beauty shopping in Taiwan was a massive treat. Especially in Ximending, where all the stores mentioned above are within a stone’s throw of each other. If you are like me, and want to go there to stock up your face maintenance wardrobe for the next two years (or so I promised), here are some Taiwanese skincare brands worth splurging your money on.
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Founded by the Beauty King of Taiwan, Niuer, Narüko is a brand that focuses heavily on ingredients. Each of its products uses a primary ingredient like tea tree oil, apple seed, rose and such, to cater to a particular skin concern. There are minimal, if any filler compounds in Narüko products. Instead, Niuer’s strict quality control measures ensure that what you’re getting is top of the line, made with the highest grade of skincare technology offered at the moment. The line is cruelty-free as well, with Niuer testing the products on himself before it is approved to be produced. Their popular ranges include the Taiwanese Magnolia and Raw Job’s Tears line. The former, catered to firming and brightening skin, while the latter is targeted towards pore minimising.
Annie’s Way is a brand famed for its wash-off jelly masks, which claim to sell over 100,000 every month in Taiwan and Hong Kong. There are 10 variants of this gel-like mask, such as rose, red wine, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, charcoal, honey, snail, anti-ageing and lavender, each tailored towards revitalising the complexion. People swear by how these show visible, near-instant results, and even help to cleanse out those pesky sebaceous filaments on your nose on top of all the other good it does.
My Beauty Diary’s sheet masks are the principal Taiwanese skincare product everyone has to try. They’re as ubiquitous as pigeons in a city, so you’ll be hard-pressed not to find one during your trip. There’s an overwhelming amount of mask “flavours” under the My Beauty Diary handle, and more so if you consider their sister label, Beauty Idea Diary. Kind folks on the Internet have created charts for consumers to easily identify which mask to purchase, but the most famous product is the Black Pearl Brightening Mask. Formulated with liquorice root, pineapple, yeast protein, pearl, collagen and more, this mask is a quick fix for dull complexion days.
The Taiwanese are big on the clinical aspect of skincare, and many household labels feature “Dr” in their brand name. Dr Morita is one of them. With a heavy focus on medical grade face masks, Dr Morita utilises Japanese skincare technology to address particular issues your complexion might need, whether it’s hydration, brightening, or repair. Its masks are also made with thin Tencel silk cotton drenched with essence for maximum product absorption, without any of the discomfort of a thick cotton mask.
Neogence’s philosophy is heavily focused on the science behind skincare. It incorporates dermatology, pharmaceutics, and biomedical technology in all of its product lines, and the heads of its Research & Development facility are all notable experts from those fields. Formulated for sensitive skin types, Neogence’s two most popular lines are the HA Hydrating series for drier skin types, and the Pore series, which targets oily, acne-prone and congested skin.
Lovemore specialises in silk sheet masks fortified with traditional herbal ingredients, such as mung beans, bittergourd, pearl barley and snow lotus. Not only are they extremely thin and comfortable to wear, but the mask essences are a thin, watery formula that leave no sticky residue behind. That’s a total bonus for anyone with oily skin, or for those who just hate feeling like their face could pass for a sticky hands toy after a pamper session.
Dr Wu is the motherlode of all medical skincare labels in Taiwan. Many celebrities count themselves fans of Dr Wu’s potent products, especially the Mandelic Acid Renewal and Vitamin C Whitening ranges. The former uses mandelic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), as its star ingredient. Mandelic acid is at the frontier of effective anti-ageing products, as it gently exfoliates the surface of one’s skin to reduce visible signs of ageing. Dr Wu’s Vitamin C products are made not to whiten your skin in the literal sense, but to correct pigmentation issues like dark spots, even out your skin tone, and increase your face’s protective barrier against UV radiation.
L’Herboflore is a premium Taiwanese label that couples gorgeous, illustrated packaging with high-quality products. It’s best known for its extensive range sheet masks (of course) that aren’t just dedicated to boosting your visage, but your neck, bust, hands, undereyes and feet too. L’Herboflore has recently branched out into a comprehensive skincare line, with its first range focusing on cactus extract to hydrate and refresh the complexion.