Jude Chao of the popular Asian beauty blog, Fifty Shades of Snail, recaps her recent beauty takeover on the TaiwaneseAmerican.org Instagram
Over the past few years, Korean cosmetics have gotten a lot of attention from the global beauty community, with K-beauty products (and K-beauty-inspired products) showing up on the shelves of stores as mainstream as Walmart and Target.
But South Korea isn’t the only player in the Asian cosmetics market. Taiwanese brands make some truly amazing products that often get overshadowed by K-beauty’s massive PR and distribution machine. Here are five I’ve fallen in love with over the years. I showed several in my Instagram Live beauty routine on the @taiwaneseamerican_org account last week. Give them a try and see why they’re staples in my personal skincare routine!
1. Naruko La Crème Face Renewal Miracle Essence
The first in my list is also the first to go on my face after cleansing every evening. Naruko’s La Crème Face Renewal Miracle Essence is a first essence in the same vein as the iconic SK-II: a thin and light-as-water liquid meant to be patted generously into bare skin.
Most first essences use a yeast-fed rice fermentation extract as their primary ingredient. Naruko’s Face Renewal Miracle Essence, on the other hand, uses an extract made from rice lees, the sediment formed by pressing rice to make sake, and adds a massive list of botanical extracts, many of them drawn from traditional Chinese medicine.
I’ve tried many first essences over the years and haven’t found any that come close to the results I get from this one. A first essence should increase skin’s radiance and clarity; this product does that while also boosting my skin’s brightness, elasticity, and moisture retention. At about $70 on Amazon, it isn’t cheap, but for me, it’s worth every penny. I reviewed it all the way back in 2016 and still love it today.
2. Naruko La Crème Platinum Bright Essence Repairing Complex
Right after my Naruko essence, I put on a second Naruko essence from the La Crème line. Similarly packed with herbal and botanical extracts but with the added brightening power of arbutin, tranexamic acid, and niacinamide, the Platinum Bright Essence Repairing Complex is a more intensive treatment meant to brighten and clarify skin. It lightens up spots surprisingly quickly and without the irritating side effects that stronger actives like AHAs and retinoids can have. Also, it smells like beautiful roses, thanks to the base ingredient of rose water.
My main complaint about the product, which I mentioned in our IG Live, is the packaging. The Platinum Bright Essence Repairing Complex comes packaged as a set of 14 small vials, each one containing 2 uses of the product. I find this excessive. Still, since I only use the course of this product when I have a special event coming up, I can live with it.
I reviewed the Platinum Bright Essence Repairing Complex here, and I’m busy making a little pile of empty vials as you read this!
3. Naruko Narcissus Repairing Mask
Can you tell I really like Naruko? As far as I’m concerned, the brand is one of the best all-around skincare brands out there—not just as a Taiwanese brand, but compared to global beauty brands as well. They have a well-rounded portfolio of products, with consistently impressive formulations and results.
Naruko’s sheet masks are one of the brand’s key strengths, and the Narcissus Repairing Mask is one of my all-time favorites. And I sheet mask almost every night, so I’ve tried a lot of sheet masks over the years. The narcissus masks leave my skin hydrated and plump, with a brilliant glow and clarity that lasts through the next day, even on mornings when I should really look a little worse for wear. My rave review of these masks is here, and there’s a fresh new box in my fridge as we speak.
4. My Beauty Diary Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizing Mask
Speaking of sheet masks, Taiwanese beauty brand My Beauty Diary is arguably the strongest T-beauty player in the Western market, with plenty of name recognition and a presence both in Asian markets (I always see them at my local 99 Ranch) and on mass market sites like Walmart.com.
My Beauty Diary’s masks go through periodic renewals, but unlike many brands’ renewals, which tend to gradually reduce the quality of the formulations over time (yay capitalism!), MBD’s renewals tend to be cosmetic: updated packaging, changes to mask material, sometimes a reduction in the number of masks per package (yay capitalism!), but the same great results that I’ve seen since I started using these masks all the way back in 2014.
The Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizing Masks are my absolute favorite of the current batch. 30-45 minutes with one of these masks leaves my skin incredibly hydrated and gives me that translucent radiance that only comes from lots and lots of moisture packed into the upper layers of skin. I also find MBD masks remarkably effective at reducing redness for an instantly more even overall skin tone.
I’ve reviewed a ton of MBD masks on my blog—explore the brand here!
5. 23.5N Red Pearl Barley Brightening Gel Mask
Another key product type for T-beauty brands is the gel mask. When you think about the typically hot and humid weather in Taiwan, it’s easy to see why these watery, lightweight moisturizing products are popular: heavy creams would be torture during typhoon season!
23.5N, an indie brand that focuses on simple formulations and natural, locally sourced ingredients, makes some of the nicest gel masks around. They’re so nice, in fact, that I often use them as overnight moisturizers instead of just glopping them on and rinsing them off again. The Red Pearl Barley Brightening Gel Mask is a silky-soft gel that soothes irritation, reduces redness, and brightens up my skin tone while I sleep. It’s light enough for hot weather or oily skin, and the lack of fragrance or other potentially irritating ingredients makes it a great choice for more sensitive or compromised skin.
I was introduced to this brand by my friend Jen, the Taiwanese-American owner of online beauty boutique Beautibi, and I’m still impressed by 23.5N’s simplicity and clean, calming products.
Now that K-beauty has paved the way for Asian cosmetics to gain greater attention and acceptance in the West, I’m excited to see whether T-beauty can capture some of that success. With skincare more in focus than ever, it’s a great time for Taiwanese brands to get in the mix.
Have you tried any T-beauty? What are your favorites?
Jude Chao is a Taiwanese American beauty blogger, podcaster, skincare fanatic, and connoisseur of Asian cosmetics. She has been featured in TODAY, Elle, Nylon, New York Magazine, and more.
TaiwaneseAmerican.org is not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned above.