If you had told me, ten or twenty years ago, how popular and how ubiquitous Asian beauty products and Asian beauty concepts would become in the West, I wouldn’t have believed you. I don’t think many of us would have predicted the rise of Asian cosmetics here. But it’s happened. Luxury, mid-range, and budget Korean and Japanese brands have found their way onto shelves at both specialty retailers like Sephora and at mainstream, mass-market chains like Walgreens.
Taiwanese brands have benefited, too. You can find sheet masks of Taiwanese manufacture on Amazon and in-store at Target, Walmart, and Rite Aid. Unfortunately, Taiwanese brand recognition still lags behind South Korea and Japan.
“Most skincare fanatics have probably tried a My Beauty Diary mask and loved it, but that’s the extent of Taiwanese beauty they are familiar with. There are so many other options available whose formulas are just as good, if not better, than competitor Japanese and Korean beauty products, especially in the sheet mask arena,” Annie said.
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Taiwanese sheet masks’ excellence ties in to Taiwan’s long history of high quality manufacturing in a variety of sectors, Annie explained to me. Taiwan’s contract manufacturing companies have been quietly producing products for brands like Apple, KAO, and Shiseido for decades.
When asked why Taiwan is a good place to produce things, Annie said, “The first part is the work ethic of the Taiwanese people. They have a strong dedication to quality. When we got to meet T-beauty brand Annie’s Way in Kaohsiung, we learned more about her factory and standards, and that’s really the primary focus of her brand—you don’t see that a lot from brands coming out of other countries.”
Annie continued, “the second is Taiwan’s openness and transparency. Compared to other markets in Asia, it’s just easier to do business in Taiwan. The last one is specific to skincare. It’s the fact that due to its geographic region, Taiwan is very fertile and can grow many types of plants [with cosmetic applications]. A good example of this is one of the brands we carry, 23.5N, which sources all their ingredients from local Taiwanese organic farms.”
Lastly, Annie pointed out that “Taiwan is also very forward thinking in terms of manufacturing ethics. They were the first in Asia to propose a ban on animal testing, back in 2016, and legislation went into effect in 2019, although many Taiwanese brands were not testing on animals to begin with.”
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This focus on ethics should resonate well with Western skincare markets, where “clean” and “cruelty-free” beauty have been trending for a few years now. Despite that, Taiwanese beauty remains under the radar. According to Annie, part of the reason for this is that many Taiwanese brands focus less on US growth than they do on growth within Asian markets: “Asian markets are lower hanging fruit for them, and marketing a brand in the US can be expensive.” Beyond that, brands often lack a person who can translate their brand story to the American audience.
“Before starting Glowie Co, it was really difficult for me to find Taiwanese beauty to purchase online,” Annie said. “Only stores based in Asia offered these products, and I didn’t want to wait a month to receive my order. I think T-beauty being hard to find is a big reason why it’s not well known in the first place.” Considering the impact that US-based K-beauty vendors like Sokoglam, Glow Recipe, and Peach and Lily have had on Korean beauty awareness in the West, Annie’s theory makes a lot of sense.
Having come from seven years at Sephora HQ, Annie brought extensive experience working on launches for brands such as Dyson and the Ordinary. To bring T-beauty to the masses, she and fiancé Phil Tamaki, formerly in marketing at Taiwanese company ASUS, joined forces with two other co-founders whose existing importing and logistics infrastructure put Glowie Co instantly ahead of much of the competition. Glowie Co customers often rave on social media about the store’s prompt and professional shipping. In a market plagued by slow fulfillment times and frequent issues with vendor reliability, that’s a breath of fresh air.
So what are the Taiwanese beauty products to look out for? Annie has three suggestions (all of which I wholeheartedly agree with):
“My Beauty Diary is a classic and a great way to get an introduction to T-Beauty and even skincare in general. They have a wide array of fun sheet masks that address every skin type & skin concern with unique ingredients, like natto (Japanese fermented soybeans).” MBD is a common gateway brand into T-beauty, and for good reason.
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Along with My Beauty Diary, Annie recommends Naruko. “Naruko is probably the most well known Taiwanese facial skincare brand and has been around for 11 years. You can tell how good the products are by looking at Naruko’s founder, Niuer. The man is in his 50s and he looks like he’s in his 20s! Naruko’s products are beautifully formulated and they’ve really packed their formulations with so many wonderful ingredients. They use their own proprietary blend of Western and Eastern ingredients.”
Finally, Annie loves Annie’s Way. “You can’t go wrong with the sheet masks or jelly masks from Annie’s Way. She has some of the best sheet masks I’ve ever tried – they are made out of 100% silk and I definitely notice a huge difference in the level of hydration of my skin after I take her sheet masks off. Her jelly masks, meanwhile, are the best alternatives to clay masks, which I find to be too drying and harsh for my skin, especially as I get older. Jelly masks are a great way to decongest your skin while also keeping it hydrated.”
Of course, this wouldn’t be a TaiwaneseAmerican.org profile if we didn’t talk about some of Annie’s favorite things to do and to eat in Taiwan. She loves going to the night markets and to Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xin Yi, the outdoor mall that runs alongside Taipei 101—that’s where Chun Shui Tang, the shop that invented bubble tea, is.
“For places outside of Taipei, Jiufen is really beautiful to visit. It became popular as it inspired the downtown of Spirited Away,” Annie added. As for food, fruits are a must when she visits, including dragonfruit, guava, wax apple, yellow watermelon, and pineapple, and she loves Taiwanese breakfasts, too.
K-beauty may have paved the way for Asian cosmetics’ surge in popularity in the West, while J-beauty has long enjoyed the prestige of top brands like Shiseido and SK-II, but Taiwanese beauty isn’t far behind, especially with passionate advocates like Annie and Glowie Co to show beauty consumers the way.
Curious about T-beauty? Glowie Co has curated a special Best of Taiwanese Beauty sheet mask assortment in partnership with TaiwaneseAmerican.org. Use the code TAORG at checkout from 5/26 – 6/2 to receive 10% off your order. An additional 10% of your purchase will go towards supporting TaiwaneseAmerican.org!