Here are my top ten make-up essentials. What are yours? Ten products I can’t live without when I’m travelling. Five cult beauty faves you need to know about.
Just kidding, I’d never inflict you with that – I get enough of it every single work-day. Social media copy is the bane of my existence. So I’ll just tell it to you straight: Taiwan has some amazing drugstore makeup brands, but not all of them are for you. There is so much whitening crap, glittery crap and just ridiculousness that cosmetics shopping tends to become intimidating.
I can’t speak for die-hard beauty junkies who post endless pictures of their Taiwan make-up hauls, but I am a girl, I wear makeup, and I’ve lived here for almost three years now – I think I’m kind of qualified. Here are products I buy again and again – and buy in bulk whenever I leave Taiwan for extended amounts of time.
KATE is by far my favored Asian drugstore cosmetics brand. Owned by mother label KANEBO, made in Japan, and distributed in China, HK, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea and Thailand – KATE products are fairly cheap, high-quality, and most importantly – come in shades other than snow-white and creamy-white or however local Taiwanese girls want their skin to look. My entire make-up bag is from KATE – and no, this is not a sponsored post (although KATE – feel free to hit a girl up). I always go to Watson’s for my cosmetics, I don’t even know is KATE is sold at Cosmed, to be honest.
• KATE Lasting Eyebrow: Swear by this – the best eyebrow pencil you will ever have. Run, don’t walk. Update: I USED to swear by this, but now I’ve found a new love: Clio Kill Brow Lasting Tattoo Brow Pencil.
• KATE BB Cream (500 NT): Ideal for summer-time, when you’re not looking for heavy coverage. I don’t even know what BB cream means, exactly – it’s like foundation, no? I could write an entire article about how difficult and humiliating it is to buy foundation in Taiwan as a very tan Asian: I finally Laura Mercier Smooth Flawless Finish foundation (what a name, marketing team) which I alternate with BB cream depending on how much coverage I need. The Kate BB cream comes in three shades, and the darkest, OC-D is what my friends and I use.
• KATE Mineral Powder Foundation: Nothing fancy, but cheap – and face it – you need powder compacts in humid Asian climates.
• KATE Quick Eyeliner (280 NT): While my pricing knowledge of other KATE product is shaky, let it be known that the price of KATE’s felt-pen eyeliner is imprinted on my heart, because I bulk-buy 4+ of these at a time. My one true make-up love.
I tend to find that in terms of blush, lips and eyeshadow, I still prefer going with international brands – mostly because the shades that Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese cosmetics brands put out just doesn’t go well with tanned skin. Here’s what I use everyday – and all are currently available in Taiwan. Western brands found in the department stores in Taiwan are markedly more expensive than they would be in the US, but – ah, well.
• Blush: NARS Multiple: The classic is Orgasm, my favorite is Portofino.
• Foundation: Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Flawless Fluide: Took so long to find the perfect foundation; this is it for me.
• Lips: Smith’s Rosebud Salve: One swipe, all you need. Get it at 86Shop.
For skin-care brands commonly found in drugstores, I liked Naruko (I feel that this might not be a good option for those with more sensitive skin), Dr. Wu and KANEBO. All are reasonably priced and are made for Asian skin – just be careful not to check if the lotion is WHITENING. Unless you’re into that. In the winter I take off my make-up with coconut oil (which you can find at Costco Taiwan, but in huge quantities) but when in the summer it’s just too humid, I go with Biore make-up remover sheets.
Where to Shop for Cheap Cosmetics in Taiwan
DRUGSTORE (Asian & Western Brands)
• Watsons – One on every corner, essentially. My go-to for everything from lip balm to toilet paper. I stock up on KATE products here (and Maybelline, etc) but for skincare (masks, face wash) I tend to go to store such as 86 Shop.
• Cosmed – Has more skincare and medicinal products in comparison to Watsons. I personally don’t go in very often – perhaps also because they stock less Western cosmetics brands.
These shops have a focus Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese makeup brands and often highlight cult beauty items – always interesting to go in and take a look around. You could go to individual stores such as The Face Shop and Skin Food – but I hate shopping and the two stores below stock all the top-sellers from each brand anyway.
• 86 Shop: I always go to 86 since its located in 師大夜市 (Shida Night Market) – close to my house. It stocks many Korean brands – the only one of which I actually buy from is 3 Concept Eyes (3CE).
• 小三美日: Similar to 86 Shop, perhaps a tiny bit cheaper. The location in 公館 is massive and is stocked with all the latest Korean and Japanese cult beauty products.
Colored Contacts & False Eyelashes
• To the shock (and disappointment) of many people in my life, yes – I do on occasion wear colored contacts when I go out on the weekends. And false eyelashes. Sometimes even both at the same time. My eyes are a lighter brown – when I want to switch it up I usually just choose grey colored contacts – it lightens the eye without making you look like an alien. The brand I use is FreshLook – its an international brand; stocked by many optometrists around Taipei. I’ve never tried local brands; and not really inclined to – as FreshLook is fairly cheap (250 NTD per box of 6 pairs).
• For fake eyelashes, I go to JSF 金興發 – which is actually more known for stationary, but also has a beauty sections. Again: note that I only wear colored contacts and false eyelashes a 1-2 days a month – if that – so I don’t know if these products would be harmful if they’re worn on the daily – I’m assuming that Taiwanese chicks that wear colored contacts/eyelashes every day use higher quality products (I hope).
So – where to go once you’ve gotten all dolled up? Here’s my definitive guide to Taipei nightlife.
If you’re more about that brunch life, check out some of my favorite Taipei brunch spots.