Taipei / 來台北玩, Taipei Health & Beauty / 台妹

Taiwan Skincare Routine: My Korean-Influenced Top Shelf

A light-hearted beauty-centric post, inspired by similar “top shelf interviews” in major US-based beauty blog Into the Gloss. 

Recently, I’ve become obsessed with studying the routines of the most skin-conscious women in the world: the Koreans.

Make-up is one thing; I can’t deny that many of the LA girls I grew up with have got the smoky-eye look on point. Skincare, however, is a whole different sphere, and one I believe is infinitely more important than nailing that perfect cat-eye.

While visiting Korea a few years ago, I could hardly tear my eyes away from the masses of flawless, porcelain visages bobbing and smiling around every corner. The Korean friend whom I was visiting watched my unpack my travel bag at her apartment with eagle eyes, noting each item I unpacked: blush, bronzer, eyeliner. We can go shopping for beauty stuff tomorrow, it’s so cheap here. What kind of toner are you using now? she asked. Upon discovering that I had up until that point thought that the toner was something you put into a printer, and that my current skincare routine consisted of water streaming over my face in the shower, she scolded me in horrified tones: How can you not have a skincare routine? Don’t be dumb! You have to take care of your skin, before it’s too late.  At least a face wash, toner and moisturiser, for god’s sake, she begged me.

While I’m not about to get obsessed with eliminating every unsightly pore on my face and frantically slapping on whitening lotion, the point is that when our young-wild-and-free beach / club / festival days pass and we’re no longer able to bare our bodies in bikinis without also bearing some serious shame, we’ll still be stuck with our skin.

I’d like to say I’ve really grown from my ink-cartridge-as-toner days, and now boast a real, adult skin-care routine. And since Taiwan (in addition to having its own brands) imports a large variety of the top brands from Korea, it’s really the perfect place to experiment with what many say are the most cutting-edge skin-care products on the market. Korean beauty products are becoming trendy in the US, but they’re usually marked up at least twice of what they cost in Taiwan. I thought it would be fun to do a bit of a ITG-style post of my own, and thus, I present my wanna-be Korean, tan-Taiwanese beauty routine. As with the interviews at ITG, you’ll find a link to all the products so you can get that goodness for yourself.


For those who live in Taiwan, a cleanser (used 2-3 times a day) is a necessity, unless you are some freakish mutant that doesn’t wake up with a face dripping with sweat from the humidity. Although my skin has always been labelled as ‘combination’ (a middle ground between oily and dry skin), in Taiwan it tipped decidedly towards oily. You’ll most likely have to buy different cleansers for summer / winter in Taiwan, as the condition of your skin will be vastly different between the two seasons. Ah, well. East Asian semi-tropical island problems.


For almost all of my two years in Taiwan, I’ve been lathering on KIEHL’S Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser. It is so much more expensive than in the States, which makes me die a little everytime I buy it, but it is worth it. This thing cleans my face like a Chinese grandma preparing the house for Chinese New Year, scrubbing off absolutely every last trace of oil and dirt off.

As I’ll be spending the fall in a relatively drier climate (Sweden), I’m planning to make the switch to innisfree olive real cleansing foam with organic extra virgin olive oil. innisfree is a Korean beauty brand that Taiwanese have been raving about, and it helps that the inner hipster-foodie in me is conditioned to salivate at the terms “organic” and “extra virgin olive oil”.

The emphasis on moisturising and hydrating skin products I’ve noticed in Taiwanese beauty stores (even in the summer) absolutely baffles me. Moisturise? I want a dehydrator applied directly to my face, thank you. I think that this pseudo-informative post on Korean beauty is really serving as a cathartic channel for me to vent all my negativity regarding Taiwan’s insane humidity.  On the worst days, it feels like you’re swimming around Taipei City, and not a single face is spared: I’m wading through crowds of glistening mugs.


It took me a while to find an oil-control toner that worked for my face: of course, it was from Etude House, a Korean brand. I currently use the Etude House skin mal:gem toner. If getting Photoshopped was a feeling, that’s the feeling I have after shaking this magic-water all over my face. The skin mal:gem line actually has several different toners, catering to different skin issues. I ended up with “Smoother”, purported to be for “troubled skin”, which I think is hilarious. “Troubled” skin – that kills me. You know what, I imagine saying to the porcelain-faced salesgirl, my skin actually has been really “troubled” lately. It’s smoking two packs a day, drinking too much whiskey, writing long diatribes in black moleskin notebooks. Will this help? 


I used to use a cheap Neutrogena from Watsons as a moisturiser, but it made my face feel disgusting. The mid-range Korean cult-brand CremorLab, which purports to be made from thermal water / fairy spit / angel’s tears – whatever.  It’s great lotion that you can actually feel absorb into your skin upon application rather than leaving a sticky “film”.

When living in Sweden – a dramatically drier climate – I buy a huge tub of coconut oil to use for face, makeup removal, body, everything. Nothing like rolling up everywhere smelling like coconut to chase the winter blues. Taiwan Costco sells a monster 78-fl oz “Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil” (And don’t you feel a superiority complex coming on just from reading that name?) for essentially the same price as the States.


    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Ugh! Is that not the worst product name ever?

  1. Cool fancy tips, thanks indeed! My dear, I’ve finally booked a flight to Taipei! I’ll be there from 11 to 31 August, shall we meet? I would love to enjoy a coffee/yummy dejeneur in a cozy café.. You’ll bring the Taiwanese attitude, and me the Italian one 😉 Might be fun, moreover I’ve read you’ll be in Europe in Fall so cool. Write me an email, I’d love to hear from you ( Ps: French brand “Uriage” has great facial products to clean your skin without soap, so soft, just discovered!

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Hey Giulia, good to hear from you! Sadly, I won’t be in Taipei during August, as I will be in Sweden! But I hope that you enjoy your trip, I’m sure that you will absolutely adore Taipei 🙂

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