Over the years, Taiwanese beauty has been slowly but steadily launching into popularity alongside Korean beauty and Japanese beauty. Taiwan’s sustainability, economic progress, and traditional holistic practices are the driving forces behind its success.
Taiwan’s reputation as a low-cost manufacturing hub for electronics and appliances has helped transform it into a business capital. Tourism is more popular than ever, with increased international marketing and visitors beyond Mainland China: Taiwan is known as a destination for delicious food, teahouses, beautiful sights and hot springs. With accessible travel programs and the country’s high-tech industry, Taiwan’s soft power isn’t stopping there, as its beauty culture and rituals spread out.
Taiwanese beauty brands started making their debut around the first decade of the 2000s with hits like My Beauty Diary, Annie’s Way, and Maskingdom. One reason Taiwanese cosmetics, rather than Chinese, are paving a global path is that Taiwanese manufacturing has a better reputation for quality control with brands that have third-party certification, like Annie’s Way. Now, T-beauty products are lined up alongside K-beauty and J-beauty in retail chain stores like Watsons across Asia. T-beauty is trickling into the U.S., notably being stocked and sold in New York City’s Chinatown. Online shops (such as Miiru Shop and Glowie Co) and chain retailers are carrying and shipping T-beauty in the U.S., and global e-commerce company YesStyle dedicates a section on their website to Taiwanese beauty.
Let’s look at four strengths that go into T-beauty’s unique identity:
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Local brands are often based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM for short). TCM is about attaining mind-body connection through nature. Its holistic practices include acupressure, herbology and dietary therapy. For example, pearl powder (an ingredient in TCM) is an agent for beauty application and skincare, and has historically been ingested for anti-inflammatory and detoxification benefits in Taiwanese and Chinese cultures. Along with TCM, Taiwanese brands also promote locally sourced popular ingredients such as pearl barley, licorice, loofah and burdock extract.
Other TCM techniques that can be practiced are gua sha and dry brushing, both of which are steadily gaining traction in the West through a rise in popularity of crystal gua sha tools used by beauty gurus, and their increasing availability in local beauty shops and major retailers like Sephora. Cupping therapy in TCM has given way to facial cupping, which is becoming more popular along with gua sha. TCM-based skincare is continually growing its influence globally.
One of the most iconic aspects of T-beauty that’s gained a loyal following is Taiwanese face masks. Annie’s Way is a T-beauty brand that has skyrocketed to fame with its mask lines. Its jelly masks are its most popular products, while its adorable bubble tea face sheet masks are made with black tea extract rich with antioxidants. Silk masks (like the ones made by Lovemore or Dr. Morita) thoroughly distribute natural ingredients and essence to the face. Sexylook produces 3-D masks to firm the face, and its pore care products are also beloved. Bonanza Cosmetics is very popular for its gel masks that are rich with ingredients to hydrate the face and reduce redness.
Taiwanese packaging designs are focused on sustainability — the packaging can be recyclable, biodegradable and even plantable. One award-winning T-beauty brand known for green beauty is O’right. T-beauty uses mainly botanical ingredients so brands are mostly vegan. Some T-beauty brands well-reputed for their botanical ingredients and cruelty-free beauty are Maskingdom, Naruko and 23.5N.
A bill proposal to ban cosmetic animal testing was passed in 2016, and became effective in 2019. It amended Taiwan’s Control for Cosmetic Hygiene Act to ban cosmetic animal testing for finished cosmetic products and ingredients. The #BeCrueltyFree Taiwan campaign led by Taiwan SPCA and Humane Society International was instrumental in achieving this passage against animal cruelty. Now they are working to expand legislation around a sales ban on imported cosmetics created with animal testing.
Other than sheet masks, popular makeup brands in Taiwanese beauty include 1028 Visual Therapy, known for their eyeshadows, and Kai Deluxe, known for their foundations. Waterproof and smudge-resistant makeup is popular, especially in the form of gel pencils and mascara — Miss Hana waterproof gel eyeliner is an iconic T-beauty makeup staple, and the brand is beloved for their range of affordable cosmetics with cute, pink packaging designs.
As for skincare, the convenient four-step Taiwanese beauty routine is a sharp contrast to the detailed 10-step Korean beauty routine: The more pared-down T-beauty routine only involves cleansing, toning, moisturizing and sheet mask.
Taiwanese makeup looks and fashion styles have changed over time, influenced by popular cultures such as Japanese, Korean and Western fashion. Beauty trends are constantly being revolutionized, from natural-looking makeup and tied-up hair to permed hair and bolder lipstick colors, to emulating Teresa Teng to the more modern hangover-chic look.
Taipei Fashion Week made its debut in 2018, and it provides an opportunity to showcase local designs and streetwear to a global audience. With Taiwanese cosmetics on the rise, Taiwanese fashion may follow suit.
Taiwan is opening its doors to other countries and relying less on Mainland China for trading with pushes such as “New Southbound Policy,” a policy to encourage cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan and Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Organizations like the Taiwanese External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and Taiwan Beauty Alliance work to promote Taiwanese beauty products and brands to the world.
With more international marketing and product innovation, Taiwanese beauty has the potential to become as well-known as K-beauty and J-beauty. The rising popularity in gua sha, dry brushing, facial cupping and sheet masks can incentivize T-beauty brands to revolutionize their products more, especially in the area of color cosmetics.
Beauty has always been a major part of Taiwan’s culture, and its economic growth and influences have enabled it to gain momentum as a global beauty powerhouse. With people growing increasingly environmentally aware, more people are turning toward cruelty-free and clean beauty, which Taiwan is striving for. Its holistic beauty culture looks to the body’s nervous system and nature for a healthy glow inside and out. All of these factors contribute to a future where T-beauty will soon go from unknown to a worldwide phenomenon, just as K-beauty and J-beauty have become household names. Get ready to clear off space on your shelf for the next Asian beauty wave.