Did a little bit of research before heading to Taiwan on what skincare items would be good to look for while in Asia. I mainly consulted the “Asian Beauty” subreddit and a bit of Googling. Tammy also sent me a list written by our good friend. So I had a general idea of what I wanted to look for.
Here’s a photo of part of (half of my haul consists of boxes of masks so you’re not missing much) my haul all laid out under incandescent light:
For reference, I have extremely oily and acneic skin. I tend to get a lot of clogged pores along my nose-chin area and try to remedy this with exfoliators (physical and chemical) and masks (clay and charcoal). As for oil, I’m not kidding or exaggerating: The first day back in Taiwan, my face was an oil slick (more than it has ever been in the US) in an hour (due to my skin not being used to the humidity here). So shiny, the oil could cut through three oil control/blotting sheets. And this was with an oil-controlling lotion on (that works fine in the California). Grody. Blech.
So I look for non-pore clogging, oil-controlling products along with moisturizing ones. I also have hyperpigmentation (“acne scars”) from a bad year-long breakout from two years ago along my cheeks that just won’t fade.
I think of these cloth-type face masks as more of an Asian skincare thing. My mom used them back in the day and I’ve tried a couple over the years whenever I visited Asia, but for this trip, I decided to specifically seek some of these products out. Also, buying these masks in Asia is cheaper than ordering them online in the US. I ended up getting four Etude House single use masks (elder flower, tea tree, hyaluronic acid and aloe), six boxes of My Beauty Diary masks (bird’s nest, black pearl, aloe, red vine (no idea why it’s not wine), apple and one more I don’t remember and can’t find) and a box of Missha Snail sheet masks. I also got a bottle? jar? container? (I don’t know how to call it) of Skin food black sugar mask. My roommate in college/skincare junkie/friend got a jar of this when she was in SoCal a few years ago and really liked it so I just got it since I didn’t bring a scrub/exfoliator with me to Taiwan (BAD MISTAKE).
Here’s the cost breakdown. I’ll convert everything to US dollars.
The Etude House masks were about $1.50 each. I used a friend’s membership card and I think I got a slight discount on them (I think it was a 15% discount) so I think that price reflects the discount… I’m not entirely sure. They also give you a shit ton of samples; I think they included like 10 samples in my bag… so crazy but great!
As for My Beauty Diary masks, I’m 99% sure I read that they’re a Taiwanese brand, and they’re pretty cheap here compared to online/US. If you want to get these in the US, I think a box of these are about $13 across various online retailers. I also saw them in my local Chinese supermarket and they were going for about $11 a box or $20 for two boxes. There are a lot of promotions in Taiwan since there are tons of skincare/makeup stores (e.g. Watson’s, Cosmed, Sasa) that sell these, so I got my masks when they were on a 2 boxes for ~$13 promotion (aka buy one get one free, the “promotion” ran the entire three weeks I was in Taiwan) which comes down to about $6.50 per box. The boxes I got contained 10 masks each so each mask is about $0.65. Not a bad deal!
The box of Missha snail masks were about $6.30. There are 5 sheets in a box so each mask is $1.26. I really wanted to try a snail product but the serum-type products are on the pricier side (~$30+?) and I want to make sure I’m not allergic/sensitive to snail.
I kind of got lost in my shuffle of receipts (too much Chinese and my reading skills are rusty) so I think the Skin food mask retailed for about $14.66. Tip for traveling in Taiwan: keep your receipts since they double as a ticket in Taiwan’s “Receipt Lottery.”
In case you wanted to know, here’s this super awesome chart of what each type of My Beauty Diary mask supposedly helps with:
As for the other things I purchased, the Etude House Pore Freshner seems like a hit-or-miss item (according to MUA) but people on r/AsianBeauty/ seem to love it so I decided to try it out since i have huge pores on and near my nose. I got a smaller bottle of it for $14.40. You can find larger bottles of the toner-esque product for cheaper on Ebay.
One of my holy grail items (possibly my first and longest-term HG item) is the Nexcare “Acne Covers/Dressing/Stickers.” If you’ve never heard or used them before, they’re these thick clearish-yellowish stickers that you stick on your pimples (whiteheads mostly) that suck the sebum/infection (your white blood cells + bacteria I think. ugh. so gross. but so good) out of your pore(s). I’ve sort of perfected the use of these over the years because now, I’ve essentially had acne for more years of my life than years without it- what a milestone. Always stick these on cleansed (zero product) skin, otherwise they will not stick. They’re “one stick use” so don’t touch the sticky part before sticking it on your face since your finger oils will cause it to not stick again. Also, these work best when the skin of the pimple is thin or has broken (but isn’t bleeding or doesn’t have plasma oozing out (great image, huh?) otherwise these will fall off). I put them on overnight and peel them off the next morning and the skin is usually clearer/flatter with the white gunk stuck to the sticker. It’s so awesome. However, I’ll keep putting stickers on a pimple for 2-4 days just to really “clear” it out. These sadly don’t work that well on cystic/hormonal acne since they’re not as bacteria/sebum related. I got these on a buy one get one free promotion: $7.63 for two boxes, or about $3.82 a box. I usually get these at Watson’s. In the past, whenever I ran out, I bought these on ebay for more, like $24 for 4 boxes or $6 a box, with fewer stickers per box.
Another one of my HG items is the Shiseido Ultimate Cleansing Oil. Two summers ago, I realized I wasn’t taking off all my foundation/makeup/what have you and this was causing me to break out (most likely the source of my cheek acne) and decided to get an oil-based cleanser (not talking about oil cleansing) to use before my usual cleanser. Oil-based cleansers tend to have basic ingredients like oil(s) and emulsifier(s).
IIRC all the chemistry I’ve taken + wikipedia, here’s the oversimplified explanation of how oil-based cleansers might work: emulsifiers can be surfactants (think soap) which are chemicals that have one oily end that can bind or are attracted other oily stuff (when you first put the cleanser on your dry face) and one water-loving end that can bind or are attracted to water-like stuff (when you add water and “emulsify”). These chemicals in the cleanser can bind both an oil and (in this case) water. You can then wash off all the water-bound-to-oil (usually the white emulsified stuff). So these cleansers, in theory, might take off more makeup if it has any oil in it. I don’t know for a fact if this is true, but I haven’t had major problems since stopping my old heavy foundation and starting using this cleanser. I also always wash my face with an “actual” cleanser afterwards, just to be safe.
The subreddit also praises The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Oil so I decided to pick one up. I got it in light oil since I’m on the oily side, but I kind of regret not getting the original formula. Oh well. Next time. Both The Face Shop and Shiseido cleanser are apparently the same size which surprised me (the Shiseido bottle looks bigger, but it’s apparently shorter) and while I love the Shiseido one (it’s super gentle, gets the job done, a little goes a long way and either light in scent or scent free), it’s definitely pricier at $25 vs The Face Shop’s $10.
Not pictured is the Biore Deep Free Facial Bright Wash Foam. I got a sample of this cleanser when I bought a magazine (yes, many magazines in Taiwan, and probably most of Asia, come with skincare samples and actual bags!) and loved it so much I got a full sized bottle of it to bring home. The sample’s like 2/3 the size of the original bottle, so, hopefully it’ll last me a while. I think the full size was like $6? It’s selling on ebay for around $10. But I’d totally buy it for that price when my bottle run out. I could tell my skin was a lot smoother right after using it. The cleaner foams up really nicely– a little goes a long way, and it smells wonderful, like a mix of fruit /apples? which makes sense since it contains AHA/malic acid. There are mini granules (not polyethylene/microbeads, I checked) that help exfoliate at the same time. Also, if you haven’t realized, Asia Biore kicks US Biore’s butt into the ground. Just so many more (and better) products for all types of skin (they get their own section in the skincare stores). Love.
I didn’t review a lot of stuff, especially all of masks, since I haven’t had a lot of time and I don’t want to try everything all at once in case my face decides to hate everything I bought. So I’ll post updates every one in a while. Hope this was somewhat interesting to read? I’m not a chemistry or beauty expert, so keep that in mind, and in case it wasn’t clear, I bought all this stuff with my own money (or my mom’s money) and just wanted to share.
p.s. but seriously. buying magazines in Taiwan is awesome. I saw a mini sample set of philosophy items (probably worth around $30) attached to a $6 magazine for free. and there was a free kate spade saturday tote free with another magazine and IDEK. they also have a HUGE selection of international magazines. it’s really great. definitely check out large bookstores (eslite) or if you want more Asian-based magazines, 7-11 usually carries a good number of them