Taipei in 2 hours – what and where to buy cosmetics
Taiwan is, for whatever reason, crazy for sheet masks. You can get them literally everywhere – from 7-11 to the biggest tourist attraction (the Taipei 101). Just imagine visiting the Eiffel Tower, and stocking up on Bourjois or L’Occitane in their gift shop. That is Taipei. If you need some pointers how to get in two hours of beauty shopping, and somehow get the most out of it, this is your post: My Taipei beauty shopping guide!
My trip was a bit of a whirlwind visit (over a long weekend), complicated for various reasons – horrible weather, and the cold from hell ™ I developed. Which is the reason I didn’t browse around as much as I would’ve liked.
Ximending: drugstores and K-Beauty
Sadly, the shop of wonderful looking beauty brand Maskingdom has closed in 2017, and products are now only available online or at Taoyuan International Airport. Ximending has a lot of beauty stores, including a lot of K-Beauty brands, but if you’re looking for T-Beauty brands, go to either Watsons or Cosmed. As always in Asian countries, their offers differ from shop to shop, so browse around a bit first. I went to really big ones in Ximending to get a decent selection (see map link below).
What I bought
I wanted to try different Taiwanese brands, namely My Sheming, Dr. Wu and Neogence. My Scheming is mainly a sheet mask brand, similar to My Beauty Diary, while Dr. Wu has gained a reputation for their serums, and Neogence has a rather scientific and minimalistic approach to ingredients, a bit like cosrx.
I wasn’t in the market for a serum (although Dr. Wu’s Mandelic Acid one really tempted me!), but I managed to score a value pack containing Dr. Wu‘s Brightening Eye Serum with Vitamin C & Advanced Hydrating Eye Cream with Hyaluronic Acid. Iirc, both came out around 15$ each? I haven’t tested this one yet, but looking very much forward to it!
Influenced by a lot of raving reviews, I got My Scheming’s Snail Essence Hydrating & Repairing Black Mask. I’ve since tried them, and it’s the richest sheet mask I’ve ever tried. If you’ve dry skin, this one is for you. I used it in the morning, and had some problems to layer my sunscreen, because the essence was just so rich that my skin couldn’t absorb all of it. As a treat in winter, during the evening, I think it’s great.
Even if I didn’t want to buy an acid serum because my drawer is still fully stocked, I found it really interesting that Neogence offered a Mandelic Acid Refining Mask. First time I’ve seen a sheet mask that concentrates on that aspect of skincare! Sadly, again, cold-riddled brain struck again: If I’d read the back correctly, I would’ve seen that the Mandelic Acid concentration is quite low in the ingredient list, in fact coming only after fragrance. I tried it once since, and can report that it nevertheless tingled quite a bit, and my skin felt quite dry the following morning. Dry, but very clear. A bit of a mystery.
Sightseeing, and sneaking a bit of beauty shopping in: Taipei 101
Of course, going up to Taipei’s 101, the seventh-highest skyscraper in the world, is a must, and we did that, although it was still drizzling relentlessly. (Btw, never ever go to famous Din Tai Fung’s branch in the basement. The waiting time is insane. Better go to the one at Xinyi Road in Da’an District. And yes, their dumplings are the best.)
In their gift shop, I also got a pack of My Beauty Diary sheet masks. They’re really ubiquitous in Taipei, being a Taiwanese brand, but in the 101 gift shop they have some editions with special packaging. I got one with Bird’s Nest extract that I enjoy a lot. It has the right amount of richness in their essence to make it insanely hydrating but not sticky. (Nevertheless, I wouldn’t buy it again because of the issues surrounding the harvesting of the swiftlet’s nests.)
In the basement of 101’s shopping mall there’s also a counter of Taiwanese sheet mask brand L’Herboflore. They’re famous for their insanely pretty packaging, and ‘natural’ ingredients. They do include both alcohol and fragrance into nearly all of their products, which doesn’t sit so well with me (and my skin). I bought quite a variety. They’re fine, I guess, but also quite pricey, and I don’t love them as much as I love the basic MBD.
What I didn’t buy and where I didn’t go
Other brands to try out are Lovemore (sheet masks influenced by Chinese medicine), Narüko (rather high-end skincare range), and Dr. Morita (Japanese influenced sheet mask range, influenced by a ‘skinceutical’ approach). Mainly I didn’t buy them because in my befuddled state, I couldn’t decide on what I wanted, or they just offered mega-packs of sheet masks (I rather like when I can buy single masks to try them first).
I also didn’t check out other drugstore-like beauty shops, like Tomod’s, Paris Strawberry, or 86 Shop. Next time.
A word on duty-free shopping at Songshan Airport
Not worth it. It’s a small airport, and their offerings are rather small. Also, the SAs drove me batshit crazy, hovering around me all the time. You’ll find a small selection of both Western and Asian beauty brands, and some Taiwanese (drugstore) brands as well.
As always on those trips, I relied heavily on the research of others. Most notably, this map someone on reddit compiled was the most helpful thing ever. These posts (1, 2, 3) were most helpful in exploring Taiwan’s big beauty brands. And Fiddy’s sheet mask post here was my guide in pinpointing what masks I wanted to look out for.
Most of the brands mentioned above are widely available online. Try ebay, amazon or yesstyle. ( I linked to a few sellers above. That doesn’t mean that those are excellent sellers. I’ve never used them. They just came up at a quick google search.)