Beauty Squad member Julia Coney is on a journey to uncover women's beauty secrets from around the world. For this edition of the series, she gets the inside scoop on getting gorgeous in Taipei from a friend who frequents the bustling city.
A few years ago, I spent a couple weeks working in Taiwan. Even in that exotic far-off country, I discovered a few things that reminded me of my hometown in the South—mainly the great food, great shopping and great beauty products. "Women in Taipei believe beauty is serious business," says my Taiwanese friend, Joanna Lo. "We frequent the dermatologist, sometimes on our lunch breaks, stay out of the sun and love all the latest beauty technology, including lasers for skin. We also like to have fun with beauty." Here Lo gives me the rundown on her Taiwanese beauty essentials.
Makeup Mantra: BB Creams
Due to the harsh sun, a melt-proof BB cream with SPF is a must. The product's status as an essential should come as no surprise, considering it originated and gained popularity in Asia long before being introduced in the States, with options like Garnier BB Cream Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector with SPF 15 leading the way. "You will find more women wearing BB creams than foundation here," Lo says. "They give an even glow and are a way to look done without wearing foundation."
Beauty Buster: Fair Skin
Sun protection is of paramount importance in Taiwan because a "snow-white complexion is the ideal," Lo says. "It's perceived as a sign of higher class—similar in concept to the foot binding that occurred for a thousand years in China. It is an outdated notion, but it still persists."
As a result, it's common to see women walking around with umbrellas, UV hats and arm warmers when the sun is out to shield their skin. To achieve a fairer complexion, lightening creams are also de rigueur. Kosé Sekkisei Emulsion is widely used to reduce melanin production and erase sun spots. (For an American alternative, try Shiseido White Lucent Brightening Moisturizing Cream.) Lo further explains that women in Taiwan often get any facial imperfections removed, including little freckles. "It's easier to do here since there are literally beauty spas with laser treatments on every street in Taipei," she says. "They're as ubiquitous as nail salons in New York City."
Facial Focus: Lashes
False lashes are used to enhance women's eyes in Asia. They are also used to represent their personality. Traditional lashes are typically worn every day, but it's the lashes with fur, studs and color that are most coveted. "It is hard to imagine walking around with studs on your eyes, but this is why Asian beauty is fun—because we take risks," Lo says. Try: Shu Uemura Black Velvet Feather False Eyelashes.
The Crucial Cosmetic: Eyeliner
"Every woman in Taiwan needs liner," Lo says. "It opens the eyes, especially Asian eyes." Black is typically the most popular color, but Lo says that Tawianese women won't hesitate to play with colored liner. Dolly Wink is a coveted eyeliner brand in Taipei. It's inexpensive, fun and performs beautifully. Even after my trip there, I still buy Dolly Wink eyeliner because I was so impressed with its pigment and staying power.
That sweltering sun and high humidity make frizz the biggest concern when it comes to maintaining the super-straight manes that many women prefer in Taipei. But Lo says the Taiwanese generally do not spend a lot of time each morning styling their hair. Instead, women get straightening perms in salons to attain sleek styles. They then maintain treated strands by coddling them with chemical-free cleansers, like Pureology Super Smooth Shampoo and Conditioner, and deep conditioning treatments that can soften coarse tresses. Try: Kérastase Nutritive Masquintense for Fine Hair or Thick Hair.
Photo: Joanna Lo (courtesy of Lo); landscape (Thinkstock); products (courtesy of the brands)