What is Naruko and what’s its place in the skincare world?
In 2019-2020, it felt as if there were new skincare brands cropping up every day. Naruko on the other hand, got its start over 18 years ago in 2002 (the era of Nokia and Sony Ericsson bricks, not smartphones!). Since Naruko has had time to perfect its craft, it’s no wonder that their formulations are some of the most complex in the industry.
To put it simply, Naruko is a Taiwanese skincare brand based on advanced manufacturing, strict quality control, and precise choice of ingredients. But we can’t talk about Naruko without talking about “Niu Er”.
Who Is Niu Er?
If you’re Taiwanese, then there’s a good chance you may have heard about Niu Er (牛爾). If not, he can be described as a scientist, an entertainer, a writer and founder. He is eccentric, witty, and ridiculously young-looking for his age (53 as of 2020). He is the driving force behind his brand and oversees the development of products with quality control.
One of the most interesting aspects of Niu Er is his exhaustive testing of ingredients and products (Niu Er himself has a collection of over 100,000 products!). Now that you’ve heard a bit about Naruko’s backstory, let’s dive into their products!
Naruko Product Series Overview
This guide will highlight 6 of Naruko’s core product series. As with some other Taiwanese skincare brands, a product series consists of the “Product Benefit” + “Key Ingredient”. They include:
- BRIGHTENING/ANTIAGING | Jing Cheng Line
- BRIGHTENING | Raw Job’s Tears
- OIL CONTROL | Tea Tree
- HYDRATING | Rose
- FIRMING | Magnolia
- REPAIRING | Narcissus
Note that Naruko uses a very wide variety of ingredients to achieve the desired effect of the products, but we do appreciate the simple product series naming. The benefits are clear so it should help you select the right Naruko product based on your skincare goals.
BRIGHTENING & ANTI-AGING | Jing Cheng
Naruko's Jing Cheng line is their premium line of skincare to address anti-aging and brightening. All products in this line have Actuat E60, which is Naruko's proprietary blend of 60 different Western and Eastern botanical ingredients. Below is the ingredients list for Actuat E60:
Achillea Millefolium Extract, Actinidia Chinensis (Kiwi) Fruit Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horsechestnut) Extract, Alchemilla Vulgaris Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Ananas Sativus (Pineapple) Fruit Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Artemisia Umbelliformis Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Exract, Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan) Extract, Citrus Grandis Peel Extract, Corallina Officinalis (Algae) Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Dioscorea Villosa (Wild Yam) Root Extract, Epilobium Fleischeri Extract, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Extract, Equisetum Hiemale (Horsetail) Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Jobs Tears (Coix Lacryma-Jobi) Water, Kalanchoe Pinnata Leaf Extract/Kalanchoe Spathulata Leaf Extract, Ledebouriella Divaricata Root Extract, Leontopodium Alpinum Extract, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Extract, Melissa Officinalis Extract, Mentha Arvensis Leaf Extract, Morus Alba (Mulberry) Root Extract, Narcissus Tazetta Bulb Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Papain, Peony (Paeonia Suffruticosa) Root Extract, Peucedanum Ostruthium Leaf Extract, Pisum Sativum Extract, Plantago Asiatica Seed Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Poria Cocos Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, Rhodiola Rosea Extract, Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Exaract, Sakura (Prunus Yedoensis) Leaf Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Red Sage) Leaf Extract, Sambucus Nigra Flowers, Saxifraga Sarmentosa Extract, Scutellaria Alpina Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Snow Fungus (Tremella Fuciformis) Extract, Thyme (Thymus Serpillum) Extract, Tilia Cordata (Linden) Extract, Triticum Vulgare Protein, Undaria Pinnatifida Extract, Veronica Officinalis (Common Speedwell) Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract, Willow (Salix Alba) Bark Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract.
Wow, that was a mouthful! It's amazing how many different ingredient extracts are included in Actuat E60, including some of our favorites like Seaweed, Snow Fungus, Aloe Extract, Centella Asiatica, Ginseng, etc. Including so many extracts may mean that each one is diluted, but we love the overall skin benefits that we find Actuat E60 brings.
The hero product of the Jing Cheng line would be Naruko's La Creme Face Renewal Miracle Essence. This powerhouse essence has 94.9% rice lees extract (the rice leftover after sake production) in addition to Actuat E60 to help brighten and firm over time.
BRIGHTENING | Raw Job’s Tears
This product series uses Job’s Tears for brightening. Job’s Tears (Pearl Barley) is a type of grain that is popular in Taiwanese skincare. If you want to learn more about Job’s Tears, we wrote a guide about it. Going beyond that, Naruko adds Tranexamic Acid, Arbutin, Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Niacinamide, among several more brightening ingredients. However, the goal of Naruko’s Job’s Tears series isn’t just to brighten the skin, it’s also to minimize pores, remove dead skin cells, and moisturize. The result is greater than the sum of its parts since it delivers both an instant glow and sets you up for long-term results.
THE BEST NARUKO PRODUCTS FOR BRIGHTENING
Naruko Raw Job’s Tears Pore & Brightening Essence
Naruko’s Job’s Tears Essence is the perfect choice to add a skin-brightening, pore-minimizing boost since you can easily use it alongside skincare products you were already using. Its texture falls somewhere in between a serum and an essence. It’s not too thick, not too thin, and practically has no fragrance. We found that it effectively brightened the skin but was surprisingly moisturizing as well.
Naruko Raw Job’s Tears Supercritical CO2 Pore Minimizing & Brightening Night Gelly
Naruko OIL CONTROL | Tea Tree Series
This is one of the most popular product series from Naruko. The star ingredient in Naruko’s Oil-Control series is tea tree oil (and other tea tree particles) which are effective at combating acne due to their natural antiseptic properties. The Saw Palmetto plant extract aids in absorbing excess sebum. It’s a bit more fragranced compared to other series due to its use of many additional plant ingredients but most people enjoy its minty scent.
THE BEST NARUKO PRODUCTS FOR OIL CONTROL
Naruko Tea Tree Shine Control & Blemish Clear Sheet Mask
This is a classic activated carbon/charcoal sheet mask that gives you a satisfying feeling of removing dirt and impurities. This is worth trying even if you don’t typically have oily skin since you can keep one around if you encounter an oily skin day or if acne problems arise. Do note that it does have a tingling sensation because of the tea tree essential oil and peppermint oil.
Naruko Tea Tree Post Blemish Corrector
This spot treatment falls into the more medicinal side of Naruko’s offerings featuring a more powerful blend of its active ingredients. Salicylic Acid penetrates deep into the skin to unclog pores and Tranexamic Acid aids in its restoration. Altogether, it’s a great product for taking care of acne whenever it pops up and can aid in fixing blemishes.
Naruko Tea Tree Blemish Clear Lotion Precious
There’s some crossover between this product and the previous spot treatment but this lotion (also used as a spot treatment) increases the concentration of salicylic acid and forgoes the niacinamide. This tea tree lotion will help to keep your skin’s oil under control while turning over dead skin cells at a moderate rate. Use this product if you’re looking for more of a preventative acne treatment.
Naruko Tea Tree Shine Control & Blemish Clear Toner
For controlling oily skin on a daily basis, Naruko’s Tea Tree Shine Control & Blemish Clear Toner will be a welcome addition to your routine. Salicylic Acid gently exfoliates skin to remove acne and refine pores and Zinc PCA absorbs excess oil and shine to maintain a healthy skin balance.
Naruko Tea Tree Shine Control & Blemish Clear Serum
If you want to simplify your skincare routine and don’t mind a bit of brightening, this serum combines many of the ingredients found in Naruko’s previously mentioned tea tree products. This 4-in-1 serum prevents and lightens blemishes, controls oil secretion, and tightens pores making it one of the best products designed for oily skin.
Naruko Tea Tree Shine Control & Blemish Clear Peeling Gel
If you’re looking for a gentler alternative to your standard physical/chemical exfoliants, then this peeling gel is for you. Naruko’s Tea Tree Shine Control & Blemish Clear Peeling Gel gently turns over dead skin cells via salicylic acid and a variety of plant extracts. We like how it has a very small amount of abrasive texture to it but the abrasives are used sparingly and are super soft so there’s no risk of scratching or scarring.
Naruko Tea Tree Shine Control & Blemish Clear Night Gelly
This night “gelly” (combination of a gel and jelly) is the perfect leave-in treatment for oily skin. Just spread it evenly over your face as a last-step in your skincare routine without rinsing. You can use it in the morning or use it overnight. Although it helps the skin control sebum, it also leaves the skin with the right amount of hydration.
MOISTURIZING | Rose
As with the other product series, Naruko’s Rose line doesn’t rely on just one ingredient to achieve the desired effect. This moisturizing series uses ceramides, AQUAXYL, and rose flower water to provide moisture and ensure it stays locked in. Rose flower water aids in moisture and gives it a pleasant fragrance. It’s used instead of rose oil or plant matter which can potentially irritate the skin.
THE BEST NARUKO PRODUCTS FOR MOISTURIZING
Naruko Rose & Aqua-In Super Hydrating Night Gelly
This is a highly moisturizing leave-in product that can also be used as an everyday moisturizer. Compared to the other Naruko Night “Gellys” in which moisturizing is a secondary benefit, the Rose & Aqua-In product gives you extreme moisture while still not feeling sticky. We found the rose fragrance to be very pleasant but it might not be for everyone. The good news is that the fragrance is about light-to-medium in strength.
Naruko Rose Hydrating Tone-Up Cream SPF30
This 2-in-1 moisturizer and sunscreen really helps to simplify a morning skincare routine. When applying moisturizer after sunscreen, you don’t always know how those two products will interact in terms of consistency, moisture content, fragrance, and tint. Naruko does the work for you and dissolves effortlessly. Naruko’s Rose Hydrating Tone-Up Cream blocks UV light with an SPF30 rating while providing you with long-lasting hydration.
FIRMING | Magnolia
We absolutely love Naruko’s Magnolia series with the dual benefit of firming and brightening. It’s a lot of fun to use since it provides the most immediate improvement in appearance with even deeper results over extended periods. The key ingredient is Taiwan Magnolia Bark Extract and it’s not often we’ve seen this used in skincare products. The role of the magnolia is primarily its natural anti-aging properties, including protection from sun damage. The scent of the products in this series is more apparent compared to other Naruko products. Although it’s quite hard to describe the scent, it’s a bit floral, a bit citrusy, and has a slight hint of earthy undertones. There’s no single aspect of the scent we felt stuck out too much and found it to be both intoxicating and complex, but without going over the top.
THE BEST NARUKO PRODUCTS FOR FIRMING AND ANTI-AGING
Naruko Taiwan Magnolia Brightening and Firming Toner
This is one of the best skincare toners with anti-aging properties. It delivered an instant glow and also was effective in preparing the skin for the next steps. It is quite brightening, but also strong in evening skin tone and firming. Because of this, the overall effect appeared natural. The consistency of this product is just a little bit thicker than a typical toner.
Naruko Taiwan Magnolia Brightening and Firming Serum
The Magnolia Serum contains about the same ingredients as the toner, but in a more potent concentration. We definitely aren’t complaining though since we can’t get enough of the Magnolia series! The texture of this serum is somewhat like a thin lotion that absorbs easily. Surprisingly, the serum is much less fragranced than the toner. Choose the serum over the toner if you’re looking for the occasional firming + brightening or if you’re trying to integrate these benefits into an existing routine.
Naruko Taiwan Magnolia Brightening and Firming Vitamin K Eye Cream
When it comes to anti-aging, the skin around the eye area may be the most important. This thin wrinkle-prone area requires a more delicate touch. Naruko’s Taiwan Magnolia Eye Cream works well for this with gentle and easy application. It starts with a smooth consistency that you can spread without much effort. After that, it quickly absorbs into the skin, becoming far more translucent with a satisfying lightweight feel. Naruko’s Magnolia Eye Cream is loaded with tripeptides, lifting saggy skin and diminishing fine lines. Tranexamic Acid and Vitamin C help to fade dark spots and brighten dull skin.
Naruko Taiwan Magnolia Brightening and Firming Sheet Mask
There are many choices for brightening sheet masks but we highly recommend this one, even for people who tend to avoid brightening. That’s because this sheet mask has the right balance of brightening, moisturizing, and firming that delivers a well-rounded skin appearance that’s hard to find in other products. The sheet mask fabric will also work for a wider variety of face shapes - the fabric is larger and has more slits for adjustment.
REPAIRING | Narcissus
“Narcissus” is the name of a Greek god known for his beauty and bride but Naruko’s Repairing series is actually named after the flower also called “Narcissus.” It has been used in traditional medicine since ancient times and contains a wealth of beneficial biological properties. Naruko uses Narcissus Bulb Extract and 11 other plant extracts to restore and protect the skin.
The Best Naruko Sheet Mask for Repairing
Naruko Narcissus Repairing Sheet Mask
This is the perfect sheet mask if you’re looking for something with gentler active ingredients. It also has very little fragranced, the way we would describe the scent is more akin to it being lightly “essenced” with flowers. The effect of this sheet mask is more subtle than most sheet masks but still provides visible improvements to things like the appearance of wrinkles. We often choose it when wanting to experience the enjoyment of doing a sheet mask without rigid goals. Naruko’s signature Snow Fungus Extract and other moisturizing ingredients really help to plump up the skin without a gooey feeling.
Naruko: High Potential for Your Routine
Naruko is a Taiwanese skincare brand that has strong potential to work well for many people. Despite using many ingredients in their complex formulas, Naruko’s careful choices and strict quality control make their products less irritating than most brands.Considerable research efforts by Naruko, Niu Er, and his team give us more confidence too.
Naruko products aren’t striving solely striving the “wow” factor (although the Magnolia line does do this for us). To sum it all up, Naruko is an ideal blend of research-backed efficacy, high quality, and subtle restraint.
This concludes our roundup of Naruko’s product series. We will continually update this article with new additions as we test more Naruko products.