Meet Alice Sun, The TikToker Using Chinese Medicinal Recipes As “Skin Care”

The holistic creator talks about her food as skin care series, creating recipes, and going viral.

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Alice Sun, a 29-year-old holistic food creator, first posted a video about using food as part of her skin care routine while experiencing an acne breakout last year. Sun had already been posting food content on TikTok for two years at that point, but this was the first time she sharing the skin care tips she’d learned growing up around Chinese medicinal recipes. Her followers were instantly hooked, with her glowing clear skin smoothie recipe inspired by Chinese medicine going viral on the app shortly after. Sun has been posting videos explaining recipes informed by Chinese medicine about topics like skin care superfruits, “how to hot pot for glowing skin”, and medicinal tea recipes ever since.

While the mainstream Western beauty industry has incorporated “superfoods” as a buzz word for skin care product ingredients, the world of cooking and food as skincare has been largely uncharted territory. With the interest in the Ayurvedic diet or Chinese medicinal diet for skin on the rise, Sun is part of a new generation of creators sharing ancient knowledge online with their younger audience. “Skin care in American culture has been very solution-oriented, focused on ‘miracle creams’”, she says. “Now that has run its course, we’re starting to see people be more experimental and prevention-oriented.”

Below, Sun speaks to NYLON about her food as skin care series, her weekly recipes, and educating TikTok about the Chinese Medicinal diet.

On her early relationship with beauty and skin care

“I’m a first-gen immigrant and my parents were always working. My dad is a neurologist and my parents worked together to set up his private practice, and my grandma worked in a restaurant and a wash factory. Beauty was not something that was really prioritized in my family. Maybe I’d see Shiseido packages in the dark corner of my mom’s cabinet when I wandered into my parents' room and rummage around. I never saw my mom put makeup on or talk about skin care. It wasn’t until I went to school at Wellesley and did all my pre-med requirements that I became fascinated with the science of the body and how chemicals impact it. I then pivoted into the business side of healthcare and discovered there are a lot of interesting things happening scientifically in the skin care industry.”

On using food as a skin care treatment

“I’ve always had really red cheeks and I didn’t understand why until during college I went to a dermatologist and they told me I have rosacea. I tried a topical treatment but it didn’t really do anything, but I did notice that when I was more stressed or when I was not eating as balanced as I normally do, my face would get much more red. Growing up, my parents were always talking to me about how I should eat— it’s just something we do because of Chinese medicine. My grandma would always say, ‘your skin looks irritated, I think your qi is too hot’ or ‘you look like you need to eat more vegetables and drink more soup’. As an older adult, I started to do that on my own.”

On the Chinese Medicinal diet

“A Chinese Medicinal diet is about creating a diet that matches your body ‘type’, the diet uses particular ingredients to have certain effects on your body's energies. A Chinese medicinal doctor will ask you a series of questions or sometimes look at your tongue to determine how out of balance your body is, and then tell you how to adjust your diet to help correct your body towards a more balanced state.

My body type tends to be pretty fiery, with too much energy, so I need more things that are hydrating and cooling to the body. Root vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish are good for me, but I avoid eating too much red meat.”

On finding her niche on TikTok

“I started sharing stuff on TikTok during the pandemic because I was curious about the platform and I was also just cooking a lot at home, so I started by just sharing the food that I was making. These were crave-worthy dishes that were very heavy on sauces and flavors and often were fried. During this time, my body didn’t feel good and I felt fake because I don’t usually eat like that, so I started showing people what I actually eat. I ended up having a really bad breakout and decided to share some of the foods I eat to calm it down, and then people asked questions about the Chinese Medicinal diet from there.”

On why food isn’t as centered in Western beauty

“We’re starting to see people talk more about Chinese medicine and also Ayurvedic medicine. These are holistic and cultural medicines that have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, but I think the current disconnect is because it’s harder to prove the results and companies can’t use it to make promises. From the beauty industry perspective, there’s a lot of incorporation of food items into skin care but it would be more difficult for skin care companies to create a product for you to eat.”

On the connecting with her followers

“I’ve seen people make smoothies that I’m sharing or making the dishes, and a lot of people say, ‘I grew up with this food but never understood why it’s good for you’. I’ve had people message me saying that their rosacea has calmed down a lot more after like, incorporating some of the recipes that I've been sharing. So that's amazing.”

Follow Alice Sun on TikTok and Instagram.

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