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Beauty

8 Asian American Beauty Founders On Their Most Formative Beauty Lessons

"Beauty is not one size fits all"

Behind each beauty product on your shelf is a story. There's a creator behind your favorite products, a person responsible for making your daily beauty routine a reality. To round out Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, NYLON chatted with some Asian-American beauty founders about their past, present, and future in the beauty industry, learning what shaped them, inspired their stories, and ultimately led to the creation of their companies.

Ahead, scroll through some of their stories. As you'll find, these masterminds of beauty have plenty of advice to share, including the importance of never leaving home without sunscreen.

Christine Chang and Sarah Lee, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Glow Recipe

What was your most formative beauty lesson growing up?

SL: Beauty was always a daily part of my routine. Growing up in Korea, my friends and I were so obsessed that after school, they would come over to my house for “Sarah Salon” treatments!

We would share fun DIY at-home hacks, try new products and simply enjoy all that beauty had to offer. It really shaped my passion and excitement for the industry. My mother was instrumental in this as she would instill strict skin care protocols growing up. Every time I came home from school, I would need to cleanse my face right away to get rid of the dirt from the day. When it came to her skin care, she was a no-nonsense woman, and now cleansing (for a full minute!) is my absolute favorite part of my routine.

Courtesy of brand

What's one beauty moment from growing up that you always remember?

CC: Our cult-favorite Watermelon Sleeping Mask comes from the most memorable beauty moment we had growing up. During the hot summer months in Korea, our grandmothers would rub cold watermelon rinds on our backs to soothe and calm heat rash. Without this beauty moment, we would not have been inspired to create the Watermelon Sleeping Mask. Our cultural upbringing shaped our beauty philosophy to take on a Korean beauty-inspired approach. Our grandmothers influenced us to launch with a watermelon product, and inspired the packaging to mimic a melting ice cube as tribute to this experience, while the innovative technology and ingredients prevalent in Korean beauty helped us share and educate our community with our formulations.

What's the most important piece of advice you've ever gotten?

SL: Work with people who share your values. Extend a helping hand and uplift others on your journey.

CC: Your network and support system is so critical to your success - no one does it alone.

Courtesy of brand.

Charlotte Cho, Co-Founder of Soko Glam and Then I Met You

What was your most formative beauty lesson growing up?

Growing up, I was far from a beauty expert. I didn’t know the first thing about makeup and my skin care routine consisted of a bar of soap and water. Living in the US as a Korean-American, there wasn’t a mainstream figure that I could relate to. That all changed when I moved to Korea after college. It completely changed the way I thought about beauty. It was helpful to see the way Korean women styled their makeup, did their hair and took care of their skin on TV, in magazines and on the streets. It was easy to become obsessed with Korean beauty, because I finally felt like I belonged.

Courtesy of brand.

What's one beauty moment from growing up that you always remember?

I was always adventurous and rebellious growing up. Even though the result wasn’t so great, I often cut my own hair and once I even got a perm. My older sister Michelle was always so fashionable, stylish and had great beauty sense. I could have asked for her advice or even mimic her look, but I always tried to create my own individual style. Looking back at this memory, I’ve realized how important it has been for me to always carve my own path and take pride in doing something different.

What's the most important piece of advice you've ever gotten?

My parents immigrated to the US from South Korea over 40 years ago. As immigrants, they endured many struggles such as language barriers, racism and job instability. More than just advice, I think about their overall work ethic and their strong sense of grit whenever I run into a hurdle with Soko Glam or Then I Met You. I think about the challenges my parents faced and it gives me the conviction and drive to find a solution. They are my inspiration, because if they were able to do it despite what they were up against, I know I can overcome anything.

Courtesy of brand.

Lauren Jin, Founder of CLE Cosmetics

What was your most formative beauty lesson growing up?

I think at one point in my college years, I would over complicate my beauty routine by using too many products that were said to be good for you. No matter how good a product is, using too many of said good products at once is not the answer. I learned the hard way that keeping it simple in the morning and night is the best for my skin.

Courtesy of brand.

What's one beauty moment from growing up that you always remember?

I had a phase where I wore bold red lips every day for a few years. It definitely was my signature look at the time. I still have fond memories of wearing a full red lip every day and how I managed to keep reapplying throughout the day, in between meals?!

What's the most important piece of advice you've ever gotten?

My mom once told me, "It's fun to experiment with makeup, but nice skin is the best makeup you'll ever need." And that really resonated with me; having good healthy skin will, in the long run, be the most beneficial asset to you.

Courtesy of brand.

Amy Liu, Founder of Tower 28

What was your most formative beauty lesson growing up?

Beauty is not one size fits all! The last time I dyed my hair was during college in San Diego. All my friends went to the same salon to get their hair highlighted so I did, too. But the same treatment they got (bleach?) turned my asian hair orange and I got totally skunked! It looked terrible and damaged my hair, too.

Courtesy of brand.

What's one beauty moment from growing up that you always remember?

I guess you always want what you don’t have and I wanted curly hair so badly as a kid. I got perms (and the chemical burns that came with it) and curled my hair any way I could, including sleeping in braids, curling irons and the Caruso molecular hair curling set (it was an infomercial). Now, I wear my hair straight 99% of the time and have accepted the fact that it really doesn’t hold curl.

What's the most important piece of advice you've ever gotten?

Show up. For the people in your life but also for yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will! Fear has held me back so much in my life and I realized if I could treat myself with the kindness and show up for myself the way I do for others, I would be helping myself so much more.

Courtesy of brand.

Deepica Mutyala, Founder and CEO of Live Tinted

What was your most formative beauty lesson growing up?

Use every drop! I have very distinct memories of my mother not wasting any bit of her makeup. She valued it to the point of cutting tubes open to get the most out of the product. Those memories have stuck with me to this day and inspired some of our packaging for our upcoming products.

Courtesy of brand.

What's one beauty moment from growing up that you always remember?

I did Indian classical dance growing up. My mom would put black eyeliner, red lipstick, and a powder on me before performances. The black eye liner was culturally relevant - kohl is applied to infant’s eyes to protect us from the evil eye. The red lipstick was just part of doing dance. You always see Indian dancers wearing a beautiful red lip. It’s pretty crazy that a red lipstick would later be what I used in a viral video that forever changed my life.

The memory that stands out to me the most was the powder. I have vivid memories of the powder never matching my skin tone - it was always lighter. At the time, there weren’t powders sold my color, but I also know that my mom was intentionally applying a lighter shade on me. I was always told fair skin was beautiful. I don’t blame her - I know it’s culturally infused in her, but these memories are part of why it’s so important to me that Live Tinted helps evolve beauty standards. My hope is that colorism ends with my generation.

What's the most important piece of advice you've ever gotten?

Working hard isn’t option — it’s a must. - my dad

Courtesy of brand.

Patrick Ta, Celebrity Makeup Artist and Co-Founder of Patrick Ta Beauty

What was your most formative beauty lesson growing up?

The importance of sunscreen! My mom always wears a visor when she’s driving and sometimes even puts a towel on her window in order to protect herself from the sun. She’s definitely instilled the importance of taking care of my skin & staying out of the sun in me.

Courtesy of brand

What's one beauty moment from growing up that you always remember

I remember I used to do this huge comb over while having spiked hair. I thought I looked so cool and now I look back and think to myself, “Omg what was i thinking!” I wish I did so many different things with my hair.

What's the most important piece of advice you've ever gotten?

Be authentic to yourself and believe in yourself even if no one else does.

Courtesy of brand.

Alicia Yoon, Founder & CEO of Peach & Lily

What was your most formative beauty lesson growing up?

Wear SPF, rain or shine! I remember when I was a kid playing outside, my mom would always give me a bottle of SPF to take with me. I would protest and say no one else is really applying SPF like this in the playground, and she’d smile and say, “Trust me, you’ll thank me later for this.” She was right. Thanks mom!

Courtesy of brand.

What's one beauty moment from growing up that you always remember?

My mom would apply skin care on me when I was a toddler. And I would watch her sit at her vanity patting in her skin care. When I was in kindergarten, she got me my very own “skin care routine” - just a simple moisturizer, really - but placed it alongside her skin care routine on her vanity. And I sat next to her patting in my very own facial moisturizer, all on my own. I loved that I now had my own “big-girl-skincare-ritual” and best of all, sit right next to my mom and have that special moment with her. She’s always been and always will be my biggest skin care role model.

What's the most important piece of advice you've ever gotten?

Never give up. My dad would always tell me that effort is 99% of the equation. And when you really try and persist, anything is achievable. He not only doled out advice, but this is the mantra he lives by. Seeing how fulfilled he is by living this way, it’s always inspired me to live by this mantra, too. And it’s made all the difference for me. So when I have kids, this will be a core value that I’ll be sure to pass down.

Courtesy of brand.

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