The beauty industry is inherently personal to the wearer, right down to the pitch-perfect foundation shade. But the products that land in the medicine cabinet often reflect a broader history of shared values, experiences and aesthetics, as well as which creators one chooses to support.
While the last few years of the pandemic have been tough for many, they have proved particularly challenging for members of the AAPI community in the United States, who have faced a terrible increase in racial violence. According to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 164% between the first quarter of 2020 and 2021, resulting in an atmosphere of underlying fear and, by extension, increasing solidarity.
Nonprofit groups like Stop AAPI Hate are formed to study and address such incidents, while existing organizations like Gold House and Heart of Dinner have served as the touchstone for cross-cultural cooperation and representation. But it is also imperative for those outside the AAPI community to offer support in meaningful ways, especially during AAPI Heritage Month.
One such approach is to fight for the many AAPI-founded and driven beauty brands on the shelves. From sustainable skin care rooted in Japanese tradition to essential makeup artists lighting up in TikTok to saffron-inspired start-ups, they illustrate the richness and ingenuity of the many cultures that make up the AAPI community. In addition, you can just find the product that takes your beauty routine to the next level.
After years of working with beauty brands, founder Amy Liu set out to create her own with sensitive skin in mind. (Tower 28 takes its name from a lifeguard tower in Santa Monica that serves as a meeting place for locals.) Every product in the series, including the series’ best-selling tinted sunscreen, blush balm and a restorative face mist, is formulated in compliance with National Eczema guidelines Association to circumvent potential irritants.
Soft Services may be only a year old, but the skin care brand has already made an impact on the beauty industry and redirected attention from the face to zones under the neck. Founded by two Glossier alum, it uses gold standard ingredients in percentages high enough to treat the thicker skin of the body, targeting stubborn concerns such as ingrown hairs, keratosis pilaris and body acne – all with style.
The house of M
After a stretch of postpartum depression, Anne Nguyen Oliver led to the sleep-enhancing benefits of medical-grade saffron, the Vietnamese native dived into research on the ingredient’s current uses – especially as an ultra-gentle treatment for her hormonal melasma. That discovery inspired her to launch House of M in 2019, starting with a serum with the purest quality of saffron (called negin), which has been sold out three times. Nguyen Oliver’s California-based line has since been expanded to include two additional skin care products.
At the request of her large digital community, beauty influencer who became entrepreneur Deepica Mutyala launched an inclusive makeup line in 2018. It features products inspired by Mutyala’s own hacks (such as using red lipstick to color correct circles under the eyes) and has become a favorite by Phenomenal founder Meena Harris and dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD, who are particularly fond of the brand’s mineral sunscreen.
Japan has long been a player in the skin care world (see: Shiseido and SK-II), but DAMDAM, founded by Giselle Go and Philippe Terrien, represents the next sustainable iteration of J-beauty. The formulas in the series are made exclusively in Japan and are infused with traditional ingredients such as shiso leaves, rice and konnyaku.
After making his name as a go-to makeup artist for the likes of Gigi Hadid, Camilla Cabello and Joan Smalls, Vietnamese prodigy Patrick Ta packed that bomb aesthetic together and established his own makeup line in 2019. Anchored in shades and textures designed to give the skin a dewy, sculpted glow, the product range spans face and body. He has used his professional pedigree for good use by pairing complementary colors in a best-selling blush palette to ensure a beautiful color with lasting wear.
Woo Skin Essentials
Tattoo art is necessarily linked to skin care, so it was not a complete surprise when Brian Woo, the LA-based tattoo artist better known as Dr. Woo, launched its own line of products in 2020. Known for its single-pin designs – and A-list clientele that includes everyone from Bella Hadid to Zoë Kravitz – Woo focuses on the essentials of a healthy canvas, including a cleansing bar that is gentle enough for even freshly colored skin.
Eggs are known for their high nutritional value and have therefore been a cornerstone of Asian skin care for centuries – but they are certainly not vegan. With Superegg, founder Erica Choi set out to replicate this nourishment using exclusively plant-based formulations that bring together documented ingredients with botanical extracts. The line contains all the elements of a comprehensive (but streamlined) routine, including a nice creamy cleanser.
Nail artist Jin Soon Choi, who is a fixture behind the scenes at landing shows (Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler), is known just as much for her carefully crafted line of nail colors as for her namesake salons. In recent years, she has branched out into sweet, seasonally inspired nail applications and a dedicated nail care line, proving that there is more to a fine manicure than varnish alone.
BagSnob founder Tina Craig introduced her first skin care product, the retinol-powered Resurfacing Compound, in a way that suits a fashion influencer: by handing out samples during Paris Fashion Week. Once known for her multi-step skincare routine, she tried to edit the process with her thoughtful, effective formulas, which use proprietary technology to deliver active ingredients exactly where they are most needed.
Tatcha was among the first skin care brands to bring a makeup artist on board; it was none other than Daniel Martin, responsible for Meghan Markle’s wedding makeup in 2018. It was a smart move for founder Victoria Tsai, whose products draw inspiration from long-established, Japanese beauty rituals. The line also offers decidedly modern, makeup-adjacent formulations, such as a new mineral sunscreen that is transparent and smooth as silk.
Minimalist-minded CLE Cosmetics (short for Creative Lass Esthetic) uses cutting-edge Korean technologies for makeup and essential skin care products, resulting in wonderfully soothing textures and hybrid formulas. CLE Cosmetics founder Lauren Jin rarely goes without the brand’s innovative lip powder, which she applies to both lips and cheeks to get a naturalistic flush.
Therapist and life coach Tina Chow Rudolf was inspired to create a mind-boggling beauty brand after seeing the mental benefits of a daily ritual in her practice. Through Strange Bird, she aims to encourage a regular practice of “positive effect skin care”, which unites Chinese traditions with effective formulations. Excellent in the range is the gentle canvas and a light, hyaluronic acid-driven moisturizer.
CTZN Cosmetics was founded by three sisters who noticed the lack of makeup options for brown skin tones on the shelves, and is an edited collection best known for its nude lipsticks, which come in 25 varieties. The product range also includes lip liners and gloss, all in a correspondingly wide shadow area intended to accommodate every conceivable wearer.
Riki loves Riki
While flashlights changed games for the beauty world, especially on social media, Wanchen Kaiser and her husband, Erik, took the concept a step further with a line of sleek mirrors framed in bright LED lights. Riki Loves Riki’s mirrors also come with different levels of dimming, a magnetized phone holder and even Bluetooth features – making them ideal for both makeup experts and beginners.
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