Editorial Note: This post was originally published at an earlier date. Since our support for AAPI-owned brands is a forever kind of thing, we thought we'd update any sold-out products to make it easy to shop the latest and greatest from some of our favorite brands.
Photo:Charlotte Cho; Bee Shapiro; Amy Liu; Melissa Medvedich
As we reach the end of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it’s important to remember that honoring this great community shouldn’t be limited to one month. Obviously, this group’s cultural impact exceeds any calendar-imposed time limit, but with rises in xenophobia and hate crimes, it’s more important than ever to elevate their voices as allies. It’s critical that we not only fight xenophobia through resources like Stop AAPI Hate and Hate Is a Virus but also honor the ways in which this community has shaped the world we live in now through media coverage and celebration.
After all, the fashion industry wouldn’t be the same without iconic designers like Issey Miyake or the new rising designers and influencers who have shaped and continue to shape the fashion industry. Of course, their impact isn’t limited to the runway. Our beauty, wellness, and skincare routines have been greatly shaped by the vast diversity of nationalities and ethnicities that make up Asian and Pacific Islander heritage around the globe—and we are all the better for it!
This is why we’ve reached out to 14 beauty founders worth supporting year-round. To make it even sweeter, we’ve asked them to spill the one beauty or wellness trick they swear by to keep themselves looking and feeling fresh. Inspirational founders, life-changing beauty hacks, and must-shop products ahead…
Bee Shapiro, Founder of Ellis Brooklyn
Photo:Courtesy of Bee Shapiro
About: As a beauty columnist for The New York Times over the past 11 years, Bee Shapiro knows a thing or two about good products. But as she made her transition over to clean beauty products while pregnant, she realized that there were limited options for clean fragrances. Thus Ellis Brooklyn (the beauty brand, that is) was born.
When you’re a beauty columnist turned beauty founder, you have quite a few hacks up your sleeve. Shapiro generously slipped two tricks out of her bell sleeve with us. Her first tip: “Most 'nude' lip colors out there are made for Caucasian women. One of the best tips I've learned from interviewing top celebrity makeup artists over the years is to actually pat on a very sheer layer of your usual concealer and then top off with a pink gloss. The pink gloss should actually be pinker than you want your nude color to be. But together the concealer and the pink gloss create the perfect shade exactly for you and it doesn't give you that 'dead face' look when nude lipstick goes wrong.”
Shapiro’s other hack? In her own words, “Fragrance layering can be confusing when you're first starting out. To make things simpler, I think it's better to go for a simple scent or even one-note scent and then layer a more complex fragrance on top of it. Personally, I layer our Iso Gamma Super, which is a woody-ambergris—it layers well with almost any other scent—but I pair it with our Myth eau de parfum, which is a cozy yet slightly floral beautiful fragrance.”
Amy Liu, Founder of Tower 28
Photo:Courtesy of Amy Liu
About: For sufferers of eczema, beauty can be hard. It’s especially challenging when you’re a beauty executive who's worked at companies like Smashbox, Kate Somerville, and Josie Maran Cosmetics. For Amy Liu, her love for beauty and her sensitive skin lead her to create Tower 28. The brand is dedicated to being 100% clean and vegan, and every formula adheres to the National Eczema Association’s ingredient guidelines.
So what skincare hack does a beauty executive abide by? Liu shared, “While struggling with severe eczema in my adult life, I found that the trick to keeping my skin happy is a combination of eliminating certain trigger ingredients from my skincare routine and using our miracle product, the SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray!”
Melissa Medvedich, Founder of Supernal
Photo:Courtesy of Melissa Medvedich
About: After a 15-year career as a creative director at various brands and publications, Melissa Medvedich decided to start her own skincare business, Supernal. Her attention to detail was transferred to her skincare company as she became a certified aromatherapist and studied botanical beauty formulations to ensure the highest-quality products.
What hack does a skincare fanatic like Medvedich abide by? As she told us, “I’m a big fan of at-home skin-toning devices like Ziip or Gua Sha stones, but I have come to realize that the best tools for naturally sculpting my face are my hands! With not being able to visit my beloved facialist, I have been replicating some of the lymphatic massage techniques I’ve experienced at their studios with the help of youtube and Instagram.”
Medvedich professed, “While I’m no expert, the self facial massages I’ve been practicing at home have been game-changing with visible results for my puffy spring allergy eyes and sinuses. I’ve learned my favorite techniques from Facegym’s live Instagram 'workouts' and their highlighted story tips.”
Nicolas Travis, Founder of Allies of Skin
Photo:Courtesy of Nicolas Travis
About: Singapore-born Nicolas Travis isn’t your typical beauty founder. Yes, he’s male, but that’s not the only thing that makes him stand out. Like many, Travis has struggled with acne (skincare woes are universal), but rather than acquiesce to pesky spots, he became obsessed with skincare and eventually founded Allies of Skin. The adaptogenic skincare brand has since taken the beauty world by storm.
What trick does Travis have to maintain his cool, dewy skin in Singapore’s notorious humidity? He shared, “In Singapore, where there’s 90% humidity all year long, keeping cool is always a goal. Something I’ve been doing since college is keeping two stainless-steel teaspoons in the freezer and using them to depuff and get rid of morning/post-alcohol puffiness—just use the bent area of the spoon over your eyes. It is also great for temporarily reducing the appearance of large pores.”
Travis continued, “I also like to store the Allies of Skin Molecular Saviour Probiotics Mist in the fridge for instant refreshment throughout the day, and our Triple Hyaluronic Antioxidant Hydration Serum in the fridge works wonders to plump the under-eye area in the morning.”
Rooshy Roy, Co-Founder of Aavrani
Photo:Courtesy of Rooshy Roy
About: When you think about it, it’s only natural that Rooshy Roy came to co-found the beauty brand Aavrani. As a Bengali American growing up in Detroit, she always had skincare rituals as an integral part of her life. Now, her brand aims to make her own skincare rituals and Indian beauty ingredients approachable and accessible for all women. Not only does Aavrani aim to democratize beauty for all, but the brand also supports young women’s education in India through its partnership with the Shanti Bhavan School.
As someone with serious beauty rituals, Roy shared, “I’ve tried a bunch of fancy makeup primers to keep my under-eye concealer from fading, but nothing beats a good oil-based eye cream. My hack is to let it absorb for five minutes before applying your makeup, and you’ll notice fewer creases and much less retouching required throughout the day. Take it a step further and pre-prime with a clean metal spoon. Placing the rounded back of the spoon on top of your closed eyelid and then directly under your eye de-puffs the area, which allows for a more even, long-lasting makeup look. Plus, it feels glorious!”
Need an eye cream? Roy recommends, “Use our Eye Rejuvenating Elixir. It’s made with cold-pressed sweet almond oil and is clinically proven to minimize dark circles and even fine lines. We just launched a mini that’s equipped with a metal roller-ball so you can de-puff as you apply!”
Charlotte Cho, Co-Founder of Soko Glam and Then I Met You Skin Care
Photo:Courtesy of Charlotte Cho
About: What made Charlotte Cho feel compelled to start not one but two Korean-skincare companies? In her own words, “Seeing the results in my skin led me to create Soko Glam and eventually my own skincare line, Then I Met You. I'm thankful for this journey, as I now have a career dedicated to spreading awareness of Korean beauty and culture.” And boy, has she done just that. In case you missed it, Soko Glam is hailed as the brand that popularized the 10-step Korean skincare routine in the west and curates the best skincare products out of South Korea.
Not ready to adopt a 10-step skincare routine? Cho's next suggestion may fit your needs. As she told us, “Our skin is exposed to so many impurities throughout the day (makeup, city grime, pollution) that ends up stifling our skin. By incorporating an oil cleanser, you’ll remove these dulling elements from the surface which will also help prevent breakouts and premature aging.”
Cho continued, “And while you’re at it, indulge in a mini face massage, releasing tension and creating healthy blood flow before hitting the pillow. This amazing step is what got me started on my skincare journey and made me a believer in Korean beauty.”
Jin Soon Choi, Founder of Jinsoon
Photo:Courtesy of Jin Soon Choi
About: When you think of the classic New York City hustle story, Jin Soon Choi falls right into it. Born in Korea, she immigrated to the States and became an infamous freelance nail artist. Dubbed the “nail guru” she’d bike from client to client, until she opened her own spa in the West Village in 1999. Choi’s success with her spa eventually led her to create her first eco-friendly, nontoxic nail polish line, Jinsoon.
So what manicure hack does a nail polish founder abide by? Choi told us, “When I was growing up in South Korea, I spent a lot of time outdoors, so to keep my hands looking young and feminine, my mother would have me apply a thick layer of heavy hand cream and wear cotton gloves overnight to help it penetrate into my skin. The next day, my hands were fully rejuvenated!”
Alicia Yoon, Founder of Peach & Lily
Photo:Courtesy of Alicia Yoon
About: It takes a while for most entrepreneurs to make their side passion their full-time focus—this was the case for Alicia Yoon. While in high school, she was encouraged by a stranger on the streets of Seoul to take cosmetology classes. But it wasn’t until after attending Harvard and working with beauty clients that Yoon channeled her passion for skincare into founding the indie beauty brand Peach & Lily in 2012.
So what hack does Yoon swear by for, as she says, “achieving glass skin that looks luminous, poreless and translucent”? She told us, “Quick little massages during your daily skincare routine—rather than saving for a longer facial massage for once in a blue moon—can go a very long way in keeping skin in tip-top shape while helping beneficial ingredients absorb even more into skin. I do what I call the glass-skin three-minute facial. For this facial, you can use the Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum or an alternative serum that's hydrating, fragrance-free, harsh-free, and silky on skin.”
So how do you re-create this facial? Yoon recommends, “Start by massaging in the center of the face and gently sweep out toward the sides of the face, and then sweep down the jugular toward the clavicles. I do this for about 90 seconds. Then I go into tone-and-sculpt mode. I apply an additional pump of serum and take my four fingers on both hands (index finger to pinky) and start at my jawline with all four fingers spread apart and pointing up toward my head. Then with a moderate amount of pressure, I sweep upward toward my cheeks and repeat five times. This takes just about 15 seconds."
Yoon continues, "Next, I take both thumb and index finger and grab my chin, and again with some amount of pressure, I trace my fingers that are still hugging my jaw (index finger on top part of face and thumb on the other side of face by the neck) and sweep up toward my ears to help sculpt the jawline. Do this three times from chin to hear. This takes another 15 seconds or so. Finally, for about 30 seconds, take your flat palms and rub ears vigorously up and down. Our ears have a lot of reflexology points, and this movement can help boost circulation and bring a vibrancy to your skin. By the time I'm applying my Glass Skin serum with a quick three-minute massage session, my skin looks completely glassy all day long.”
Marianna Hewitt, Co-Founder of Summer Fridays
Photo:Courtesy of Marianna Hewitt
About: You might at one point have stumbled across the blog Life With Me by Marianna Hewitt. But you probably didn’t know that in addition to being a blogger, Hewitt also co-founded the beauty brand Summer Fridays back in 2018. With this venture, she sought to create the products she felt she was missing in her life.
So what beauty hack does a blogger abide by? Hewitt told us, "I love to apply a little bit of Summer Fridays vanilla lip butter balm before putting on lip liner and lipstick. It really helps sheer out the color to look more natural, and it hydrates my lips!"
Cat Chen, Founder of Skylar
Photo:Courtesy of Cat Chen
About: When you’re working in the beauty industry, you’re undoubtedly aware of market gaps—and in that space, Cat Chen realized that there weren’t companies dedicated to creating clean, hypoallergenic fragrances she’d actually want to wear. So she set out to create Skylar, a direct-to-consumer fragrance company that even includes fragrance subscriptions.
Priscilla Tsai, Founder of Cocokind
Photo:Courtesy of Priscilla Tsai
About: What leads someone to leave a steady Wall Street career? For Priscilla Tsai, it was her desire to be an entrepreneur—and her acne-prone skin. After struggling for years and realizing the lack of transparency around skincare ingredients, she founded Cocokind.
What’s Tsai’s skincare hack? She shared, “Mix in a hydrosol to your facial oil before applying to the skin. I'm a huge fan of the toning step and think it's one of the most underrated steps of the skincare routine! With the right toner, you can achieve so much. Our rose water toner, which is just one organic ingredient, can act as a double cleanser, pH balancer, mix-in for oils, or even a makeup setter. ”
Tsai continued, “One of my favorite tips for oil newbies is to mix in our rose water with a few drops of your oil in your palm, then massage that combination onto your skin. The hydrosol will help the oil further sink in and better absorb the benefits and nutrients of your oil. This will also make sure that the oil doesn't feel too heavy on your skin throughout the day!”
Aleena, Naseeha, and Aleezeh Khan, Co-Founders of Ctzn Cosmetics
Photo:Courtesy of Ctzn Cosmetics
About: How does one solve the lack of representation of Southeast Asian women in the beauty industry? For three Pakistani sisters, the solution is to start your own unique makeup brand. The trio, Aleena, Aleezeh, and Naseeha Khan founded Ctzn Cosmetics. Their 100% vegetarian, cruelty-free, paraben-free makeup line seeks to create products that cater to the array of shades found not only of the Southeast and Middle Eastern regions but of the world. And what better way to create than alongside your sisters?
The great thing about siblings is all the beauty hacks you can learn from them. Fortunately, the Khan sisters have plenty. As Naseeha Khan shared with us, “If you want your lips to appear bigger, outline your lips with a dark lip liner and then apply a lipstick with a much lighter shade! I use our darkest lip liner Lipstroke Cinco with a paler nude lipstick: Nudiversal Dubrovnik.”
While Naseeha’s hack emphasizes the importance of lip liners, Aleezeh is all about the eye shadow. When creating the perfect eye look, she suggests, “Try putting eye shadow on with your fingers instead of with a brush for more control and easier blending. It’s also easier to fix mistakes with fingers than with a brush.”
And finally, as Aleena can attest to, beauty hacks are all about getting creative, including using them in unconventional ways. She shared, "I use our creamy lipsticks as blush and eye shadow! Our Nudiversal Lip Duo in the shade London is the perfect deep rose that is not only suitable for my lips but works on the cheeks and eyelids. Less to carry in my makeup bag by default!" Now, that's a hack worth trying.