Without the immense influence that Asian skin care has had over the past decade, the beauty industry would be nothing like it is now.
Asian beauty ingredients, traditions and sensibilities have had a significant impact on everything we do for our beauty routines, thanks in part to brands like Tatcha, Then I Met You and Glow Recipe. The popularity of beauty influencers like Bretman Rock, Patrick Starr and Nabela Noor has even further cemented the authority that Asian Americans have in the beauty world.
But it wasn’t always this way. Daniel Martin, the celebrity makeup artist and global director of artistry and education for Tatcha, remembers when Asians had extremely limited visibility in the beauty industry. In the ’90s, when he was just getting started, the only two Asian beauty brands that were known in the U.S. were Shiseido and Shu Uemura, and neither was a household name like Revlon or CoverGirl.
“At the time, Asian beauty standards and brands were still considered too ‘exotic’ and not aspirational, which impacted how I viewed myself and my place in the beauty industry,” Martin told HuffPost. “Now, with Asian beauty practices, ingredients and formulas have entered the mainstream thanks to the rise in popularity of K- and J-beauty brands (including Tatcha), it’s encouraging to see that consumers are finally beginning to understand and appreciate Asian beauty culture.”
Martin is Vietnamese and French, and his background has been a source of inspiration throughout his career.
“Being biracial has allowed me to experience empathy through my upbringing and understand the importance of diversity in beauty in a unique way,” he said.
Uplifting marginalized people through beauty is a goal he shares with other Asian Americans in the industry. Many Asian American beauty brand founders experienced feelings of otherness growing up, or felt caught in the middle of their Asian and Western backgrounds, which would end up being a driving force in their work.
Now more than ever, it’s important to celebrate the impact Asian beauty has had on the industry. Below, learn about 17 Asian American beauty brands, their founders and which of their products to try out. You never know, you might even find your next holy grail serum, eyeliner or signature fragrance.
By the time Cocokind founder Priscilla Tai was a teen, she already knew a lot about skin care from carefully watching her Taiwanese mother’s beauty habits. The multistep skin care routine that is a mainstay of Asian culture had a profound impact on her.
“At Cocokind, we feel extremely grateful to be able to have that inspiration when we think about what products to develop and what ingredients to choose,” she said.
Tsai’s current staple from her line is the SPF. “It’s super easy to wear and it’s the first SPF that actually became a long-lasting habit,” she said. “We worked on it for three years before finalizing the lightweight but dewy formula!” Cocokind Daily Sunscreen, $24.99
Tower 28’s Amy Liu grew up in LA during the 1990s, when surf brands like Billabong and beauty products like Sun-In were all the rage. She always loved beach culture, but as a Chinese American she never really saw herself represented.
“I wanted to build a brand that was based on a different beauty ideal, with no boundaries, where everyone felt represented and accepted,” she said. “Initially, I think a lot of people are surprised that the founder of this beach-inspired brand is an Asian American, and my hope is that Tower 28 widens our perspective and works to eliminate those stereotypes.”
The brand’s SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray
is not only its hero product, but one of the first ones Liu formulated. “While desperately trying to find a solution for my eczema, I learned about the incredible healing properties of hypochlorous acid (the key ingredient in SOS), and it quite literally saved my skin,” Liu said. “The product is super gentle and versatile, and can be used to combat maskne, blemishes, flaky skin, rashes, acne, you name it!” Tower 28 Beauty SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray
Insert Name Here (INH)
When Sharon Pak, who is Korean American, started working in the beauty industry eight years ago, she saw firsthand how underrepresented Asian people are: “First day on the job, I realized I was the only dark-haired minority in a sea of blondes. It then dawned on me that although Asians are one of the biggest consumers within the beauty space we lacked representation externally and internally.”
When she later began working at ColourPop Cosmetics, she had the opportunity to be a face of the brand, and it gave her a sense of purpose. “I want to serve and inspire others who look like me that they too can do whatever they put their hearts and mind to,” she said.
With INH, Sharon is inspiring and helping others build confidence — all while helping erase the stigma of fake hair. The brand’s signature clip-in ponytail is made of a premium-quality, lightweight, vegan fiber from Japan and accurately mimics the look and feel of human hair. No wonder it’s become a big fan of influencers such as Desi Perkins, Jenn Im and Makeup Shayla. Insert Name Here Clip in Ponytails, $49-$54
Patrick Ta Beauty
After he got a job working at MAC, Vietnamese American makeup artist Patrick Ta fell in love with beauty and began pursuing it with a passion, which led to working with celebs like fellow Asian Americans Shay Mitchell, Olivia Munn and Chrissy Teigen.
“I definitely feel like we had an instant bond because we were one of the few Asian Americans in the industry at that time, and this helped my career grow so much,” he said.
He launched his own brand, Patrick Ta Beauty, with the mission of helping everyone feel glamorous and confident in their own skin. “With my makeup, I want to offer everybody elevated but still wearable, essential, and easy to use makeup products to empower individual self-expression,” he said.
Ta became known for his signature look: the natural contour. The brand’s Major Sculpt Créme Contour & Powder Bronzer Duo can help anyone achieve a seamless, sculpted face. “The créme contour blends out so beautifully so you can look chiseled without any harsh lines and the bronzer adds the loveliest warmth to your face,” he said. Major Sculpt Créme Contour & Powder Bronzer Duo, $38
Prim Botanicals founder Stefanie Walmsley wanted to pay homage to her native country by using many of the natural ingredients that are found in the Philippines. “Being Asian American, I felt I really had something to add to the beauty world here by bringing in as much insight from my upbringing as possible,” Walmsley said.
Prim's goal is to spread happiness through products that make people feel good, and that they can feel good about.
“We obsess over every touch point, from looking at our packaging, to holding our products, to smelling them on your skin and feeling their effects,” she said. “We really believe you can have an emotional connection with the products you use daily or, rather, why shouldn't you have that connection!”
The brand’s body lotion is infused with 100 milligrams of calming CBD, as well as with nourishing Philippine Elemi oil. “Everyone who has used our Full Body High relaxing CBD lotion really appreciates how well it works,” Walmsley said. Full Body High CBD Relaxing Body Lotion, $38
Common Heir co-founder Cary Lin said she has always felt caught between two very different beauty cultures: the Eastern standards of China, where her parents are from, and the standards of the West, where she grew up.
She became interested in beauty after college, but it wasn’t until she worked for an well-known Asian American founder that she learned how beauty can make people feel good, and even empowered, to express themselves and their values.
“Common Heir’s mission is to make skin care rituals more beautiful and sustainable, so that we’ll feel good about passing them down,” Lin said.
The recently launched brand made its debut with its vitamin C serum, which uses plant-based capsules as a delivery system instead of more waste-creating plastic bottles and pumps. “Not only are our capsules the perfect portion size for the entire face and neck, they also feature a deeply-penetrating, oil-soluble form of vitamin C called THD that promotes collagen production, visibly improves skin texture, and fades dark spots,” Lin said. “We also wanted to prove that you don’t have to compromise between what’s good for skin, and what’s good for the planet.”Common Heir Vitamin C Serum, $88
Priyanka Ganjoo spent years working in the beauty industry but rarely saw South Asian representation at the forefront, including brands that centered South Asian people in their narrative. It was difficult to find beauty products that matched the color and quirks of her South Asian skin.
“I always felt like an outsider. Finally, I became tired of waiting and left the world of corporate beauty to start Kulfi,” Ganjoo said. “Kulfi Beauty is the result of my journey rediscovering the joy in makeup for myself and reclaiming my beauty for myself.”
The brand launched early this year with its kajal eyeliners, which were traditionally made using almond and ghee or castor oils and used in South Asian culture to protect from the Evil Eye.
“No one has ever reimagined what kajal could be for our generation,” Ganjoo said. “Our formula uses aloe vera extract, safflower seed oil, and a vitamin E complex to help create a creamy formula that is smudgeable when first applied but won’t budge once it dries.”Kulfi Kajal Eyeliner, $20
Bee Shapiro, the New York Times columnist and clean fragrance founder, has been obsessed with beauty since she was in the second grade — thanks to her Chinese mom, who would make her own face masks.
“Beauty was very much a common ground and bonding opportunity for us, and I think East Asian American culture, when perhaps we didn't have much in common in how our childhood was to her experience,” Shapiro said. “I love the community aspect of beauty — sharing the tips and secrets and discoveries.”
Shapiro said MYTH, the popular Ellis Brooklyn fragrance, was one that she created with Jerome Epinette to actually wear herself. “I was looking for the perfect white musk, one that was sexy but in a slouchy white T-shirt kind of way rather than a stereotypical red dress,” she said. “Musk perfumes can be difficult to explain sometimes. But MYTH really kicked off Ellis Brooklyn in a big way. I love that it's my personal scent too.” Ellis Brooklyn MYTH Eau de Parfum, $100
When New York Times bestselling author and Solluna founder Kimberly Snyder was growing up, she always felt like “the other.” "I’m half Filipina, and I look more Asian for sure. I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian town, and I was constantly asked, ‘What are you?!’ These experiences inspired me to create a business that was inclusive for all, to promote the idea of unity and oneness, and teach about beauty from the inside out,” she said.
Through her holistic lifestyle brand, her goal is to help people connect to their true selves and the beauty within. “When we do this, we discover joy, peace and confidence,” she said.
The brand’s Feel Good Vitamin C serum is very potent and uses a stable form of vitamin C called ASC2P (most vitamin C in products isn’t really active). “I think every woman deserves to glow, and to feel her true unique, magnetic presence, which I believe we can all access,” Snyder said. “It helps create a gorgeous, healthy glow for all that wears it!” Feel Good Vitamin C Serum, $56
Michelle Ranavat launched her eponymous skin care brand to share her modern take on Ayurveda, the Indian science that dates back thousands of years. “I knew that Indian/Ayurvedic skin care had incredible value because it has worked for generations, but I wanted to share it within the context of our culture and heritage as well,” Ranavat said. “Yes, it is about the ingredients and how they work, but it's also about sharing the context in which they are experienced.”
Unlike other vitamin C products on the market that focus on brightening dark spots, Ranavat takes a holistic approach by also controlling inflammation through the presence of turmeric, as well as slowing the signs of aging through the adaptogen ashwagandha. “I’m also proud of this treatment because it is based on the ancient formula of the ‘miracle elixir’ — this combination of saffron and turmeric has been used for a long time and still remains the ‘queen of facial oils’ for those that use it,” Ranavat said. Ranavat Radiant Rani, $135
Ju Rhyu, the co-founder and CEO of Hero Cosmetics, said her company would probably not exist if it wasn’t for her Korean American background. When she was living in her birth country of South Korea as an expat, she was struggling with adult acne and noticed how Koreans were walking around with acne patches. “I was blown away with how well they worked without drying out my skin. I wanted more people to know about this amazing product and decided I would create a brand to make that happen,” she said.
Rhyu keeps Mighty Patch on hand in case of breakouts, paper cuts or blisters. “My personal favorite is Mighty Patch Invisible+, which is whisper thin and a barely-there patch,” she said. “I wear it out during the day and no one can really tell!” Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Invisible+, $17.99
Pakistani American sisters Aleena, Aleezeh and Naseeha Khan never saw anyone who looked like them in beauty campaigns. They also always had to mix shades in order to match their skin tone. When they decided to launch CTZN, their goal was to empower others to feel seen.
“For people of color it can almost feel like you’re supporting an industry that does not seem to care much about you in return. We wanted to break this norm through the CTZN brand, so we made sure to create a community that welcomes all races, ethnicities, and genders,” the Khan sisters said.
The brand’s signature Nudiversal Lip Duo comes in 25 shades, making it the largest nude lip collection in the market. “With this collection, we’re addressing the misconception that nude is only beige, which is why our range spans from a warm beige shade all the way to a fudge brown shade — because both are examples of nude for someone!” the sisters said.
The collection has also won multiple beauty awards and made fans out of Lizzo, Mariah Carey, Hilary Duff, Doja Cat, Ciara and more. CTZN Nudiversal Lip Duo, $25
Good Light founder David Yi said being Korean American has inspired every aspect of his life. “For one, I'm inspired as an activist and advocate to uplift and stand alongside disenfranchised communities. Having always felt invisible and unseen, I truly resonate with others who perhaps have never had the agency to tell their own stories,” Li said.
This is what Good Light is all about — creating a space in the beauty industry where everyone feels represented and empowered.
The brand’s Moon Glow Milky Toning Lotion is an all-in-one situation that “makes you glow like the full moon,” as Yi said. “I love that it's soothing, has actives like ceramides and beautiful, natural AHAs from fruits," he said. "It also nourishes your skin with snow mushroom extracts, oat kernel, and so, so much more.”Good Light Moon Glow Milky Toning Lotion, $22
Peach & Lily
Alicia Yoon, the founder and CEO of Peach & Lily, grew up living in both Seoul and New York City. She developed an interest in learning about skin care traditions and remedies after struggling with severe eczema for years. “I ended up training as an esthetician in both Korea and the U.S. Growing up immersed in the rich Korean beauty heritage has indelibly shaped my approach to skin care and ultimately led to founding Peach & Lily,” Yoon said.
The brand is famous for its innovative products such as the cult-favorite Glass Skin Refining Serum, which kicked off the “glass skin” movement in the industry.
“It's not about achieving a superficial glassy look or achieving unrealistic skin care goals,” Yoon said. “Glass Skin represents skin that's healthy and luminous from within. I'm passionate about this mission because as a long-time eczema-sufferer, I believe healthy skin is for all.” Glass Skin Refining Serum, $39
Deepika Vyas and Tanuj Nakra launched Avya Skincare connect the power of ancient Ayurvedic ingredients and botanicals with the advances in molecular science. Vyas was also inspired to launch the brand when she realized that larger legacy brands were not developing products that met Asian American skin care concerns.
“After years of frustration, I decided to partner with my nephew, Dr. Tanuj Nakra, to develop a skin care line with medical-grade ingredients that are suitable for all skin types,” Vyas said. “There is a misconception that darker skin tones do not suffer from sensitivity issues, which I can tell you firsthand is not true!”
The products are really designed to be used together in a layering system, but the Avya Anti-Aging Power Serum is a standout product. It contains microencapsulated pure vitamin C, antioxidants, peptides and key botanical extracts that can be used on any skin type or condition.
“As a physician, I always recommend that all my patients use a vitamin C serum daily — it's one of the most important active ingredients that can truly do it all: prevention, rejuvenation, and real improvements in skin tone,” Nakra said.
Avya Anti-Aging Power Serum, $88
After being an integrative holistic physician for nearly 20 years, Dr. Susanne Bennett realized that her skin health was not a true reflection of her internal body health and well-being. She was dealing with typical aging concerns like wrinkles and sagging, weathered skin. This eventually led to her find a cutting-edge skin care formula developed by tissue engineering scientists in South Korea, where she was born. Her skin transformation was so life-changing, she ended up securing the exclusive global distribution rights and subsequently launched Purigenex
“When I first founded Purigenex in 2007, Korean skin care and science was not well-known and was just beginning to develop state of the art formulations and skin care products,” Bennett said.
The brand’s collagen and mask serum duo smooths out irregular skin texture, fills in fine lines, and tightens and lifts sagging skin. “These skin treatments and products use cutting-edge formulations to help prevent premature skin aging, rejuvenate and restore optimal skin health,” Bennett said. Purigenex Ionized Collagen Mask (ICM) and Intensive Collagen Serum (ICS) Kit, $649
“As someone who struggled with my skin concerns, layered onto the fact I was teased about my race growing up, creating something that made people feel confident in their skin just clicked for me,” said cosmetic chemist and Perfect Image founder David Petrillo. “With this, I focused on chemistry as a field of study and turned my passion and desire to help others find their confidence into my life's work.”
Petrillo wanted to give people access to safe and affordable peels that they could use in the comfort of their homes, instead of having to go to a doctor's office, so he created the Glycolic Gel peels
“A large portion of our customers aim to address wrinkles, fine lines, age spots and breakouts, and the Glycolic peel range has had life-changing impacts on some of our customers,” Petrillo said. “We have received the most incredible stories, and have seen insane before and after photos — so many of our clients remain life-long shoppers because of the results they've seen."Perfect Image Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel, $29.95
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