11 Asian-American Beauty Brands Our Beauty Editor Swears By
Even if you're not a self-professed K-beauty or J-beauty fan, Asian culture has roots that go deeper than you probably realize. Whether you know it or not, Asian influence has shaped so much of the Western beauty world you've come to know and love. Skincare layering? Sheet masks? BB creams? Fermented beauty products? Gua sha and facial rollers? (I have tons more but I'll stop there for the sake of brevity.) You have Asian heritage to thank for that.
As a Korean-American beauty editor who fell in love with beauty through the lens of Asian culture, the spike in violence toward the AAPI community is deeply disheartening. The beauty industry is also rife with racism—and a general lack of acknowledgment—towards Asian culture (don't even get me started on fox eyes), despite how much it has contributed to it. I've also struggled with feeling overlooked by a Western-dominated industry that capitalizes on our ideas yet doesn't want to embrace us back. So, as someone whose job entails scouting the very best of beauty for people, I wanted to take this time to shout out some truly exceptional Asian-American beauty brands. These innovative serums, scrubs, stains, and more are the product of incredible Asian immigrants, entrepreneurs, and beauty gurus who beat the odds stacked against them. Plus, the products themselves are pretty freaking great.
Ever wanted to get the immaculate, poreless skin of a geisha? The Japanese call this look “mochi hada,” which refers to the pure, gleaming, soft quality of a baby’s skin. Tatcha pulls inspiration from these Japanese geishas to create facial cleansers and moisturizers that use traditional ingredients, like finely ground rice powder and licorice root extract. Tatcha’s innovative products include classic cleansing oils to melt away your makeup, rice polishes to exfoliate dead skin cells, and brightening products to create that covetable glowy complexion.
Editor’s Pick: New to the brand? Try Tatcha Silk Powder ($48; sephora.com), a protective skincare powder (it has blue light- and pollution-defending ingredients) made with silk to absorb oil and blur, while giving just a touch of radiance with pearl powder.
Adorable packaging aside, the formulas inside these bottles are some of the best in the biz. Cofounders Sarah Lee and Christine Chang first made their appearance on Shark Tank in 2015 (they got a deal!) and have rapidly expanded their collection ever since. Each product highlights a powerhouse ingredient, which so far includes watermelon, avocado, plum, pineapple, blueberry, banana, and papaya, that targets a specific skincare concern.
Editor’s Pick: Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops ($24; sephora.com)—the brand’s first makeup-skincare hybrid—gives your complexion the dewiest glow instantly and improves skin over time without incorporating mica, glitter, or pearls that can clog your pores.
Good Light Beauty
Good Light Beauty, founded by former journalist and Korean-American skinfluencer David Yi, stands for inclusivity and the idea that beauty products have no gender identity—something that seems obvious but isn’t as widely accepted as it should be. After two years of research and formula development, the brand just launched a trio of products—all of which are anti-inflammatory and pH-balanced to strengthen the skin's moisture barrier.
Editor’s Pick: Try Cosmic Dew Water Cleanser ($18; goodlight.world), a gel-to-foam, prebiotic cleanser that gently cleanses skin of impurities while bestowing it with an otherworldly glow.
Peach & Lily
Peach & Lily founder Alicia Yoon attended business school at Harvard and esthetician school in Korea, giving her the opportunity to study skincare ingredients, formulas, and techniques in both countries. Peach & Lily was born in 2012 from that dual knowledge—all of the products are made without toxins or irritants (Alicia also suffers from eczema), so that your skincare routine doesn’t have to be a guessing game.
Editor’s Pick: Glass skin isn’t as hard as it sounds—it just requires hydration. Peach & Lily Glass Skin Water-Gel Moisturizer ($40; ulta.com) is aptly named; the formula is like a tall glass of water for your skin, which is key to getting that covetable glass skin glow.
Patrick Ta Beauty
Vietnamese-American celebrity artist Patrick Ta is one of the most esteemed makeup artists in the business, but you can get access to his desirable, goddess-like radiance with the glow-getting products in Patrick Ta Beauty.
Editor’s Pick: Want post-vacation glow? Try Major Glow Body Oil ($52; sephora.com), a pearlescent body oil you can apply all over to moisturize and illuminate. Not only does it give the perfect amount of luminosity, it also moonlights as a perfume with the most pleasant jasmine scent.
Fun fact: Founder Amy Liu named Tower 28 after a real lifeguard tower in Santa Monica because it symbolizes everything she believes in: community, healthy fun, and clean living. Fun fact #2: It's also the only makeup brand to 100 percent follow the National Eczema Association's ingredient guidelines and avoid known irritants and allergens for those with sensitive skin, including essential oils and synthetic fragrances.
Editor’s Pick: I love myself a juicy lip gloss, and the brand’s ShineOn Milky Lip Jelly ($14; sephora.com) is one of the best. The moisturizing cult-favorite, which comes in six versatile shades, is formulated with a unique blend of five nourishing oils to soothe and protect lips, unlike other lip glosses that layer shine but leave lips dry underneath.
Founded in 2015, cocokind is not only affordable and high-quality, it's also committed to sustainability in every product it sells. The brand began its journey in a single Whole Foods store in northern California (which CEO and founder Priscilla Tsai made happen by hand delivering samples of early products to regional buyers). Since then, it has evolved into major national retailers like Target, Whole Foods, Ulta, and more.
Editor’s Pick: All the products are super clean and great for sensitive skin, but my favorite has to be Sake Body Lotion ($16; cocokind.com), a super buttery formula actually made with sake (a fermented rice wine rich in smoothing enzymes).
Then I Met You
Soko Glam co-founder Charlotte Cho's created the collection with the Korean concept of jeong (a deep feeling of empathy and affection that one can develop for people, places, and things). It’s meant to signify those inflection points in our life when we meet something that deeply affects us or our routines. Well, it lives up to its name—from sea buckthorn to cocoa and licorice, the formulas’ effective ingredients are certainly skin-changing.
Editor’s Pick: Essence (another Asian-derived product) is a skincare must-have of mine, and The Giving Essence ($50; thenimetyou.com) has to be one of the best I’ve tried. It contains a medley of antioxidant-rich ingredients (red algae, berries, and ellagic acid) to soothe skin and give it a healthy glow.
As an Asian woman with a naturally darker skin tone, founder Yu-Chen had trouble coming to terms with her shade as most Asian beauty brands only catered to the ideal of lighter Asian skin tones. (Traditional Asian culture touts the notion that fair skin is the only beautiful skin.) After years of applying bleaching solutions to her skin in order to lighten it, she decided to create a brand that celebrates the colorful diversity within Asian culture. The brand's carefully curated shade range is made with overlooked Asian skin tones in mind—and won’t look pasty or orange on your face.
Editor’s Pick: Try the brand’s Skin Perfecting Serum Foundation ($89; orcecosmetics.com), which instantly transforms texture on first swipe while working to improve skin over time.
If you haven’t heard of Sandra Lee, MD, board-certified dermatologist, founder of SLMD Skincare, and pimple popper extraordinaire, you’ve probably heard of her more popular nickname: Dr. Pimple Popper—yes, the same one who pops people's enormous pimples on YouTube, and even has a television show dedicated to it. Skincare brand SLMD takes her pimple-popping prowess and bottles it up into pimple-fighting formulas.
Editor’s Pick: SLMD Resurfacing Acne Swipes ($35; slmdskincare.com) are pre-loaded, soft woven rounds saturated in a cocktail of three major skincare acids: salicylic, glycolic, and lactic. Despite its powerful formula, it doesn’t sting sensitive skin.
I had the pleasure of meeting founder JinSoon Choi, and can confirm that she is just as bright and wonderful as her products. The celebrity nail artist (crowned the "Nail Guru" by New York Times Magazine) moved to New York City in 1991, made a name for herself biking around and doing house calls, and now does nails for top runway shows. All of her formulas are 9/10-free (of harsh chemicals) and formulated with high-tech polymers and resins that will last way longer than your standard nail polish.
Editor’s Pick: Nail colors are subjective, so I have to go with the universal HyperGloss ($22; amazon.com), a UV-blocking top coat that dries any nail color freaky fast and leaves behind a gel-like shine.