Viral beauty trends like gua sha and hair oiling aren’t trends at all — they are centuries-old practices passed on through generations of Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The impact that Asian traditions and technology alike have had in shaping today’s global beauty industry is immense. By supporting AAPI-owned beauty brands, you’re ensuring that these contributions are honored rather than appropriated, and that the communities that they originated in receive proper credit.
We spoke to Asian business owners and founders about how their AAPI identity has shaped their brands. From upholding cultural traditions to challenging the status quo, these trailblazers are educating about their heritage and communities while helping their audience find empowerment through effective, results-driven products. Beyond buzzy skin care ingredients or makeup trends, these Asian-, Asian American- and Pacific Islander-owned beauty brands are transforming our self-care rituals with skin care, makeup, hair care and fragrances made for everyone.
AAPI-owned skin care brands
Ju Rhyu, co-founder and CEO of Hero Cosmetics, created the brand to combat the negativity and insecurity that breakouts and issue-prone skin can cause. Witnessing the stigma of having “bad” skin affect people in her own community, Rhyu wanted to rewrite the narrative around what healthy skin looks like.
“In Korean culture, it is very common for people to comment on your looks in both complimenting and slightly disparaging ways,” Rhyu explains. “For example, if you have a breakout, your Korean mom could be the first one to point it out or even your Korean co-worker would mention it. It can make you feel really insecure. And that’s one thing Hero is really trying to change — the negative emotions associated with breaking out. It’s such a natural thing that happens to many people and when people come to Hero we want people to feel accepted and confident because they have the Hero tools to get their skin back to healthy.”
It started with the Mighty Patch pimple sticker inspired by the hydrocolloid patches Rhyu found in South Korea, and now Hero Cosmetics offers a number of skin-saving solutions for acne, dark spots and rosacea. For AAPI History Month, the brand is partnering with seven other Asian-owned beauty brands (all of which are in our roundup) for an exclusive box full of bestselling products with a portion of the proceeds benefiting an AAPI non-profit.
Born from the beauty website Very Good Light and its principle of “beauty beyond the binary,” Good Light is a personal care brand made for all gender identities. “I want folx to finally feel seen and have agency and know that they and their own unique beauty is undeniable,” founder David Yi says.
Based on the effective yet gentle approach K-beauty is known for, Good Light’s skin care products also open the dialogue for sharing other parts of Korean culture. “In Korea, bonds are deeply rooted. Friendships aren’t superficial — your friends are your family, they are you and you are them,” Yi explains. “I want our brand to be a friend to those who perhaps need one. I want Good Light to be a signifier of empowerment, of hope — that whenever you find your Good Light cosmetics products at any store, that you feel as if you’re not alone because there’s an army of others just like you.”
Boosting hydration and protecting the skin barrier are the main goals of Cocokind’s unfussy skin care line. Founded by Priscilla Tsai, the brand makes an easy entry point into the world of skin care with gentle formulas and affordable prices. With a little bit of everything — from microbiome-friendly acne serum to a bakuchiol overnight treatment — Cocokind’s products offer all that you need for a skin care regimen.
“As Sahajan is based on Ayurveda —the 5,000 year old science from ancient India — Indian and South Asian culture, and its practices are weaved into everything we do,” Sahajan founder Lisa Mattam says. Formulated with help from Ayurvedic doctors in Kerala, India (where Mattan’s family is from), Sahajan’s products are powered by traditional ingredients like turmeric, gotu kola and cumin seed oil that give serious results.
Just as gua sha and traditional Chinese medicine have gained attention in the mainstream, Ayurvedic skin care and wellness practices are also receiving more recognition. Building a brand off of these traditions, Mattam wants everyone to benefit from them and celebrate them. “My wish is to see Ayurveda and India’s culture experienced by all,” she says. “I don’t feel uncomfortable when I see individuals who aren’t South Asian share our traditions but my expectation is that they don’t appropriate it, and more than that, that they honor and elevate it.”
“I am so proud to be a part of a culture that is rich in ancient traditions and whose foundation was built on respect for the planet and its people,” Katini Skin founder Katini Yamoaka says. “My mother is Japanese, and in our community, sacred family traditions are something we greatly honor. Growing up, my mother, my aunts and my grandmother would teach me about Japanese beauty secrets. I learned about the incredible native ingredients they would use on their skin to maintain a naturally healthy and flawless complexion. This inspired me to create my own skin care brand that pulls from ancient beauty traditions from all the places that I am from; Japan, Africa and Australia.”
Available online and at Saks 5th Avenue, Katini Skin’s silky face oils are made from responsibly sourced ingredients, like sweet almond oil and evening primrose oil, that leave the skin soft and supple.
Pink Moon is a marketplace that features women-owned labels committed to sustainability and holistic wellness. The founder, Lin Chen, curates skin care, body care, cosmetics and home products that honor the ritual of self-care. You’ll find gua sha tools, traditional Chinese medicine teas and organic skin care that highlight Asian ingredients and treatments in an authentic — not trend-motivated — way.
“It’s wonderful to see traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practices and ideas become more widespread in the west, but it’s hurtful to see brands not honor the origins or teach incorrect gua sha techniques,” Chen says. “I know TCM is not the only traditional practice that is being exploited. So many other tools, technologies, practices and ideologies are being taken from Asian communities and are being exploited in ways that are appalling (such as yoga and Ayurveda). Whitewashing these traditional practices diminishes the ability of all BIPOC to create authentic narratives about ourselves and the legacies we have inherited.”
Instead, educate yourself about the origins of these beauty rituals and support small businesses founded by those in Asian communities who are preserving their cultural traditions.
A new skin care and wellness brand centered around Japanese self-care rituals, Shikohin’s range of face, body and bath products is deeply restorative. With influences from the US, Japan and France, the California-based brand from Takeshi Nobuhara takes a holistic approach that modernizes the onsen experience with CBD-infused lotions, bath tablets and more. The healing effects of the CBD complement Asian ingredients, like Japanese cypress and yuzu.
“When women feel connected, confident and validated enough to create something totally unique to themselves, bit by bit, brick by brick it changes the world,” Strange Bird founder and artist Tina Chow Rudolf says. “I love seeing all the colors of beauty finally being welcomed on retail shelves and magazines, but most of all, how fiercely the AAPI community and women of color in general are embracing themselves and their beauty in a whole new way.”
For Rudolf, skin care is an aspect of wellness and self-care. Strange Bird’s ginger, ginseng and goji-berry-powered formulas seek to bring balance and clarity to the skin and mind alike.
With delicious-sounding products that highlight ingredients like watermelon, strawberry, guava and avocado, K-beauty brand Glow Recipe makes the sometimes clinical world of skin care cute and colorful — with highly effective formulas, of course. Founded by two L’Oréal alumni, Christine Chang and Sarah Lee, Glow Recipe has become a cult favorite among skin care enthusiasts. Its bestselling watermelon sleeping mask has over 1,500 5-star reviews at Sephora.
From botanical serums to a perfectly sized gua sha, Yina co-founders Angela Chau Gray and Dr. Ervina Wu wanted to create a beautiful brand that highlights the power of traditional Chinese medicine. “As practitioners we know how profoundly these beauty rituals and practices can change a person’s life,” Chau Gray says. “We are here to help educate and demystify East Asian medicine for you.”
Created in California, Yina’s products are developed by Chau Gray, who studied Chinese medicinal plants, and Wu, who has a Ph. D. in TCM and is a registered TCM dermatologist.
AAPI-owned makeup brands
Before beauty influencers were even a thing, Michelle Phan was posting makeup tutorials to YouTube in the early 2000s. Her videos went viral in the early days of social media, gaining her over 8 million followers on the video platform. Phan quickly became a bona fide beauty mogul, launching beauty subscription company Ipsy in 2011 and EM Cosmetics a few years later (she has since stepped back from Ipsy and relaunched EM Cosmetics). The brand’s name is a nod to her heritage: “My brand is called EM, pronounced like the letter ‘M,’” she explains, “and it’s how you address your younger sister, brother and loved one in Vietnamese.”
Like other Asian-American kids, Phan didn’t see people who looked like her growing up — in the media and even in her own community. But by putting herself online, she became a figure to look up to for young Asian people across the country (and the world). “Growing up on YouTube, I became this big sister to the AAPI youth,” Phan says. And for a long time, she would have denied her own impact on making the beauty world a more inclusive space. “I wanted to stay humble about my success because that’s what I was taught,” she says. “When people gave me credit for what I’ve trail-blazed, I was awful at receiving it.” But Phan has learned that owning her success is bigger than even herself. “Looking back, that inherently hurts [the AAPI] community because we don’t think we are worthy of receiving the love and acknowledgement for what we’ve done in the beauty space. I’ve learned to celebrate my wins and receive praise from a place of love, not fear.”
Deepica Mutyala initially founded Live Tinted as a digital beauty community for those historically underrepresented in the space, and it was based on their feedback that the brand’s hero product — the multi-purpose, color-correcting Huestick — was born.
But having an in-demand product is just one part of building a successful beauty brand, and Mutyala has experienced the hurdles that come with being a female AAPI founder. “The biggest challenge has been the lack of funding,” she shares. “Women only receive 2% of venture capital funding and that number is staggeringly less for women of color. It was hard and it still is hard, but we have to keep pushing to make space for us.”
Now available at Ulta, the line continues paving the way for celebrating multicultural and marginalized voices. “With so many other POC and, more specifically, AAPI-founded brands today, who are making a difference in the beauty industry, Live Tinted also works to honor our fellow leaders in the space, sparking larger cultural solidarity and connectedness industry-wide,” Mutyala says. Commenting on the brand’s participation in the AAPI beauty box with Hero Cosmetics, Glow Recipe and more, she continues, “It is so important for us to work together and to celebrate our beautifully diverse cultures, spotlighting one another’s collective impact on the global beauty industry. The best part is that $10 per box will be donated to an organization that supports the AAPI community.”
K-beauty innovations make using Lauren Jin’s minimalist makeup and skin care line a delight. Unique powder-to-tint lip colors, cushioned highlighters and color-adjusting CCC creams bring a twist to no-makeup makeup essentials — one of the many trends that started in the Korean beauty community.
“With the rise of social media and globalization, Asian beauty trends and traditional practices have become easier to credit,” Jin says. “Beyond K-beauty, I love seeing diverse Asian self-care practices, ingredients and brands sharing their knowledge. Authenticity is something many people want to see in a brand. When you have someone behind the brand that has used and uses those practices, routines and ingredients themselves, it means a lot.”
A cosmetic brand rewriting the rules of makeup, Youthforia’s vibrant collection of blush, lip glosses and primer are formulated and tested to be slept in without wreaking havoc on your skin. Founder Fiona Co Chan wanted to create makeup that could last through a fun night out and not be a drag to remove at the end of the evening, believing that makeup should be good for your skin, too. Youthforia’s bio-based formulas also follow Green Chemistry principles, meaning that they’re kinder on the planet as well as your skin.
Known for its user-friendly magnetic eyelashes and fun press-on nails, Glamnetic makes it easy to go full glam. Since its launch in 2019, the company has quickly grown into a global beauty brand on the shelves of Sephora, and founder Ann McFerran is happy to be paving the way for other AAPI women, especially fellow Thai businesswomen.
“There’s a platform to tell our story, where people want to listen,” McFerran says. “We are inspiring another generation of female leaders to want to step up and feel like they have an example to look up to. I get so many messages from fellow AAPI girls out there saying that because they see someone who looks like them succeeding, they feel like they can do it, too. I come from a very humble background, so this is something that’s very important for me to convey — that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can succeed in anything you truly put your mind, passions and hard work to.”
Makeup artist to top models like Gigi Hadid and pop stars like Camila Cabello, Patrick Ta is known for his glamorous red carpet beauty looks. The artist’s own namesake makeup line, available at Sephora, channels his often monochrome approach with a focus on rosy, warm tones that look amazing on anyone.
Korean-born expert nail artist Jin Soon Choi moved to America in 1989, and opened her first nail salon in New York City a decade later. Since then, she’s opened three more NYC spa locations, launched her namesake nail polish brand and become a top manicurist in the fashion industry, working with major designers like Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs.
“My Korean heritage and upbringing has played a huge role in my business from my very first salon to my line of nail lacquers,” Soon says. “I’ve been lucky enough to blend both into meaningful product launches and a luxury spa experience.” This is apparent through the Asian-inspired design of her nail spa locations as well as her unfussy yet playful approach to manicures.
Tower 28’s clean makeup line is made for sensitive skin. Informed by founder Amy Liu’s own struggle with finding cosmetics that didn’t cause her eczema to flare up, the formulas are made with soothing, gentle ingredients that won’t irritate the skin. With essentials like tinted SPF and multi-purpose cheek colors, the California-based brand channels the laidback vibe of the west coast.
After working behind the scenes in the beauty industry and not seeing South Asian people like herself at the forefront of any of the brands she was working with, Priyanka Ganjoo decided to pave the way herself. “From the very beginning, Kulfi Beauty has been about creating the representation that we have always wanted to see in the beauty industry,” the Kulfi Beauty founder says. “There’s so much power in the experience of feeling seen and that’s what I want my community to feel through Kulfi.”
While the creamy, long-wearing kajal eyeliners work for everyone, the formulas themselves were tested and developed specifically for those with skin tones and undertones in South Asian communities, ensuring that the representation goes beyond optics and into the user experience, too.
Emilie Heathe’s eco-conscious line offers classic nail polish and lipstick shades made from better-for-you formulas inspired by founder Emily H. Rudman’s Asian heritage. As a Korean-American adoptee, learning about ingredients like bamboo, rice and sea buckthorn brought a sense of connection to her origins that she didn’t feel while growing up.
Turning to comic books and drawing as a creative outlet when she was younger, this artistry later translated to makeup. This influence is seen in the bold colors of Emilie Heath, as well as its collaboration with “The Batman” consisting of three nail polishes inspired by the DC comic characters.
Known for founding makeup brand Nyx Cosmetics in 1999, Toni Ko now leads Bespoke Beauty Brands, which has launched four labels since 2019. Jason Wu Beauty is the most recent addition and most notable to date as it marks the New York-based designer’s debut into makeup and brought Wu’s name to a wider audience through its launch at Target.
“Being part of the AAPI community has helped me be a better person on a personal level, but also a better leader in my professional life,” the BBB CEO says. “Our ancestors’ precious wisdom is passed down through generations and it’s a heritage we treasure and want to share with the rest of the world.”
AAPI-owned hair care brands
“Beauty is not about being fair, skinny, a certain hair type — it comes from within, starts at the roots, it’s holistic,” sibling co-founders of Fable & Mane, Akash and Nikita Mehta, say. And when it comes to hair care, reaching that sense of beauty nirvana begins with an Ayurvedic tradition.
“Our brand has become a vehicle which allows us to educate cultural traditions,” the Mehtas say. “At Fable & Mane we start with hair oiling, a ritual that has been performed from generation to generation, not only to nourish and strengthen the head, scalp and hair, but also to destress, connect and slow down. Our HoliRoots pre-wash hair oil allows the western world to take the first step in this ritual.”
Available at Sephora, Fable & Mane’s hair and scalp care products are powered by Ayurvedic ingredients that blend beauty and wellness, some of which were introduced to them as beauty secrets from their mother. The heritage behind their brand can be felt in the nourishing hair oils, masks and washes that keep strands healthy and strong.
Another sibling-founded hair care brand that highlights the restorative power of Ayurvedic practices, Shaz & Kiks was launched by sisters Shaz Rajashekar and Kiku Chaudhuri. Their hair masks, cleansers and conditioners contain indigenous Indian ingredients that are ethically sourced from their native regions and local farming communities.
This California-based brand founded by Sharon Pak and Jordynn Wynn makes hair transformations a breeze with its extensions, wigs and clip-on buns and bangs. Whether you’re after Ariana Grande’s signature ponytail or extra-long locks à la Kim Kardashian, Insert Name Here’s hair pieces will give you the volume, length and drama needed to pull it off.
AAPI-owned fragrance brands
“In fragrance, representation has been late in coming,” Ellis Brooklyn founder Bee Shapiro says. “When it comes to the way we see or hear the world — like photography and music for example — we are aware of and consider diversity. But when it comes to our sense of smell it’s not something we give much thought to. The scent world has been dominated by caucasian French men for decades. They have influenced what we consider ‘clean’ or ‘baby-like’ or ‘sexy.’ Oftentimes these ideas of smell and scents are social constructs.”
As a first-generation Taiwanese immigrant, Shapiro knew she had a different point of view to share through fragrance. “For Ellis Brooklyn, I wanted to approach scent from a completely different place. I wanted to create scent to live in and breathe in and be integral and intimate to the wearer. My heritage and how I grew up plays a big part in that creative process.”
Offering four unisex scents inspired by each of the elements, Elorea introduces fragrance as the next frontier of K-beauty. Founded by a Korean-American couple, the collection honors their background by utilizing ingredients sourced from South Korea.
“We created Elorea to be closer to and honor our Korean heritage,” the brand’s co-founder and CEO Wonny Lee says. “The first record of scent being used in Korea dates back to the fifth century — yet most people are unaware of this. Elorea celebrates this centuries-old history of scent in Korea, while challenging the Eurocentric perfume industry by offering balanced fragrances that have been formulated using key ingredients sourced from distinct regions of the peninsula.”