While there’s nothing wrong with filling up your beauty shelf with products from the big players in the beauty industry (you know, those household names that have been around for 100+ years), it’s crucial to support the small and minority-owned businesses, too. More specifically, as it’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it’s the perfect opportunity to buy from AAPI-owned beauty brands — especially as you’re gathering the products you need to try out the summer 2021 beauty trends (yes, you can scoop up colorful liner and highlighter ahead).
Not only will you discover tons of gems from these brands, but you’ll also be helping them stay afloat as the pandemic has hit AAPI-owned businesses especially hard. According to NBC News, a report from JPMorgan Chase Institute found that “by the end of March, sales for Asian American businesses were down by more than 60% from a year earlier, greater than the roughly 50% drop faced by other small businesses.”
One AAPI-owned beauty brand that actually started right in the midst of the pandemic is Youthforia, founded by Fiona Chan. “Everything was crazy and felt up in the air,” she tells TZR about launching her brand. “A lot of our early challenges were around us wanting to create makeup very differently and make products that didn't exist before.” But, that didn’t stop Chan from creating the world’s first color-changing blush oil (more on that below).
The Vietnamese-Chinese American beauty expert believes it’s crucial for AAPI brands to get the recognition and visibility that they deserve. “I mean, there are countless amazing AAPI brands out there that champion diversity and inclusive values, so if that’s what consumers care about too, then they should show their support by shopping from them,” Chan explains. With that being said, below, find 20 of the most popular AAPI-owned beauty brands right now. From makeup to skin care to nails, these brands have you covered.
We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article
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Created by Jess Wilson, Georgina Wilson, Martine Ho, Bea Soriano Dee, and Eric Dee, Filipino beauty brand Sunnies Face sells everything from pigmented lip products to luxe nail polishes. However, its hero product is its Fluffmatte lipsticks, which consist of a creamy matte formula. Take a scroll through its visually pleasing Instagram page, too.
The motive behind launching Youthforia is quite a unique story. “I actually used to sleep in my makeup a lot — especially when I first started dating my husband — but I used to get really bad allergic reactions from it, some of which sent me to the hospital, which was wild and really disheartening,” Chan explains. “I wanted to create makeup that acts as an extension of skin care — makeup you can safely sleep in, without having to worry about it ruining your skin.” As it turns out, the founder (and, of course, her husband) even tested the products by sleeping in them for two months, and she found that their skin was improving over time.
“Additionally, I really wanted to make a blush that works on all skin types and skin tones, so that’s how we came up with our BYO Blush.” This best-selling product is the world’s first-ever (!) blush oil that changes colors. Ultimately, it works by reacting to your skin’s natural pH. Everyone will have a different color for the blush — even if two people have the same skin tone, the finish will be slightly different.
"Kulfi Beauty is the result of my journey to rediscovering the joy in makeup for myself and reclaiming my beauty for myself,” Priyanka Ganjoo, founder of Kulfi beauty, says in a press release. “I wanted Kulfi to represent and proudly share the voice of the South Asian community within the beauty industry. Kulfi Beauty puts the South Asian community at the forefront: our skin tones, undertones, and skin concerns are all taken into consideration when formulating and developing our products.” The brand is known for its colorful eyeliners, which I can confirm are good (my personal favorite is the Purply Pataka shade).
EM Cosmetics, launched by OG beauty Youtuber Michelle Phan, offers up all the products you need to fill your makeup bag with (think: brow pencils, highlighters, lip glosses). But, arguably the brand’s most popular product is its Color Drops Serum Blush. Infused with ingredients like sacha inchi oil, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid, this best-seller works as both skin care and makeup.
Amy Liu named her brand Tower 28 after a lifeguard tower located in Santa Monica, California. In fact, the product characteristics, such as being made with clean ingredients and being available to everyone, are influenced by the local beaches. And, if you have sensitive skin, this brand is for you. Tower 28 follows the National Eczema Association's ingredient guidelines, so don’t be afraid to indulge in the brand’s dreamy bronzers and glosses.
Henné (meaning her in Swedish) Organics was created by Laura Xiao in 2015. Handcrafted in Wilmington, North Carolina, the brand’s primary focus is on luxury lip care, which includes its lip serums, balms, masks, exfoliators, and tints. It also carries luxe hand creams.
KimChi Chic Beauty
Launched in 2019 by Kim Chi, KimChi Chic Beauty is all about bright, exciting products inspired by the founder’s love for drag makeup. On top of its gorgeous product offerings, the brand also donates a portion of its sales to The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, as well as queer and questioning (LGBTQ) people under the age of 25.
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Prior to launching, CLE Cosmetics, founder Lauren Jin was working in the fashion industry. However, according to the brand’s website, she pivoted to beauty and launched her brand to “create something that resonated with the modern woman, that spoke to the truth that there is no one-way to feel beautiful, and no right way to get there.” For those with chapped lips, try its new Lip Care Trio for gentle exfoliation and shine.
Savor Beauty focuses on natural skin care inspired by Korean rituals. In fact, founder Angela Jia Kim created the brand after being influenced by her mother and heritage. The New York-based brand’s products are crafted in three award-winning Savor Spas in the city, as well as its nationwide spa partners. You’ll want to get your hands on Savory Beauty’s two new buzzy launches — the Fountain of Youth: Brilliance Elixir and Hyaluronic Acid Serum.
Koa Skincare uses traditional Hawaiian ingredients like Japanese yuzu, Hawaiian kukui nut, and pacific giant seaweed — which have all been used for centuries for their healing powers. Its product lineup includes the Anti-Pollution SPF 45+, Daily Face Cleanser, Daily Face Moisturizer, and Balancing Toner.
Michelle Ranavat launched skin care brand Ranavat in 2017 as a way to further explore and celebrate her Indian culture. In addition to providing mostly vegan and organic formula, the brand also donates 2% of its proceeds to Desai Foundation, a non-profit organization in India. Note: Hailey Bieber uses the brand’s Cream Cleanser (meaning, yes, you should too).
Last June, Jenn Chung debuted her brand Embody, which features the first-ever retinol gummies on the market. Chung is no stranger to acne, which is why she set out to create one product that can replace a serum or moisturizer. Shortly after the retinol gummies became available, she launched the apple cider vinegar gummies in February 2021.
Created by 20-year old Jeena Chong, Cityface was born out of the founder’s personal struggle to find affordable high-quality skin care products while she was attending UC Berkley. Additionally, the college student noticed a lot of the problems surrounding her sensitive skin were driven by skin pollution and various environmental aggressors within major cities. Therefore, the brand created three products inspired by New York, San Francisco, and Seoul to protect and restore the skin.
Rooshy Roy, founder of AAVRANI, learned everything she needed to know about skin care in her grandmother’s kitchen, according to brand literature. During that time, she would apply a mixture of turmeric, raw honey, chickpea flour, neem oil, and coconut milk to Roy’s face. Now, she uses her brand as a way to showcase Indian beauty rituals to the world.
After noticing a gap in the beauty industry for AAPI entrepreneurs, Erin Moy and her father Dr. Ronald Moy, MD, FAAD, a world-renowned medical and cosmetic dermatologist, founded Cellular MD. Included in the brand’s products are three hero ingredients: circadian repair proteins (DNA repair enzymes), barley-derived growth factors, and niacinamide.
Then I Met You
Then I Met You, created Charlotte Cho, an esthetician and author, is inspired by the Korean concept of jeong, which according to the brand’s website means “a deep feeling of empathy and affection that one can develop for people, places and things.” Create your own at-home spa with the brand’s new Rosé Resurfacing Facial Mask.
Shop AAPI-Owned Nail Polish Brands
If you haven’t had the chance to visit the New York-based JinSoon studio IRL, get the experience at home with the brand’s products. Though her first East Village location opened in 1999, nail artist and fashion week veteran Jin Soon created her nail polish collection in 2012. Not sure what color to pick? Try a polish from its latest collaboration with fashion designer Suzie Kondi.
Looking to upgrade your summer nail polish collection? Turn to Emilie Heathe, founded by Emily Rudman. When you’re not using its nail polish, it’ll look so chic sitting on your nightstand. In addition to gorgeous polish shades, you can also shop lip and brow products, as well as jewelry from the brand.
If you’re not a fan of nail polish, ManiMe is for you. Created by Jooyeon Song, the brand offers up a slew of funky custom-fit stick-on nail gels. Plus, there are lots of cool designer collections, for instance, its latest line with celebrity nail artist Mei Kawajiri.
Sundays Studio, founded by Amy Ling Lin, is a nail care brand that focuses on wellness. In fact, its products are non-toxic 10-free, vegan, and cruelty-free. For those who reside in New York, consider visiting one of its studios. If not, no worries — you can still snag the gorgeous polishes online.