How AAPI–Owned Beauty Brands Are Making Waves and Garnering Support
The business of beauty is inherently personal for the wearer, down to the pitch-perfect foundation shade. But the products that land in the medicine cabinet often reflect a broader story about shared values, experiences, and aesthetics, as well as which makers one chooses to support.
AAPI Heritage Month, which falls during May, arrives in the swing of a banner year for representation among members of this community in the United States. In March, the Academy Awards heaped honors—including a best picture statue—upon the genre-bending movie Everything Everywhere All at Once, starring Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu. The following month, Netflix’s breakthrough hit Beef put Ali Wong and Steven Yeun in the spotlight, as their characters waded through macro- and micro-aggressions. Designer Peter Do has landed at Helmut Lang; Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner is adapting her best-selling memoir, Crying in H Mart, for the screen. And while such high points are certainly not enough to heal the collective trauma inflicted by recent waves of racially based violence, this unprecedented visibility is critical for the AAPI community—all the more reason to champion the AAPI–led beauty brands on the shelves.
From AI–powered skin care rooted in Korean tradition to makeup artists’ essentials lighting up TikTok, the celebrated products by these 18 companies illustrate the richness and ingenuity of the many cultures that comprise the AAPI community. Naturally, this list just scratches the surface, but it’s a starting point for showing support. Plus, you just might find the product that takes your beauty routine to the next level.
House of M
After a stretch of postpartum depression led Anne Nguyen Oliver to the sleep-enhancing benefits of medical-grade saffron, the Vietnamese native dove into research about the ingredient’s topical uses—particularly as an ultra-gentle treatment for her hormonal melasma. That discovery inspired her to launch House of M in 2019, beginning with a serum featuring the purest grade of saffron (called negin), which has sold out three times. Nguyen Oliver’s California-based line has since expanded to include three additional skin care products, including this hydration-boosting mask.
After making his name as a go-to makeup artist for the likes of Gigi Hadid, Camila Cabello, and Joan Smalls, Vietnamese wunderkind Patrick Ta packaged up that bombshell aesthetic and established his own makeup line in 2019. Anchored in shades and textures designed to give skin a dewy, sculpted glow, the product range spans face and body. He’s put his professional pedigree to good use, pairing complementary colors in a best-selling blush palette to ensure a pop of color with lasting wear.
After building her career with notable beauty brands, founder Amy Liu set out to create her own, with sensitive skin in mind. (Tower 28 takes its name from a lifeguard tower in Santa Monica that serves as a meeting spot for locals.) Every product in the line, including the range’s best-selling tinted sunscreen, cream blush, and restorative face mist, is formulated in keeping with guidelines from the National Eczema Association to sidestep any potential irritants.
Few people have broadened the conversation within the beauty industry quite like David Yi, whose media platform, Very Good Light, has championed a definition of beauty that supersedes the gender binary. Yi’s long-running efforts to redefine masculinity and how it relates to personal care led to the 2021 launch of his own inclusive skin care line, Good Light.
Founded by three sisters who noticed a lack of makeup options for brown skin tones on the shelves, Ctzn Cosmetics is an edited collection best known for its nude lipsticks, which come in 25 variations. The product offerings also include lip liners and glosses, along with a new dual-ended eye shadow stick developed with makeup artist and chief creative officer Sir John—all in similarly nuanced and wide-ranging shades.
Sulwhasoo has been a mainstay in the skin care realm for decades, with an emphasis on traditional Korean herbs that has helped build a cult-like following. What has kept the brand feeling modern is its continual drive for reformulation; through its use of a data-driven algorithm, Sulwhasoo incorporates new findings in order to achieve what it deems to be an optimized ratio of active ingredients—ensuring that the products you buy are the very best iterations. Earlier this year, the company announced a year-long partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and named Tilda Swinton its new global ambassador.
Riki Loves Riki
While ring lights were game-changing for the beauty world, particularly on social media, Wanchen Kaiser and her husband, Erik, took the concept a step further with a line of sleek mirrors framed in bright LED lights. Riki Loves Riki’s mirrors also come with various levels of dimming, a magnetized phone mount, and even Bluetooth capabilities—making them ideal for both makeup experts and rookies alike.
Japan has long been a player in the skin care world (see: Shiseido and SK-II), but DamDam, cofounded by Giselle Go and Philippe Terrien, represents the next sustainably sourced iteration of J-Beauty. Crafted entirely in Japan, the formulas in the line are infused with traditional ingredients like shiso leaves, rice, and konnyaku.
Following requests from her vast digital community, beauty influencer turned entrepreneur Deepica Mutyala launched an inclusive makeup line in 2018. It features products inspired by Mutyala’s own hacks (such as using red lipstick to color-correct under-eye circles) and has become a favorite of Phenomenal founder Meena Harris and dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD, who’s particularly fond of the brand’s mineral sunscreen.
Woo Skin Essentials
Tattoo artistry is necessarily tied to skin care, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when Brian Woo, the LA–based tattoo artist better known as Dr. Woo, launched his own line of products in 2020. Known for his single-needle designs—and A-list clientele, which includes everyone from Bella Hadid to Zoë Kravitz—Woo focuses on the essentials for a healthy canvas, including a cleansing bar gentle enough for freshly inked skin.
In 2019, BagSnob founder Tina Craig introduced her inaugural skin care product, the retinol-powered Resurfacing Compound, in a way fitting of a fashion influencer: by handing out samples during Paris Fashion Week. Previously known for her multi-step skin care routine, she advocates for a streamlined approach, with thoughtful, efficacious formulas that use proprietary technology to deliver active ingredients exactly where they’re needed most.
While you might recognize Divya Gugnani as a cofounder of Wander Beauty, the serial entrepreneur has embarked on another project with the debut of 5 Sens, a fragrance line partly inspired by her own sensitivity to irritants often found in traditional perfumes. Not only are the formulas clean and free from common allergens, but the titular number also factors in heavily: Each of the five debut fragrances is designed to trigger the five senses for a multifaceted experience.
Minimalist-minded CLE Cosmetics (short for Creative Lass Esthetic) applies cutting-edge Korean technologies to makeup and skin care essentials, resulting in delightfully cushiony textures and hybrid formulas. CLE Cosmetics founder Lauren Jin rarely goes without the brand’s innovative lip powder, which she also applies to cheeks for a naturalistic flush. Shade extensions for the CCC Cream are newly in stock as well.
In its two years since launch, Soft Services has already made a noted impact on the beauty industry, redirecting attention from the face to below-the-neck zones. Founded by two Glossier alums, the brand applies gold-standard ingredients at percentages high enough to treat the thicker skin on the body, targeting stubborn concerns like ingrown hairs, keratosis pilaris, and body acne—all with style.
A fixture behind the scenes at marquee runway shows (Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler), nail artist Jin Soon Choi is known as much for her carefully curated line of nail colors as for her namesake salons. In recent years, she’s branched out into sweet, seasonally inspired nail appliqués and a dedicated nail care range, proving that there’s more to a finessed manicure than polish alone.
Eggs, known for their high nutritional value, have been a mainstay in Asian skin care for centuries—but they’re decidedly not vegan. With Superegg, founder Erica Choi set out to replicate that nourishment using entirely plant-based formulations powered by proven ingredients. The line includes all the elements of a comprehensive (but edited) routine, including a pleasantly creamy cleanser.
Model Diipa Büller-Kholsa (one of the first Indian influencers to reach millions of followers) shifted from a career in law to social change before setting out to found her own beauty brand. Inspired by her mother, an Ayurvedic doctor, Büller-Kholsa drew from her own experience with acne to marry the best of modern science with age-old Ayurvedic rituals. The curated skin care offerings have recently expanded to include formulas for hair as well.
Tatcha was among the first skin care brands to bring on board a makeup artist—none other than Daniel Martin, responsible for Meghan Markle’s naturalistic wedding makeup. It was a clever move for founder Victoria Tsai, whose products draw inspiration from time-honored, Japanese beauty rituals. The line also features decidedly modern, makeup-adjacent formulations, such as a mineral sunscreen that doubles as a skin-smoothing primer.
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