Lunar New Year — oftentimes called Chinese New Year — is one of the most widely-celebrated holidays across the Asian diaspora. Some of my favorite memories center around Lunar Near Year — eating sticky rice cake for breakfast, receiving a red envelope after kow-towing to my parents, and indulging in special Chinese dishes to usher in luck for the new year.
Historically, beauty brands have capitalized on Lunar New Year by offering special edition products (usually emblazoned in red and gold packaging). But Lunar New Year isn’t just a seasonal marketing opportunity. It’s a time for families to gather together, remember past generations’ sacrifices, celebrate how far we have come, and carry our traditions (both new and old) into a hopeful future.
This year, consider celebrating Lunar New Year by supporting these indie, Asian-owned brands and their founders who are paving the way for a more inclusive, equitable beauty space.
Inspired by nature, founder Jason Lau makes the dreamiest blushes and glitter shadows with the intent of capturing the essence of a moment or an emotion to connect with a wider audience. The product textures are ultra lightweight with major payoff and lasting power, and flattering across a wide spectrum of complexions.
Youthforia is all about making makeup more whimsical, skin-friendly, and, yes, euphoric. Founder Fiona Chan was sick of coming back home late at night (or early in the morning) after staying out with her friends and falling asleep in her makeup, only to wake up with breakouts. She decided to make beauty products that she could sleep in — and thus, Youthforia was born. The BYO Blush and the new Pregame Primer were both personally sleep-tested by Chan — she swears they actually helped to improve her skin over time.
Loved for both its efficacy and affordable price point, Cocokind was created by Priscilla Tsai as a sustainable, transparent skin care brand that won’t break the bank. The brand is also dedicated working against anti-Asian hate, teaming up with Tower 28 to create an AAPI Advocacy bundle to celebrate the Lunar New Year and benefit
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).
Known for its milky lip glosses (also included in the Cocokind x Tower28 Lunar New Year bundle) and eczema-friendly face products, Tower28 has gained major buzz since launch. Founder Amy Liu has worked for some of the biggest brands in the skin care game (ever heard of Kate Somerville or Smashbox Cosmetics?), but struggled with finding makeup products that wouldn’t irritate her eczema-prone skin. So, she made her own. Boss move!
As one of the earliest AAPI beauty brand trailblazers, Jennifer Yen of YenSa Beauty had an untraditional path to beauty. She started her career out as a villain on
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and became frustrated at the limited roles being offered to her, as well as how stage makeup was wreaking havoc on her skin. She founded beauty brands Purlisse and YenSa Beauty, both of which are heavily inspired by her Chinese heritage and based on the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine.
If you’re sick of your vitamin C serums oxidizing, feeling sticky, and smelling pungent, you’re not alone. That’s how former K-pop star Paul Baek felt before founding skin care brand Matter of Fact. Baek was overwhelmed and confused upon entering the beauty space to address his own skin issues, and resolved that there must be a way for skin care to be straightforward and simple. His determination led to a vitamin c formulation that retains 94.25% of its initial 20% ascorbic acid concentration after 16 months, according to the brand’s clinical trials. The result is a clear, light serum that brightens the skin, with none of the downsides of other vitamin C serums.
In 2019, Melissa Medvedich launched her indie brand Supernal on the Lunar New Year. Her Chinese grandparents instilled in her the importance of taking care of her skin, and Medvedich spent two years researching how to perfect her now cult-acclaimed Cosmic Glow Oil and Illumine Restorative Oil Serum (every bottle is still handcrafted in small batches by Medvedich herself!). In honor of Lunar New Year and Supernal’s third birthday on February 8th, Supernal will be offering a mini Cosmic Glow Oil and Illumine Restorative Oil Serum with every purchase on the Supernal website.
After an incredible career as a reporter, writer, and editor-in-chief of website Very Good Light, David Yi felt that the beauty industry was still lacking something — and thus, his skin care brand Good Light was born. The highly-curated skin care line offers clean, high-performance products (its
Moon Glow Milky Toning Lotion is an editor-favorite) with a mission to make the beauty space a more welcoming space for all.
Jina Kim started Circumference with the intention of combining her love of skin care with sustainable solutions. But Circumference has always veered away from greenwashing and vague claims of “clean beauty” — the brand is rooted in science, and has always been transparent about its sustainability efforts. Circumference lessens its carbon footprint while also optimizing its products efficacy by sourcing ingredients from plants raised happily in their native, bio-diverse environments.
As a Korean-American adopted by white Jewish and Christian parents, Emily Rudd struggled with finding her own identity, while also noticing how scarce the Asian representation was in advertisements and pop culture. Her search led her to brightly-colored comics, art, and beauty — and her nail polish brand, Emilie Heathe. The line is an amalgamation of all the places in her journey to self-acceptance, using Asian ingredients like bamboo, rice, and sea buckthorn to help strengthen the nails.
Strange Bird Beauty was born from Tina Chow Rudolph’s desire to prioritize her own emotional self-care, while contributing to a future with more Asian representation in the beauty space so her daughter could see herself. The ingredients of Strange Bird Beauty, like ginseng and licorice root, have been used for thousands of years in Asian culture, and all of the crystal-charged products come with an intention to say aloud as you apply.
Black Bean Grocery’s food-themed packaging transports you to Chinatown, modeled after the jars of traditional Chinese preserves lining the shelves of Asian grocers. Founded by Brandon Ly and James Bui, Black Bean Grocery’s product lineup seem to be mostly be volumizing and texturizing hair products, like a pomade, root powder (named after Chow Yun Fat), and a “Dai Lo” Styling Powder.
Sundays Nailcare takes the therapeutic process of getting your nails done to the next level. The NYC salon is a soothing space without any pressure to socialize or talk if you’re having a low-energy mental health day. Founder Amy Lin also spent a year working with a chemist to formulate the perfect non-toxic nail polish formula that won’t chip for days.
Superegg’s name and concept is based off of the centuries-old Asian skin practice of using raw egg face masks to boost skin elasticity and brightness. Founder Erica Choi, a licensed esthetician and fashion blogger, decided to start her own business after working 10 years in the luxury beauty, fashion, and hospitality industries and seeing a need for a sustainable, luxury skin care brand rooted in Asian practices. The brand’s packaging is a standout, too — the moisturizer comes in a curved, egg-like shape, and Choi has pledged to work towards refillable packaging options by 2025.
Strangers Parfumerie is an indie perfume brand based out in Thailand. The owner and founder, Prin Lomros, created the line to capture whatever inspires him (be that his own memories, his favorite movies, or the music he’s listening to) through experimental fragrances — his fragrance Oliver is actually inspired by Luca Guadagnino’s
Call Me By Your Name. His Parfums Prissana line draws directly from Asian mythology, food, and history, spanning from Russia, to Nepal, to Japan.
Glow Recipe, founded by Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, is one of the most well-known Asian-owned brands on the market — and for good reason. The brand has developed a cult following for its fruit-focused skin care products that feature innovative textures, high-tech delivery systems, and fun packaging.