What The Beauty Industry Should Do To Fight Anti-Asian Racism
Since the start of the pandemic, violence against Asian Americans has been on the rise. In San Francisco, there’s been a recent wave of racist assaults targeting elders in the Asian American community that’s caused injury and death. A native of Thailand who moved to the United States to help care for his grandchildren, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was killed last month after being attacked in the city’s Anza Vista neighborhood. In New York City on Tuesday, a 52-year-old Asian American woman was shoved to the ground outside a bakery. In light of the heinous hate crimes and ongoing discrimination against Asian Americans, we ask 25 Asian American and Asian beauty entrepreneurs and executives: What should the beauty industry do to show support for Asian Americans and combat racism against them?
- Priscilla Tsai Founder and CEO, Cocokind
As an Asian-owned brand, our hearts are heavy with the recent increase in racially-motivated attacks against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. I would encourage everyone to learn about what is happening, even if it isn’t getting the focus of mainstream media, and to speak up in your own way, regardless of how big your platform is. We must celebrate and stand with our AAPI community to make sure our voices are heard and experiences are recognized. That means putting competition aside, and lifting up the many Asian founders and businesses that are truly creating change for the better and disrupting the status quo in the beauty industry.
- Amy Liu Founder and CEO, Tower 28
We have an important responsibility as an industry to redefine beauty standards because representation matters. The information, images and aspiration we sell are extremely powerful and have a direct effect on how people view others and how they see themselves. Include all kinds of Asian faces—not just those with flawless porcelain skin and shiny jet-black hair—in your marketing and social campaigns, influencer outreach and on your internal teams. I see a lot of brands just tick off the minority box with one stereotype, but Asian includes many races and cultures which are vastly different. As a medium-skinned Chinese American, there were rarely people in the media that looked like me because I didn't fit the typical Asian standard of beauty. The industry needs to come together to set a new standard for what Asian beauty looks like that is more diverse and inclusive.
- Lin Chen Founder and CEO, Pink Moon
Speak out, spread awareness, include us, and do not appropriate our culture. Asian Americans have been facing racism for over a century. We’ve had our hardships, too, and we’re not all crazy rich, contrary to popular belief. The COVID anti-Asian hate crimes/incidents have been occurring since last spring. Where was everyone—people speaking out aside from the victims—when that was happening? There was barely any media coverage then, and no one was really talking about them. Make us feel included and heard. We’re part of the racism conversation, too.
Include us in your curation/website. When I look at makeup brands' websites and social feeds, I hardly ever see Asians in photos modeling the colors and products. According to recent statistics, Asian Americans “overspend in almost all beauty categories,” and we spend “70% more than the average share of the U.S. population on skincare.” Not only that, but also remember that Asian beauty is more than just K-Beauty.
Lastly, be sensitive about cultural appropriation. Gua sha is a Chinese-originating massage technique, and I often see non-Asian owned brands launch gua sha tools that never even mention Traditional Chinese Medicine and its origins. One of the main reasons why I launched our gua sha tool was to celebrate my upbringing and heritage. I grew up with Traditional Chinese Medicine in my household, and I wanted to share that and celebrate it and my culture. I think the beauty industry can do better and promote gua sha tools from Asian-owned brands who are genuinely selling the tools to share their heritage and celebrate an ancient healing system.
- Mia Chae Reddy Founder and Creative Director, Dehiya Beauty
As a biracial, Asian Black American growing up in a small, close-minded, Midwestern town in the 1980s, I felt “safer” to identify as Asian—my lighter half. I, a teacher and believer in inclusion, have been guilty of erasing the problems Asian Americans deal with on the daily.
Growing up, I had no idea at the time just how complicated Asian identity really is. I just thought it was “easier” than being Black. It feels much like the middle-child syndrome—excluded, ignored, or even outright neglected—but with so much more at stake. For too long, Asians have been rendered invisible or exoticized, still only to be seen in a certain capacity that is determined by the oppressor. Stay docile, stay grateful, keep achieving. Suffer in silence.
How can we combat this racism in the beauty industry? As superficial as beauty can seem on the surface, it is a really powerful space to effect change. When Asians are acknowledged and seen, the importance for inclusive education, more representation and wider color ranges is prioritized.
So, where do we start? The same way we disrupt all the other false narratives about our beauty, heritages and cultures: We use our voices and share Asian stories, stories of diverse and nuanced Asian experiences, from little girls to sage elders.
Like I’ve always said, Dehiya’s products are just a vehicle to have larger conversations around beauty. Beauty isn’t just about looks. It’s also about exercising your freedom to feel good about yourself and your identity. It’s an expression of how we see ourselves in the world, and a sense of belonging, community and feeling seen. This is what I can offer, the message that I see you, welcome you and want you to be seen. I will do my part to redefine the narrative and celebrate our beauty.
- Janice Buu Founder and CEO, Kana Skincare
I am extremely heartbroken to witness the hate crimes and racism that's going on in our society today. All industries are responsible for supporting organizations that are fighting anti-Asian hate crimes. In the beauty space, it is not just about posting more Asian American faces and models’ beauty shots via Instagram, but actually sharing accurate information about the hate crimes and incidents that are happening around the world since the mainstream media is avoiding much of its coverage. This helps eliminate misinformation and unite us all as humans, acknowledge that we come from different cultural backgrounds, and that uniqueness is to be shared and celebrated.
In recent years, the beauty industry has been changing the game of "standard beauty." Perfection does not mean fair/light skin tones, flawlessness no longer equates to a freckles-free face, rather highlighting all from different backgrounds, genders and cultures.
I believe in prevention over reaction. Instead of incorporating Asian American-related outreach only after a hate crime has taken place or the Black Lives Matter movement only after awful incidents, the beauty industry as a whole could include all, unite all and recognize all, while creating concepts and marketing their brands. It is our job to bring forth the heart and passion to unite our community.
- Bee Shapiro Founder, Ellis Brooklyn
Asian Americans have a complicated history with the beauty industry in the U.S. When I was growing up, there was almost zero representation of Asian American or even Asian beauty on TV or in any media. Even in instances where Asian Americans did become more prominent, they were almost always of mixed race—think Lucy Liu as our Halle Berry. It wasn’t until the rise of Korean beauty and magazines from Asia like Vogue China that were booking and building the careers of Asian models that the idea of Asian beauty became more accepted.
But as an Asian American, where did that leave us? While seeing more Asian faces in mainstream ads and media is a wonderful thing, the Asian American aesthetic is often different than that directly from Asia. One example I see a lot: the red lipstick, pale skin look that is a stereotypical Asia standard of beauty. Meanwhile, an Asian American from SoCal may prefer her skin tanned, hair bleached until nearly blonde, and a couple tattoos to boot. I don’t believe in cancel culture, and I think there is room for all these kinds of looks. But the nuance of the American part is often lost, which is key to note here because it continues to perpetuate the notion of Asian Americans as “other,” as not belonging, as not American, and this positioning can make us vulnerable to racism. So the way forward is to recognize that Asian Americans are distinct and are varied, and they are American as well. The communication and representation has to be aware of this and recognize these nuances straight on and overtly.
- Ada Hsieh Founder and CEO, Ada Lip Beauty
In my opinion, one of the main reasons racism exists against Asians is because the social dialogue hasn't really changed. We're still seen as outsiders in this country even if we were born here and speak perfect English. Change is always uncomfortable, and it starts with having uncomfortable conversations, asking uncomfortable intentional, thoughtful questions to learn about our experiences and culture. This applies to everything and is no different in regards for the beauty industry to learn. One way to be inclusive and to show support is by having a diverse leading team in place. There's a saying that says, "The fish rots from the head." Underserved voices will only be heard when the leading team is open, compassionate and wants to hear to learn.
- Anna Doan Founder, Reveal Beauty
Show up, be present and stand shoulder-to-shoulder against crimes of racial injustices targeted against Asians. It’s been so disappointing to see mass media avoid the racial issues taking place targeted against Asian Americans. The beauty industry—and all industries—have a huge opportunity to drive awareness by partnering with local Asian American social justice organizations and supporting them in this time. If this was a Black Lives Matter story, this would be all over the news. Yet for the Asian American community, it seems awareness and coverage to support is little to none as if no one cares or that Asian American lives do not matter.
Drive awareness about xenophobia. Calling out direct and indirect racism associated with the global pandemic and peaceful protests against systemic racism against the Asian American community. Celebrating beauty and dignity is Reveal Beauty’s purpose and mission, and the ability to practice this in all aspects. For example, inviting friends, family and our networks to intentionally reach out and check in with Asian Americans and celebrate their beauty and dignity. Taking an active part in supporting shoulder-to-shoulder with racial Asian-targeted issues that are heavily weighed on the Asian American community. Celebrating all victories—big and small—that Asian Americans have achieved and survived through in these difficult times, especially since the global pandemic.
- Melissa Medvedich Founder and CEO, Supernal
As a Chinese American in the beauty industry, this is such an important conversation that resonates with me so deeply though I often have a hard time expressing my many feelings and desires for change. I've found myself looking to leaders in the Asian American beauty community like David Yi, who shares important actions to raise awareness and make change, and the editorial director of Byrdie, Faith Xue, who recently wrote an extremely powerful essay where she shares some of her experiences as an Asian American. If you haven’t read it already, I would highly recommend it. In the piece she writes, "We must build a bigger table, together. It is not us or them. It is all of us, altogether, united.”
- Ju Rhyu Co-Founder and CEO, Hero Cosmetics
I think it goes back to ensuring diversity and representation across three things: self, work and community. For self, it means focusing on personal education and understanding to see if you have any unconscious biases, not just against Asians, but other racial communities and learning about these cultural backgrounds. For work, it means making sure your workplace is a tolerant and open place for people of all backgrounds, including Asians. Ensure your hiring is diverse, that your content represents people of all backgrounds, and that your copy is sensitive to all. Make sure your brand is not leveraging cultural appropriation products or marketing. For community, it means using your brand and business or even personal influence to help support the community. This can be by giving time or monetary donations. There are some great organizations to support. I have personally supported Next Shark to give a media voice to the Asian American community, Stop AAPI Hate to help on a local, state and national level, and the NYC-based Enough is Enough campaign to help support on a grassroots level in the NYC area.
- Liz Kang Yates Founder, K Banana
Anti-Asian racism is not a new issue and raising awareness by leveraging industry platforms can aid in continuing the conversation and calls to action. There are many ways to get involved: practice compassion, allyship, support Asian-owned businesses and donate to causes that fight against racism. We must unite against racism in all its forms and work to collaborate, partner and support each other.
- My Le Co-Founder, EmBeba
My elderly parents, who emigrated from Vietnam and settled in New York City more than 25 years ago, have found themselves fearful of stepping out of their own home to buy food and daily necessities. They worried not only about catching COVID-19, but also that they’d be attacked because they were Asian and were said to be "carrying the virus."
I believe that these blind attacks on Asians in America are driven by ignorance, and that community, education and allyship are primary ways to combat such ignorance. As the co-founder of EmBeba, a clean family skincare brand, community is integral to our brand experience. We are building an ambassador program where parents can share their experiences and tips and tricks on parenting and skincare for children. We are conscious of representation and diversity within that community, and in our role and opportunity to promote allyship across races. As we build our ambassador program, we are committed to showcasing children and families of all races, and creating a welcoming and inclusive environment.
- Ginger King Founder and CEO, FanLoveBeauty
I am very careful these days not to mention the Chinese New Year, but rather, the Lunar New Year. I also know some people disguise themselves when going out to avoid trouble, which is a shame. More than ever, I am telling people I am Taiwanese from Taiwan, which is different from mainland China. In 2021, people should focus on the good things that Asian people have provided the world such as manufacturing efficiency and new technologies. When it comes to beauty, yes there are K-Beauty and J-Beauty, but do not exclude other Asian beauty brands. To be fair, if retailers are promoting Black-owned brands, perhaps [they should] give Asian brands a chance, especially if they are founded by female founders.
Do not let the pandemic pollute your consciousness so that you [instigate] more hate crimes. It is everyone's responsibility to make sure we all have equality. The bottom line is equality means highlighting each ethnic group to be truly inclusive. We all live on the same globe. Learn to appreciate the beauty each group can bring.
- Diane Read Founder and CEO, Mo Mi Beauty
Representation matters in the beauty industry. In recent years, there has been more progress when it comes to positive representation for Asians. However, with anti-Asian hate crimes on the rise since the pandemic began, it has become more important to continue to quell fear used to justify racism. The beauty industry has a strong voice and has the ability to be a powerful force to do good.
Here are some of my thoughts on how it can help create that change: dispel xenophobia by promoting models of Asian descent. Use the beauty industry's vast reach to share educational links and overall awareness that can make a difference for those who are affected and feel unsafe. Highlight Asian American voices in the beauty community through the lens of their Asian American experience. Share facts and ways in which to be a good citizen by challenging harmful remarks referring to COVID as the “Chinese virus.” Creatively collaborate with Asian American brands, bloggers and writers, and lead by example by showing support in taking a stand against racism.
The beauty industry has a lot of power to unite people and widen perspectives by simply speaking up for each other and celebrating our diversity. I founded Mo Mi as a beauty and lifestyle brand for everyone interested in sustainable, plant-based products and to celebrate our diversity.
- Tina Chow Rudolf Founder, Strange Bird
The beauty industry’s job is to tell stories. Not only because we are selling an aspiration, but also because we are quite literally defining what it means to be beautiful and, therefore, acceptable. These stories are what help shape the reality and the experiences of people who are watching. These stories help shape the world in which we live. So, not for a minute do I underestimate the power of this industry and what it can do, for better or worse. As a first-generation Chinese American, I grew up without seeing myself represented in the magazines I read, the movies I watched, the brands I bought from. I am all too familiar with the impact that had on me. How does a young girl grow up to see herself fit into a world that doesn’t see her? I guess that in itself was a lesson and a reckoning. In so many ways, Strange Bird is an attempt at not only healing those wounds that are still raw, but also changing the status quo so that my daughter won't have to experience the same trauma.
I see many of our white brothers and sisters trying to raise their voice and level the playing field for all of us, but I also understand that that in itself is a privilege and one exercised from the comfort of a world where they are acknowledged, where every system and structure is put in place to support and protect them. As I write this, there is an undeniable feeling that arises, questioning how honest should I be? Will they write me off, is everyone already fatigued by all of this "social justice" stuff, are they going to say, "Not again...now what?!" Please understand that for me, speaking up is not a privilege, but a prayer.
We as underrepresented communities—Black, Asian, brown, transgendered—are too often used when convenient and, then, put back into our respective buckets when done with. Pitting us against each other—see the model minority—appropriating from our culture—see all the white-owned beauty brands rooted in Chinese traditions, tokenizing—see Chinese New Year launches by white-owned brands—only perpetuates white supremacy by allowing us to stay "other," a one-dimensional trend and not completely whole. [This], of course, makes us easier to victimize, assault, scapegoat and outcast.
If we are never represented as whole human beings, then it is easier to watch your neighbor brutalize us and only feel a slight pang of injustice without doing very much more about it. The beauty industry has a huge responsibility, not only in the cause of this problem, but in the solution. By supporting businesses owned and operated by underrepresented people, we are giving them—us, me—a space to tell our story and our version of it, unadulterated, unfiltered through white-washing. This is the purest form of activism. As a business owner, I am creating the space to tell my story, saying it loud and clear on my own terms, and getting people listen to it.
- Eddie Zhao Co-Founder, Yüli Skincare
As a minority, we’re still in the single-digit percentage of the overall population. Major exit polls don’t even care to see where we fall on issues. We’re usually lumped into the “other” group if we’re represented at all, so what does that tell you about our place in this country?
In terms of what the beauty industry can do to show support and combat racism against Asian Americans, I think the answer lies in examining the power structures that helm the multifaceted beauty industry, from retailers and brands to investors as well as the media and publications. It’s my hope that there is more BIPOC representation overall in the industry, but especially in leadership roles. Change comes from the top. This includes the mastheads of influential publications, executive teams at venture capital firms, buyers in retail teams, leadership roles at brands and so forth. Increased diversity champions new voices that haven’t been heard, and these voices most often speak to others who have not been represented. Decades of data in employment practices is clear. Asian Americans are recognized as highly competent, incredibly skillful and valuable team members, yet we are the most overlooked and undervalued.
These prejudices didn’t just happen. It’s underlying, and the longer-term work needs to come from ongoing evaluation, reflection and correction. This is less tangible than a direct action item, but that’s why they say you have to “do the work.” Sure, tangible targets like setting up pledges to carry Asian American brands, investing a percentage of your funds into Asian American-made brands can and do help, but these quota systems are a band-aid that, at best, don’t address the core systemic oppression and, at worst, tokenize who we are, which isn’t the goal. The goal is equality, which includes access to the same opportunities as our white peers, and having our work and value be recognized in a system that hasn’t been set up to appreciate our worth.
I encourage the beauty industry to confront internalized biases. This includes how a buyer or investor might evaluate brands, how an editor might approach products, how PR does their messaging, how analysts shape their forecasts about the market, etc. Our own firsthand experiences at Yüli include conversations with perfectly nice retail founders who reach out to us and communicate how they pride themselves on their curation though they’re largely repetitive and look like everyone else's, where at least 80% of the brands they carry happen to not be BIPOC-founded.
For brands and retailers, especially those that make money from products and services that draw from Asian practices, let’s all be more mindful around rhetoric we use, especially because I know there will be some who aren’t going further than virtue signaling and superficial social media allyship. I’d encourage them to consider the language and approach they use for things like Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and general Eastern practices as it pertains to concepts like herbal remedies and gua sha.
Are they empowering the culture or are they commodifying and exploiting the culture? Is the messaging Orientalizing and exoticizing our traditions and, on the other hand, are they erasing us from the narrative of our own culture? If they don’t have a comfortable handle on it, I’d encourage some self-reflection, followed by the inclusion of Asian American voices.
Finally, for all the Asian Americans in the beauty industry, I see you. We are not a monolith, but there is a common bond that lies in the hyphen of our multicultural identity that shapes our experiences as minorities in a majority culture. I believe that sharing our authentic, oftentimes nuanced and complex narratives is a powerful tool to shape the future, especially when violence and racism against our community have historically been underreported and unrealized.
- Mary Jane Ong President, Pili Ani
Being a part of an emerging Asian beauty brand, we feel that it is important to let everyone understand that, in life, there should be no race or gender inequality issues. We are all human beings that breathe, eat and share the same space on earth. We should come in unity to address these issues .
I think there a lot of diversity and inclusion commitment support in the retail front happening, and I believe that this is one big step to foster better understanding in the inclusive beauty scape in general. Showcasing different beauty cultures in retail platforms and showing the identity of each culture would be a great step in healing and showing diversity support.
- Jennifer Chung Founder, Embody
Growing up as a Vietnamese American immigrant, I had a hard time finding my identity. I didn’t feel Vietnamese enough or American enough, so I tried to deny my roots by changing my looks, the way I talked, and my interests to be more “Americanized” and “acceptable.”
As I got older and started to learn about my people’s history, it became clear that there’s a disconnect between the older generations who immigrated during the war and the new generations who were born and raised in the U.S. I am passionate about helping my community to bridge that generational gap so younger Asian Americans can use their voice for change to share the stories of their people.
The Asian American experience is so unique and complex, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but I believe that the first step to combating anti-Asian American racism is to share our stories with the world. Beauty brands can support this mission by creating space on their platforms for Asian Americans. Make a concerted effort to hire Asian American talent for your campaigns and influencer programs, and encourage the sharing of diverse experiences!
Stop supporting the fetishization of Asian women through trends like the “fox-eye” look. In fact, stop supporting the fetishization of POC in general. If we can create a space in which our differences are celebrated instead of fetishized and commodified, we can start to see each other for who we are instead of what we are.
- Isabel Tan Content Creator, Prettyfrowns
It's not enough for brands to just include one Asian person in a campaign and call it a day. First, people need to realize that there are so many different types of Asians. We look different, and we all come from different cultural backgrounds.
It'd be nice to see brands that are using traditional Asian ingredients or techniques (turmeric, ginger, green tea, gua sha tools, just to name a few) use the opportunity to share some history and help educate consumers about it. It's hard to see that things we used to be made fun of like the shape of our eyes become a trend ("fox-eye" makeup), and I hope that, by exposure to our culture and history, people will become more aware and recognize the community.
- Emily Heath Rudman Founder, Emilie Heathe
My heart has been especially heavy these past weeks with the rise of violent attacks on the Asian-American community. It is particularly disturbing during a time when we should be celebrating the Lunar New Year. Instead, we see non-Asian-founded brands capitalizing on a holiday meant to celebrate a large part of the Asian community stay silent about the recent attacks and ongoing racism and discrimination towards Asian Americans, particularly during the pandemic.
For too long, Asian Americans have dealt with the “model-minority” complex, which we as Americans must now dispel. We must stop feeling like we are “lucky” to have a seat at the table that we see others left out of entirely because, just as easily as those opportunities are given, they can be taken away.
This discrimination is more prevalent now during the pandemic, where Asian Americans have been acutely subjected to blame, isolation and fear. The beauty industry has a duty to rid the industry of unfair stereotypes and subjugating brands into buckets as “Asian” beauty.
As an adopted Korean American, my ideals of beauty are not influenced by where I was born, but rather where I grew up in New York City. I rarely saw people who looked like me and, if or when I did, it was shown in a very stereotypical way. Asian American beauty extends so far beyond southeast Asian standards or what we see in media. It’s all so mixed and varied and should be represented as such.
We should make space for representation and stop using qualifiers like “for an Asian” in our language. How about just saying “she/he/they is beautiful” period? Brands should also go beyond just showing Asian Americans in their ads or marketing materials, they should make conscientious strides to work with Asian Americans and many other BIPOC creators behind the scenes on their marketing shoots, including photographers, beauty artists, creative directors and beyond.
- JuE Wong CEO, Olaplex
As a woman in the beauty industry originally from Singapore, it is heart breaking for me to see violence against Asian Americans on the rise. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my perspective on such an important issue. I believe racism of any kind stems from ignorance and the saying, "Knowledge is power," really rings true especially in this instance.
It’s important to provide platforms where different communities, whether on social media, in the workplace or among friends and family, have a "safe zone" to have conversations and discussions that are not judged and filtered. We need to respond to racism not with anger and frustration, but with the purpose of showing why their perception of Asian Americans is flawed. Only through increased awareness and education, will we be able to create positive change to unite us all.
- Phoebe Song CEO and Founder, Snow Fox
I’m the daughter of first-generation immigrants. I know firsthand the experience of growing up as a minority. It’s crazy to think that, in 2021, Asians and other minority groups have to feel unsafe while walking down the street. The anti-Asian sentiment is not new, but the pandemic has certainly emboldened racists to commit violent, hateful acts out in the open. The lack of media coverage and mass public outcry says a lot about how much more improvement is needed in this space.
To start, the beauty industry can help raise awareness by posting about this on their socials and starting a conversation about Anti-Asian crimes. Stop AAPI Hate is a national coalition of different Asian American groups that are working to address Anti-Asian hate crimes. Support them by tagging them [in social posts] and donating to their cause.
Some of the hate crimes are particularly disturbing. Six Buddhist temples were vandalized within a single month in Little Saigon. Two children aged 2 and 6, along with their father, were slashed with a knife in Texas while grocery shopping. An elderly Thai man was murdered in public. Asian females make up the majority of reported attacks. At the same time, the model minority myth is continually pushed, harming Asian minority groups even more by downplaying their suffering.
Personally, I was walking down the street in Manhattan in February 2020, not even thinking about my safety during broad daylight. Just one week later, an Asian woman my age was attacked walking in the same area. I could have been her. I’m no stranger to verbal racist abuse, having experienced it before. I can tell you that it’s humiliating and dehumanizing. When it crosses over from verbal to physical, it’s much worse.
The current political rhetoric shifts the blame on Asians for “starting” the virus. This is so incredibly irresponsible. These victims of violence have nothing to do with that. There are also uncomfortable questions that society needs to address: Why is there a misconception that Asian Americans are less American and, therefore, have fewer rights? Why are Asians seen as easy targets? The recent spate of attacks on the Asian elderly showcases how far some would go to pick on the vulnerable.
Another thing the beauty industry—and anyone else can do—is to question and discuss their own perceived beliefs about Asian communities. Do not fall for the model minority myth. Do not generalize about all Asians in general. Asia is incredibly diverse within itself with thousands of subgroups, cultures and languages. Most of all, it’s time to mutually educate and empathize as a community in the midst of a global pandemic that affects all genders, races and ages.
- Anita Chan Owner, Anita B Spa
The beauty industry is one of the most influential industries that has the ability to truly create change. As a licensed aesthetician that has worked in the beauty/wellness industry for more than 20 years, I know that it is about more than just vanity. Most of my work with clients goes way beyond skin deep because beauty is the evolution of self-love, and self-love is the root of mental wellness.
Our industry as whole can contribute to combating racism against Asian Americans by really taking this moment, where there is a demand for inclusion, to start having conversations about how to treat a variety of skin types and perhaps even ancient beauty rituals that have been modernized to fit the ever-growing diverse market we are appealing to.
When I went to beauty school to become an aesthetician 17 years ago, all of the textbooks and training material were written for white skin. I never learned how to treat any skin type beyond three on the Fitzpatrick scale that goes up to six. The Fitzpatrick skin typing is a numerical classification for skin color and its response to UV rays. Therefore, it was scary to work on non-white skin.
As a makeup artist, I heard many Asian and Black customers complain about the difficulty to find an artist who knew how to work on monolids or darker complexions. There is no doubt that race has always been a factor in how skin is treated or makeup shades have been mixed, so to share the knowledge of where certain tools or ingredients came from can help spread awareness about different cultural beliefs and practices. This needs to start in the basic education level from cosmetology schools across the nation and major beauty retailers.
Growing up as an Asian American myself, I always paid attention to trends happening in Asia and the U.S. I noticed a lot of innovation that was going on in Asia would appear in the U.S. usually around two years later with never any mentions as to where those trends came from and cultural appropriation by the American brands. A diverse representation of races is needed because the beauty industry plays such a huge role in setting the standards of what beautiful is.
I believe that fear and lack of education is at the core of the racism that has plagued our country and, the more we are exposed to something, the less we fear it. A mutual understanding is truly the bridge to solidarity, while still celebrating individualism. We have a responsibility to help each other feel comfortable in their own skin and advocate to our audience what self-care looks like, regardless of what ethnicity they identify with.
- Jin Soon Choi Founder, Jinsoon
It saddens me that we still have to speak up and fight against racial hate crimes. I long to live in a world where everyone is viewed as a human being and respects all races and cultures. Asian Americans have a reputation for being passive and avoiding trouble, and that contributes to making us targets. But it is time we speak up and raise our voices with the support from our friends in the beauty and fashion industry.
We must use our platforms to share the beauty of being human and understand how these industries have the power to make real change in the world we see, how they can make all people feel beautiful, regardless of their background through representation and consideration.
I would like to urge people to raise their voice and create a space for this long overdue conversation. Be kind to each other, respect each other, be honest with each other. That will make the world a better place. Hate will only cause hurt.
- Catherine Chang Plastic Surgeon, Cassileth Plastic Surgery And Skin Care
Growing up in a city that was composed of a primarily Caucasian demographic, I was one of the handful of non-white children at my school. I grew up constantly being reminded that I looked different and, therefore, was subject to being treated differently at times. I know what it was like to see strangers yelling racial slurs at my family and telling us to “go back to China."
As I grew older and started to dabble in skincare and cosmetics, I quickly realized that most foundations were either too pink of an undertone or too dark for my complexion. Earlier this year, I know what it is like to have strangers accuse friends and colleagues of eating exotic animals and being responsible for the coronavirus. And sadly today, I am watching videos of innocent victims, oftentimes Asian American elders, being attacked simply because of their race.
I think it is important to speak out against all racism, period. Asian American hate crime is not something new, it is just the topic that rarely gets media coverage. Asian American racism is often under-reported, and I believe the first step to combating this issue is to acknowledge that it exists by reporting about it on mainstream media in addition to what is being reported now on social media.
Specifically, for the beauty and fashion industry, incorporating more Asian models is also critically important to help normalize standards of beauty. It is important for young impressionable girls to understand that beauty comes in all different shapes, colors and ethnicities. Women of color consistently face these issues in the beauty industry where makeup and skincare are predominantly made for Caucasians. For example, inside many eyeshadow palettes there are often basic illustration tutorials on how to apply the eyeshadow colors, but they are only meant for non-Asian eyelids. These subtle exclusions contribute to the overall impression that Asians are an afterthought for the beauty industry.
I believe the beauty industry is incredibly powerful, and has the ability to unite all communities and ethnicities through both direct and indirect dialogues on equality and inclusion. Racism will not change overnight. However, it is important to continue to encourage open discussions and understand one’s internal bias to build for a better future together.
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