Beauty trends come and go. A decade ago, it was all about the beach babe look. At another point, contouring was all the rage. But more recently, that naturally flawless, dewy image has become the ultimate obsession—and that may just be a result of the Asian skincare and beauty craze.
Back in 2011, BB and CC creams were introduced to the US market, claiming that a cream as light as a moisturizer had the ability to cover blemishes, uneven skin tones, and minor imperfections—all while protecting skin from sun and environmental damages.
The philosophy behind the creams, of actually improving the health of one’s skin instead of simply providing a cosmetic cover-up, promoted a natural look. Since then, the hype has only grown, with Western consumers adopting sheet masks, whitening creams, and serums from popular Asian brands like SK-II, Etude House, and the Face Shop.
I opted for tinted moisturizers when I began wearing makeup years ago—before BB creams became widely available—simply because I’ve always preferred a more natural look over the more obviously made-up affect that foundation can have.
Still, back in the day, some lotions nevertheless ended up looking cake-y when applied. So even when the most mainstream beauty companies in the States—such as Clinique—began to offer CC creams, I was thrilled to get easy access to a product that packs so many uses in one little tube. I, like many others across the country, became a huge fan.
It’s easy to take a look at all these products and say, So what? It’s just lotions and makeup. But the world of Asian skincare and beauty has actually played a huge role in allowing me to feel more comfortable with my roots, too.
When you grow up in suburban America where you’re a minority, embracing your own culture is undoubtedly a challenge. This starts with reconciling how physically different you are, a struggle that I faced every day from elementary school to high school. I always wondered why I didn’t have certain features that I saw in my classmates: big blue eyes, freckles, and light wavy hair that glimmered in the sunlight—among other attributes on a long list.
I always felt extremely plain with my brown eyes and round nose. My straight black hair couldn’t hold a curl, no matter how much hairspray I used. It didn’t help when my old-fashioned Vietnamese mother didn’t indulge in conversations in which I lamented over my looks and talked about how lucky those other girls were for their appearances.
One day, after having enough of my complaining and self-loathing, my mom took me to purchase my first skincare products, introducing me to the Japanese brands of Shiseido and Kose—and that’s when the tides began to turn. As she selected an assortment of products for me, she explained that the only way I can truly appreciate my unique features is to take care of them—not to mask them or change them.
I won’t claim that I, as a young teenager, fully believed her at first. But over a period of time, I started testing out different Asian (or Asian-inspired) products and eventually found some that I came to love. As I began to achieve that natural, radiant look, I stopped focusing on the fact that I didn’t look like everyone else, turning my insecurities into confidence.
Having great skin has helped me become happy with my overall appearance—and to see that there’s nothing wrong with being different. Whether we’re embracing our natural beauty or being playful with various looks, this is the stepping stone to being comfortable with and accepting who we are.
Header by Jessica Yeung