These AAPI Founders Are Changing the Way We See Beauty and Creating a More Inclusive Space

These ladies are changing the industry

AAPI Beauty Founder Charlotte Cho | Reflect Beauty
Photo courtesy of brand

The Asian American and Pacific Islander community is one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the U.S. According to Pew Research, the U.S. Asian population is expected to reach 46 million by 2060. But this incredibly diverse community is far from monolithic. There standing alongside doctors and scientists are artists and entrepreneurs. 

That’s why, in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we’re highlighting AAPI founders who are changing the beauty industry and pioneering the way for many more AAPI entrepreneurs. 

[SEE ALSO: 5 PerfumeTok Creators You Should Follow]

With hard work, resilience, and an enterprising, collaborative spirit, these AAPI female founders have permanently carved their place in an industry that is still fighting to shake European standards of beauty. Here’s a look at some of the most inspiring AAPI beauty founders. 

Charlotte Cho, co-founder of Soko Glam and founder of Then I Met You

Charlotte Cho and her husband, Dave, co-founded Soko Glam in 2012 as a premiere online destination for people in the U.S. to discover Korean skincare and cosmetics. Back then, the famous 10-step Korean skincare routine was only beginning to earn its spot in the Western beauty spotlight, but Soko Glam helped put it on the map, and it became one the most sought-after and recognized skincare rituals out there. 

Ever since, Cho has cemented her place as a leader in the beauty space, which has led to the creation of her own line of award-winning skincare products called Then I Met You. As an Asian American founder, Cho hopes to see more inclusivity and diversity in the beauty industry. 

“We need to see more representation across different ethnicities, skin tones, and cultural backgrounds. This means not only featuring diverse models in campaigns but also ensuring that diverse voices and perspectives are heard and included in decision-making processes, such as when making our Essence Light Suncreen SPF 50 that can be used for all skin tones,” Cho explains. “It’s important to acknowledge that beauty is not ‘one size fits all’ and that different cultures and communities have unique beauty traditions and needs.”

Then I Met You was inspired by the Korean philosophy of jeong, which encompasses deep emotional connections, care, and empathy. Cho has instilled jeong into the way she runs her businesses, daily life, and her own personal career path. 

Jeong has taught me to approach my work with empathy and to truly listen to the needs and desires of our customers. It has inspired me to create products and experiences that not only deliver results but also foster a sense of connection and care. By infusing our brands with jeong, we aim to create a community where individuals feel seen, understood, and supported,” Cho says. 

Susan Yara, founder of Naturium

Susan Yara was fully immersed in the beauty scene long before she created Naturium, a plant-based skincare and body care line. Yara started her career as a news reporter in New York City, where she eventually went on to work as an on-camera beauty reporter and producer for PopSugar and led the relaunch of She also launched her own YouTube channel called Mixed Makeup, where she shares her honest reviews of various makeup, hair, and skincare products. 

Today, Naturium is one of the most highly regarded skincare brands that marries the latest innovations in science with the power of plant botanicals and tackles a variety of skin issues at an affordable price point. Using the the power of plant botanicals, Naturium’s products hone in on fine lines, uneven skin tone, dehydration, dullness, redness, and acne.

Naturium’s Multi-Peptide Moisturizer is a beauty editor favorite. It’s formulated with vitamin C and peptides to help reduce the look of fine lines. It leaves your skin smooth and supple, and it dries quickly. 

Amy Liu, founder of Tower 28

Founder Amy Liu created Tower 28 after working more than 15 years as a beauty executive. Having lived with eczema her whole life, Liu was dismayed at how limited the beauty space is for people with sensitive skin like hers. Enter: Tower 28. This skincare and makeup line is made of hypo-allergenic, fragrance-free, and dermatologist-approved ingredients. Tower 28 products are also completely vegan and non-toxic, so you can feel good using them—especially those with sensitive skin. From tinted lip blams to lip and cheek sets to tinted sunscreens, there’s something for everyone. 

If you’re new to Tower 28, one product you shouldn’t skimp on is its award-winning MakeWaves Lengthening + Volumizing Mascara. This cult favorite has a lightweight formula that truly lengthens and volumizes your lashes. 

Liah Yoo, founder of Krave Beauty

Founder Liah Yoo got her start in the beauty industry while working for Amore Pacific, one of Korea’s largest skincare and cosmetic companies. She is also a beauty influencer and creates videos on her YouTube channel, where she reviews products and tackles common skincare questions. From researching what sheet masks are made of to the effectiveness of collagen powder supplements, Yoo addresses it all.

One common conversation Yoo kept hearing was confusion over what should be part of a standard skincare routine. For instance, do you need a vitamin C serum? How do you apply essence correctly? That’s why she started Krave Beauty in 2017. According to Krave Beauty’s ethos, you shouldn’t be layering product after product on your skin; you should be using products that your skin is personally craving. By simplifying your skincare routine, you can figure out exactly what your skin needs. For example, Krave’s core series includes just three simple products: a cleanser, a moisturizer, and a sunscreen.

Alicia Yoon, founder of Peach & Lily

Growing up, founder Alicia Yoon battled with severe eczema and became extremely interested in skincare. After graduating from Harvard Business School, Yoon decided to follow her passion and launched Peach & Lily, curating an ecommerce platform that curates the most innovative and effective Korean beauty products.

In order to personally hand-pick products for the site, Yoon goes through an extensive vetting process. She brings in experts—including dermatologists and esthetiticians—as well as real consumers of different ethnic backgrounds, skin types, and ages to select which products belong on the site. Since starting Peach & Lily, Yoon has launched her own eponymous line of award-winning skincare products that are famous for kicking off the “glass skin trend.” She also created Peach Slices, an affordable line of face and eye masks, cleansers, moisturizers, toners, and serums geared for the younger consumer who wants to take care of their skin.

Deepica Mutyala, founder of Live Tinted

Deepica Mutyala hit social stardom when her makeup tutorial for covering dark circles with red lipstick went viral. Years later, Mutyala launched digital platform Live Tinted, a site that brought together those most underrepresented in the beaty community. Through community conversation, the first product of the now beauty line was born.

Live Tinted continues to be a space for all people of color to find the suppoert (and products!) that truly tackle their specific beauty goals and concerns. 

Michelle Phan, founder of Em Cosmetics

Michelle Phan is the original beauty influencer. You might remember her makeup tutorials and transformations on her YouTube channel. From learning how to draw the perfect cat-eye with a liquid liner to recreating Taylor Swift’s music video looks, Phan’s videos combine art with glamour and self-expression.

Phan’s YouTube success gave her the springboard to launch her makeup line, Em Cosmetics. After a social media hiatus, Phan re-launched Em Cosmetics in 2017 with more simplified products, including foundation cushions, blush, bronzers, and highlighters to eyeshadows, lip tints, and lip liners. Phan’s philosophy behind creating Em Cosmetics is to have everyday makeup products that help you to feel good while also nourishing your skin. The Daydream Cushion Foundation, for example, is built with SPF 50 and contains niacinamide and green papaya fruit extract to help improve your skin’s texture and keep it hydrated.

Christine Chang and Sarah Lee, co-founders of Glow Recipe

Christine Chang and Sarah Lee bonded over their passion for K-beauty and after years working at L’Oreal together, they decided to quit their jobs to launch Glow Recipe in 2014. What started out as an online site that curated skincare products from Korea is now its own skincare line. 

[READ MORE: Beauty Glow Up Tips From a Celeb Makeup Artist]

Inspired by Chang and Lee’s Korean roots, Glow Recipe’s products are formulated with antioxidant-rich fruit extracts. In fact, some of their best-selling products, like the Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops, contains—you guessed it—watermelon, which provides vitamins A and C and amino acids to help keep skin plump and moisturized. Although watermelon is the star of their skincare collection, other fruits, like strawberry, plum, avocado, and papaya, have been introduced into their products.