Introducing #PLSkinterviews—First Up, Our Very Own Alicia Yoon
Welcome to #PLSkinterviews. I’m kicking off our new series, in which we’ll talk to people who inspire us about the role skin care plays in their lives. These Skinterviews might mention products, but more than that, I want the Skinterviews to highlight people’s journeys towards healthier skin.
Peach & Lily lets me have a lot of conversations about how people approach taking care of their skin. Whether that’s speaking to a renowned dermatologist in Korea or one of our customers who has perfected a regimen for her skin, I’ve learned a lot and been inspired to try new things for my skin.
Most of all, I’m so glad that there are more conversations about skin care as a form of self-care. Wanting to achieve healthy skin and keep it at its best isn’t a vanity thing, and being high maintenance about it isn’t necessarily narcissistic.
For example, consider the awareness of fitness and nutrition in the U.S., regarding how we stay fit, and what and how we eat. I love that people take control of their wellness and develop personalized approaches to how to keep the body strong and what it means to eat healthily.
My hope is that through our Skinterviews, we can share personalized approaches to keeping skin healthy and learn inspiring personal skin philosophies, beauty styles, and techniques. I hope that these candid Skinterviews will inspire, encourage and empower the Peach & Lily community to make their own skin care rituals something they look forward to, and their skin situations, just that—situations that they feel empowered, and capable of changing, maintaining, overhauling, or simply controlling to keep skin at its healthiest!
I’ll go first :)
Alicia Yoon’s Skinterview
It’s not contagious. It’s eczema.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve felt the need to say this in response to people inching away from me with faces aghast at my angry red, freshly scabbed over rashes. The rashes would be all over my body, even on my face. Growing up in New York and Seoul, where summers are humid and hot, rashes or not, I’m wearing tank tops and shorts because it’s ninety degrees out.
As a more secure thirty-something year-old, my confidence is, thankfully, no longer contingent on the visibility of eczema rashes. The younger me, though, didn’t always find it easy to feel good when friends would see my eczema patches, and awkwardly, apologetically look away when I saw them staring.
Eczema has been a constant struggle, but my struggle with it was my introduction to skincare (a blessing in disguise)—I learned to take care of my skin as a result of battling these flare ups.
Growing up, I became familiar with the list of don't-eat-do-eats and all the home remedies and classic eczema cult-favorite-remedies: oatmeal, baking soda baths, cortisone, vitamin E, coconut oil, argan oil, fish oil, propolis, tons of humectants, ceramides, steam baths, shea butter, this list really goes on and on…
To make it worse, until I got to college, I was a competitive platform diver, and being in and out of a pool certainly didn’t help my rashy skin. By my late teen years, though, I had gotten my eczema somewhat (very somewhat) under control, but I was exasperated. I felt confused by all the ingredients, and the inconsistent reactions to products – it all felt like an art to me and I kind of just gave up and figured that life would go on even if I could never have flake/rash/itch-free skin.
My watershed skin-moment was when I started attending classes to become an aesthetician in Korea in 1999. It was all very happenstance, but taking classes and learning about things like the epithelial system, product formulations, and how ingredients impact the skin, I started to feel excited that perhaps I could study my way towards better skin. This began my passion for skincare. In addition to studying my notes from class, I began to really study my own body and skin. I took scrupulous notes of all the variables – was I stressed? what did I eat? how much did I sleep? what products did I use? how did I apply these products? and examined my own responses to see what results could be achieved. I kept all the variables the same (slept consistent hours, ate similar foods, tried to manage stress), and started playing around with the ingredients in products as variables.
This methodical way of learning about skincare and my own skin paid off. One year later, I figured out a skincare regimen coupled with a lifestyle (you know, the basics: eating, sleeping) that really worked for me. By the time I was off to college, it was the first time in my life for more than three months at a time I had consistently flawless, even radiant looking skin on my face. In fact, I even got complimented on on my “perfect” skin.
I wanted to write about my skin journey despite the fact sharing my story isn’t totally in my comfort zone (I’m an introvert) because I really want to somehow encourage you that with dedication, some experimenting and knowledge, you can really can transform your skin.
Still, my newfound sense of confidence came not from my finally clear skin, , but because I felt so empowered that I was able to figure out how to take care of myself (and in this case, my skin). I felt that I had found a way to manage a lifelong skin struggle, (not perfectly since I still have flare-ups) but I had put my mind to it and found a way to meaningfully reduce frequent and fierce rashes.
Whenever people dismiss skincare as “just genes,” I find myself channeling my inner skin-evangelical. Many studies have shown that it’s actually only 30% genetics, with the remaining 70% being mostly nurture. I’m a perfect case study for those numbers! If I skip my skincare routine for two days, my “dewy, flawless” skin will turn into an alligator-like rash beginning with around my eyes. This has happened a few times! Once when I traveled to Uganda for a month in an area with no consistent running water and electricity, where keeping a skincare routine was really not a priority, and at times when I just got lazy/busy/life happened.
Throughout college, in my consultant days, and even at business school, I found myself missing the time I dedicated to skin back in school in Korea and would dole out free facials to my classmates, which (proudly!) earned me a reputation as a sort of skin-whisperer among friends. My passion for helping people achieve healthier skin stems from a combination of my own personal experiences and my curiosity (some might call it obsession) with the latest skincare products, devices, rituals and treatments. Technology and research are amazing things – and hooray for the chemists who work tirelessly in the beauty industry to keep making holy-grail skin products. I’m lucky that I was able to start a company that literally revolves around learning about skin innovations and find ways to help people through products and relevant, digestible information achieve that dewy, radiant glow. It’s possible. Really.
As I mentioned, I went to skin school in Korea back in the ‘90s, and while I’ve kept up with skincare through books, the internet, product testing, and obviously via Peach & Lily, I want to make sure that I keep up-to-date. So, last year, I decided to go back to aesthetician school— this time in New York city. It’s been really interesting to see how aesthetician training differs in Korea vs. the US, and the different philosophies and approaches to skin care.
I’ll be sharing more with you all on the best of both worlds, where there is overlap, and where there are stark differences, and hope to make Peach & Lily that much more helpful and informative with even more education, and sometimes this year in 2016, I’ll be officially U.S. board-certified—but we hope that vis-a-vis the knowledge available on Peach & Lily, all of you will feel educated enough to feel like you went to skin school too!
With so much information so readily available, there are inspiring skin-connoisseurs out there whose knowledge about cosmetic chemistry, how skin works, and products is on par with aestheticians, (arguably even dermatologists), and cosmetic chemists— so I encourage you all to learn about skincare simply by reading up on ingredients, and paying attention to the way your skin reacts to various ingredients.
I always say, and firmly believe, that skincare is a form of self-care, and not a vanity thing. I’m excited to hear from some of you on how you approach and take care of your skin, and hope the Skinterview series is a space that helps you in getting your skin to its best.
We’ll be posting more Skinterviews as part of our series. In the meantime, we would love to hear from you, too. If you want to share your own skin journey, please leave it in the comments below — and for those who are shyer about it, please email us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org as we’d love to learn more about you and your skin.
Cheers to a fabulously radiant 2016,