When Fiona Chan first found herself stuck in Hong Kong as pandemic lockdowns began, she couldn’t have anticipated that within the next year, she’d found a beauty company or launch viral product. But that transformative and uncertain period proved to be a productive one for the entrepreneur, who introduced makeup company Youthforia — the fruits of those lockdown labors — in 2021.
Youthforia develops its products to be unique from anything else on the market, and that applies to both form and function: Its hero SKUs include color-changing “oil” blush (the aforementioned “viral product”) and lip glosses that magnetically fit together like Legos. But flashy, fun exteriors aside, the brand’s formulas are also rather game-changing. Youthforia positions itself at the intersection of color cosmetics and skin care, taking a more holistic approach that doesn’t put its users in the position of sacrificing the health of their complexions for the fleeting glory of a makeup look.
“Why do we just accept that makeup has to be bad for your skin?” asks Chan during a recent phone interview with Fashionista. “What if you made makeup that was really good for your skin?”
It’s a simple idea, but it’s also one that has the potential to upend years of traditional, stale thinking in the cosmetics industry. For Chan, whose background is not in beauty but rather in tech sales, the concept came from a place of personal experience: Growing up, the founder recalls, she’d delight in trying out various makeup looks, but also had the bad habit of falling asleep before she could wash them off.
Now, her brand — a streamlined, five-piece edit of primer, setting spray, lip gloss, blush and an accompanying brush — is like an ode to her youthful skin transgressions. Youthforia markets itself as makeup you can sleep in.
In the early stages of developing the brand, Chan says, she’d personally test every lab sample by sleeping in it. “I know that I just have these habits,” she says, “and I wanted something where if it ever happened, I would feel okay.” Not only are Youthforia’s products safe to sleep in, but they also incorporate beneficial skin-care ingredients like moisturizers and antioxidants.
“When I look at a tube, I think, how many skin-care benefits can I fit into this tube? And I like to stack on as many benefits for as many skin concerns, skin types, age ranges,” explains Chan. “I try to really think about how can we be inclusive at the formulation level… even the way that we select molecule shapes.”
This also means that when formulating her products, Chan is considering the 13-year-old girl with acne as much as “her mom who is over 60 and has a very different set of skin concerns.” The holistic view and idea of stacking skin-care benefits, Chan says, is rooted in Chinese medicine where “every little thing can affect something else.” The idea that problems do not exist in isolation is a powerful motivator for the founder.
In addition to drawing inspiration from Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, Youthforia also relies on color theory to inform some aspects of its formulas.
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“Our pink setting spray is pink because when you’re sick, your skin turns a little bit green,” says Chan. “Our green blush is green because green is opposite of pink and that neutralizes the color enough for the color-changing,” she explains of her viral color-changing blush.
Chan’s ideas about beauty have resonated among Gen Z consumers in particular, and the brand has stirred up attention on social media, primarily via TikTok. Though the founder says she wasn’t a content creator prior to launching Youthforia, she turned into one “out of necessity.”
“I have really come to love and appreciate that content format because it’s like, you have eight seconds to get your point across. And every time you’re making content, you’re asking permission for people’s time and attention. So you want to make it impactful,” she says.
Two years after its launch, Youthforia has become somewhat of a force in color cosmetics: In October, the company expanded its retail footprint from a direct-to-consumer business to an in-store and online partnership with Ulta. Chan says she expects 2022 revenue to quadruple from the previous year.
“Every time that I trusted my gut or stayed true to who I am and my strengths, it’s always done really well,” Chan says, reflecting on the lessons she’s learned since becoming a founder. “Being yourself is actually the answer to all of this. To any question you have, you can trust your gut. You know what will work for you… your journey is so unique and so true to you.”
As for what’s next in the brand’s journey, Chan says she envisions a world in which consumers can create a full-face makeup look, start to finish, using only Youthforia products. (A current focus is introducing a foundation that Chan has been developing since 2021.)
Chan is also energized and excited about what the future holds for the beauty industry as a whole. She’s inspired by her cohort of up-and-coming brand founders and the perspectives they’re bringing to the table: “A lot of new brands are driven by just very passionate founders that come from a wide variety of diverse backgrounds. Just learning from other people’s cultures and their life experiences and what they use for beauty in terms of rituals, or routines, or ingredients… It’s super interesting.”
Shop some of our favorite Youthforia products in the gallery below.
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