It's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: The 9 Best Skin Care Tips From AAPI Experts
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Asian culture has tremendously shaped the beauty landscape—the industry simply wouldn't be where it is today without Asian influence. Not only are the fundamentals of beauty grounded in centuries-old traditions, like traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, but Asian culture also stands at the helm of new and exciting innovations—Korean beauty brands, for example, are known for being ahead of the curve.
To honor Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we're highlighting the best skin care tips we've received from whip-smart AAPI experts. Be sure to follow their channels, absorb their gold mine of tips, and support their incredible work:
Study up on your skin and what it's trying to tell you.
Skin care is not immediate—oftentimes, it takes a few days for signs like clogged pores or increased oil production to crop up. That's why Alicia Yoon, celebrity esthetician and founder of Peach & Lily, recommends tracking changes (positive or negative!) in a skin care journal: "Over time, [journaling] gives you a lot of clues as to what really your skin gravitates toward," she notes.
It doesn't have to be this giant homework assignment: Simply reflect on how your skin looks and feels that day—have you introduced a new product to your routine, or are you experiencing a flare-up? What are you noticing in the mirror? "Keep track, even lightly, of what's working for you and what's not," says Yoon, and you can keep tabs on what's actually working—and what you might want to avoid.
Know your limits with exfoliation.
Sloughing off dead skin comes with glowy, immediately gratifying benefits—but you don't want to overdo it. "With exfoliation, there is such a thing as too much," board-certified dermatologist Flora Kim, M.D., FAAD, once told us. "If you use too harsh of an exfoliant and too often, you will strip, irritate, and damage your skin instead of helping it."
The thing is, your skin is supposed to have dead skin cells to lock in moisture—it's the buildup of those cells that can cause dullness, clogged pores, and the like. So while everyone ultimately has a unique sweet spot, you want to make sure to take some nights off for recovery.
A coconut oil sleeping mask can work wonders.
Coconut oil is hailed for its moisturizing capabilities, but there's a big caveat: It can be comedogenic, so only certain skin types can handle it. "If your skin is tolerable to the oil (dry and dehydrated skin types, for example), then leaving it overnight can be beneficial," says celebrity facialist Cecilia Wong, founder of Cecilia Wong Skincare. On the other hand, oily and acne-prone skin may want to steer clear.
If you do wish to reap the benefits of the famed oil, simply spread a dollop over your skin as the last step of your routine. "Be cautious in mixing it with other serums or moisturizers, as it can be too greasy," Wong adds; you may want to use it in place of your moisturizer. Wong's final word to the wise? "Not all coconut oils are created equal," so don't snag any kitchen oil from the cupboard and slather on. (Instead, see here for our best finds.)
Address internal aggravators and topical issues simultaneously.
It's a core philosophy in the Ayurvedic approach to skin care, one that Ayurvedic expert Shrankhla Holecek, MBA, founder and CEO of UMA Oils, says is crucial for dealing with complex skin concerns like acne.
"Ancient Ayurvedic wisdom points to high amounts of pitta moving under the skin as the cause of adult breakouts," she notes. The pitta dosha is associated with fire and heat, so those who have too much pitta may be prone to inflammatory issues (like acne!).
For a holistic approach, "A pitta-pacifying diet and yoga asanas are a great place to start," Holecek says. "For an effective overnight treatment, try rubbing melon on the skin at bedtime to cool and heal blemish-prone skin. For a healing mask, mix about 1 teaspoon of chickpea flour (option to add a pinch of turmeric) with water until a paste forms, then spread over the skin for 10 minutes before rinsing."
If you're going to do at-home facial cupping, be gentle and know the risks.
"Facial cupping helps to stimulate the acupuncture meridians and channels on the face," says acupuncturist Paige Yang, L.Ac., DACM, doctor of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and founder of Yang Face. "Facial cupping also brings chi and blood to the facial muscles1, which can help stimulate collagen and elastin production." And while she always recommends seeing a professional who is more familiar with the different meridians that run along the face, you can perform a similar routine at home to reap some of the benefits.
After applying a facial oil on freshly cleansed skin, squeeze the soft silicone cup and suction it to your face, then use your free hand to hold the skin taut before sweeping upward with gentle strokes. "It does take some time to get the right amount of suction down," Yang adds. Just keep the pressure featherlight and your pace slow and steady.
As Yang notes: "It's important not to rush the process, and be gentle on your delicate skin." Additionally, she warns, you'll want to avoid facial cupping on open sores, acne pustules, and sunburned skin, as dragging the suctioning tool can exacerbate the wounds. (See here for the full tutorial.)
For inflamed zits, seek out chamomile.
Chamomile has been used for centuries as a remedy for treating wounds and skin irritations2 in traditional medicine, thanks to its class of anti-inflammatory properties3. So if a painful, puffy zit decides to erupt on your skin, board-certified dermatologist Joyce Park, M.D., recommends a product infused with the botanical: "When used in topical skin care products, chamomile can help calm and soothe the skin," she told us about chamomile tea and acne.
Chamomile can help dial down the swelling and discomfort (which is half the battle with those cystic mounds!), but know that it probably won't shrink the pimple entirely. "In cystic acne, the inflammation is deep, and I doubt chamomile applied to the top layer of skin can help clear it completely," she says. You'll also want to take caution when going the DIY route: "Putting [piping hot] tea bags on inflamed skin could worsen skin sensitivities," she adds.
There is a time and place for physical scrubs.
Face scrubs have come a long way. In place of harsh granules that quite literally cut up your delicate skin come new iterations that gently buff away debris and stimulate circulation, leaving you with a glowing complexion.
That glow is no joke, says Jessie Cheung, M.D., founder of Cheung Aesthetics and Wellness: "Physical exfoliation offers instant gratification, as dead skin cells and dirt are swept away during the treatment—it's perfect if you need an immediate glow. Some patience is required with chemical exfoliation." So if you're in the market for instantly luminous skin (before an important date or event, perhaps?), a quick massage with a face scrub goes a very long way.
Use turmeric to brighten skin tone and relieve dark spots.
Turmeric is beloved in Ayurvedic tradition, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Specifically, research has shown turmeric inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory genes4 and increases the body's natural antioxidant capacity5. "This combination is hugely important because often, certain kinds of hyperpigmentation occur due to past inflammation. Using an ingredient like turmeric breaks the cycle," says Ayurvedic beauty expert Michelle Ranavat, founder of Ranavat Botanics, about the spice.
To use the impressive golden spice in skin care, you can create a DIY face mask, use it as a spot treatment, or find it in a slew of market formulas. Of course, you can also ingest it and improve your skin from the inside out with a cozy cup of golden milk. "In India, turmeric is used heavily in cooking, beauty, and herbal remedies," Ranavat adds.
For a lit-from-within glow, beauty sleep is a must.
You can have the most robust, targeted regimen in the world—but if you aren't getting enough sleep? It may very well be all for naught. "Rest and sleep is one of the most important things you can do [for glowing skin]," says licensed acupuncturist and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) Debbie Kung, DAOM, L.Ac., about facial rejuvenation practices.
Research shows just how important sleep is for the skin, as it is when our skin shifts into recovery mode and allows the cells to regenerate after all the stressors they encounter during the day. "Of course, a certain amount of stress is good for the body—but we're not properly built to withstand the amount of stress modern life puts on us," Kung adds. "This will show up on the skin, be it stress wrinkles or acne."
Follow Kung on Instagram here.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.