Alicia Yoon, The Queen of Korean Beauty
Last month I was searching for new products and I happened to find myself testing some Korean beauty products out.
Then I came across a serum that promised to reduce acne scars, fine lines and help calm troubled skin. I was loving everything I was reading, until I got to the part that it was SNAIL MUCIN. Excuse me, you want me to put snail juice on my face why? As I decided to let go of my apprehension in the name of beauty, I was so pleasantly surprised. 1 month later and the Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule lived up to its promises. When I tell you that Korean beauty is the front runner of innovative skincare I am not lying to you.
In comes Alicia Yoon. Soon left her job in 2012 when she realized that all of the skincare she loved in the US was sourcing formulas from Korea and saw the opportunity to bring the revolutionary Korean formulas and products to the US market with Peach & Lilly.
Leaving her finance job behind with no financial backing and just her love for Korean skincare, she had no idea that she would be starting the most-trusted Korean beauty company in the States. Fast forward a few years and she has carried her products everywhere from Target to Bergdorf Goodman and just released her very first in-house products that included a mask that sold out within minutes.
she had no idea that she would be starting the most-trusted Korean beauty company in the States
We sat down with Alicia to chat about her amazing accomplishments, her daily skincare routine and the new Peach & Lily launch.
Interview with Alicia Yoon
Q: You started out as a consultant at BCG and then left to start Peach & Lily with no funding and no employees. How did you take your idea and turn it into what Peach & Lily is today?
There were two things that were important to keep in mind: prioritization and testing. With limited resources, I had to prioritize what really needed to be done – what are the table stake things needed to have a business up and running? Once this question was answered, it was key to stick to these elements only when it came to where I would spend time and money. To grow the business, it was all about testing. What initiatives are working and how do we really test for that? Very early on, it became part of our company’s DNA to structure marketing initiatives and truly understand if they’re working or not. Test small, structure it in a way where results can be measured, and then stick to what works.
Also! Embracing that I would be wearing a lot of different hats was really helpful – I was the picker and packer, the merchant, the web designer (designed assets in a powerpoint and turned them into images!), the customer service team, the finance team, etc. – and knowing that everything would be unfamiliar at first but believing that I could figure it out was key. And I asked for a lot of help from those around me who might have answers and was really blown away by the generous advice I received, and google became my best friend. Being scrappy, prioritizing, testing, and passionately believing in the vision was the foundation for me.
Q: What does your daily skincare routine look like?
I always double cleanse, and lately, I’m really into the Shangpree Cleansing Gel and Shangpree S-Energy Facial Mousse Cleanser as both are super gentle while dissolving every last bit of SPF and makeup.
I always double cleanse
I then use my trusty Be the Skin Botanical Nutrition Power Toner – on year 6 of using this now, and I’ve tried a lot of toners. This is soothing and hydrating and I haven’t found another toner as effective as this one in plumping my skin. I then use an essence and have been obsessed with the Eco Your Skin Layering Essence as it’s completely absorbable and sinks into skin and you can do one layer to literally twenty plus layers depending on how your skin feels and if you have time or not. Then comes the Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum. I use this AM and PM liberally as it’s a super juice of sorts for skin and does it all – it has clinically proven ingredients to brighten dark spots and even skin tone, help firm skin and smooth out the fine lines, powerfully hydrate, help combat inflammation (happens with stress, pollution, etc.!), and soothes skin. It keeps my skin totally glass-y,e poreless and illuminated and super smooth. I then use the Ground Plan Deep Wrinkle Treatment Eye Cream as it’s so lightweight and sinks into skin and doesn’t cause milia around my eyes. Yet it’s really hydrating and plumping and I look wide awake. I then use the Peach & Lily Matcha Pudding Antioxidant Cream which is my go-to for both the AM and PM. In the AM, it creates this weightless, breathable antioxidant shield to help protect my skin from free radical damage caused by pollution and stress. At night, the antioxidants are right there when skin is regenerating. The finish is so velvety-soft and balanced, I go foundation-free during the day now.
In the morning, I’m always slathering on sunscreen and lately I’ve been using a non-Korean sunscreen, the Elta M.D. one as a derm sent it to me and I’ve been really liking the lightweight finish. A few times a week, I sheet mask because it’s really like a facial and keeping up with sheet masks helps to keep skin really hydrated, which helps keep your skin environment healthy that helps all your cell’s processes work better. I switch sheet masks often because it’s always fun to try new ones, but lately, I’ve been going through the twenty-pack of the Peach & Lily Original Glow Sheet Mask and have actually decided to try a twenty-day-in-a-row sheet mask session with this. On day eight, and my skin is so plumped up and happy, I’m excited to see what my skin is like at day twenty. I’ve actually done all twenty in a row before, and the results were phenomenal, but excited to see how the results build on each other.
And once every week and a half to two weeks (I don’t do this more often than that as my skin is very dry), I exfoliate and do a deep resurfacing cleanse with the Peach & Lily Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask. It’s a professional-grade chemical exfoliant that’s super potent, but doesn’t irritate my skin at all. My skin doesn’t even turn a little bit pink thanks to the blue agave, turmeric, hyaluronic acid, aloe and centella asiatica. My skin literally shines with petal-soft newly revealed skin after, so I definitely look forward to this product.
Q: Last year you expanded into Target and Bergdorf Goodman after working with Macy’s and Sephora. Why do you feel that this omni-channel approach is so important?
Beauty is still so touch-and-feel. There’s a tactile element to products that are so hard to bring to life through a website only. So I do believe it’s important to have products available in brick-and-mortar stores for people to go see them in person. But when it comes to digital, we find our community looking online for more information and reading reviews and watching the videos. And of course, for replenishment, digital makes things so much more convenient. Offline and online serve different purposes, but together offer a complete experience for the customer. And for a brand, that omnichannel experience is truly a virtuous cycle where learnings and insights can be applied and make each channel better.
Q: You just launched the first ever in-house products which have been a huge hit, one of which sold out within minutes. What was your development and selection process like for these products?
We did things a little differently than what most brands do. We decided that we wouldn’t have a product development timeline. We focused on key principles that we wanted all our products to deliver on without compromise: 1. 100% worry-free which means 100% free of toxins, sensitizing agents, and irritants, 2. Deliver results that push boundaries – start with clinically proven ingredients and see if we can deliver even more meaningful results, 3. Create products that can give someone that sensorially delightful experience since skincare doesn’t need to be a chore, and 4. Make it as accessibly priced as possible while spending generously on what matters – the formulas. To meet these key principles, our partner labs told us that we would need to have some breakthroughs in formulating (after all, our list of ingredients we didn’t want to include was extensive while the results we wanted to see were dramatic) – and breakthrough formulations take time.
So we decided we would launch when the products truly were all of these things rather then saying the product was good enough because of an internal timeline. Typically, there are a few chemists working on a specific client’s formulas, and one of the most amazing moments during this process was when one of our partner labs were so intrigued by our approach, that actually, at one point they committed all forty chemists to personally face-test and develop the formulas with us, which apparently was a historic first for them.
Formulating is a lot like cooking – the ingredients matter greatly and so does the process steps. So it does take a lot of patience, creativity and persistence to land on that dish that’s not just delicious but truly marvelous. It took a lot of patience and partnership for us to say no to a lot of really great formulas as we wanted to offer to our community the ones that we all unanimously believed were in our minds singularly special and outstanding.
Formulating is a lot like cooking
We had a mantra on our team and with our partners: zero compromises. We wanted to offer something that we didn’t compromise on at all to our community, so we just kept going and going and never budged on those principles. You can’t really dictate a timeline for product development when that’s the approach.
Q: What made you select these specific products to launch the in-house line?
I wanted products that helped address specific needs that people still struggle with. For the Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask, this product has 10% glycolic acid, which is the maximum that’s recommended before using the product with a skincare professional. Of the alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid is commonly known to be the most potent, so there’s this recommended limit on glycolic acid. We also include 0.5% salicylic acid in the formula to help degunk the lining of pores. I personally could never use anything close to 10% glycolic acid as my skin is quite sensitive and I have eczema.
And yet, glycolic acid is such a powerful ingredient that not only resurfaces skin and helps with everything from breakouts to milia to rough patches, but it also helps improve fine lines and wrinkles. I felt like people like me were missing out on this whole category of potent, acid products. So I was really determined to create a very powerful acid product that wouldn’t irritate those with sensitive skin.
This took a long time to make because 10% glycolic acid is a lot, but with a lot of tenacity, I am so thrilled because this mask is not only not irritating, but a lot of people are even saying it’s quite soothing and cooling. Skin is left radiant, not irritated, while still seeing all the benefits of a potent AHA and BHA product. Over the last few weeks alone, I’ve given over fifty facials using this mask on those with active breakouts to rosacea to psoriasis to clear skin – the whole range – and this was incredible for all those skin types and skin conditions.
The Glass Skin Refining Serum was created because people were letting us know that they really want a super-serum that absorbs completely and delivers a multitude of benefits. So we packed this with niacinamide at the right clinically proven levels to help brighten and quell inflammation, a proprietary blend of potent peptides to stimulate more collagen production, our blend of short, medium and long chain molecules of hyaluronic acid to hydrate all layers of skin, peach extract which has the fatty acids, vitamins and minerals your skin needs to thrive, madecassoide which is very soothing, and mountain yam extract to help nourish.
The magic here isn’t really just including the right ingredients, but we spent a lot of time with this formula to ensure that everything is truly going to sink into skin. You’ll notice that with this silky clear serum, there isn’t a tacky residue at all and this truly absorbs deep into skin.
The Pure Beam Luxe Oil is what I call a smart oil. I saw that a lot of people struggle with oils especially if they have oily or combination skin. This oil is totally cold-pressed and untouched by chemicals, and includes squalane, jojoba, camelia, grapeseed, sea buckthorn and olus oils which aren’t going to cause breakouts. And some of these oils are known to help combat bacteria and regulate excess sebum production. Meanwhile, they also help replenish the lipid barrier. It’s totally fast-absorbing and can be used on all skin types.
You can think of it as doing different things based on what’s going on with your skin – the oily spots get help in regulating that oil production and the dry spots get a boost of replenishment and feels much more supple. I wanted to create an oil that everyone can reach for without worry and experience a total glow as skin becomes more balanced, no matter which side of the oily-dry spectrum your skin leans.
The Matcha Pudding Antioxidant Cream is something that I saw come up as a big need for modern day life. I have a lot of people who tell me that they wear SPF religiously and avoid the sun and yet they’re getting dark spots. Pollution can actually be the culprit here. Accelerated aging from pollution is a real thing, and one of the best ways to combat that is through antioxidants.
Matcha is one of the richest sources of antioxidants, so creating a cream that serves as this invisible, weightless shield was a solution we felt was needed. And since it’s a cream, that finishing touch is vital, and while it’s very hydrating, we didn’t want it to pill, be incompatible with makeup application or just generally look shiny after application. This finish is a very calm, hydrated, balanced almost matte-glow where skin doesn’t look shiny but really radiant. We wanted to offer both the antioxidant blast and give skin that perfect finish.
Matcha is one of the richest sources of antioxidants
The Original Glow Sheet Mask was something we created because our community wanted more sheet masks in a bundle to be able to sheet mask more often. They were also asking for a sheet mask that could address everything from brightening skin to firming to hydrating to even gently gently exfoliating to calming. The ingredient list says it all with this mask, we loaded this with incredible ingredients that offers a multi-solution sheet mask that is best described as helping to get your original glow back.
I also wanted all of the products to be professional grade that could be used easily in spas. Estheticians will focus on products that are all about high performance and products that won’t irritate skin even when used liberally during facial massages. So I’ve been using the first four products in facials, and the results are absolutely stunning – we’ve been sharing some of those results on our Instagram. These products are great for everyday routines and for at-home facials you might do which can be as easy as spending a few minutes doing facial massages using the Glass Skin serum.
Q: What is next for Peach & Lily?
We’ll continue to focus on creating more products, curating the best products, and omnichannel distribution! And you can expect all of this to be supplemented with a lot of content on all things skincare.