5 Minutes With The Founders Of Cult Beauty Brand Glow Recipe

It’s the clean beauty brand that reached cult status with just six products. Ashleigh Cometti talks to co-founders and CEOs Christine Chang and Sarah Lee about the secrets to their K-Beauty success

Glow Recipe founders Sarah Lee (left) and Christine Change (right). Photo / Supplied

“K-Beauty has truly skyrocketed and informed global brands on new trends and innovations,” says Glow Recipe co-founder and co-CEO Christine Chang.

And she’s not wrong. The Korean beauty market is among the top 10 in the world, with an estimated worth more than $13 billion in sales in 2018 alone, according to global market intelligence agency Mintel.

Along with her business partner Sarah Lee, the pair set out to establish their own K-beauty brand in the US in 2017, which dispelled common misconceptions around Korean beauty regimes being overly fussy and unnecessary.

READ: Why South Korea Is Fashion's New Hotspot

“Our heritage is Korean beauty, and we are Koreans that learned about beauty from our mothers and grandmothers. We will continue to focus on sophisticated and sensorial textures, new concepts, and fast-paced innovations,” Christine says of their brand mission.

It takes a lot of confidence in what you’re selling to launch a beauty brand with only one hero product. But for Christine and Sarah, it’s a gamble that paid off. Their top-selling OG Watermelon Sleeping Mask has sold out multiple times, and has had waiting lists of more than a thousand people long.

V: Two of your best-selling products are your sleeping masks. Why do you think there's been a shift in focus to hone in on sleep as a new beauty must?
Christine: We originally launched a sleeping mask because of the easy format — simply slather it on before bed and it does the hard work for you overnight, when your skin is most receptive to repair. Our goal was to deliver post-facial results, similar to a Korean spa facial, in a jar. When we launched our OG Watermelon Sleeping Mask, we were tapping into a category that hadn’t really been highlighted in the industry, with an ingredient that wasn’t front-and-centre in beauty either.

V: Your tactile packaging is super cute. What considerations did you make when thinking about how you wanted each formula to be presented? 
Christine: We wanted our customers to have a sensorial experience from the moment they pick up our product, all the way through to application. Our Watermelon Sleeping Mask was inspired by the fact that our grandmothers used to rub cold watermelon rinds on our backs in the summer to soothe our heat rashes. After going through multiple rounds, we decided that the ‘melted’ ice cube packaging was the truest representation of the brand and our background. When we launched our Avocado Sleeping Mask, we created the jar to look like an avocado, and when our Pineapple-C Bright Serum launched (available from September), all of our customers were so delighted by the fun packaging as well.

V: What's one thing that surprised you about starting Glow Recipe?
Christine: When we launched our OG Watermelon Sleeping Mask, we were so shocked and humbled by the support. We are passionate about pairing super fruits with effective ingredients and sensorial textures, and at our launch the reactions from everyone truly validated our purpose and formulation philosophy.

V: One of the many things your brand aims to achieve is 'glass skin'. What exactly is glass skin? 
Sarah: Glass skin, or ‘yuri pibu’ in Korean, refers to translucent skin that is plump and hydrated — almost like a shard of glass. Glass skin is a long-term goal that Korean women achieve with their skin-care regimen, and is attainable by everyone, even if you have acne-prone skin. We recently launched Glowipedia 2.0, a skincare look book that celebrates all skin types in achieving glass skin status.

V: Talk me through your current skincare regime (day and night).
Sarah: I love using the Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser to remove my makeup and give my skin a gentle exfoliation. I tone my skin by using the Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist as it really preps my skin for the products that come afterward. My go-to is the Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask for both day and night. I use the Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask as one of my winter go-to products because it is extremely hydrating yet lightweight, and gently exfoliates with PHAs so that I wake up with glowing, plump skin. I always find ways to constantly stay hydrated using a mist like the Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist (available from Mecca from August) which provides the perfect amount of hydration due to the juicy 84% watermelon formula and hyaluronic acid.


Last beauty buy?
Christine: Olive & June Nail Polish.
Sarah: Grown Alchemist’s Gentle Gel Cleanser.

Last book you read?
Christine: Pachinko by Minjin Lee — it’s a beautifully told, intergenerational saga about the strength of women and complicated family dynamics. I love novels by both Minjin Lee and Jhumpa Lahiri. They weave stories so seamlessly and intricately that you feel transported. 

Sarah: The Billionaire's Vinegar. I loved it for two reasons: 1. My love of wine — my husband and I are unabashed oenophiles and I am enamoured with the origins and narratives behind the bottles that accompany us during so many of life’s important moments. 2. The history and development of markets, in this case how the economics of wine evolved across different eras and different continents, and how human behaviour has a tendency to consistently repeat itself over time.

Last meal you ate?
Christine: Peanut noodles.
Sarah: Salmon-don, from our go-to lunch delivery spot.

Last country you visited?
Christine: I was in Korea earlier this year and Spain before that for vacation.
Sarah: I went to Hong Kong in June, for a friend’s wedding.

Last text you sent?
Christine: I just texted my mom to iron out plans for when I’m in Korea this month!
Sarah: Just now — I texted my husband that I’m on my way home.

Last outfit you wore?
Christine: A summer shift from Everlane and white Adidas sneakers.
Sarah: Fuchsia pink silk top and leopard print silk pants from Yigal Azrouel, with black leather platform sandals from Seven All Around.

Last spa treatment you had?
Christine: A rubber mask facial in NYC!
Sarah: ‘Glass Skin’ facial in a dermatologist clinic in Seoul, last month! 

• Glow Recipe is available exclusively at Mecca and online at Meccabeauty.co.nz

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