By Elizabeth Cantrell
Jul 9, 2021
AS A CHILD, Tina Chow Rudolf would watch her mother spend hours applying oils, masks and creams after a long bath. “Taking care of her skin was taking care of herself,” she says. Tinctures, teas and soups with ingredients like goji berry were used as remedies for common ailments. Today, Rudolf honors those routines with her brand Strange Bird, which incorporates the tenets of traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM.
TCM is a whole-body approach to healing that focuses on keeping one’s qi, or life force, in balance, through treatments like acupuncture, gua sha, and herbal remedies. It has been practiced for more than 2,500 years. But with the worldwide rise of “clean” beauty, it’s finding a broader audience—and Asian-women-owned brands are at the helm.
Ervina Wu knows the healing power of TCM firsthand. While undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, she turned to TCM (in which she holds a Ph.D.) to alleviate negative side effects. She later cofounded Yina, a beauty and wellness company built around the TCM principle of yangsheng, or “nourishing life,” which encourages small, daily actions to promote longevity, such as using different products at certain times of year. “In Chinese medicine, every two weeks there is a shift in energy,” Wu says. “We want to be mindful about which plants we use and when.”
Helina Fan also found relief from health problems through TCM. Her skin-care and supplement line Redmint follows the philosophy of jun-chen-zuo-shi, in which each botanical plays a distinct role (sea buckthorn targets dry skin, for example, while reishi mushroom helps with inflammation). Redmint’s name also honors a core principle of TCM: balance. “Red means fire and passion, and mint symbolizes cooling and serenity. It’s our modern way of saying yin and yang.”
All three founders emphasize that skin care is an opportunity to not only improve how you look, but also how you feel. Says Rudolf, “I want my customers to look in the mirror and release whatever is not serving them.”