“Christine (Chang) and I have been friends for half our lives. We met each other in Korea where we were working with the L’Oréal group,” says Sarah Lee, recalling a time long before the launch of their Korean skincare brand, Glow Recipe.

The two remained good friends even years later living in New York, where Sarah worked for L’Oréal Paris and Christine with Kiehl’s. Soon enough, an ‘aha’ moment would be the start of a brand that has now just entered its second Asian market in Malaysia.

“One day we were hanging out at my apartment, drinking wine and sheet masking. Then we realised we were the only two Koreans at our company, we’re bilingual, we’ve worked in Korea, and we understand the global consumer,” Sarah shares.

Glow Recipe was founded then in 2014, first as a brand curating Korean beauty products and now, with its own skincare formulations the girls are excited to share with Malaysia.

Glow Recipe Glow Together With Watermelon
Glow Recipe Glow Together With Watermelon set.

There are four products they highly recommend, or as they call it, “glow game-changers”: the oil-free, lightweight Watermelon Pink Juice Glow Moisturiser, Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner, Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask, and Glow Recipe’s star product, the Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask.

Over a Zoom media presentation (night for Malaysia, early morning for New York), Sarah and Christine share more about Korean beauty and how time-held traditions have shaped Glow Recipe — quite literally too, as we also learn that the sleeping mask is bottled to resemble an ice cube, a beauty remedy used by Korean women for hundreds of years.

1. Skincare has always been seen as self-care in Korea

Sarah: From a very young age, Christine and I learnt from our mothers and grandmothers that we should respect our skin, and that the process should be enjoyable. When you come back home after a stressful day, you want to give yourself that ‘me time’. Skincare is one of the most powerful tools to help you feel more confident and beautiful, especially when you’re staying at home these days.

Christine: There’s a term we coined for that, it’s called ‘skin-tertainment’, a combination of skincare and entertainment. We really believe that skincare should be the best part of your day and it should feel very pampering.

Sarah Lee & Christine Chang, founders of Glow Recipe
Sarah Lee & Christine Chang, founders of Glow Recipe.

2. … And it was very focused on natural ingredients

C: The first product we launched was the Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask. This one is inspired by a childhood memory of our Korean grandmothers, who would rub watermelon rind on their skin in the hot summer months to help soothe irritation and heat rash.

We wanted our mask to have that same lightweight feel with a whipped gel texture. When the product launched, other masks in the beauty market only did one thing, like pore-refinement or hydration. There wasn’t a mask out there that combined exfoliation and hydration. Whenever we went to Korea, we’d get the most amazing facials that were both exfoliating and hydrating, yet gentle and effective. After a thousand formula submissions, we were able to capture that in this one pink jar.

3. How to get that K-glow

C: Everyone knows the Korean beauty glow. When we went to Korea, we learnt from K-beauty artists to use Vaseline or gloss for that lit-from-within glow. We wanted to recreate that with skin-beneficial ingredients, and we’ve done so with the Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops. This product launches in Malaysia soon.

Glow Recipe Glowing Skin Trio
Glow Recipe Glowing Skin Trio set.

4. Korean men are really into skincare as well

S: I will say that Korean men are the most skincare-savvy men on the globe — there are stats to support that — and the grooming market is huge and still growing. In fact, one of the reasons Korean skincare has become so popular worldwide is because men in Korea use skincare as well, and lightweight beauty products to achieve a smooth, even complexion. I have a lot of male friends in Korea that use a full skincare routine in the morning and night. My dad uses SPF and a BB cream, plus now he’s using most of our Glow Recipe products!

5. Koreans don’t pay attention to steps in a skincare routine

C: A multi 15-20 step routine is often the hallmark of K-beauty, but it’s really not the case. The way Koreans approach skincare is understanding that your skin, just like how your body feels, changes everyday. Sometimes your body feels a bit more tired and you might know to get more sleep. Let’s say then that you’ve had sunscreen and makeup on your face all day and your skin feels clogged, in this case you might want to double cleanse. If your skin is dull, you can combine brightening and hydration by combining our Pineapple-C Bright Serum and Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid Serum. This type of fluid approach to skincare is really what we believe in.

Glow Recipe will be available at sephora.my and at Sephora Fahrenheit 88 from January 28, 2021 onwards.

(All images: Glow Recipe)

This story first appeared in Prestige Malaysia.