Asian Founder of Orcé Cosmetics discusses Equality in the Beauty World

“Many Asian consumers don't know that our skin is actually different because the industry hasn't done the research in this area. They have been feeding us this one-size-fits-all solution, but different ethnicities have different skin types.

For Yu Chen Shih, the founder of Orcé Cosmetics, having a one size fits all approach to beauty products is not acceptable. Nothing could be farther from the truth for this trailblazer in the makeup industry who created foundations specifically formulated for the Asian complexation called Orcé .. “I have never felt the beauty business provided options for me— I felt overlooked whether it is my skin type or skin color,” says Shih. The feeling of being pushed aside, fuelled her to build a brand based on the specialized needs of Asian skin which has more yellow undertones as well as structural differences than other ethnicities. 

“Many Asian consumers don’t know that our skin is actually different because research has not been done in this area. They have been feeding us this one-size-fits-all solution, but different ethnicities have different skin types. The cosmetic industry assumes that releasing 50-60 shades is going to solve the problem, but it isn’t. Asian skin reacts to ingredients differently than a caucasian customer or a back customer,” says Shih. “The topmost layer of Asian skin is much thinner, so it is more prone to water loss. At the same time, we have extremely active sebum production, which combined with dehydration is the perfect recipe for acne,” she states. 

Three key ingredients comprise Orcé’s unique foundation recipe— Tahitian pearl extract which promotes collagen and addresses hyperpigmentation, hyaluronic acid to increase moisturize, and a Chinese herb called Evotee fruit which is known to boost radiance, and guard against environmental stresses. This alchemy gives the foundation unique properties that target Asian skin.

Born in the United States to a Malaysian father and a Taiwanese mother, Yu-Chen’s love for cosmetics started with a prized eyeshadow palette at 11 years old. She would insist on making up family and friends in her vibrant shades until one day, her young cousin said she made her look like Ursula from The Little Mermaid. This obsession with make-up prompted her mother to send her to make-up artistry classes to improve her skills, signalling to Yu Chen to excel at all she does. As a teen Ms. Shih recalls watching You Tube tutorials and realized how transformative foundation is for women and how it’s literally the basis to any makeup routine. 

Yu Chen Shih

Her quest for the perfect foundation persisted as she matured. “I would go to drug stores and department stores and scoured every lane, every counter and could not find a shade that suited me. It was always either too pink or too orange.” The unconscious message she received from her youthful shopping was that she was not good enough, her skin is not light enough and she wasn’t important enough to be addressed by the industry she loved and wanted to be a part of. This only ignited her passion to fill the void she saw in the market.

Finding a solution to the beauty industry’s ignorance of Asian skin really bloomed while attending Pepperdine University where she studied Advertising and Marketing. It was during her capstone project that she formulated the first rendition of the brand, researching the unmet needs of Asian women. With the help of dermatologists and chemists she developed the formula and launched in 2019. 

Although she made inroads she also is accused of not being inclusive by social media trolls and retailers who have suggested she broaden her approach which is counter to the core of her brand. “Retailers and investors hate my Asian focused approach. I get penalized because they say I’m not being inclusive. They tell me to come back when you expand your range so—it’s been hard for us. On the one hand, I’m driven to fulfill the unmet needs of Asian consumers, but at the same time, I’m being told that I’m not being inclusive to non-Asian consumers. Many times, they complain that we are racist or elitist because we’re only focusing on Asian skin.” For Yu Chen Shih, the hurtful comments only serve to embolden her cause.  

Despite the fight for equality in the beauty industry, Yu Chen Shih, are full steam ahead with the conviction that the needs of Asian women need to be addressed in the beauty world. As proof, the brand plans to launch six new shades in September of 2021. One of her most talked about item on You Tube is the Experience Set of minis which allows women to sample three shades before investing in a full-size. Orcé also offers a Perfecting Finishing Powder to compliment the medium coverage foundations. 

“My goal when creating these foundations was to make shades that look like Asian skin—not a pink version or an orange version. We developed each shade based on a real woman and carefully launched the initial six shades. Foundation will always be my star product which I tackled first because it’s the hardest product for Asian women to find.”

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