If you’ve spent any time scrolling through TikTok beauty trends you will no doubt have come across the viral “Glass Skin” K-Beauty (aka Korean Beauty) trend. This is not just a passing trend either. With 1.5B views on TikTok, this is something that has skincare and beauty lovers hooked, and all the credit goes to the origins of the trend – K-Beauty brand Peach & Lily founded by entrepreneur and CEO Alicia Yoon.
Born in Korea, Alicia grew up in both Seoul and New York. After graduating from Harvard Business School, Alicia worked as a consultant for top firms, including Goldman Sachs and the Boston Consulting Group. Having struggled with severe eczema throughout her life, she developed a passion for skincare and became a licensed esthetician.
In 2012, she decided to combine her passion for skincare and keen business acumen, starting Peach & Lily, a U.S. online retail store offering high-quality Korean skincare products. However, Alicia found it was still challenging to find effective skincare products that were gentle enough for her sensitive skin and eczema that could also deliver meaningful results.
In 2018, combining her Eastern and Western roots and blending powerful concentrated active ingredients used in the West, such as AHAs and retinoids, with Eastern soothing and nourishing Korean botanicals, Alicia created the Peach & Lily skincare line.
The skincare line is safe for sensitive skin, including those who suffer from eczema, which impacts over 31.6 million people in the U.S. One of its first products, the Peach & Lily’s Glass Skin Refining Serum, launched the “Glass Skin” viral trend. Just so you know how popular it is, a bottle of the product sells every two minutes!
As a founder, Alicia is also committed to protecting human rights and the environment. Peach & Lily is a long-time partner and one of the largest financial contributors to Restore NYC, a nonprofit that seeks to stop sex trafficking and restore the lives of survivors.
During AAPI Heritage month, we had the chance to learn more about Alicia’s entrepreneurial journey, and hear how Peach & Lily has managed to bring K-Beauty trends to a global market.
Can you tell us about your pathway into the business world and what excited you about this field?
I had a few turns in the business world and was able to gain experience in finance, strategy, operations and eventually, entrepreneurship. My biggest lesson in hindsight is that you never know what the journey will bring!
I graduated from Columbia University back when investment banking was the go-to career choice for new grads. Even though I was a liberal arts major, I followed in the footsteps of my peers, assuming that it wasn’t possible to align your work with your passion. I started my career at Goldman Sachs and honestly, I didn’t love my job. However, in my spare time I was pursuing my real passion—skincare.
Having suffered from severe eczema for most of my life, I had always been incredibly passionate about skincare research and innovations and had gone to esthetician classes in high school to better understand how to care for my skin. During my time at Goldman, I began giving coworkers and family members facials at night and on weekends, but in my mind, it was just a hobby. So I completed my two-year analyst program and started interviewing for my next step in the world of finance.
I hit pause for a couple years to go to Harvard Business School right when the financial crisis of 2008 hit. HBS at the time had a major focus on entrepreneurship. In fact, there was a course that allowed you to start a business in school and get course credit for it. I launched a small Korean fashion startup and quickly realized that the business model I had built wasn’t scalable. After graduating, I went back into management consulting at the Boston Consulting Group.
During this time, my esthetician hobby continued to grow and I started spending much of my free time poring over skincare clinical studies, researching the latest in skincare formulas, and investing a big chunk of my income into trying new products. I also continued hauling products back from Korea every time I went home to visit my parents, sharing the products I found with others who were also looking for skincare solutions that they weren’t finding stateside.
Helping others transform their skin has always been, and continues to be my deepest passion. One day, I finally had an epiphany: I should turn my long-standing passion into my job. I could pursue skincare as a business and focus my time on empowering people to transform their skin. Once I had the thought, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In 2012, Peach & Lily was born – and I’ve never looked back.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from working with firms like Goldman Sachs and others?
I learned so much. Everything from technical skills to softer skills that have all been helpful in building Peach & Lily. Most of all, though, I saw how each organization that I worked for or consulted for had very distinct cultures – and I learned how powerfully culture impacts business outcomes. This stayed with me, and culture is something we prioritize at Peach & Lily.
@peachandlilyofficial Acne guide from Peach & Lily founder Alicia Yoon! 🍑✨ #peachandlily #skincareforacne #koreanskincaretips ♬ Chill Vibes – Tollan Kim
What prompted you to launch a business around skincare?
Having struggled with eczema and problem-skin for years, my own hard-earned skin transformation after years of studying skincare and hands-on trial changed my life. I felt so empowered and joyful knowing how to take control of my skin and I loved helping others do the same.
Korea, where I grew up, is a global mecca for skincare innovation and research. In 2012, when I realized that despite globalization, these leading skincare solutions were not available in the US, I launched Peach & Lily to bridge this gap so that people have more ways to empower themselves in their skin journeys.
How did you set out to make Peach & Lily different from other brands?
My business background, skincare knowledge, and bicultural Korean and American upbringing allowed me to bring together the best of Korean innovations and time-tested Asian ingredients with more popular active ingredients in the western world to craft breakthrough and patent-pending formulas that deliver uncompromisingly on results, as well as respecting the skin barrier and ecosystem.
I brought together researchers, scientists, chemists and various labs across various fields to develop formulas in a newfound way – I believed innovative solutions required innovative development processes. After several years of development, Peach & Lily’s first products were launched in 2018.
Our biggest strength is our relentless focus on delivering differentiated, high-performance solutions that meet our exact customers’ needs. Some examples include our Retinal For All Renewing Serum, a patent-pending breakthrough that leaned on novel research that allows the most potent non-prescription retinoid to be used safely on even very sensitive skin, or our Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask that uses 10% stabilized AHA carefully combined with a special soothing complex so that even those with rosacea have enjoyed intensive chemical exfoliation without the downsides. Within a few years, Peach & Lily grew to become a Top Ten skincare brand at Ulta Beauty.
The brand’s Glass Skin Refining Serum started the viral “Glass Skin” viral trend on social media. What is it about this look that has so many people hooked?
Glass Skin is your skin at its healthiest – skin so healthy that there’s a luminosity, smoothness and clarity to it, like glass. It’s not about an unrealistic ideal, but about transforming your skin to be at its best, no matter where you are in your skin journey. Everyone’s Glass Skin goals are unique, but what’s universal is that everyone can focus on achieving their version of their healthiest skin. And this message has resonated with millions of people.
Our Glass Skin Refining Serum makes it easy to achieve Glass Skin goals. It’s a universal serum that includes hydrators, calming ingredients, antioxidants, brightening and firming ingredients and beautiful vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids all in one bottle. This award-winning serum has become a cult-favorite with a bottle selling every two minutes thanks to how easily it delivers Glass Skin goals no matter your skin type, tone or where you are in your skin journey.
@peachandlilyofficial For maximum benefits, pair KP Bump Boss Microderm Body Scrub with the KP Bump Boss smoothinf Body Lotion 🍑 Shop @ultabeauty and link in bio! #PeachAndLily #kpscrub #kpbumproutine #bodyskintreatment ♬ original sound – Peach & Lily
You have another skincare brand, Peach Slices, as well, which is fun-loving skincare that’s gentle on your wallet. Can you tell us what this line offers?
We launched Peach Slices to offer easy and effective solutions for tough skin problems like acne, redness and oily skin. We offer several targeted collections within Peach Slices – clean Acne OTC, Snail Rescue, Redness Relief, our iconic blemish patches, and more – that easily mix and match so people can personalize solutions to their unique skin needs. Our Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots are the #1 bestselling blemish solution in the largest US drugstore and have helped millions of people easily tackle pimple emergencies. We always say, “Don’t pop it. Spot Dot it!”
May is AAPI Heritage Month and as a business owner originally hailing from South Korea, now with a successful brand based in the US, what legacy do you hope to continue growing with your work?
Both the AAPI and broader global Asian communities play a crucial role in the beauty industry. There are so many innovations coming out of Asia that are included across both Asian and non-Asian beauty brands, with incredibly effective Asian skincare traditions, ingredients, and practices being popularized across the industry. Not to mention, both the AAPI and global Asian markets have been and continue to be huge customers in the beauty industry.
Yet, there is still a lack of AAPI / Asian representation across companies, media campaigns, influencer communities, and more in the beauty industry. Due credit is also not always given to these Asian heritages when innovations, ingredients or traditions are marketed. At Peach & Lily, transparency is a core tenet. We always shine a light on where things come from and provide context on the Asian ingredients and innovations that we use. We also believe in thoughtful representation in our media campaigns and our work with content creators.
Ultimately, we believe in combatting the hate and injustice that can impact the AAPI community by celebrating all the nuances and complexities of the AAPI community. After all, hate and injustice arises when people groups are flattened into pat, two-dimensional stereotypes – and as a beauty brand, we believe in doing our part to uplift and celebrate, and do the hard work in telling these authentic and beautiful multi-dimensional stories.
Why is it important to highlight AAPI business owners right now in the United States?
Common misconceptions include that the AAPI community is wealthy, that they may not face real obstacles and challenges spurred on by racism and biases in the workplace, and that AAPI business owners are largely very successful and don’t need support.
As a native New Yorker, I’d like to contrast these myths with just a few facts: the AAPI community is the poorest ethnic group in New York City. One in four within the AAPI community in New York City lives in poverty. The AAPI community in New York City is one of the most underfunded groups receiving little government support.
Bottom line: many AAPI business owners have gone through incredible odds to build their businesses. Supporting AAPI business owners helps combat inequity that the AAPI community faces.
Peach & Lily is committed to sustainability and making an impact. Can you share more about your advocacy with Restore NYC?
Peach & Lily is a long-time partner and one of the largest financial donors to Restore NYC, a nonprofit that seeks to stop sex trafficking and restore the lives of survivors. In New York City there are more massage parlors, often times where forced sex work takes place, than there are Starbucks. At Peach & Lily, our mission is empowering others, and we give back to Restore NYC, so that we can play a part in empowering some of the most disempowered women in our community.
In addition, all of Peach & Lily and Peach Slices products are packaged in 100% recyclable materials. Why is sustainability important to you as a founder?
Being environmentally focused is also a core pillar of Peach & Lily. We use 100% recyclable packaging (mostly glass where possible; if not, PCR or easily recyclable plastic), we source sustainable ingredients, we streamline our carbon footprint as much as possible, and for every Peach & Lily order placed on our website, we plant a tree to combat carbon pollution. We also try to help empower customers on upcycling and recycling.
What are some of the biggest beauty trends you can see on the horizon, and how does Peach & Lily fit into this forecast?
Going back to environmental impact, Korean skincare has made huge advancements. A whole new category of effective and sustainable ingredients through biotech, and eco-friendly packaging are making incredible headway and we’re at the forefront of tracking those innovations and leveraging them when ready.
Be sure to get in on the Glass Skin trend by checking out the Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum, and find your favorite skin problem in the Peach Slices line, available at CVS. You can also follow Peach & Lily on TikTok and Instagram.