Throughout the pandemic, my makeup routine has become increasingly minimalist. As I think many of us did during quarantine, I began to focus on my skincare routine, finding the right products to naturally help my complexion, rather than cover it up. Glowing skin begins with a healthy skincare routine, and healthy skincare products begin with clean, natural ingredients. This is exactly what Carolyn Li set out to provide when she created Li Organics; a small line of all-natural, nutrient rich skincare products. Li Organics has quickly become a part of my daily ritual, and I'm so excited to introduce you to the woman behind the brand!
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What were you doing professionally before starting your own company? How/when did Li Organics take form?
Prior to starting Li Organics, I worked in fashion and had a modeling career for about 10 years. Strangely
enough, modeling was never, ever something I dreamed I would do because I was going down a very academic path. I studied Psychology and Neuromechanics and loved working in labs and doing research, but while I was writing my thesis in Grad School, my life took a 180 degree turn. I got scouted to first be on a TV show (Battlestar Galactica) and long story short- that led to modeling and moving to New York.
As for Li Organics, I started making my own skincare when I was in college because one, I’ve always had wildly sensitive skin and there was hardly anything in the clean beauty section 20 years ago. Second, I have always loved problem solving and creating. Being a scientist at heart as well, I thought how fun it would be to source my own raw ingredients and learn how to make my own skincare. I did just that and before long it was the only skincare I was using that genuinely helped my sensitive skin. I also revisited my Southeast Asian roots and discovered there were so many beautiful, rich beauty traditions that were just remarkably nourishing for our skin. The plants that grew in our family garden as a little girl in Malaysia, like lemongrass, turmeric, key lime are so rich in antioxidants due to the incredibly fertile soil. These ingredients make powerful skincare formulations.
When I started modeling and working with amazing makeup artists, others began encouraging me to start my own line. So the truth is Li Organics has really been a culmination and evolution of some key experiences and personal challenges in my life. We finally launched in February of 2019 and it has been such a deeply fulfilling experience.
If you had to choose one product from your skincare line that is your favorite, which would it be and why?
That’s a bit of a tough question for me to answer. Our line is super tight with only 4 core products because I truly believe in quality over quantity. All 4 products are incredibly effective.
Lately however, since I feel like my skin has been feeling stressed from not getting the best sleep, the Radiating Rice Pebble Mask has been literally saving me and giving me so much joy. The probiotics calm my skin down and minimizes the appearance of pores, and just makes my cheeks feel like a silk pillow. Also, I will never go without the Liquid Amber Concentrated Serum. It was our first formulation and I used that without fail twice a day. It has kept my skin supple, nourished, clear, and healthy for all these years, since I started using it.
You have so much knowledge about the chemistry and synergy behind the raw ingredients you use. Can you speak a little bit more about that and the process behind creating one of your products?
Thank you, Emily :) So, the philosophy behind how we approach formulation is through thinking first about the goal we want each product to achieve and then working backwards from there. Plants can work in synergy with each other (when combined appropriately), where the presence of one ingredient enhances and maximizes the effectiveness and absorption of the other. So, holding the goal that I want the formula to achieve in mind, I then start researching and testing ingredients in different percentages and combinations, often having to come up with dozens of versions and testing each one on different skin types before landing on the right formula. As you might imagine, this takes time, but it’s something I love doing (as does my team) and brings a lot of joy.
Using your example of our Obsidian Charcoal Scrub, I wanted to create an exfoliant that is gentle enough yet effective for different skin types, does not strip away our natural skin sebum, pulls accumulating debris and sebum away from the skin, is anti-inflammatory, deeply nourishing- feeding the skin with the fatty acids and nutrients it needs to thrive and glow, prevents breakouts, and finally- clean and free from chemicals or preservatives.
The coconut derived activated charcoal acts like a magnet, pulling and adsorbing seven times its weight in dead skin debris and dirt away from our pores, like a magnet. For someone who has sensitive and reactive skin- the active constituents in turmeric, called curcurminoids immediately calm the skin down. However, curcurminoids are practically insoluble in water- so if our Charcoal Scrub was a water based formula- the active compounds in turmeric would be practically useless. So,to maximize the absorption and effectiveness of the antiinflammatory effects of the curcurminoids, our turmeric is suspended in a careful combination of coconut, jojoba, almond, and olive oils.
I could go on about each ingredient, their mechanisms of action, and how they work in synergy with each other, but I’ll stop here.
What is your morning routine?
The first thing I do when I awake is stretch, and then exfoliate my skin with our Obsidian Renewal Charcoal Scrub. I use this anywhere between 4-6 times a week. Then, I hop into the shower and always finish with a 30 second cold rinse. This helps encourage blood flow to the epidermis. When I’m done, I mist with the Palmarosa Revival Mist, and massage two pumps of Liquid Amber Serum in circular motions into my skin. Then, I fix myself a large glass of water, often with juice from half a lemon, or a dash of rose infused vinegar, and start making breakfast and coffee for us.
Your products are so healing and nourishing. Are there any other tips or tricks you use in your daily routine to keep your skin looking so gorgeous? Would love to know any and all beauty secrets!
Ah, thank you Emily. I do think nothing replaces a diet rich in fresh, organic produce- especially mineral rich dark, leafy greens. We need to feed our skin from the inside out just as much as we feed it from the outside in. Sleep and drinking sufficient water is also vital as is sunscreen, even indoors and in the winter. This is because even when we're indoors, we’re on our devices all day and our skin cells can experience shrinkage and death from HEV (blue light) from our screens. So, it might seem almost obsessive to use sunscreen at home- but there’s a worthwhile reason for it.
What’s one thing you do to stay grounded/relax as a busy entrepreneur?
My mornings are sacred for me. After coffee is made, I usually sit for about half an hour to devote some time to journaling, contemplation, and prayer. It makes a huge difference in how I feel the rest of the day. And on the days where I’m in a hurry and fail to make the time for it, I really miss it.
Park? Carl Schurz Park (my husband and I got married there a year ago) and Central Park, specifically I love getting lost in The Ramble and Bow Bridge is always a dream.
Thing to do. I love getting regular workouts in to clear my mind. Working out has always been 80% mental for me and I would almost describe it like a meditative catharsis for my body and brain. I had been running and skipping rope a lot until I recently injured my ankle, so I’ve been using a lot of cables and free weights lately instead and also just started doing Peloton workouts.
I also love strolling in museums- the MET, Museum of Natural History, Frick Madison, and the Cloisters are favs. And all the better if it’s with friends.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received…
That it’s never about the destination but about the journey.