In Beauty Roots, Bustle chats with diverse creators in the beauty industry about how their heritage has influenced their businesses and routines. Here, Chloe Flower talks about how K-Dramas taught her about beauty and how eating and drinking ginger is a super important part of her skin care routine.
Every young Asian-American child growing up in a predominantly white community knows this struggle: you bring an Asian snack — lumpia, kimchi, dried seaweed— to lunch one day, only to be made fun of mercilessly by everyone in your grade. In that situation, there are two options: cry and beg your parents to switch you over to Lunchables, or attempt to broaden your classmates’ narrow perspective. Chloe Flower always chose the latter.
“My mother would tell me that if I ate seaweed, it would be good for my hair, nails, and skin,” the classical pianist, producer, and composer tells me over the phone. “So [whenever my classmates made fun of me for my seaweed snacks], I would say back, ‘Well my hair has no split ends and is long and healthy.” All of a sudden, all of her classmates wanted rice wrapped in seaweed. “That was a cool little thing I was able to share with my community,” she says. (Kimchi, sadly, proved too much for them to appreciate at the time.)
Flower – who skyrocketed to fame after a jaw-dropping piano performance accompanying Cardi B during the 2019 Grammys – is undeniably glamorous. Her Korean mother and Mongolian father taught her from a young age to be proud of her Asian roots, sharing her home continent’s unique, holistic approach to beauty that utilizes native food and ingredients to boost skin and overall health. “Our beauty habits are defined by our heritage,” she says. “Not just in terms of what we topically put on our skin, but what we eat too.” It’s the reason Asia’s influence on the beauty industry is so immense, oftentimes dictating trends and new ingredients years before Western culture catches on.
Below, Flower tells Bustle more about how her Korean background helped shape her approach to skin care and makeup, her mom’s best beauty advice, and more.
You talked about seaweed’s beauty benefits. Are there other beautifying foods your mom cooked for you when you were younger?
Beauty is from the inside out; you are what you eat. My mom loved making salmon for us, which she says you eat for your skin, and seaweed soup — we were always eating seaweed and root vegetables.
What’s one thing about American culture you like that differs from Korea’s beauty approach?
The one thing that I love about American culture is the diversity. I was so used to watching Korean dramas and seeing a lot of Asian stars with white skin. I'm a lot darker than the traditional actresses that you see in Korean dramas. So when I started to see more people outside of my community who are Asian and who have darker skin like me, it was so great. I love bigger hair, curly hair, and embracing that. That was a really positive aspect of me entering the pop world: seeing all the different things that people were doing with their hair and face and being so proud of their darker skin color — there was so much diversity.
Where do you find inspiration for your makeup looks?
I get a lot of my makeup ideas from K-dramas actually. I love natural makeup. In Korean dramas, it looks like the women wear very little makeup, but in fact, they're wearing lots of makeup. It's made to look like they're not wearing makeup. I love that “natural”l look.
I also have the best glam team; my glam is so fun. I follow all of my glam artists on Instagram and I get a lot of my makeup inspiration just from who I follow. I have three different saved makeup folders on Instagram. MU1 folder is for natural, MU2 is for intense, and MU3 folder is for random. I think that’s the great thing about social media; I learn so much about beauty and fashion, and it’s really fun. I get to see more people with my face shape. I don't have a traditional face shape; I don't have that square jaw. I have a rounder face and darker skin color, so Instagram and social media are such great places for me to look for someone who looks like me.
How would you describe your go-to makeup look when you perform?
Whenever I get glam done for performance, it’s an opportunity for me to take risks. I can often be really bold or daring when it comes to glam. I always tell my glam team they can do anything they want to my face, so I’ll end up with these crazy liners and crazy colors. I'll do fun stuff with my hair and makeup because, to me, it's a performance. I'm extreme — I'll do no makeup and just a lash and a lip when I normally go out, but when I perform, it’s so fun to dress up and wear feathers and crystals, and I like my makeup to match that.
Who are some Asian makeup artists you love to follow on Instagram?
I love Daniel Martin; he’s my go-to. He’s the sweetest. He’s Asian too and really knows how to work with an Asian face. He works with so many Asian stars that I love. He did my makeup for my album cover.
Are there any brands or makeup tricks that he’s taught you that you now incorporate into your routine?
Daniel actually introduced me to one my favorite brands that I use now all the time: Tatcha. I love it because it’s super natural. It’s one of the only brands I know that uses rice water and rice products. It’s great. I feel like my skin is eating when I put the products on. I have super dry skin and I love Tatcha’s Indigo Overnight Repair Serum in Cream Treatment. I have a whole skin regimen.
Let’s dive into it. What does your skin care routine look like?
You have to first use an oil cleanser to take off the makeup and then you have to use a second cleanser after that to really cleanse your face. People then do an exfoliation, but Asians often don't like to over-exfoliate — I find that that's an Asian thing. I know a lot of my friends like to use exfoliating cleansers a lot more, but Asians use it very, very sparingly. We think it's a little bit harsh on the skin.
I always use a serum and eye cream. For serums and eye creams, I use iS Clinical; I live by its Pro-Heal Serum Advanced Plus. I’ll use the iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion for moisturizer. I have super dry skin, so sometimes I’ll put Tatcha’s Gold Camellia Beauty Oil on top. At night, I’ll use the Tatcha Indigo Overnight Repair Serum in Cream Treatment. If my face is still dry, even after I drink water and tea, I’ll make this homemade ointment with vitamin E and camellia oil mixed together and put it on my eyes and under my neck.
I go hard and use eye cream on my hands and my neck. People often forget to pay attention to their necks. My mom told me your neck skin is the same as your under-eye skin. So I would use eye cream on my neck.
That’s a great tip from your mom. Are there other beauty tips you learned from her?
Korean skin care has been the main focus of Korean culture for so long. My mom really paid a lot of attention to skin care growing up. I have this picture of me holding my mom's La Prairie products. I actually remember that day. I would always go to her skincare products and she would show me how to put them on.
Something I always do that my mom taught me is to double cleanse — it's a very Asian thing. People cleanse their face once, but if you're wearing makeup, you have to double cleanse. For anti-aging, my mom would make me take dry ginger. I would drink, like, a hot, fresh ginger tea in the morning and at night. Seaweed is also really good for your skin and warm water is so good for you internally and for cleaning out toxins.
It might be hard to pick just one, but I have to ask: what’s the best beauty advice you’ve ever received?
Other than eating healthy foods — use sunscreen. Sunscreen was something I never used because I always was like, I'm dark; I would just love the way I looked when I would get a tan. I was told many times, “You have to wear sunscreen and you have to protect your skin from aging.” But I never thought about aging when I was younger; I always just thought about color. Now as I get older, I try to wear sunscreen every day. Everyone should wear sunscreen.