Style

Phytosurgence’s “Spectral Shine Balms” Will Give You an Otherworldly Glow

Meet the creamy, gleamy AAPI-owned beauty brand you'll want to apply everywhere.

By Jennifer Li

In You Heard It Here First, Bustle's editors introduce the coolest up-and-coming beauty brands you should have on your radar. Here, Phytosurgence founder Jason Lau talks about his mission to create a transparent beauty brand full of nourishing ingredients and gleaming-skin finishes.

2021 is the year of MSBB: my skin, but better. Think healthy and lit-from-within skin, smooth textures, and natural flushes. And if there’s any brand that you need to complete your MSBB routine, it’s up-and-coming indie brand Phytosurgence. Founded in June 2019, the Asian- and LGBTQ-owned beauty brand blends ultra-subtle cream finishes with nourishing skincare ingredients. Pearly skin illuminators tested across a variety of skin tones? Check. High- impact and utterly weightless cream blushes? Check. Hard-hitting skincare ingredients that leave you with a nourished, healthy glow? Check, check, check. But Phytosurgence isn’t just any other highly-Instagrammable beauty brand. Founder Jason Lau is all about brand transparency and fostering an inclusive community with consumers, which he does by pulling back the curtain behind each product he personally formulates.

“In practicality, I always say that Phytosurgence is beauty made accessible for the everyday person,” Lau says. “Our skincare products are truly staples you can use day in, day out, and rely on no matter what your skin is going through. With our makeup products, they are all so flexible that you don't need to fit a certain beauty archetype to use any of it.”

Phytosurgence was initially born out of hobby interest. Pre-Phytosurgence, Lau was constantly inundated with makeup and skincare advice at his day job. One day, a little day-drunk, Lau declared to his boyfriend that he probably could make his dream facial oil. “I never meant to have a brand or company of any kind,” Lau admits. “I've always been a skincare and makeup enthusiast, and this started off as a fun hobby for me to create my own perfect facial oil for personal use. It was supposed to start and stop there. But thanks to multiple rounds of encouragement from my now fiancé, as well as my ever-snowballing Virgo creativity and perfectionism, I ended up putting Regenerative Facial Oil out there on a bare bones website with absolutely zero expectations.” The product quickly developed a cult following, and thus, Phytosurgence grew.

A big part of Phytosurgence’s product inspiration also comes from Lau’s own personal connection with nature. See: the Flash Fluorescence Cream Shadows, which features a shade inspired by blooming wisterias glistening in the sun post-rain (Lau’s words), and the Spectral Shine Radiance Balm in Meteor Mist, a breathtaking rich bronze skin illuminator that mimics the shimmering haze of a meteor. “With our skincare, I wanted to find ways to highlight the potency of botanical extracts like the soothing qualities of blue tansy in Regenerative Facial Oil, or the elastic bounciness of giant sea kelp in our Sea Submerge Serum,” he explains. “With our makeup, it is more focused on taking visual inspiration from nature. Or I'll scan the skies during a sunset until I see a color and think, yep, that needs to be a blush.”

But while Phytosurgence takes such inspiration from nature, Lau insists that he does not consider Phytosurgence to be a clean brand. “If and when a product is created under appropriate conditions and proper formulations, everything is safe to use,” he points out, especially considering how terms like “clean” and “non-toxic” are not regulated. “People can [be poisoned by] water toxicity, but you don't see food companies out here creating ‘water-free foods’ and causing people to refuse to drink water out of fear. The same should really go for cosmetics too, but unfortunately it doesn't.”

Phytosurgence is also borne out of Lau’s own desire to emotionally connect with his audience through his products. For Phytosurgence’s Skin Spark Blush Balms, Lau drew heavily on his emotions and the feeling he wanted to evoke for anyone who used his product. The shade Smolder, a burnt peach shade, is meant to evoke the mood of when you’re feeling sensual and “just want to smize at everyone.” Simmer, a soft baby-pink, is for when you want to look awake and fresh. It’s an artistic and empathetic sort of way of sharing an experience with Phytosurgence’s audience, distilled into creams and colors.

Lau engages closely with his audience through the Phytosurgence Instagram stories and grids, showing the day-to-day of what it’s like to run a business with two employees (himself and his partner, Tom). “I think, in general, a brand is only as strong as its community,” he remarks. “One thing I'm confident most of our existing customers would probably say about us is that they feel they're on this brand journey with us. We share everything from product ideas and prototypes, successes, failures, and everything in between. Our audience knows that if/when we put out a product, there is so much intention and hard work put into it, and they know they're supporting a dream—not just a big corporation. This brand, everything that it involves, is truly just me putting my heart out there into the world.”

Lau’s desire to connect with his audience is also made evident by his openness in speaking about race and gender on Phytosurgence’s social media. As a member of the AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities, Lau regularly used Instagram to loudly amplify #StopAsianHate earlier this year and constantly features his partner, himself, and people of deeper complexions on his page to let his audience know that his products are meant for them. Instead of addressing his audience as “you guys,” Lau uses the gender-neutral (and self coined) “Phytofam” to address his community, and if he notices on a particular day that they don't have many BIPOC posts/stories to share, Lau would “rather not share much at all, rather than having a day of solely Caucasian faces being highlighted”.

“Representation is so important to me and how it is integrated into Phytosurgence,” he says. “I try very hard to make sure that everything we do conveys all around acceptance, diversity, and representation without being loud or performative about it. I think what goes on behind the scenes and in a brand's everyday actions speaks so much more than a list of values posted on a website or a once-yearly donation to a cause.”

Lau mentions how he sometimes get non-BIPOC customers claiming that “they don't understand why we make certain shades of blushes or highlighters that don't work for them (ie. a tangerine blush or a red bronze highlight), or that they prefer that we simply make more light/light-medium catering shades”. But for Lau, shade ranges are also a key factor in demonstrating a brand's willingness to be inclusive and representative of the diversity in our world. “We're here to make products for everyone, but especially for the people who have had trouble finding colors that flatter their skin undertone and depth,” he says. “If you're someone who is able to walk into any store and easily find over ten options for products that flatter your skin, it's not your turn to ask that we focus on you more.”

As of now, Phytosurgence offers a small assortment of skincare and makeup products, but Lau promises that there’s more on the way. He just released the brand’s new Flash Fluorescence Cream Shadow In Bloom Collections in fantastical glitter shades, and mentions he’d love to eventually make foundation or concealer. In the meantime, we’ll be slathering his creamy, buttery formulas on our complexions until that day comes.