On a brisk spring morning in the west village I sat down for a warm cup of tea at Té Company with Yolanda Liu, the founder of Amaranthum; a herbology based skincare company looking to change our views of everyday organic skincare. Our waiter poured us a fresh cup as she began to introduce me to the world of Amaranthum…
Tell us a little bit about Amaranthum.
Amaranthum is a luxury skincare brand based in New York which I founded during my sophomore year of college. We focus on rebuilding and rejuvenating the skin through the practice of Chinese herbology. During the first four years I worked on all the legal documents; trademarks, strictly following FDA guidelines, figuring out the logo and package design, and we’ve progressed on to what you see today. My goal is to see this brand become internationally known; not only through the solid foundations that we’ve built in New York and China, but all over the world.
What makes Amaranthum different than other natural and organic skincare brands?
I actually get this question a lot from my close friends. The skincare industry has definitely improved over the years and I’ve seen more and more products acquire the label Organic and Natural which is wonderful, and shows the awareness that has been instilled into our culture, but while they may be natural ingredients they may not necessarily be healthy. Companies may include heavy metals and hormones that, while are deemed “organic” by the definition of the word, may in turn actually cause damage in the long run.
In our products we use herbs like ginkgo, kelp, rose of jericho, which are gentle and soothing to the skin, and unlike other brands that share a similar philosophy, we only use the most vital parts. We cultivate pearls from seas that are the same temperature as our bodies, and take extract from ginseng roots, which is the only piece that can truly be absorbed, all while using a wonderful piece of technology called Miriatin which breaks down large molecules into smaller molecules that can be absorbed by your inner layers of skin. This accelerates repairs on damaged skin and helps fosters new cell growth.
Tell us about Chinese Herbology and traditional Chinese medicine.
While American medicine may be about one single ingredient, Chinese medicine and herbology is about the sum of its parts. It’s all about finding balance. While some ingredients may be toxic on their own, combining it with another herb creates remedies for ailments and illnesses. My family and I are strong believers in what Chinese medicine and herbology can do.
What inspired you to create Amaranthum?
So, my mom actually met a scientist in China five years ago. She had told my mom about all the fantastic new breakthroughs she had made in skincare, about Miriatin, and what it can do for your skin. She had been approached by various business partners, but felt they didn’t share the same values as her. As she got to know my mother and I, and how deeply passionate we were about the product, she entrusted us with sharing it with the world. We chose the name Amaranthum from the greek word amaranth which means “unfading”, fitting perfectly with our ambition of repairing your skin cells to their original state.
Do you think it’s challenging to introduce Amaranthum to the western market?
Yes, I definitely see a lot of cultural differences, for example, people in the western market don’t start to take their skincare regimen seriously until they’re in their thirties, when they start to develop wrinkles or dark spots. In Asia we start in our teens, around seventeen or eighteen; that’s nearly double! And once Americans do start purchasing skincare products they turn to stores like CVS and Whole Foods to find serums which may not be suitable for their skin type, because they are more cost effective. I personally feel like it ends up being a waste of money in the end.
While some of us may go to a dermatologist once we want to start learning about skincare, most of us learn about it through places like Sephora or Instagram which can give you the wrong information. I would like to be able to educate people about the best way to take care of their skin and the opportunity to show them how great the product is.
As a globetrotter, how many countries have you lived in? Which country has made the biggest impact on you, and why?
So I grew up in China, I finished up to middle school there, and during my childhood my mother did a lot of business with European countries, importing and exporting garments, so we traveled a lot. During my summers and winters we would always go Europe, and spend the most time in our house in Barcelona, so I definitely had a lot of experience staying in western countries like Spain and France. Then I moved to the United States for high school and college, studying abroad in Paris for half a year, so I feel like I’ve been always moving around and experiencing different cultures.
The country that has had the most impact on me would probably be the US, because I feel like high school and college are where you start to shape your values. You understand more, you’re trying to have your own opinion instead of your parents, and at that time I was very independent.
How many languages do you speak? Any languages you want to learn?
Honestly, I’m really bad at language. I’ve been here 10 years so I should be very fluent in english, but I always tell people “excuse my English, because my Chinese sucks”. During middle school we had five subjects: math, physics, chemistry, Chinese and English, and Chinese was my worst subject. I was always very good at math and science, but language in general was my weakness. I guess I just don’t have the gene for it! However, I am currently studying Chinese and English, plus the little bit of French I learned while in Paris, that makes three,… or it could be two, or maybe zero, haha, I’m getting there.
How have the places you’ve lived in influenced your brand and lifestyle?
It’s definitely had a huge impact. I would say New York and Paris have had the most lasting impression on me. Coming to America from China for school was such a culture shock; Chinese culture is so closed, and how they behave is totally different from American culture. Then I went to Paris to study abroad, which was amazing! After I experienced all these different cultures I combined them, all the pros and cons and I got my own culture, my own values.
What do you think about social media in relation to beauty? In your opinion, how has it transformed the industry, and where is it going to take it in the future?
I feel like social media can be a scary place, even though I majored in media culture and communications. Once I graduated, and got real life experience, I saw how much bad product was actually out there. People are using this wonderful tool to promote themselves and drive up prices instead of using it to educate customers, which can be very disappointing. But with every bad account you can always find a good one, promoting knowledge and great products, which is what I hope to achieve.
What have you been working on that you can share? What’s your next move?
Currently I’m trying to build up a sixteen person team here in New York, they will be the b2c team. They will be working on the graphic design, social media, and PR, that way I can focus on the b2b. Ideally I would love to get the chance to work with retailers such as Barney’s, as well as luxury organic spas, that would be my ideal.
Photography via Rachel Kuzma
Special thanks to Té Company