Shifting the beauty standard

Christine Chang, BSBA ’04, found freedom to explore multiple majors during her time as a student at WashU. Her experiences learning from other students and growing as a person gave her the confidence to take on her first job leading a small team at L’Oréal Korea. 

After finding her way in the beauty industry, Chang co-founded the highly successful Glow Recipe beauty brand and skincare line. Here, she discusses her multicultural upbringing, how she stays true to her Korean heritage and her greatest inspiration as an entrepreneur.

Christine Chang
Christine Chang, co-founder of Glow Recipe, talks about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur in the beauty industry. (Courtesy photo)

I grew up in multiple places, first in the South in the United States, because my parents were attending graduate school in Louisiana. After that, we moved to Korea when I was in middle school, and then I went to boarding school in Australia. I eventually returned to the States to attend WashU. I like to call myself a “third-culture kid.” A common theme running through my life has been the fluidity and understanding of different cultures and different spaces. That theme has continued to inform my career. 

Beauty has always been a very present part of my life. When I would go back to Korea as a child, my mother, my aunts and I would regularly go to the public bathhouses to splash milk or tea-steeped water on our faces. I didn’t really understand why at the time, but scientifically, milk has lactic acid, which is what helps to smooth the skin. It was this ritualistic experience that we all enjoyed together. Self-care for me has always been associated with those moments of sharing and gathering. 

A lot of our products are made globally. That was always the goal with Glow because we want to create a safe space, both with our products and our social media platforms, for everyone to feel welcome. The approach around inclusivity for us really started from real skin acceptance. We haven’t retouched our model imagery in years. When we do a skincare campaign, our models are not wearing makeup, and photos are never retouched. We try to pick diverse models with different skin types, so that we are reflecting back at our very diverse community of customers.

More from Christine Chang

The brand: Glow Recipe, the company Chang co-founded with Sarah Lee in 2014, is a line of fruit-extract–infused skincare products.

The brand philosophy: “Glow Recipe is about combining clinically proven, effective ingredients and results with enjoyable experiences,” Chang says. “I compare it to Legally Blonde. You can wear pink and feathers, and you can ace it at Harvard Law. In the same way, your products can give you results without being taken too seriously.” 

There are certain aspects about the way skincare was introduced to me that could be relevant for everyone. When I returned to the States for college, I realized that skincare is a chore for most people. If skincare was enjoyable and sensorial, it could deliver hard-hitting benefits for your skin and give you a slice of time for yourself. I think that was the inspiration behind both, which is the business we started with, and eventually Glow Recipe skincare, which is what you see today. 

I started the business when my daughter was very young. I’ve been cognizant of how conversations around appearance, beauty and even social media can potentially affect her. That perspective has helped drive a lot of my decisions around how we approach certain things, because I want to create a brand where everyone of every age can feel comfortable and included, and it feels approachable. She’s been a big inspiration for that.

I always say, “Don’t shrink yourself.” Very often you’re taught to not rock the boat or not ask the hard questions. You have to take up space. You have to raise your hand. You have to sometimes ask for things that might be a little challenging to bring up. Without taking up space, it’s hard to make sure that you’re giving yourself room to shine. I feel like everyone deserves to shine in their own way.

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