Most Asian-American immigrants are raised with a survivalist mindset. You're told to focus on finding a stable income to survive. You're encouraged to pursue safe and reliable careers—like medicine, law, or engineering. And you're taught to avoid taking risks, as they could cost you stability and security.
But for Youthforia founder Fiona Chan, the opposite is true. When I ask her parent’s response to starting her own beauty company, she laughs and says they’ve been quite supportive. Her brand, Youthforia, is all about capturing the magical nostalgia of youth through makeup. I recently had the chance to speak with Chen about how her Asian heritage has influenced the brand, the skin-first approach she's taking with ingredients, and how she pivoted from software to beauty. Keep scrolling to read everything she had to say.
On the Inspiration for Youthforia
"I came up with the idea of Youthforia around the time Covid first hit. I was living in Hong Kong and what became clear to me was the best part about wearing makeup is getting to go out with your friends and having fun. I wanted to build a brand around that idea. So, even the name Youthforia describes this feeling I always had about makeup. It’s like when you’re out at a music festival, and the sun goes down, and the lights go up, and you’re like, 'Oh my god, this is like Disneyland.' A lot of our packaging is nostalgic, and it takes you back to what you would have liked as a kid. I wanted to create this fun, colorful universe and packaging."
On Youthforia's Ingredient Philosophy
"When I go out with my friends, sometimes I’ll forget to take my makeup off. So I wanted to test all our products by sleeping in them. I slept in the BYO Blush for two months. I also made my husband do it, and we woke up with better skin. That’s when something clicked in my head. I thought, "Okay, this is a really cool thing."
We can make makeup that’s good for your skin by being really selective with ingredients and thinking very clearly about how all the ingredients will interact with the skin. It was also important to reduce our down-the-drain impact. With Youthforia, we try to formulate without fossil fuels. Our lip glosses are made out of 100% renewable ingredients. Most lip glosses are a liquid form of plastic, and then we swallow it, which seemed bizarre to me. To achieve a nice texture, which is so important for makeup, we sourced plant-based synthetic ingredients. We’re not a 'natural brand.' The ingredients include plant-based synthetics; that’s just the sourcing we do."
On Her Connection to Beauty
"I’ve always wanted to buy makeup, as early as 4 years old. The lip glosses are a throwback to the first time I purchased makeup and that whole experience. For me, I never worked in makeup before Youthforia. I used to sell software, and it was a very different type of job. But I always loved beauty and wanted to do something within that space."
On Making the Pivot From Selling Software to Beauty
"It was great, but it was very different, and I think I’ve enjoyed [beauty] more. I just really liked to do challenging things, and at the time, software was challenging. And then, I eventually got to the point where I didn’t like what I was doing anymore. So my parents were super supportive of me when I was making that transition. When I told my mom I was going to name the company Youthforia and describing my feelings, my mom was like, 'Oh, I totally get what you mean!'"
On How Her Heritage Influenced Youthforia
"Living in Asia definitely inspired our brand. For example, we have this complex called skin chi complex, and it’s in all of our products. It was very much inspired by doing things like tai chi with my grandparents as a kid. The complex is all about hydrating, nourishing, and promoting blood circulation. To me, that’s pretty rooted in my culture. And I love bringing things that I’ve picked up through traveling to the brand."
On Launching a Brand During a Pandemic
"It was good in the sense that I got to focus on building the brand. I always thought this was going to be a post-Covid brand. But I didn’t realize how long it would take to build a company and how long Covid would end up lasting. So, timing-wise, Youthforia seems perfect for post-Covid, and even the looks we can do after we don’t have to wear masks anymore. So I tried to keep that all in mind when deciding on the colors, packaging, everything."
On What's Next for Youthforia
"A lot of stuff. I’m openminded, and I like blending skincare and makeup. I also love thinking about how we can do more interesting makeup looks. We definitely have our perspective about what will be a fun, post-Covid look. We’re pretty open to anything in the color cosmetics realm. I love chemistry innovation, and anywhere we can make a new texture profile is something I have an interest in doing."