One of the rules of being a girl that your mother probably drilled into your head: never go to bed without removing your makeup. Fiona Chan, a technology executive who traveled frequently to Asia, heard the missive too, but many days she was simply too tired to take off the cosmetics, which led to clogged pores and pimples. Wanting a better solution for her sensitive skin, she decided to create her own company, Youthforia, which sits at the intersection of makeup and skin care.
Chan had no prior experience in beauty. Working with complicated data centers, she was traveling to some of the most polluted cities in the world. She was actually stuck in Asia before the pandemic. She thought she was traveling there for two months and brought one suitcase. She ended up staying an entire year. That’s when she started thinking about Youthforia.
“I realized that my makeup wouldn’t work well in those cities because of the environment – I’m talking about wearing N-95 masks when you’re indoors,” she said. “I really was looking for something that worked for my skin. I’ve had some experiences where I would wake up with these terrible reactions that would send me to the hospital. We’re told that we shouldn’t sleep in our makeup, especially if we wear it for 15 hours a day. I was looking for something that I would put on my face that would benefit my skin.”
Youthforia is made with clean, sustainable ingredients. Chan formulates the products with ingredients you can sleep in – mothers be damned. A lot of makeup brands are made with fossil fuel-based ingredients. Chan looks at synthetic ingredients that are made in the lab and tries to find plant-based sources. The products are certified by the USDA.
The brand tripled its sales volume in 2023 relative to 2022 and has nearly doubled its footprint at Ulta.
“I love to combine luxurious makeup textures with skin care actives at the functional level, so it’s actually benefiting your skin,” Chan said. “My goal is for people to feel that their skin gets better every time they wear our makeup products.
“We collaborate with a formulator,” Chan added. “It’s been a great partnership for us where I’m able to come up with some of these crazy ideas and we collaborate to make them come to life.”
An example of Chan’s innovation is BYO Blush, a formula that reacts to the skin’s natural pH to give it the perfect shade of natural flush. “I wanted to create a universally flattering blush that would work on all skin tones and ages,” she said.
Chan created BYO Blush during the pandemic and tested it on her husband. “I remember being blown away that it was a different color on him,” she said. “Both me and my husband wore BYO Blush to bed for two months and woke up with better skin.”
Of course, Chan needed to find a way to get the products in people’s hands; the e-commerce site wasn’t enough. “At the time I had no following, I was just a person who wanted to create this brand, I really had no idea what I was doing.
“We had one customer who bought the BYO Blush and shared it on TikTok,” she said. “We saw sales spike a little so I thought, I should probably get on this platform. Pretty soon our bestseller, BYO Blush, went viral. Now we rely a lot on social media, Instagram and TikTok, primarily.”
Chan had other serendipitous moments. Pitching Youthforia to the “sharks” on the ABC reality TV series, “Shark Tank,” Mark Cuban made an investment in the brand. Chan said Youthforia was his first beauty deal.
The next step of Youthforia’s expansion will be deepening its existing retail partnerships. In addition to Ulta Beauty, the brand is sold at other outlets. New products are also on the horizon. The brand now consists of a tight seven items. Chan said there are more stages of R&D than typical beauty brands, so it takes two to three years for products to come to fruition.
A seed found of funding from True Beauty Ventures and Willow Growth Partners will support Youthforia’ s partnership with Ulta and the development of new products.
“One of our most recent launches was Date Night Skin Serum Foundation,” she said of the $48 product. “It was something I worked on for a little over three years.
“What I find is that when we formulate with beneficial ingredients or are really intentional about not including ingredients that aren’t so great for the skin, it usually sets up the skin in a nice way. We’ll invest in ingredients that have better skin benefits.”
Chan is still testing whether or not you can sleep in mascara. What would mother say?