Cover Feature

Jennifer Yen: Unveiling Asian Rituals and Superfoods to Women Everywhere

Photo courtesy of JooY

In a time where prioritizing health and wellness is more popular than ever, Asian-American Jennifer Yen, founder of the three beauty brands: purlisse, YENSA and JooY takes old Asian beauty rituals and integrates them into each.

As an actress, founder, mom and ‘momtrepreneur,’ Yen was inspired to bring beauty secrets to women everywhere while still being attached to her heritage. As Yen celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) month this May, she has been focusing on bringing old rituals to women everywhere in hopes to embrace their inner beauty.

Born in Taiwan and raised in Alabama, Yen was a daughter to hardworking parents and saw first-hand a glimpse into finding your way. Having gone to college in Boston, Yen opened her eyes to new and diverse things, something she didn’t see in Alabama. After doing a few local commercials in Boston, Yen obtained an agent thinking acting was her career path and moved to Los Angeles.

“I think my parents taught me a lot about having a hard work ethic and not taking life or things for granted, and to seize opportunities,” Yen said. “It really did open my eyes to hard work and entrepreneurship.”

Yen played evil villainess, Vypra on “Power Rangers” which included heavy stage makeup three to five days a week and hours on end in which Yen developed psoriasis, rosacea and adult acne. “I tried all the latest and greatest things, consulted many dermatologists and nothing was working,” Yen said. “That’s when I started diving into my grandmother’s Asian beauty rituals.” Many of these rituals included drinking room temperature brewed tea as an antiseptic, washing your face with soymilk and including superfoods in your everyday diet.

“Growing up in Alabama, I was trying to diminish that I was different and that I was Asian,” Yen said. “But now, I infuse so much of my heritage into my brands because I want to share the beauty and the spirit of Asian American culture. I want to be all about AAPI Month and I want to celebrate Lunar New Year and talk about the Asian beauty secrets.”

From these rituals and secrets, Yen started developing pūrlisse, which launched in 2008. Using a combination of Asian beauty and modern philosophy, pūrlisse delivers results-driven skincare and celebrates the beauty of being different.

Twelve years later, Yen welcomed her daughter, postpartum hormonal changes, and developed melasma and sunspots. Yen’s mother took care of her following a 2,000-year-old Chinese practice called “Zuo Yue Zi,” meaning “Sitting the Month,” where a new mom sits out for one month and integrates superfoods into her daily life. “I was having black chicken soup with black rice, black sesame oil and black seaweed,” Yen said. “I love how it nurtured my body. I felt so revitalized, and I wanted to take the superfood concept and infuse it into full buildable makeup.” From here, Yen’s second brand YENSA was created in 2019, which took inspiration from the superfood practice used by her and the generations before her.

The name “YENSA,” stems from a few different meanings. Derived from Yen’s last name, “Yen” means color and face in Chinese, in English it is a deep desire and passion and in Vietnamese it means calm and peaceful– all things Yen believes empowers women.

The figure eight is a recurring symbol across Yen’s brands. In YENSA, each product is infused with eight superfoods representing the luckiest number in Chinese culture. “The number eight is super significant in my culture and to me personally. It symbolizes great health, prosperity and infinite possibilities,” Yen said.

For Yen, her two favorite superfood ingredients are black sesame oil and black seaweed. Black sesame oil is rich in amino acids, improves skin texture and can be used for your hair, skin and nails. Black seaweed is rich in vitamins B and C, and is also used to brighten and soothe both texture and sensitive skin.

YENSA’s Skin on Skin BC Foundation with SPF 40 is their best-selling product made for multitasking women to fit into their modern lifestyle. This product blends Asian rituals with great coverage. A second best-seller is their Super Serum Silk Foundation. “I like to call it your next level foundation. It’s a true anti-aging, age-defying foundation,” Yen said. The foundation is leveled up by combining superfoods with tried-and-true science ingredients that include vitamin C and E, ferulic acid and bakuchiol oil.

Following the belief that outer beauty matches inner health, YENSA ingredients will allow you to love the skin you’re in. “Our mission is to reinvent the time-tested Asian ritual superfood traditions but creating it for the everyday modern women. We hope to inspire women to embrace their beauty in every stage of their life,” Yen said.

This belief flows not only from skin, but to hair as well. JooY, Yen’s third beauty brand, is for scalp care. “The women in my family always said you have to take care of your scalp because it truly is an extension of your face and skin,” Yen said.

Throughout the years, Yen has always faced scalp issues, but it became more apparent after having COVID. For ten days Yen’s hair was shedding, prompting her to think back on her grandmother advising her that to have healthy hair you must have a healthy scalp. “I remember my grandmother and mother massaged their hair with sesame oil, rinsing it with apple cider vinegar, which inspired me to create JooY,” Yen said. The number eight reoccurs in JooY as the double “O” put on top of each other creates an “8.”

JooY and her other brands were made to match the lifestyle of a career-driven woman. “I’m so driven by creating products for women on-the-go. How are women living? What do they want and need?”

For Yen, it was important to create high-end scalp products using the rituals she grew up with and fermented ingredients. Fermentation breaks down the molecular structure of ingredients into smaller, more easily absorbed forms and helps promote a balanced scalp biome. JooY relies on biotechnology, utilizing a fermentation process, to enhance the efficacy and natural benefits of our scalp care formulations. JooY launched this past April with five products.

The key ingredients for Yen in JooY are apple cider vinegar and the black seaweed. The apple cider vinegar helps to detoxify and clarify as the black seaweed nourishes and hydrates. Yen believes the two most important products JooY offers are the Resurfacing Scalp Serum, followed by the Clarify Shampoo.

“My vision for JooY was to create an authentic scalp care brand rooted in my heritage with all the beauty secrets I learned,” Yen said. “I also wanted the packaging to evoke nature, sustainability and recyclability while still being modern.” JooY’s containers are made up of 30 percent recycled material and they offer refill packages as well as the option for consumers to send back their empty bottles to practice eco-friendly habits.

Yen puts everything of herself into the brands she creates. Each one is rooted in a tradition or ritual practiced by generations of women in her family and she hopes to continue to bring it to so many other women. In the years to come, Yen hopes to see her brands as top brands in the industry with wider, more global distribution. Reaching everyone on a wider scale will help show them “your health is your first wealth,” something Yen was taught from a young age and hopes to spread within each company.