Shien Lee has a bone to pick with the Asian makeup market. That is, if there were an Asian makeup market. While we’re all thankful that Anna Sui continues to produce a full line of shades suited to Asian customers—Lee, an event producer and beauty entrepreneur in New York City—struggled to find shades that flattered her coloring. With that, Shien Cosmetics was born.
“The majority of beauty ads and literature for makeup artists is geared toward the Caucasian consumer. A lot of shades believed to work with Asian skin leave me looking washed out or bring out the green tones in my face,” Lee told us, “And the information that is available leads many artists to believe that all Asian skin tones are warm, when in reality, there’s a range from olive to very pale, cool tones.”
left to right, on light and dark skin: Shanghai Rose, Lust Caution, Gold Viper, Wild Peony, Viper’s Kiss
The Shien Cosmetics lipstick range is designed to flatter that full spectrum: eight shades from neutral to bright, as well as two sheer colors with a golden shimmer; we’re partial to the electric pink Wild Peony and vampy red Viper’s Kiss. Each features a silky matte finish to keep the formula from feeling dry throughout the day—green tea extract and exotic red algae extract are two key ingredients.
Lee says those ingredients were partly inspired by a manuscript on beauty for Geishas that was recently discovered in Japan. “It outlined the use of red algae, green tea, and more to lock in moisture and bring antioxidants to the skin,” explains Lee. “I originally chose to add these because of their high quality and effectiveness, but I love tying ingredients in with the Asian brand story as well.”
Turns out Shien is well-versed in telling stories, in the form of elaborate theme parties she’s thrown under the moniker Dances of Vice in NYC since 2007. “My cosmetics line definitely grew from my experience in theme entertainment. I know a lot of people both nationally and internationally that can’t attend the parties. Through Shien Cosmetics, I’m able to invite them to participate in another extension of that world.”
Launched in the Year of the Snake (this past November), the Shien Cosmetics collection features a serpentine theme throughout. Shien tells us that represents the magic, transformation, and seductive qualities of her line. “I think of lipstick as clothing for your words,” she says. “When you pick your outfit for the day, you think about what you’re trying to project. Depending on my lipstick shade, I feel like my words have more authority or significance.”
The great news is while the products are formulated with Asian skin in mind, the range flatters all skin tones. Lipsticks are $18 apiece and available online from Shien Cosmetics. Bonus: everything is cruelty-free and paraben-free.