Priscilla Tsai Wouldn’t Have a Skin-Care Brand If It Weren’t for Her Acne
When you have adult acne, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one getting breakouts past the age of 18. However,anywhere between12% and 22%of women ages 26 to 44 experience acne, and that number is increasing by the day (on the other hand, only around 3% of adult men experience the condition). In our new series, Acne Diaries, we’re asking influential women who happen to have acne about their relationship to their skin, and the products they rely on to keep it happy.
From a young age, Priscilla Tsai says, acne has been a constant in her life. The founder of skin-care brand Cocokind recalls waking up early in middle school to help her older sister cover pimples on her face and back, perfecting her own makeup before heading to class, and waiting for the day when she would start getting breakouts of her own. “It was always this thing that I dreaded, but I knew it was coming for me too,” Tsai tells Glamour.
And come for her it did. Tsai struggled with cystic acne during high school, but it hit her especially hard in college and her early 20s. “It impacted so much of that time period of my life,” she says. “You know, really simple things like always looking for a high-back dress to cover up bacne, or basically avoiding daytime parties because I didn’t want my skin to be inflamed or super red very visibly.” She always tried to hide her skin and carried makeup for touch-ups at all times. “I was also this very desperate consumer, trying everything that I could under the sun, and just wasting a ton of money on the most expensive products, or the newest latest thing, not really understanding anything about it.”
Tsai cycled through prescriptions from her dermatologist, but that only seemed to exacerbate the problem. “My skin was very sensitized,” she says. “Pretty much every day it would be burning and red, and then I’d have to cover it up with makeup, and it’d be scaling by the end of the day, and the next morning, I’d do it all over again. It was a very miserable experience, both physically and emotionally. I remember feeling like I didn’t really see other people who had acne and it just felt very lonely. And I knew from my sister’s experience, it wasn’t something that was going to go away. I knew that this was very much hormonal cystic acne, and it was not your typical breakout.”
In 2014, Tsai left her job as an equity researcher at J.P. Morgan and started Cocokind, a conscious skin-care brand focused on gentle yet effective formulas at an affordable price point. Today the brand’s products—including the cult-favorite skin-care sticks and viral chlorophyll mask—are carried at Ulta, Target, and Whole Foods. “I never expected, ever, that I would start a skin care company because this was my biggest insecurity,” she says, adding that she was always self-conscious of people “evaluating” her skin.
And these fears only intensified as she grew her brand. “I was like, ‘Are people going to trust me? Are they going to believe the brand if I don’t have perfect skin?’ That wasn’t really an example that I had seen before in the industry,” she says. “I really didn’t start Cocokind confident in my skin.”
Though it didn’t happen overnight, with the passing of time and her new products, Tsai’s skin improved—but the evidence never really vanished. “I might not break out as much today, [but] you still see the scars and the texture of my skin,” she says.
She’s much more comfortable in her own skin these days, even going on Instagram Lives for the brand with no makeup on. “Through starting Cocokind and the community that we built, I started to realize how impactful and effective it is to just be really honest and unfiltered with our community—like, this is what my skin is, this is what the journey is,” she says. “I realized that there’s so many people that relate, and that they are kind of over this idea of someone who never had an issue selling skin care, because it’s just not realistic; nobody wants to be sold to be ‘perfect’ anymore. We want to be comfortable being who we are. I started the brand to change the relationship that beauty brands have with consumers, and to show them real images, not use filters, and just to make it about community. Not to use that as, like, a marketing tactic but really as, like, this is the reason for existence is for us to show our real community and feel good about ourselves.”
Below, Tsai shares what’s keeping her skin in a good place and boosting her confidence:
Our Resurfacing Sleep Mask with bakuchiol completely changed my skin. I dealt with a lot of subclinical acne (noninflamed acne under the skin) on my forehead before, and regularly using that product completely cleared it. So just providing this, like, really gentle solution for turning over skin was huge for me. I use that, like, three or four times a week.
My in-office treatment
One of the things I recently tried is microneedling in a dermatology office. That’s something I was really hesitant to do, but it actually has a lot of benefits—especially with helping hyperpigmentation and textural issues. It’s definitely expensive; they recommend three treatments, but I felt like one time was really effective. I noticed my skin was more supple, soft, and smooth after
My pimple patches
I really love the company Hero Cosmetics. Their pimple patches are so useful, and they always come in handy.
I’m a big believer in SPF and protecting your skin. It’s funny because I used to tan to hide my acne scars, and now I wear SPF to help my acne scars! We have a great mineral SPF that is really nonirritating. That was really important for me when developing it, because I know how irritating SPF can be for those who are acne-prone.
My spot treatments
For spot treatments, we have two turmeric products: the mask stick and the tonic. The tonic I have by my desk at all times just in case I start feeling something. The mask stick goes on yellow, and I keep it by my couch where I watch TV. I just apply it and watch The Bachelor, and then remove it afterward. Turmeric is such an amazing ingredient, and it’s really simple to apply in the stick format.