May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and given the recent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, it’s now more important than ever to support the AAPI community. One way is to buy from AAPI brands, many of which not only focus (but not exclusively) on an Asian audience, but also strive to increase diversity and representation in their respective industries and give back to various charities and organizations. Whether you’re looking to try out a new beauty regimen or need some new kitchenware or stylish outfits, here are 29 of our favorite AAPI-founded companies that are worth your time and money this month and every month.
Check back, because we’re always adding new (to us) finds to this list!
Best AAPI Beauty Brands
Edible skincare company Embody was founded by Jenn Chung, who immigrated to the US from Vietnam and created the brand to focus on beauty and health from the inside out. Embody created the world’s first retinol gummy in 2020 and recently launched an apple cider vinegar gummy to help promote a healthy gut and improve digestion. If you like the idea of a daily shot of apple cider vinegar but don’t love the taste, this just might be the tasty solution for you.
Jennifer Yen was inspired by Superfood traditions and Asian rituals to create skincare company YENSA. The result is a line of clean cosmetics and skincare that incorporate eight superfoods into each product (eight is a lucky number in Chinese heritage) and is made for a variety of skin tones. The Skin On Skin BC Foundation, for example, includes black sesame oil, black seaweed, black tea, shiitake mushroom, black rice, Korean black raspberry, nettle, and chia seed.
Tower 28, founded by Amy Liu (the name comes from a lifeguard tower in Santa Monica) is a beachy clean beauty brand that even sensitive skin types can use. The ShineOn Lip Jelly is both a gloss and moisturizing lip treatment, and is vegan, cruel-free, nut-free, and dermatologist-tested. In 2020, the company launched Clean Beauty Summer School to support Black beauty founders and has expanded it to BIPOC this year.
Chinese-American Melissa Medvedich is a former Creative Director turned beauty clean brand founder. Her company, Supernal, has only one hero product but it’s a good one: The Cosmic Glow Oil is formulated for all skin types and is hand-blended with organic and natural ingredients, including Camellia Seed oil from China.
Pink Moon, founded by Lin Chen, is an online wellcare (wellness and self-care) shop featuring female founders and currently over 30 percent of the brands are owned by women of color. The company also gives back: one percent of revenue goes to a charity of your choice with every purchase. In addition to promoting other female founders, the company also has its own line of products, such as this Pink Moon Over the Moon Duo, which includes a rose quartz gua sha tool (with instruction card) and facial oil.
Tina Chow Rudolf created Strange Bird as a company designed to be diverse, inclusive, and representative of faces in her own life. The brand’s products combine wellness and skincare, and are formulated with natural products like ginseng, ginger, and goji berry, as well as flower and crystal essences. The Inner Clarity cleanser is a 3-in-1 product that’s a cleanser, exfoliator, and mask. Plus, one percent of sales go to supporting organizations that focus on women’s mental health.
The Crème Shop was founded by Korean-Americans Theresa and Lawrence Kim and the brand’s skincare products have been manufactured in South Korea for over 20 years, while a lot of the makeup is made in California. The products are affordable, cruelty-free and come in cute packaging, perfect to gift (even if that gift is for you). Check out the multitude of sheet masks they offer, including this unicorn one that’s infused with strawberry milk.
Kulfi Beauty is a South Asian-founded company that celebrates South Asian beauty. Priyanka Ganjoo was tired of seeing a lack of South Asian representation in the industry and decided to create her own brand to solve for it (Kulfi is a South Asian ice cream, btw). The products, like this creamy eyeliner, are created and tested on South Asian skin tones. Kulfi Beauty also gives back by partnering with organizations focused on mental health.
Stefanie Walmsley was born and raised in the Philippines and started Prim Botanicals in 2015. The brand’s plant-based products include perfumes, hair and skincare, and CBD products using botanical blends. The Debauchery Detox Body Scrub uses Hawaiian activated charcoal and Phillipine Barako Coffee to help clean and tone your skin. Prim Botanicals is also a member of 1% for the Planet and makes monthly donations to Philippines-based charities.
Tatcha, founded by Victoria Tsai, is a beauty brand that works with scientists both in Japan and the US and leverages Japanese rituals and ingredients. The base of the products is a trio of superfoods: green tea, rice, and algae. The oil-free water cream is also formulated with Japanese wild rose and Japanese water lily to clarify and moisturize skin. A portion of all purchases goes to fund girls’ education.
K-beauty brand Glow Recipe was founded by two friends and former L’Oreal employees, Christine Chang and Sarah Lee. The company got a round of funding from Shark Tank in 2015, and its natural, fruit-based products are cult favorites — the Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask sold out immediately when it launched and even had a thousands-long wait list. The company gives donations to a variety of organizations that support women, girls, communities of color, and more.
LARUCE Beauty, a vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand, was founded by Mike Tran because he wanted to create a product for his wife and daughters. The brand’s new sets, like the Megan Complexion Brush Set, Lupe Cheek Set, and Kimberly Eye Brush Set, are named after women in the company, and the brushes are all hypoallergenic and paraben-, sulfate-, and fragrance-free.
Best AAPI Home and Food Brands
Rendall Co., co-founded by Syama Meagher, is a home goods company that makes aprons using high quality fabrics, like 100 percent denims and chambray. During the start of the pandemic, the company started producing face masks and made donations to frontline workers and organizations in need all across the country.
If there’s one piece of kitchenware you have definitely seen on Instagram, it’s the colorful Always Pan from Our Place, a DTC cookware brand co-founded by Shiza Shahid. The company invests in ethical factories and uses responsible materials, and the products will look amazing in your kitchen to boot.
Cadence was founded by Stephanie Hon, who was looking for a way to transport personal care products that was not only leak-proof but environmentally friendly. Enter Cadence’s magnetic, TSA-compliant, BPA-free, and reusable capsules, which are made with 50 percent recycled material: 20 percent recycled ocean-bound plastic sourced from partner Environ Plastics (which employs local communities to collect plastic from beaches all over the world), and 30 percent reused scrap plastic.
If you’re craving Asian snacks and don’t know where the closest store is, look no further than Umamicart. Founded by Andrea Xu, is chock full of Asian products and ingredients, everything from produce to specialty snacks to recipe kits, like a Shio Tonkotsu Chashu Ramen Kit, which includes everything you need to make delicious pork ramen right at home. The company currently delivers to states in the Northeast region but is expanding locations.
Omsom was started by sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham, daughters of Vietnamese refugees, in order to bring loud (“omsom” is a Vietnamese phrase that means noisy or rambunctious) Asian flavors into your kitchen. The company has Southeast Asian and Asian starters, which are ready-to-use pouches of sauces, seasonings, oils, and more to create specific Asian dishes. Not sure where to begin? Pick up the best-seller set, which includes the popular Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ, Thai Larb, Japanese Yuzu Misoyaki, and Korean Spicy Bulgogi starters, and then check out the recipes on the site.
Olive oil is pretty much a staple in every kitchen, and Brightland founder Aishwarya Iyer wants to make sure yours is of the highest quality and not overly processed. Brightland sources their olives from a family-run farm in California before making custom-blended oils. You can taste the difference with The Duo, a pair of 100 percent extra virgin olive oils that will improve the flavor of your meals and look great in your kitchen while doing it.
Copper Cow Coffee is an eco-friendly Vietnamese coffee brand founded by Debbie Wei Mullin. Their single-serve, pour-over coffee is sourced from sustainable, organic farms in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. No equipment is needed — each packet comes with a disposable filter with coffee grounds and a creamer packet. The classic kit is a best-seller, but there are also lavender, rose, ginger, vanilla, and churro latte flavors.
Another Vietnamese coffee company, Nguyen Coffee Supply was founded by Sahra Nguyen, who partners with a 4th generation farmer in Vietnam’s Central Highlands to source organic coffee beans that are then roasted in Brooklyn. The Original Phin Kit includes a stainless steel Phin filter, a bag of roasted coffee (your choice between whole beans or grounds), and brew tips.
Kitchenware brand Material was founded by Eunice Byun and Dave Nguyen, who say they’re food lovers, not professional chefs. Their products are designed to be simple, stylish and affordable, ideal for home cooks. The reBoard is also a sustainable add to your kitchen— the cutting board has zero virgin plastic and instead is made with recycled plastic and renewable sugarcane.
If there’s one thing Marie Kondo knows how to do, it’s to spark joy (and get rid of clutter). The tidying expert has a best-selling book and Netflix show dedicated to her KonMari method of purging your house of extra stuff. Her line includes organizational products, such as minimalist woven bins, to help make sure your space stays clutter-free.
Best AAPI Fashion Brands
Taiwanese-American sisters Julie and Connie Kuo founded AVRE as a sustainable and empowering women’s footwear brand. The shoes (walking shoes, slip ons, and no-tie shoelace shoes) are made from repurposed plastic bottles and come in recycled boxes. Each pair of shoes from their signature collection prevents 8-10 plastic bottles from ending up in the ocean. For the month of May, 20 percent of all sales will be donated to the AAPI CommunityFund.
Bra shopping is never fun. Jaclyn Fu, inspired by her own shopping struggles of finding bras that fit smaller breasts, co-founded Pepper to fill the gap. The brand launched on Kickstarter in 2017 and quickly reached its fundraising goal within 10 hours. Pepper bras are designed for AA, A, and B sizes, and have light padding and shallower cups.
Tim and Dan Joo founded Haerfest to create bags for the modern working professional. The brand has expanded to apparel and collaborations where proceeds are donated to various organizations. Their “Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes” line sends a powerful message, and 100 percent of proceeds from the first production run of the T-shirts will be donated to Stop AAPI Hate.
Cathy Le started Leyt as a resort-inspired, sustainable fashion brand that only uses natural fibers and works directly with skilled weavers in Bangladesh. While you wait for the first collection to launch, you can pick up one of the brand’s headbands, which are hand loomed by artisans and assembled by hand in New York City.
Asian American Girl Club, founded by Ally Maki, is an apparel company designed to celebrate and help lead towards the normalization of Asian American women. The company has all sorts of fun and colorful T-shirts, sweatshirts, and accessories. For your mini mes, there’s also a kids collection.
Jennifer Tam and Victoria Lee founded Welcome to Chinatown, a grassroot initiative to help support New York’s Chinatown businesses that were negatively impacted by COVID-19. Made in Chinatown is a merchandise program that provides free design services to Chinatown small businesses so they can create products to supplement their income. The Jing Fong sweatshirt, for example, pays tribute to this NY dim sum restaurant by incorporating the dim sum stamp card into the design.
Athleisure brand Mono B, founded by Mary Jane Chon and Cindy Lee, creates affordable (everything is under $50), bright loungewear that can be worn while working out or binging Netflix. The recycled collection includes apparel that is constructed with either recycled polyester or recycled nylon. Plus, 10% of all sales in May will be donated to The Asian Mental Health Collective.