There is one thing that I have really, really enjoyed about blogging - its meeting and talking to other skincare fanatics, those who are just new to skincare, start ups, shop owners and of course, the founders behind the skincare brands that many of us have grown to know and love. From these conversations, I accumulate so much wonderful knowledge, not only just about skincare and the processes behind creating products but also valuable life lessons and I have also made some wonderful friends along the way. I am always so inspired when talking to others, whether it be the passion or interest in what they are discussing with me or just the sheer amount of knowledge that some of these people hold in these particular areas.
A little while ago I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Ervina, co founder of luxury skincare brand, 5YINA. After spending a very hot afternoon in Shanghai, sipping away on possibly the most beautiful and intricate Chinese teas and discussing everything from skincare, food, family, culture and travel - I left feeling incredibly inspired by my encounter with Ervina. She was so warm, friendly and passionate but also incredibly intelligent, as her wealth of knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and local Chinese art was amazing. Ervina was kind enough to share with me some information and knowledge of TCM and also some further insight into 5YINA (which she co-founded with her classmate and good friend, the lovely Angela Chau). It was a truly wonderful experience, and one I most definitely will not forget.
For those that do not know about 5YINA, it is a luxury natural skincare line that specialises in creating seasonal skincare products that incorporate Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles, philosophies and ingredients. The range features 4 different facial oils that are to be used in accordance with the seasons (or your skin type or concern) as well as a sheet mask and a beauty balm which can be used during all seasons and most skin types. I was recently lucky enough to tear both Ervina and Angela away from their extremely busy schedules and learn a little bit more about 5YINA as a brand, Traditional Chinese Medicine, the 5YINA process and what these two amazing women have planned next for the line. The interview conducted gave me so much insight into the brand, the passion and the uniqueness of the 5YINA label that I just had to share with you all.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourselves, 5YINA and the inspiration behind the brand?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is beyond science, this ancient medical system is a mind-body-spirit medicine that remains more relevant today than ever. Huang Di Nei Jing, an important 2000-year-old textbook on Chinese life sciences and medicine, documented the importance of living mindfully with nature. The inspiration behind 5YINA came from our study of this traditional wisdom. Having witnessed the profound effects of this medicine, we want to share this knowledge with more people. 5YINA is about reconnecting with nature and healing ourselves.
Our core team are trained Chinese Medicine practitioners and licensed acupuncturists. Angela studied integrative biology at UC Berkeley before getting her Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine. An accomplished chef and pottery artist with expertise in alchemy, she heads the product development at 5YINA. Ervina recently finished her PhD in Traditional Chinese Medicine with emphasis in dermatology from Zhejiang Chinese Medical University. Her passion in medicine, travel, and beauty made her a master collaborator in product formulations and branding of the company.
While we were still in graduate school, we could not find any Chinese Medicine based skincare that was high-performing and cleanly formulated. Both of us shared strong entrepreneurial instincts, so creating a holistic skincare line seemed like a natural progression after graduation.
2. How did you both get into Traditional Chinese Medicine?
I grew up with Chinese herbs and medicine. Pursuing TCM as my lifelong path came to light during one of my favorite courses at UC Berkeley, Medical Ethnobotany. After finishing my undergraduate degree in integrative biology, TCM school was the next step. I signed up without hesitation!
I was a pre-med and communications student during undergrad. After graduation, I worked in the finance and venture capital world for over 8 years and the stress and intensive hours took a toll on my health. When I healed myself through yoga and Chinese medicine, I knew I had to learn more about this powerful medicine.
3. What makes 5YINA so different to other facial oils out there on the market?
Our proprietary complex of Chinese medicinal herbs is what differentiates us. The medicinal herbs we use work in synergy with our blend of antioxidant-rich seed oils and essential oils for every seasonal formulation. These herbs are clinically proven to treat diseases and have powerful healing effects on the skin. A strong Chinese herbal plant and integrative medicine knowledge is necessary to create a balanced and efficacious formula.
Each product took at least 3 years of R&D before release and every batch takes 12 weeks from start to finish. We also create our products according to the waxing moon and daily auspices to make sure they are full of positive healing energy!
The essence of every season is captured in our oils. Whether it is the scent, texture or energy, each product is created to attune your skin and spirits to the season.
Rather than purchasing ready-made herbal extractions, we create our botanical extractions, macerations, and infusions in-house. This is a more labor-intensive process but well worth it because our own extractions are more potent than what’s commercially available. Many of the herbs we use are also rare and not readily available in extract form.
Besides finding clean and potent herbs for our formulations, we take important note of the terroir. Peony root from Zhejiang is a lot more robust and potent than the ones from other regions. Paeonoflorin is an active component exclusive to the peony root that helps lighten pigmentation and repair damage skin. The amount of paeoniflorin found in the Zhejiang varietal is much higher.
While our collection is inspired by the seasons, it also works perfectly for different skin types. If your skin is oily and breaking out in the middle of winter, we suggest the LUCENT line to balance out the skin. You can start by matching a product to your skin condition, many have found using our treatment oils help normalize their skin. Once your skin is normalized you can rotate your skincare ritual with the seasons. Our products allow for this flexibility.
4. From what I have read, your testing procedures for each of your products is quite meticulous! Can you please tell me a little bit more about it and the processes?
We test each product for at least 3 years, in different seasons, on various skin types, and changing climates. We conduct pH and microbial testing in-house but for more extensive tests, we send our products to certified third party labs. Because we don’t use synthetic chemical preservatives we have to make sure each product is safe and stable.
We formulate according to the best ingredients we can find, for example, we managed to source an exceptional batch of wildcrafted silver needle white tea this spring. Both white and green tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, and share the same International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI). However, suppliers and manufacturers don’t usually differentiate the two, but we do. In fact, we only use top grade wild harvested white tea, the silver needle variety, which is rare and expensive for formulation. White tea contains more antioxidants than green tea. (http://www.vogue.com/13285074/silver-needle-white-tea-antioxidants-healthy-changes/)
5. What have been some of the highlights and difficulties faced with starting your own company?
5YINA turned out to be a lot more work than we had imagined. Each product took years to develop. We are creating something that is complex, unique, and revolutionary while making sure it’s high performing, safe, and sustainable.
We have a small team which is both a blessing and a curse. We are able to work intimately in many levels, yet limited on how much we can accomplish in a short time frame. We are proficient at product development and design but experienced a big learning curve in other areas. There are days we get overwhelmed and wish we had more manpower. We thought we could do it all, but had to slow down and learn to ask for help, it’s been a humbling experience.
When we launched our first products in late 2015, after 4 years of R&D, it was a major achievement for our entire team.
6. What is your favourite product in the 5YINA range and why?
Every product feels different. The current state of our skin, where we are geographically, and the season determine the best product for our skin. Right now we are taking a short break in Hawaii so we are especially loving the Lucent line and our Divine Mask!
7. How can we (complete beginners) incorporate a little bit TCM into our everyday lives?
We hope to inspire people to get in-touch and be in-tune with your own skin. You should always know what’s happening with the state of your skin; just like knowing when to put on a sweater when it's cold or staying hydrated when it's hot. As the seasons change throughout the year you find yourself changing your wardrobe and eating different fresh fruits and vegetables. Our products are formulated to work with your skin, your state of being, and nature’s transitions.
Definitely check out our online blogs that feature seasonal TCM wellness tips and recipes that are simple for beginners to adopt.
8. What is next for 5YINA Beaute?
We have plans to develop a full spectrum of holistic hair/body/food products, all based on Chinese medicine of course. We are currently working on our DIVINE cleanser, it’s light, gentle, and infused with pearl powder. Also expect our DIVINE beauty oil next year, it’s a universal oil for sensitive skin and safe enough for pregnant ladies and babies. It’s versatile enough to be used on face and body year round; you can even blend it with our seasonal beauty oils for added benefit and aroma! The DIVINE collection represents the Earth element in TCM. Its energy is constant and universal.
In the next few months, we are also collaborating with other brands who share the same ethos for special events and exciting projects. Definitely sign up for our newsletter and stay tuned on our social media for the latest updates!
Finally, we hope to make a positive impact with our work. We cultivate relationships with suppliers and farmers who practice sustainably and work with local non-profit organizations that support integrative medicine, education, culture, and empowerment of women. For the month of October, we are donating a gift to Charlotte Maxwell Clinic with every order online
A huge thank you to both Angela and Ervina for taking the time to answer my questions! They have been so busy, yet they found the time for me. For this I am so grateful!
Have you tried anything from the 5YINA line before? Is there a product that you wish to try in particular? Have you ever used any aspect Traditional Chinese Medicine before? I would love to hear about your experiences! Please feel free to comment in the comments section below.
I also have a special offer for all of you International shoppers (like myself!) who wish to to make a 5YINA purchase! Use the code GETDIVINE for any order above USD$100 for USD$20 off shipping (free standard shipping) and also an additional special gift with your order! Happy shopping everyone!