Bamboo water. Fermented lotus. Snail secretions? Korean Beauty — also known as K-beauty, the term for skincare products from South Korea — is shaking up the skincare industry with innovative ingredients and formulas, and Alicia Yoon ’04 has staked out a place at the forefront. The mogul behind K-beauty retailer Peach & Lily has focused on bringing the best products to the Western market since 2012. Last year, after turns in stores like Sephora and Urban Outfitters, Yoon brought K-beauty fully into the mainstream by partnering with pharmacy giant CVS, launching Korean products into more than 2,100 stores across the United States.
Myung Hwan Yoon LAW’87
“One of the biggest ways that [K-beauty] is different,” Yoon says, “is that it’s all about the philosophy. In Korea, people know that you don’t get beautiful skin overnight. It’s something you need to work on over time. So a lot of the products are about a gentle, long-term approach that seeks to improve the skin from the inside out.”
Yoon is not only the founder and force behind Peach & Lily, she’s also the brand’s social media face. Her Instagram account has more than 15,000 followers clamoring for a glimpse at her life (Peach & Lily’s account has more than 78,000 followers). The Peach & Lily YouTube channel shows Yoon demonstrating products and giving tutorials; and pibuu, Peach & Lily’s blog, tackles reader questions and details everything from Yoon’s pre-wedding beauty regimen to her travel skincare routine. Yoon has especially focused on community building, noting that digital channels have transformed the beauty industry: “Before, it wasn’t as easy for customers to talk to one another, and we’re seeing that’s something our customers really love to do. Categories like K-beauty have really benefited, as people share info about products they’ve discovered and what they love.”
“I would give my friends facials and talk about skincare,
even when I was at Columbia.”
At the time of the company’s founding as an online-only retailer, K-beauty wasn’t a well-known category. “It took about a year and a half for there to be a tipping point,” Yoon says. “At first it was all about the marketing and the education … but after that, because the products are so different and work so well and people really like them, [Peach & Lily] took off.” Yoon has become a respected industry leader, offering beauty tips in Vanity Fair, having Peach & Lily products touted in Allure and, most recently, being named in Marie Claire’s 2017 Power Issue as one of 50 women changing the world.
Born in Korea but raised in the United States, Yoon and her family moved back to Korea during her high school years. She attended esthetician classes after school for fun, and there she learned how to manage her eczema. From that experience her passion for Korean skincare methods was born. “I would give my friends facials and talk about skincare, even when I was at Columbia,” she says. Yoon went into finance after graduation and earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 2010, but remained a self-professed “product junkie,” eventually deciding to combine her interests in business and skincare to bring Asian products to new markets.
Yoon travels to Korea several times a year for in-person meetings with new companies’ research and development teams, and personally tests all Peach & Lily products. The K-beauty maven is determined to help people achieve what she calls “that glow, that translucent radiance that only comes with healthy skin,” by spreading her passion for innovative, long-term skincare solutions. And now you can get those results from a store near you.
Published quarterly by the Columbia College Office of Alumni Affairs and Development for alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends of Columbia College.