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- Interview by Deborah Brett
Tina Craig has her finger on the pulse. Or a pre-pulse. If that’s even a thing. The Taiwan-born blogger created her highly successful Bag Snob blog in 2005, before online personal musings were an actual career option. This modern disrupter has now set her sights on the beauty industry with the launch of her technical skincare brand U Beauty.
It’s past day 300 since Tina Craig locked down with her husband David and teenage son Collin, at their house in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. But a global pandemic hasn’t dimmed 50-year-old Craig’s energy, nor stopped her launching a skincare brand. Surrounded by white lacquered shelving stacked with her sold-out skincare creams, she has definitely nailed the Zoom backdrop to perfection. Wearing a crisp white cotton shirt, face bare of make-up, Craig is full of beans, considering my call has just got her out of bed. Passionate about skincare, Craig talks to Wardrobe ICONS about the importance of its simplicity and why U Beauty is rooted in science and technology but formulated for everyone. When she leans back to swipe another bottle, dabbing serum on her cheekbones and adding another layer of glow, I realise I just want what she’s having.
You have your finger on the pulse. Have you always been ahead of the curve?
I’m a very intuitive person. My big business strategy? I lead with my intuition. If I’m having fun, it will inspire me. Work has to bring me joy.
You were one of the first bloggers, with your 2005 ode to bags, Bag Snob, and have since segued into everything from home and luxury accessories to travel and beauty, as well as setting up your own influencer agency. What links all your business ventures?
I’m led by problem solving. I like finding solutions. Back in early 2000, my problem was I didn’t want to go back to work. I’d had infertility issues, I had a baby and I didn’t want to leave him at home. I didn’t trust him with anyone, but I love working. I’d moved to Texas, where shopping is almost a cultural pastime, and my friend Kelly had moved cross country, so we decided to keep each other entertained with a bag journal. We were honest and very vocal, and our followers really appreciated that. It all took off when Alexandra Shulman, from British Vogue, commissioned a feature on Bag Snob in 2007. I owe it to the Brits!
Our philosophy is #domorewithless
How did launching shortly before the Covid-19 crisis affect you?
I was meant to be travelling all over the world, launching our products at different retailers. London, Munich, Paris, Sydney – all cancelled. It was extremely challenging, but I leaned in to my community and focused on selling direct to consumer, sending out 100,000 free samples, sharing and learning what they wanted. We have tried to give back, too, through our year-long donation to different BLM causes, as well as donating products to front-line workers.
And the name?
It had to be U Beauty because it’s about you, it’s about the user. No matter your ethnicity, skin colour, age, sex. This is an all-inclusive brand.
Rather than a plethora of products, you’ve only started with a select few. What was the idea behind this?
The world really didn’t need another skincare brand. I had to make sure that whatever we launched was something new and innovative. That helped rather than confused. Our Resurfacing Compound was followed by the Super Smart Hydrator. Twelve years in the making, it has five unique-sized forms of hyaluronic acid.
What’s your favourite product?
Definitely the new Sculpt Arm Compound, which is launching in February. I hate the skin texture on my upper arms and always try to keep them covered. So, this cream is like invisible Spanx for my arms. But, of course, it’s not just for arms. The cream tightens skin, so it’s perfect for the back of hands, décolleté, and age and sunspots.
Where does your passion for skincare come from?
I’m from a conservative Chinese family and we are all about great skin. My grandmother was feeding me chicken feet and snow fungus for collagen since I was a child! Good skin is something you strive for. If you have great skin you don’t need make-up. It gives you self-confidence.
What prompted you to make the move into beauty?
I’d always been into beauty, but by 2007 I had created a 13-step routine. I was testing so many products for my blog, as well as being an ambassador for everyone from Augustinus Bader and La Prairie to Clé de Peau Beauté that I ended up stressing out my skin and causing rosacea breakouts.
How did you come to the decision to start your own beauty line?
I had a problem. My skin was stressed. I wanted to find a way to resurface my skin, but without the irritation, I dreamt of having that thick baby skin. But there was so much noise. I didn’t understand why there had to be so many products between the cleansing and the cream. You have your retinol, vitamin C, alpha hydroxy, lactic acid… the list is endless and it’s so confusing! It was a question I asked so many top beauty companies, but it wasn’t until I began questioning a friend who owned a clinical-grade lab in Italy (who is now my business partner) that the idea for a beauty brand evolved.
What is the ethos of U Beauty and its point of difference?
Our philosophy is #domorewithless. It’s all about streamlining your routine without sacrificing results, and eliminating irritants, so that every skin type and tone can use our formulas. We launched with one product – our Resurfacing Compound. It has a unique way of delivering anti-aging actives to the skin. Instead of all of your skin being exposed, ingredients are only activated on damaged cells, through the use of free radicals.
Tell us about the challenges of starting your own beauty business.
There has been over 10 years of research into the technology behind U Beauty. Our lab in Italy took a year to test the compound and then we followed that with nine different formulations. I made sure my fussiest friends with the most sensitive skin tested it. It addresses so many areas, from acne scars and milia to pigmentation, fine lines and skin elasticity.
Describe your daily skincare rituals?
I’ve gone from a 13-step plan to a four-step ritual. I always use an oil cleanser. It’s the only way to get rid of make-up and sunscreen. I use Shu Uemura or Tula cleansing oil. Then I use my Resurfacing Compound, Super Hydrator, followed by Clé de Peau eye cream and then sunscreen by either SuperGoop, Clé de Peau or Shiseido. What I stress to everyone who tries U Beauty is don’t add extra products. It’s the four Cs – Cleanse/Compound/Cream and Cover.
Do you get any regular treatments to aid your routine?
I get regular facials with Joanna Czech. I also get Derma Frac. It’s a combination of microneedling with radio frequency, peptides and LED. I’ve never done laser resurfacing. Being Chinese, I love my Gua Sha tool for releasing tension in my neck, and I religiously use my Tripollar Stop X. It’s a roller that releases radio frequency, which helps to tone and reduce wrinkles.
As a new brand where do stand on sustainability?
We are constantly trying to improve; our non-toxic ingredients have to be in an airless pump, otherwise I’d love to make them refillable. The bottle is made from recycled plastic and can be recycled. I didn’t want to have endless packaging. Instead, our paper packaging is simple, lightweight, recycled and recyclable. Our manufacturing facilities use 100 per cent green energy and we’ve partnered with One Tree Planted, a non-profit dedicated to reforestation, planting one tree for every product sold.
Who do you admire in the beauty industry?
Bobbi Brown. I love her approach to make-up and skincare – that no-make-up make-up. I only wore her lipsticks when I was a VJ on MTV Asia, they were the perfect size to hide in my pocket. I interviewed her 14 years ago and I love how relevant she feels with her new clean beauty brand, Jones Road.
Famous motto to live by?
One of my favourite writers, Linda Grant, once said, “You can’t have depth without surface!” So I’m going to keep that surface shiny and well cared for!