“You only have one face, so treat it like the most expensive silk,” my mom would say to me. Every time I stepped off the plane from college, she was there to greet me: “Your face is always too dry, Angieah. Here, put this on.” In a flash, her hands would be in her purse pulling out expensive creams for me to massage onto my stressed-out and dry skin.
I would go home and marvel at all of the new creams on her vanity table that her sisters from Korea had sent to her: one with gold flecks, another with silk worm cocoons, and yet another with exotic seaweed—all with the promise of making the skin smooth like silk and creamy like milk.
While visiting Seoul, I witnessed one of my aunt’s beauty rituals: she would spend thirty minutes in front of the mirror cleansing, toning, layering and massaging with repeated upward movements. It was mesmerizing to watch. Years later, when I started making my own creams in my Manhattan kitchen, it was a hobby, but I also wanted to create something luxurious, natural and anti-aging—natural beauty concoctions that would impress even my mom and her sisters.
And that’s how Om Aroma & Co. came to life. At the time, I viewed it as an artistic endeavor, nota business one. I didn’t have thirty minutes to massage and layer, so I designed a one-minute version, a nod to the Korean beauty lessons of supreme self care with a New Yorker’s precious and fleeting minute.
In 2009, I became pregnant with our daughter. I thought of my dad, who had passed away when I was 13, and how much my mom sacrificed for my sisters and me. As a child, I wanted so much more for her than she felt she deserved. As a woman, I craved more for myself; it was important that my daughter see me as someone who is not afraid to go after her dreams and values self care. Mothers are powerful models for daughters, and the greatest gift we can give to them is to model filling up our own cups so we overflow to give to them and others.
When I prepared the suitcase for the hospital, the first thing I packed was the 1-Minute Ritual to Radiant Skin that I had created. I made a silent promise to take care of myself with this ritual even after she was born. It would be my private symbol to not sacrifice my dreams as my mom had.
Giving birth was the hardest physical thing I ever had to do, but the pain was forgotten as I held this tiny amazing being in my arms. As we left the hospital room, all I could do was stare at her with wonder. Suddenly, I remembered. I gave Sienna to my husband and went to the bathroom to honor my promise, a small-yet-symbolic beauty ritual of supreme self care passed on from my mom to me.
Korean beauty rituals are all about supreme self care and layering love onto the skin. For me, it meant so much more.
Angela Jia Kim is founder of eco-beauty brands Om Aroma & Co. and Savor Spa as well as Savor the Success, an organization that inspires women to dream, do and savor life. Connect with her on Instagram: @angelajiakim.