Over the past few years, the practice took over the skin-care industry with a luxurious makeover—but in the process, became divorced from its history. Expensive tools made from jade and rose quartz (reminiscent of the ornate tools used by the Chinese elite during the Qing dynasty) have found their way onto the shelves of major retailers, but disproportionately few of them come from Chinese-owned brands.
Paige Yang, LAc, DACM, is working to change that. With Yang Face, a line of ethically sourced luxury Chinese facial tools that launched in July 2020, she's putting the power back into the hands of licensed TCM practitioners.
"It's really upsetting how I've seen a lot of white wellness brands pose as experts on these tools and how to use them. And they don't have any of the credentials or background or connection," says Dr. Yang, who is a doctor of acupuncture and TCM. She says Asian cultures are appropriated so much because they're seen as more passive and polite—and it's time for that stereotype to end. "We don't like to rock the wave because we're that 'model minority,' and we're expected to go with the flow, but I want to be this voice that's like, 'No, this is not okay.'"
How the brand was born
As a TCM practitioner, Dr. Yang would have her patients buy facial tools online to maintain their results in between sessions. Frequently, she saw their tools breaking within a week after they were purchased. "I felt responsible," she says.
When her husband and a friend suggested she start making her own tools, she began researching what was already on the market and was stunned at what she found. "I realized that there was almost no one in this field—maybe one or two people, off of the top of my head—who have a tool line that comes from the culture or the medicine," she says. "And I found that a lot of people didn't even know that these tools have been appropriated because the very people that popularized them never once gave credit to their origin."
With that realization, she set out to create Yang Face, and she started the process by going back to her own roots. She met (via WeChat) with female-run manufacturers based in the Guangdong Province of China, where her grandmother is from."It just so happened that her town has turned really industrial, so it was kind of an industry hotspot," says Dr. Yang. She clicked with a small, female-led business based in the area. "I loved that it wasn't a huge company. It wasn't in a huge warehouse. I saw a lot of mostly women in management roles, natural light, and windows," says Dr. Yang. She could tell that the people who would be creating her products were treated well and she was also pleased that they sourced their gems from an ethically run, family-owned mine in South Africa.
"A lot of people don't realize that with the huge popularity of gemstones and crystals in the new wellness space, that there's also a price on the other side of it," she says, likening it to the conflicts surrounding blood diamonds (a term from a diamond that comes from a war-torn country, where companies buy diamonds from warlords, funding and furthering their destruction.) While there are some diamond certifications (like the Kimberley Process) that can help guide consumers to likely conflict-free diamonds, no such ethics certification exists for other stones and gems. So for Dr. Yang to do her due diligence, knowing where her gems are sourced means a lot.
Bringing Chinese facial tools back to their roots
Yang Face tools are made from rose quartz, with the exception of a gua sha comb that's made of jade so it's sturdier. "I decided to go with quartz because it's so abundant. It's found almost everywhere around the world versus the dark gemstones that are really coveted and have a lot of conflict," says Dr. Yang. "I wanted something that could be really clear of that energy and I felt like rose quartz provided that for me—It doesn't take on the energy of the handler as quickly as other tough gemstones might," she says. "So when it's going through all the hands of people during production, I was superstitious about a worker having a bad day or intense trauma and then passing that to the recipient."
To ensure her products are made from the highest quality, 100 percent grade-A stones, Dr. Yang gets them certified by a third-party authenticator. Many brands add ceramic, glass, acrylic, or plastic "filler" to their tools so that they can get away with using less actual stone, but "you can see there's a huge difference in the weight, the clarity, the temperature of the stone, and just how it feels in your hands," says Dr. Yang.
Producing tools of this quality isn't cheap—Yang Face's tools start at $45 for a jade gua sha comb and go up to $325 for a full-face rose quartz reusable sheet mask. Even if these price points shrink her market, Dr. Yang feels she owes it to the roots of gua sha to make the products the best they can be. However, she's still working to make her brand more accessible. "I felt my intention was to really help women to create a ritual with themselves, to connect with themselves, and just build that love and care. Then I also found that the price point really filtered out a lot of women and that was in opposition to my goal," says Dr. Yang. "I'm hoping to come up with videos [TCM facial treatment videos] that either do not use tools at all or use culinary tools [like spoons] so that women who can't afford these can feel like a part of the community."
For now, the most important thing for Dr. Yang is to educate consumers about the cultural appropriation that's rampant among most gua sha brands and honor the roots of the practice.
"When I first launched, I understood my tools were expensive," says Dr. Yang. "I told my whole community on social media that it means more to me that they read through my website and understand the messaging than actually purchasing from me. And I had a lot of people that messaged me and said, 'Hey, we can't afford these, but we want you to know that we read everything and we heard when you had to say,' and that meant the world to me."
Shop some of the Yang Face Tools Below
“The S-shaped boards are a little bit more advanced tools and require a little bit more mechanical ease and familiarity with the tools,” says Dr. Yang. “But with more advanced boards, you can get more clinical advanced results. Those are more for shaping, contouring, sculpting, which is something that people are always really interested in.”
Dr. Yang originally created the Vibrating Eye Tool as a promo gift, not to be included in the full line. But, people loved it so much she kept it around. Plus, it’s good for… more than just the under-eye area. “All of my girlfriends use it for vibrators,” says Dr. Yang. ” They’re like ‘okay, we don’t use this on our face.'”
“The Gua Sha 2-in-1 Comb was a way for me to just get a little bit more introductory price point item,” says Dr. Yang. It’s the only item that’s made from jade and not rose quartz. That’s because “jade is thicker and more sturdy than the quartz, so it’s going to be more durable to be used on your scalp. And people love that.”
“The masks are the really high-end luxury type of products that I was so surprised have actually been selling quite well,” says Dr. Yang. “I just wanted something a little bit more unique that was really eye-catching that stood out that can also set precedent for the luxury aspects of this line.”
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