Tina Chen Craig’s Super Secret Korean Tightening


“I started Bag Snob, one of the world’s first luxury fashion blogs, in 2005. Then I launched Beauty Snob. My passion has always really been in beauty because it’s such a great equalizer. Anyone can buy lipstick to make themselves feel better. And naturally, just blogging about beauty and working as an editor at Vogue China for five years, I then organically became a consultant for some of the biggest beauty brands in the world, including Natura Bissé, Clé de Peau, La Prairie, Augustinus Bader, and Charlotte Tilbury.

I’ve since launched my brand, U Beauty. At the beginning, I really didn’t think that the world needed another skincare brand—and certainly not from an influencer. But the opportunity came about when I was at dinner with my friend Skip Borghese, who I’ve known for almost 20 years, and his wife, Katie, who is now my co-founder. I was frustrated because I was traveling with a huge brand and no longer believed in the beauty industry. I felt like technology had not changed. It was stagnant. But they told me about these Siren capsules that they had been working on with a medical-grade lab in Italy that hadn’t been brought to life. They asked if I wanted to create my dream product with them. I said, ‘Well, I don’t believe what you’re telling me.’ A delivery system that’s intuitive and that would only benefit your skin where it needed it? It sounded like sci-fi.

Still, I ended up meeting with the Italians, as I call them, and gave them my ideas for a ‘laser in a bottle.’ At the time, I was in my mid-forties and I had the worst rosacea, so I couldn’t use active ingredients. I was so scared to use retinol because, if you think about it, your face is not all the same. Some areas need the retinol and some areas don’t. But we’re blindly applying it all over, hoping that it gets to where it needs to go, possibly irritating and definitely damaging healthy skin cells. We came up with the Resurfacing Compound, our first product. I took the sample to Paris Fashion Week, used it on a Tuesday, and three days later, at the Dior show on Friday, everybody was saying my skin looked amazing. This was at the end of fashion month, when everyone’s tired, and there I was with glowing skin and no irritation. That’s when I realized the delivery system really worked.

Honestly, I used to hate serums. I thought they were such BS. But my friends, people like Joanna Czech, Eva Chen, and Michelle Lee, who are very knowledgeable about beauty, all tried it and loved it, too. Net-A-Porter ended up wanting to sell it because their head buyer tried it and her skin changed in three days. I thought to myself, ‘OK, we’ll sell this much in a year and we’re never going to make another product. It’s just enough for me to buy a bunch of Birkins and call it a day.’ That year’s supply sold out in 21 days. That’s how U Beauty came to be, the short version of it anyway.

SKINCARE
I started treatments like Botox very late, and honestly, I still don’t get a lot of stuff done. In my twenties, I was busy working. I was trying to have a baby in my thirties, so I was not going to inject anything into my skin. By my forties, I decided to try. Now I get Botox from Dr. Daniel Belkin. He does microtox and PicoToning. He was the first person that I let use lasers on me—I do that twice a year now. I’ve tried microneedling, but I don’t do it anymore because I felt like it was causing more pigmentation because of the inflammation. And I’ve done EmFace at Advanced Skin Fitness in Dallas.

When I was in Seoul last summer, I got a three-step tightening treatment from Blackpink’s dermatologist. She’s this big secret—her name is Dr. Yoon. That’s all I can say because I’ve been sworn to secrecy. She’s all about improving the texture and health of the skin and avoiding surgery. She uses two electronic gloves that massage and tighten, and Korean acupuncture needles that are ten times thicker than Chinese acupuncture needles. She also invented a machine that’s a hybrid of two others—one of which is Ulthera. People usually get put under for it because it’s so painful but I stayed awake. It hurt like a mofo. I was so bruised after, too—but the tightening worked.

For facials I love Miranda Sturce, Joanna Czech, and Iván Pol, or The Beauty Sandwich as people know him. Iván is so knowledgeable. He has a machine that snatches you, and I love his SS01 Secret Sauce. Joanna is still my favorite though because no one slaps a face like her. She’s got the strongest hands in the world. Then, when it comes to tools, I love Jillian Dempsey’s gold bar and Nurse Jamie’s beauty roller, which is great for lymphatic drainage.

I used to have a triple cleanse routine and I always thought there had to be a better way. Our Mantle Skin Conditioning Wash is the answer. It’s a beautiful, rich balm that really cleans and easily rinses off. Rather than using solubilizers to pull dirt and oil off your face, stripping your skin of its own natural oils, ours works with your skin to remove debris without stripping. Still, on days that I wear a lot of waterproof makeup for events, I use Almay Eye Makeup Remover Pads. They’ve been my best friends since I was in college—they really wipe off everything.

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My first step after cleansing is always the Resurfacing Compound. It has vitamin A, vitamin C, AHAs, PHAs, and antioxidants, so it replaces so many other serums while gently resurfacing without irritation. I follow it up with our Super Hydrator, which is like a 3D moisture shield that protects your skin. It’s got a nice, rich cream texture. It melts into the skin and continually hydrates it for up to 48 hours.

Do you know about leaky vessels? I learned about them when I was going through a divorce and crying every night. My eye cream stopped working and I asked my biochemists why. They were like, ‘You have leaky vessels,’ and explained that as your skin ages, your blood vessels age, too, so when you cry, the extra cellular fluid gets pushed out through the vascular walls that are now more permeable. I was like, ‘My husband left me and now I have leaky vessels? It went from bad to worse.’ That was about two-and-a-half years ago, and not long after that we launched our Return Eye Concentrate. I’m biased, but I think it is the best eye cream on the planet. Within two weeks of launching, it became one of the top eye creams at all our retailers. It has real diamond powder, and with our Siren capsules, it’s able to penetrate deeper into the skin and activate collagen synthesis.

For sunscreen, I use our Multimodal Defender Broad SPF 30. It not only protects the skin, but it also corrects past damage. There’s an ester in there that lightens and brightens pigmentation. I use it at night as a spot treatment, too. No one believes that I used to be a sun worshiper—a literal tanorexic—until I show them photos. I’ve spent the last 35 years trying to reverse the damage. For a good drugstore sunscreen, I love La Roche Posay.

MAKEUP
I’ve always been a glowy girl. Kevyn Aucoin used to say that five-year-olds glow in certain places—like, if you look at them, they always glow right above the lip—so I always start with our Super Tinted Hydrator in 02 or 03 depending on my mood, and Multimodal Defender SPF 30 as a makeup base because the zinc in it gives off such a great glow. I use Trish McEvoy’s Correct and Even Full-Face Perfector in shade 2 if I have an event, and then Shiseido’s Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Concealer in 202 for my everyday life.

For my eyes, I love Victoria Beckham’s waterline pencil. And I’m obsessed with her satin kajal liners—all of them. They’re so creamy, and they don’t pull out your lash extensions. But I also love Haus Labs’ Optic Intensity Eyeliner. Titanium Shimmer, the silver shade, brightens everything. All I do is buy eyeliners and lip liners; if you look in my makeup bag, I have 20 on me at all times.

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Michelle Phan does such a great job with her brand, EmCosmetics—I don’t know why it’s not talked about more. I love the Divine Skies eyeshadow palette in Saturn’s Return. Huda Beauty’s creamy eyeshadow palettes are great, too. And for events, Westman Atelier’s Eye Pods are fabulous. I love Les Jours. I’m also obsessed with Natasha Denona. I like that her Glam Eyeshadow Palette tells you where to use each shade so anyone can use it.

I use the Grande Lash Serum to grow my lashes. I’ve tried all the best ones, and this is the only one that actually works for me. If I don’t have lash extensions because they all fell out, then I’ll use Charlotte Tilbury’s mascara. And I love the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Freeze Gel and Brow Definer in Taupe.

For blush, I use a cheek jelly from LB in Rose. You have to buy this at Don Quijote in Tokyo; it’s not available anywhere else. My sister-in-law lives in Tokyo, and she sends me six every year. When it comes to contour, I like the Westman Atelier Face Trace Contour Stick in Biscuit. I contour the bridge of my nose with it. If I don’t want to put on eyeshadow, I’ll use it on my eyelids, too. Gucci Westman gave me that tip. Meanwhile, I’ve been using the Physician’s Formula Butter Glow since high school. I also use Victoria Beckham Contour Stylus in Marble like a bronzer. I love the shade and how it looks on my skin.

My favorite lip liners are from Jones Road Beauty. I use Mauve all around to triple the size of my lips. Then I go in with Nudist, which is a little darker. Those are my most used. I love Charlotte Tilbury’s Lip Cheat in Supersize Me for events. Huda Beauty has a great lip contour, as well. It’s self-sharpening. I love Muted Pink. And of course, our Plasma Lip Compound is amazing. My go-to is Orchid. It’s great with the Jones Road Mauve—that’s my daily combo. Then I set my face with Morphe Luminous Setting Spray.

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HAIR
My hair is very high maintenance. Ever since I bleached my mop, I spend more on my hair than anything—and I’m very careful with it. My colorist stylist Adriana Tesler is in LA and has done my hair for 20 years. She was trained by Tracey Cunningham.

I only wash my hair once or twice a week. My favorite shampoo in the world is the R+Co Bleu Ingenious Thickening Shampoo—and I live for their Bleu conditioner, too. I switch them off with the Color Wow Color Security Shampoo and conditioner to see to what that does. And I still love Olaplex. I don’t care what anyone says. Every other week, I use their No.3 Hair Perfector as a hair mask and follow it up with the Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo and the No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner. In between washes, I spray my hair with the In Common Magic Myst 4-in-1 Leave-In. Then I put in Velcro curlers—mine are from a beauty store in Seoul called Olive Young—and it’s like I got a fresh blowout. That’s my secret to keep it very minimal chemical damage. I don’t even brush my hair. Oway’s Silk’n Glow Serum is from Norway, but it’s hard to find in the US. Luckily, Adriana sells it at her salon. It’s anti-frizz but also gives you a nice shine. I put a bit on my hands and then comb through my hair with them. I love the R+Co Bleu Smooth Seal Blow-Dry Mist, too. And Nick Stenson’s Light Hold Hair Spray is great.

I have my T3 straightening iron from 2007. It’s literally 15 years old, and it’s black—they’re all white now. It’s still the best. My son and I fight over it. It heats up within three seconds, and I actually feel like it improves the health of my hair while I use it. It’s sold out everywhere now. I’m obsessed with the Dyson Airstrait, too—and their Airwrap is pretty dope. And I love all of the T3 blow dryers.

FRAGRANCE
I go through two bottles of Matiere Premiere French Flower a year. Saks started selling it recently, but you could only get it in the UK before. I still like buying it in the Harrods fragrance hall, where I discovered it a few years ago. I also love Nasomatto’s Narcotic V. Overall, I love white florals that are kind of sexy and not too sweet, and that’s exactly what it smells like.

When it comes to candles, Baies from Diptyque is a classic, but my favorite candle in the world is their limited edition London candle. They only release it every two years. I’ve been emailing the team, ‘Where is it? Did you come out with it again? I need it.’ It smells like walking through a garden on spring morning in London. Fresh and clean and beautiful.”

—As told to Daise Bedolla

Photographed by Heather Johnson in Dallas on March 28, 2024





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