You’ve probably seen Tower 28’s sunny, beach-inspired products on your Instagram feed. Welcome to Artist Spotlight #24 series on my blog.
After dealing with embarrassing flare-ups throughout her career, while working for some of the biggest brands in the beauty industry, Liu wanted to create makeup products that people with sensitive, compromised skin would feel good about using.
In under two years, Tower 28 has become known for its clean formulas, beach-inspired shades, colorful packaging, and accessible price points.
However, while Tower 28’s cult-favorite SOS Daily Rescue Spray has the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance, the brand’s products aren’t just for people with eczema or other chronic skin conditions.
“My hope is the products aren’t just for people who suffer from eczema or have problem skin like mine,” Liu tells InStyle. “It’s been fascinating because if you were to look at the people who tag us on Instagram, there’s everything from beauty guru full makeup looks to people who are more into skincare. It makes me so happy because I wanted this brand to be for everyone.”
Find out how Liu broke into the beauty industry, her thoughts on the future of the clean beauty movement, and so much more.
How did you wind up working in the beauty industry?
My first job out of college was consulting. I didn’t feel an attachment to the work I was doing because once I was done a project somewhere I would leave. I went through what I call my quarter life crisis, and went to business school with the intention of changing careers. I don’t consider myself to be a super glam person or a beauty junkie, but the way people engage with beauty products and the psychology of beauty products has always fascinated me. Putting on makeup can be a confidence boost, and as someone who’s aging and has had compromised skin, I understand that experience. So, I went to USC for business school and did my first internship at L’Oréal with Maybelline. Then I worked at brands like Smashbox and Kate Somerville. All the while, I always knew I wanted to do my own thing but I’m quite a risk-adverse person. The idea of walking away from a job with a decent salary and raising money to start a brand was really scary. In the end, I ended up raising money from friends and family and that’s how I started Tower 28.
What is the inspiration behind Tower 28?
I’ve had compromised, inconsistent, eczema-prone skin since I was in college. You see it addressed in skincare, but not really in makeup. I really wanted to wear makeup when I had flare-ups, but my biggest fear was making it worse by using products. I also felt self-conscious at work when I was presenting products to people and my hands had eczema on it. I’m sure part of it was in my own head because no one ever said anything to me, but it made me want to create something that could help people with compromised skin who felt guilty or bad about wearing products.
My parents immigrating to America from Taiwan is the second thing that’s inspired the brand. I was born in the U.S., grew up in California, and felt very American, but I still felt a little bit on the outside because I didn’t fit into what was considered the typical standards of beauty. That’s part of the reason why the brand has a beach theme to it. I’ve lived in Southern California near the beach for so long and you don’t just see blue eyes and blonde hair. Tower 28 is a real place on the edge of Santa Monica and Venice, and you could not find a more diverse group of people there. I wanted to tell a different story about the beach, and bring clean beauty to a larger group of people.
California just passed the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act. As a clean beauty brand founder, how do you think this bill will affect the industry?
In general, as a wide statement, most businesses will not change unless there’s a real threat to their business. However, I’m happy that it’s happened and I hope it’s the tip of the iceberg. I think the consumer and the demand for clean products what will ultimately change the industry. I don’t think people think this new legislation is strict enough, especially if they’re already using clean products.
What Tower 28 product are you most proud of?
The product I’m most proud of and personally reliant on, is our SOS Spray. We recently announced that we’re launching a jumbo size on Instagram and all of the comments were from people saying how excited they are. I’ve had this skin problem so long and started the brand not knowing I’d make something that really helps me, and then so many other people. It’s exactly all of the things I wanted to get out of creating a brand. Outside of that, I also think it’s cool that we don’t just have one hero product. We only have a few SKUs, but they’re all pretty productive.
You created Tower 28’s Clean Beauty Summer School Program to support Black-owned beauty brands. Why was this initiative important to you?
I hope to provide access to mentorship and education at a time where so many Black founders are suddenly being seen and there’s an influx of demand. Since I’ve worked in the beauty industry for 17 years, I’m able to help people connect the dots, find mentors, and hopefully leverage this moment. A huge part of the success I’ve had in my career is due to my network and community in the industry, which in itself is a privilege.
Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer
For a natural, streak-free glow, a cream bronzer is your best bet. Tower 28’s buildable formula blends like a dream, thanks to skin-conditioning ingredients like mango butter and calming green tea extract. It comes in two shades” West Coast is a medium bronze with neutral undertones, while Best Coast is a deep bronze with red undertones.
ShineOn Lip Jelly
What do you get when you combine everything you love about your favorite lip balm and gloss? Tower 28’s ShineOn Lip Jelly. The six translucent shades (including this red) offer high shine and hydrate lips — without any stickiness.
SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray
This isn’t your average refreshing facial mist, the cult-favorite spray is formulated with hypochlorous acid, an ingredient that helps reduce bacteria and inflammation, which in turn, can soothe compromised skin and prevent acne.
BeachPlease Luminous Tinted Balm
There’s no right or wrong way to use this tinted balm. Dab it on your eyelids, lips, and cheeks for a luminous, sheer wash of color. The three available shades are inspired by the warm tones of a Santa Monica sunset.
ShineOn Milky Lip Jelly
Available in four shades inspired by alternative milks, the milky edition of ShineOn Lip Jelly is a level up from the original. It’s infused with apricot kernel and raspberry seed oils to nourish and protect lips from free radicals and environmental aggressors.