YouTube sensations Jen Chae and Karissa Pukas and influencer Dani Song talk beauty trends, favourite products and their philosophies
Buro was privileged to be part of Skin Inc's first Beauty Hackathon on 11 November and among the guests during the skincare brainstorming workshop were YouTube sensations American Jen Chae (frmheadtotoe) and Canadian Karissa Pukas (saturdaynighstalrite). (Pukas has upwards of 600,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel while Chae has more than 1.16 million on hers.) Also present was Instagram star Dani Song (@songdani), once known as the sister of style blogger Aimee Song, and now a jewellery brand owner and style star in her own right.
Buro sat down with these three ladies and found that like most women, they are looking for the same things — products that work for them quickly and effectively. For both Chae and Pukas, their aim was not to get as many clicks as possible, but rather to be of service to their viewers with user-friendly and honest tutorials. As influencers they walk a fine line between catering to the whims of their fans and the beauty brands, but these ladies seem to be doing it well. Read more from them:
How did you get started and why? I started when I graduated from college and was looking for a job. I only started wearing makeup around the age of 21. Before then, I didn't want to be judged by my makeup and my face! I started sharing tutorials for monolid eyes on an online forum. I then created a blog and then thought it would be easier to show people my techniques on video, rather than writing it out. Videos turned out to be much harder and I didn't expect there to be an audience for it.
How did you learn to do makeup, specifically for single eyelids? My background is in art and I've always been an artistic person — I studied design in school. Nobody taught me how to put on makeup. I grew up in Kansas where there was very little diversity. But just because of what I learned from art school about light and shadow, and what makes sense to me, I developed my own techniques for applying eyeshadow.
What are some products you love right now? For skincare I love the Clinique Smart Repair Serum. It was the product I tried for hyper-pigmentation that really made a difference super quickly, so I didn’t have to wear as much makeup.
For makeup, I'm obsessed with Nars Sheer Glow foundation. It just leaves a beautiful finish. For hair, I'm a fan of Clipless curling irons. It's so fast and heats up really easy and works well for me.
What is unique about your YouTube channel Frmheadtotoe? I think it's about being authentic. I'm a person that doesn't have a lot to hide. And when I look at reviews myself, I'm looking for honesty. If you're down-to-earth, people pick up on that. I don't concentrate on going viral, but rather on trying to be a real person — making someone feel like they're talking to an older sister or someone they can trust. I don't do clickbait videos. Even if it's sponsored, I focus on trying to teach my viewers something, so they can get real value.
How do you sort through all the products you receive? I am willing to try new things all the time, but I have a pretty quick process of deciding if I like something — I'm pretty cutthroat. But if I like something, I get really excited and want to share it with my fans.
What are the biggest trends you've seen in the past year? It's so funny because I am Korean and I grew up in an area with few Koreans, I was already seeking out Korean skincare and makeup trends, which is really big now. I see the trend now as going more towards healthy skin versus just topical makeup — treating your skin so that it needs less makeup.
What are your dream innovations? For makeup I would love a foundation that stayed balanced — so one that stays hydrated, but doesn't look oily or fall apart during the day. I would also love an all-in-one moisturiser that doesn't irritate your skin, but is very hydrating.
You're here for the Beauty Hackathon, what are your thoughts on Skin Inc? I really love the idea of the customised serums, just because every woman has something that they're concerned about — and I like that it addresses multiple concerns not just one.
How do you address all the different requests and concerns of your viewers? Some of the biggest differences I see are with skin types and eye shapes. I usually say "This is my skin type and this is what I use, but if you have this particular skin type, then you might try this or this." When I do eyeliner tutorials, I try to give tips for different eye shapes as well. But at the end of the day, people watch who they relate with.
How did you get started and how did you acquire your skill? So much of this industry is trial and error, not only with products and learning what you're doing, but learning filming and production. You just learn as you go. I started my channel five years ago as a student in Vancouver as a means of meeting people, because I was not meeting them at school.
When did you start wearing makeup? I only really started wearing makeup when I started my channel. My subscribers were asking for more makeup tutorials as at first I began with more fashion stuff. My mum is a personal trainer and she was never into fashion or beauty, so it's funny that I ended up doing makeup. I was definitely not a makeup kid!
What are your beauty heroes? I love the Becca Cosmetics highlighters — they are a beautiful quality. I also use ColourPop highlighters that come in a mousse-y format that are really nice. I swear by oils. My favourite is vitamin A oils — they're skin-changing. Any kind of high-quality face oil is fantastic. I also loved the customised serum by SkinInc because mine also had vitamin A in it.
How do you sort through all the products you receive? A lot of it is word of mouth and my viewers saying that I should try something. A lot of PR companies send me things to try. I do choose it based on the packaging and whether I recognise the brand name. I do get a bit scared to try things I haven't heard of or that looks a bit too old-school.
What are the trends you've seen in beauty? Celebrity trends are even bigger than they were before. Especially with Kylie Jenner and the Kardashians, it is influencing a lot of what you see on YouTube. It wasn't really like that years ago. There was no one celebrity who was the face of contouring or strobing. The market is very saturated. It is hard to find people that are really genuine and really love what they are doing.
What is your dream skincare innovation? I take a long time to heal when I have a zit and I have to cover up my spots a lot of the time. I would love a product that can go over acne, prime it and smooth over it and have a treatment property so that it can accept makeup. A lot of the time, spots and pimples are too raw for makeup to be worn over it. It would be cool to have a product like that.
What do you like about Skin Inc? I love the philosophy and concept of the brand. I haven't tried a ton of their products... I've tried the Pure Revival Peel and that was really cool. I like that you can customise what you need. Not every person fits into that one-size-fits-all thing, and to have a brand that not only embraces that, but accepts that as its value, that's really cool to see.
What is your skincare regimen like and what exciting new products have you discovered? I am very simple, but after discovering Skin Inc, I realised that skin really matters. I didn't really know my skin at all and was just using CVC products. In California, to stay hydrated is important. For me I have oily skin, so I need oil-free products... otherwise my makeup will slide off. The Skin Inc Optimizer Voyage balances my skin a lot and the blue light helps with inflammation.
What interesting hair products do you use? La Mer's The Renewal Oil... it can be used on your hair as well. I always carry a curling iron. It doesn't matter the brand — my curling iron is from CVS — it's about knowing the technique.
You own the jewellery brand Anarchy Street what is the trend with jewellery now? People rely on jewellery more. I like to dress simple and chic and just accessorise myself with jewellery. Gold is really in. Shiny gold in particular seems to be in.
How has SkinInc changed you? The brand is definitely about a woman's voice. Skin Inc cares about your skin type and listening to your ideas. They're focussing on people instead of just the brand. They're growing and growing organically by focussing on what people want.
When I use the blue light from the Optimizer Voyage on pre-menstrual acne and spots, it dries up and heals much faster. I see the results right away. I use the red light on my wrinkles too. Another product I love is the the Pure Deepsea Hydrating Mask which I use on the plane. My sister [Aimee Song] carries the whole suite of products with her when she travels. Because of Aimee I discovered Skin Inc and I like that Skin Inc makes it easier for fuss-free people. You just need to know your skin condition and type and they make the product for you.