3 Things We Dive Into In This Episode:
Important tools for navigating loss and grief.
The major gap that Ada found in the skincare industry and how she started developing her natural + sustainable skincare brand.
How developing a basic skincare routine and prioritizing it in your life is self-care and healthcare.
Chuan’s Promise skincare website
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[03:52] Ada Pre-Chuan’s Promise
Ada had recently moved to a new state and didn’t have a job at the time.
The pandemic hit and the mandatory lockdown began.
Her father became gravely ill and Ada became his main caregiver through his last year.
Ada managed all of his care remotely because she couldn’t be in the hospital with him.
[05:05] Why sustainable skincare?
During the stress of taking care of her father and COVID, Ada did not take care of her skin and it was suffering.
She bought products at retail stores but had no clue what the ingredients were or what she was putting on her skin. They also didn’t work.
Through this process, she realized how much plastic packaging was being used along with water in the production process and the amount of shipping. The carbon footprint was more than she wanted to be part of.
Ada knew there had to be a better solution.
[08:06] Chuan’s Promise is born
Ada got busy in her own kitchen mixing different raw ingredients to find something that worked.
She also worked with the facial oils she had been blending prior to all of this happening.
To make her product sustainable, she focused on packaging. Ada made her packaging 100% recyclable or compostable.
Out of respect for her father, she used his middle name, Chuan, for the product line. He was also her biggest supporter in pursuing entrepreneurship.
Promise comes from a saying her father always used in lieu of “bye” or “goodbye.”
Ada: “I was thinking about bringing the skincare brand to life and what I want people to do with the products - it really is to take care of themselves and to be reminded of that every day. I chose to borrow that saying from dad and kind of put it all together into a brand.”
[10:24] Navigating Loss and Grief
Ada took weeks being horizontal to process the passing of her father.
She sought out the professional support of a therapist and highly suggests anyone dealing with this type of loss do the same.
Caitie: “A support network of friends, professional help, and permission to be horizontal and let things sink in are three really important tools.”
[16:37] Making Skincare Accessible
Taking care of your skin is just as important as any other part of your body.
Viewing skincare as part of healthcare and as part of self-care can help make it more of a priority for people who don’t see its importance.
Ada wants to make her skincare line accessible in both price point and availability.
Ada: “It feels terrible to see abundance and not be able to access it.”
Ada: “That's what equity means. Everybody being able to access the same resources.”
[20:24] Ada’s Skincare Products & Recommendations
Things won’t improve overnight, so give yourself grace and have patience.
If you’re just getting started, Ada suggests using a basic cleanser once or twice a day. Moisturize to keep your skin hydrated, apply an SPF every day, and exfoliate once a week.
Ada describes her different products and how best to use them.
SPF comes in a mineral or chemical formula.
Ada: “My advice, if it's too cheap, there's a reason for it. If it's really expensive there's probably not a great reason for, it.”
[26:54] Two Skincare Myths
Myth: oily or combination skin shouldn’t use products with oil in them. Why it’s false: your skin has natural oils. Once you wash your face, you’ve removed them, so it’s important to put some back to create balance.
Myth: you must wash your face twice a day. Why it’s false: washing twice a day may overdry your skin. If that’s the case, your skin will produce more oil.
[30:32] Future Dreams for Chuan’s Promise
Update the packaging and formatting of her products to be completely sustainable.
Make her Chuan’s Promise products accessible to everyone through their local supermarkets, groceries, and co-ops while maintaining the use of high-quality ingredients.
[32:19] Ada’s Routine
Ada’s morning routine is more involved. Listen to the full episode to find out how many times she hits snooze!
She gets up, does her simple skincare routine, walks the dog, and has a cup of coffee.
Her evening routine ends with a sweet treat, her pajamas, and a book.
Find out why Ada’s passion for sewing is not part of her nighttime routine.
[53:34] This Week’s Processing Prompt
Ask yourself: what gaps do I have in my skincare routine?
Actionable tool: slow down one piece of your morning and evening routine. What is it that you can lean into and be more present with?
Ada Chen Ada is the founder and CEO of Chuan's Promise, a Denver-based sustainable natural skincare line. Ada launched her brand in November 2020, while caregiving for her late dad - a process that taught her the true importance of self-care.
Connect with Ada: Website | Instagram | Pinterest | TikTok
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Ada Chen: When you overdry your skin, you're actually asking it to produce more oil cause you're telling your skin, we've gotten rid of all the oil. Mm-hmm, now you gotta do more. And so that can sometimes backfire on people. But also if you already have dry skin or you're worried about fine lines and wrinkles, over-cleansing can actually make that worse.
Caitie Corradino: Welcome to Whole, Full, & Alive, a podcast exploring the art and science of falling in love with your life, with your story, and with who you truly are underneath your titles, your resume, your relationship status, and your bank account. I'm Caitie Corradino, a registered dietician nutritionist, certified fitness and yoga instructor, eating disorder recovery coach, Reiki healer, and founder of Full Soul Nutrition. But underneath my titles and resume, I'm a big fan of kitchen dance breaks, early mornings, all things topped with truffles, world, traveling, and serendipity. I'm here to share no bullsh!t stories and actionable tools to help you feel unshakably worthy. You have everything you need within you to feel whole, full, and alive right here, right now. Let's get into it.
Caitie: Ada, thank you so much for being here today. Fellow NYU alum. Go. NYU, go Violets. Is that the thing that we say? Go Violets. I think we actually also say Go Bobcats. Oh yeah, that's a sports team called the Bobcats, don't we? And the Bobcat is actually created the mascot. The mascot because of the library that's called Bobst, which is just like, that just shows how much NYU doesn't care about sports. Like they named their mascot after the library. Well, you know why it's cat, it's because it's the Bobst catalog. No Bobcat. No. That's what I heard. But it's been a while. It's probably true. I believe it. I believe it. Yeah. No sports at NYU but like lots of schools feared over here on this podcast. Thank you so much for being here today. As we're kind of diving into our conversation, not about NYU, I wanna hear who are you? Tell everyone who you are.
Ada: Who am I? I am about 51% extroverted and 49% introverted. I'm that weird borderline person, who takes a quiz and will always be on the border of E or I. Uh, I like to think that I'm thoughtful and empathetic and generally a caring person. And I've been told I'm a very loyal friend, which if you go through my text history of the last week of friends who've been sick, probably it sounds about right cause I'm constantly like, Hey, are you alive? Like, do you need something? Can I drop it off? Can I order it to your house? So I'm, I'm that person in your life.
Caitie: I believe that about you. And also I've only like met you in person one time, but really feel, really feel that caring energy from you. And I think that kind of carries over into what you do. So tell everyone what do you do?
Ada: Yeah, I do a lot of things. I, my main job is that I started a natural skincare company all about sustainability and that's called Chuan's Promise, so that's c h u A n apostrophe s Promise and Chuan was my dad's middle name. And so that was kind of born out of my experience caregiving for him, um, in his last year of life. And on the side and other things I do, I also have a podcast. It's about sewing and Asian identity. It's called the Asian Souls Collective. And occasionally now I'm very picky. I do take on marketing clients from time to time because that used to be what my day job was. It feels like a literal lifetime ago, but only a few years ago. Mm. So much good stuff. When did you officially go full-time in Chuan's Promise?
Um, well I didn't have a day job anymore, so basically sometime in 2020 I started it, I started working on it in mid-2020. We launched Black Friday and then, uh, my dad passed in January of 2021 and I had this kind of reckoning moment where I was like, I can either, I was on the couch basically for six weeks straight, just like, what do I do with myself and who am I? And like, what is grief? And I was like, do I keep doing this? And I think I was like, yeah, why not? And so kind of coming out of the experience, I was like, I was having more fun. I was actually doing a lot more consulting at the time, but I was having more fun working on Chuan's Promise on the side. And I said, I'm just gonna flip that around. Like I'm learning a lot more.
I'm having a lot more fun. I'm clearly more passionate about this than doing marketing for startups and venture-backed companies. And so I kind of, yeah, almost two years ago went into it full-time.
Caitie: Congrats. Let's just go deeper into that. Can you tell the story of why sustainable skincare? How sustainable skincare? And then also a little bit more about the the mission and and the name. I just, I, I wanna hear all of it so we might as well go deeper into it right away.
Ada: Why sustainable skincare? I mean it kind of ties back into the mission and the name and how it all got started. Basically, I left my corporate job in March of 2020. Terrible timing because when I moved to Denver, they wouldn't let me take my job with me. Ironically, they were not about remote work and here we are, everybody is remote all the time.
Caitie: And it was right before Covid?
Ada: It was right as Covid was starting a lockdown. Like we were told to temporarily work from home and they were like, but you still can't take your job with you. Hmm. And I was like, Hmm, okay. hypocritical. But sure. And in a little bit of an fu move, I was like, F you, I will leave at the end of the quarter. Take my stock and and go off to the sunset. Yeah, really that meant like fleeing San Francisco the day shut down and luckily my partner had moved here first and had set up our house and all the things. So soft landing and about four weeks later, not even four, maybe like three and a half weeks later, I got a call from my cousin saying my dad had been found down in his apartment, he was still living on his own and he was in the hospital.
And so basically I had no job and I am the eldest daughter of two Taiwanese immigrants. So I became his caregiver. And at the time you weren't allowed in the hospital like every, I mean it was like a scary time I think if everyone thinks back on it now. And so I was just on the phone like twenty-four seven, uh, arranging care and figuring out what was like going wrong and, and figuring out all that stuff. So that was pretty much the rest of my 2020. And because I was not taking care of myself while I was doing that, which I find highly ironic, I, my skin went to sh!t is the best way to to say. And I went to Target and Sephora and all the places and I was buying all the products and I was really frustrated first at all of the plastic packaging and all of the waste that I felt like I was generating as a single person trying to find a solution to my problems with my skin.
And I also was like, what are all these ingredients that I'm putting on? Why aren't they working? Is it all hype? And so I kind of started to deep dive into that. I'd always been into skincare. I had been mixing some of my own formulas for a few years, but I hadn't really given it much thought until that point. And so that kind of occupied my time. And uh, the more I learned about it, the more I learned about how much packaging waste goes into the big beauty industry every year it's literally billions of pieces of packaging. And that was a 2017 stat. And I learned about the formulas that are going in there. So just like how major food companies will use water in the places where they produce mass-manufactured foods and take that resource away from those communities. Beauty companies do the same when they're using water in a lot of their products and then they're shipping around the world and there's a whole carbon impact of that.
And so the more I learned, the more upset I was about it. And the more I was like, well, okay, this isn't working for me or the environment. The products aren't even working, so why don't I just try making it myself? And so I was literally like in my kitchen ordering ingredients, raw ingredients and just kind of mixing them in a ball and seeing what worked. And I found a few formulas that worked in addition to some of the facial oils that I'd been blending before. And a friend was like, well why don't you, you know how to put things on the internet. Your job was in marketing. Why don't you do that, put it on the internet, see if anyone buys it. So that's how I ended up putting it on the internet. And I was like, okay, here's how we're more sustainable. We're focusing on the packaging because that was a huge issue.
So we're only gonna do something that's completely recyclable or compostable like it will biodegrade back to the earth. So there is no waste in it. And we're gonna look at the formulas because people have been making skincare products for literally as long as humans have been around, they've been putting on stuff on their skin, there must be a way to formulate this so it has less of a impact on the earth. So those were the two kind of things that I focused on. Those were still the two things that I focus on with the business. And because of everything that was going on with my dad, and because he was the one who originally inspired me to go into entrepreneurship, at some point I decided to borrow his name. So Chuan was his middle name and he spelled it funny when he got here. So I stuck with it.
Here we are. And the promise refers to, I don't know if it's like a dad thing or like an immigrant Asian dad thing or a generational thing, but he like never said goodbye the words or like on the phone, anytime we said bye, he would just say, okay, take care. And I know it was cause he was always worried about me. And so I was like thinking about bringing the skincare brand to life and what I want people to do with the products and it really is to take care of themselves and to be reminded of that every day. And so I chose to borrow that saying from dad and kind of put it all together into a brand.
Caitie: The story. There's so much I wanna ask you about. I mean, first of all, let's honor, let's honor your dad. Let's honor that. Take care. I think that's so beautiful. And also just honor the fact that you moved your way through, through grief less than two years ago. Speaking a little bit to that, what was it like to navigate that process of losing your job and then also losing an immediate family member at the same time? I think we can't just blip over that.
Ada: Oh, it was a lot. And I, if you are going through that, I highly recommend seeing a professional therapists are great. I don't really know how I would've made it if I didn't have a really strong support network. Like, and I, I think I try to do that for others as well, but I didn't realize that those folks would be there for me when I needed it because I think we're fed this, you must be a strong independent woman, like you don't need any backup.
And I think that's a, that's just a lie. My dog would agree too. And I think when I was going through that, what helped the most honestly was I actually just started sharing a lot of it on Instagram to my stories. And if you follow my personal Instagram, which is, you know, now private because it is mostly like for friends and in my immediate like circle, I was sharing like daily updates of like, and the nurse called or like, I've been on the phone trying to get a nurse so I can FaceTime him for like two hours. And so just sharing my frustrations and having a place to vent and then having that support network of friends come back and say, Hey, we've got you. Like that's really and we totally understand why you're frustrated. Really helped me get through that point. And I think basically if they weren't there, that that got me through like the first few months of it.
And then really seeking like professional help once it kind of all went down. I just needed, I think after my dad passed a few weeks to be horizontal on the couch mm-hmm. to really just process what was go, what was happening and what had happened. What I don't think I told you when we met in person was that actually about four months after my dad passed, my mom actually was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through treatment, she is all clear now, but because she's also here in the Denver area, I was also in charge of driving her to appointments and making sure she was like on schedule and like really being careful at that time too. And so at that point I was like, okay, like we've been through a lot and we put off getting professional help because it didn't feel like we had the time or the energy to, but like with this coming up, at least with that, I kind of knew like, this is a six-month sprint, we're gonna need some help.
And that really kicked me in the butt to call up a few therapists and had them on the audition on the phone.
Caitie: Yeah. Audition. I mean you ha it's like dating, like you kind of have to find the right one with the right vibes and you might outgrow each other. It's a whole, it's a whole process. A hundred percent, a hundred percent. No one talks about that. And just that going to therapy in and of itself, taking that step to say, okay, I wanna go to therapy, I wanna get professional help is one thing, but then actually finding the therapist that's the best fit for you is another thing. And I, I wanna see more resources created for that because I think that there's a lot of gaps in the, the therapy finding process in that sense, finding someone who is a good fit for you, just like socioeconomically, culturally, emotionally, personality-wise, what type of methods you, it's just, it's a whole other thing.