Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
If you’ve ever gone down a skincare rabbithole on YouTube, you’ve probably heard of gua sha. Gua sha is a carved stone used in Ancient Chinese healing practices dating back to 10,000 B.C.E. (as in 2.5 million years ago). Despite white-owned companies trying to “upgrade” a million-year old tradition, a few Asian/Pacific Islander creators are working hard to reclaim important parts of our traditional beauty practices.
YouTube influencer and beauty entrepreneur Sarah Cheung is at the forefront of this movement with her brand SACHEU Beauty. Her line of skincare products includes a Gua Sha and Face Roller made of stainless steel, a nonporous antibacterial material that’s also self-cooling. When designing products for her line, she draws inspiration from her own Chinese heritage and from her robust social media following.
In this interview with TQE, Cheung generously shares tips on how she leveraged her loyal social media following to build a meaningful line of skincare products.
TQE: How did you start your channel? What was the one video that really blew up?
Sarah Cheung: I started my channel when I was in college as a hobby. The video that blew up was definitely the Dick Appointment Makeup Tutorial (1.64 million views) where I talked about how to get ready for a Valentine’s Day dick appointment.
You’re sooo brutally honest in your videos, especially about skincare trends that are all hype, no substance. Can you tell us about how building trust with your audience affected the launch of your brand?
SC: Because my audience trusts my recommendations, people know I will hold the same standard when creating my own products. That definitely contributed to our brand success in the beginning. The support we received on social media was actually way beyond expectations for someone with a following of my size and I think it’s because transparency and honesty goes a long way.
Tell us about how you developed your products. How long did it take?
SC: We have a small product development team that works very hard to find the best quality materials and we have many rounds of samples and testing before launch. For our first products, from the idea to finally being shelf ready took around a year!
How does your followers’ and customers’ feedback help shape the product development process?
SC: SACHEU Beauty’s core ethos include community and inclusivity, so customer and follower feedback is an incredibly integral part of product development. That’s why we avoid common irritants like fragrance and alcohol in our formulations. They don’t have any functional purpose, and cause irritation to so many consumers, so we don’t add them. We really have our customers in mind when creating new products.
What are your thoughts on gua sha and jade-rolling becoming “popular trends”?
SC: People are really starting to understand the benefits of facial massage, including reducing fine lines, reducing puffiness, and promoting healthy blood circulation, which is great.
Although it may seem like a recent social media trend, its origins date back thousands of years. It's a traditional practice of a community historically marginalized in the west, so it is incredibly important to acknowledge and appreciate its origins.
And always use a slip agent!
What are some common mistakes you see when people are using gua sha?
SC: The most common mistake I see people making is not using a slip agent. If you’re not using a slip agent, I’d prefer you didn’t gua sha at all. It’s such an important step to protect the skin. It can be a serum, squalane, or oil, anything that provides enough slip so that you are not tugging at the skin and causing collagen damage.
What’s the most rewarding part of creating your own brand?
SC: Getting to work with a hard-working, supportive team. Seeing our hard work translate into real holy grail products that people keep on their shelves and swear by is definitely the best part of this journey.
Your 3 favorite non-beauty-related YouTube channels?
The H3 Frenemies podcast for mindless chaos. Stephen Graham for financial education. Buzzfeed Unsolved for a spooky time.
Cheung’s story reminds us that trust, integrity, and a solid sense of humor (forever lol-ing @ the dick appointment makeup tutorial) can create a solid foundation for a great direct-to-consumer business.