Nothing is music to Angela Kim’s ears like a client’s confidence. After having a visible allergic reaction to a supposedly “natural” skincare product while performing in front of an audience, the onetime concert pianist was inspired to assume the role of alchemist, tirelessly blending and experimenting with ingredients until she created a skincare formula that met even her mother’s high K-beauty standards. Today, her organic product line, Savor Beauty, and two spas (currently offering virtual consultations—much-needed considering the havoc that stress and masks are wreaking on our skin) are helping to support a new beauty standard, all about “authentic radiance.” We sat down with this Salt Shaker to talk creative process, glowing skin and what it means to be beautiful.
SALT: Growing up, what role did your mother’s love of skincare play in teaching you about the concept of self-care?
My mom taught me to treat your skin like the most expensive silk on earth. Koreans are obsessed with their skin, and my mom always had something new sent over by her sisters in Korea. When I came home from college, I would play with all of her creams — filled with ingredients like gold or silkworm cocoons — and I would “borrow” them from her.
When I was in high school, I remember thinking my mom’s skin always looked “wet,” and I didn’t understand why she would work for that look when I worked so hard to achieve the American matte-skin ideal. Turns out, my mom’s radiant “glass” skin, also referred to as mul-gwang (“water reflection”), a popular K-beauty trend, is the radiance I strive for as an adult.
SALT: Can you share the story of how you came to found Savor Beauty?
I was a concert pianist and while on tour, I put this “natural” lotion before walking out on stage. I started to break out into hives in front of hundreds of people, and it was so horrifying! After the concert, I studied the list of ingredients and was shocked to find out how many chemicals were in the formula. The first ingredient was water, the fifth ingredient was a formaldehyde preservative, and there were 55 ingredients, most of which were chemicals.
At the time, my aunt and cousin had cancer, and I wanted Mom to steer away from chemicals and carcinogens. She was always using beautiful creams sent to her from Seoul that were made from pigeon poop, silkworm cocoons, and gold flecks. I knew there were a lot of toxic ingredients in these formulas, and because I was concerned about possible carcinogens and overall health, I wanted her to use anti-aging skincare that was effective and organic.
This was my motivation to get into the kitchen to begin experimenting with different lotions and potions. I researched the best natural ingredients that were scientifically proven to have anti-aging and moisturizing benefits. I imagine the process was not unlike that of a baker creating a brand new recipe—a lot of trial and error, and many more failures than successes.
Being a concert pianist taught me dedication, perseverance, and to strive for excellence—traits that I applied to my skincare process but without the added pressure. After about a thousand tries (seriously), and with my mom as my muse, I began giving my creations as gifts to friends, and they bought them as gifts for their friends. My mom gave them to her sisters, who loved the creams. Sure enough, I had concocted the perfect cream that even a Korean woman would covet.
SALT: You say you became an “accidental entrepreneur”—but is it in your nature, when faced with a deficit, to get scrappy and create your own solution?
I always tell entrepreneurs that creativity is worth a million dollars. When you use your creativity, you can find a solution to any challenge. I used to work from a more assertive “get it done” energy, but I found this approach to be tiring and forced. Creativity is a very sensual experience: it comes from an intuitive and pleasurable space that inspires imaginative and innovative solutions.
SALT: What makes your skincare line unique? Why was it important to you that the line be organic, but also effective/luxe? (As a mother with less time and also concern for your health?)
Savor Beauty simplifies Korean beauty into 5 easy, numbered steps. I’m a minimalist and so the brand embraces a “less is more” philosophy. The skincare is made organically in New York by women, shipped to our facials spas in New York, and used by our Savor Spa estheticians in facial treatments. As a New Yorker mom, I wanted something that was multi-tasking, and that works in a New York minute.
We are also passionate about inner beauty work, so we give back to organizations that empower women, minorities, and important causes we believe in.
SALT: Tell us about a product of yours that we can’t live without! (Can be a hero or something new—whatever!)
Right now, I’m obsessed with our newest launch, the Chamomile Moisture Mask, which is our hyaluronic acid skin treatment. Hyaluronic acid is highly moisturizing, so I treat this product as a leave-on mask and layer it under my serums and creams. It makes my skin feel so plump and juicy!
SALT: Normally, you run three brick-and-mortar spas. In the midst of this global pandemic, though, you’ve invented a new model: Virtual Self-Love Spa sessions! How do those work? What types of experiences do you offer?
We offer a popular free service, the Skin Radiance Virtual Consults. Women (and men!) all over the world have been calling in to get live advice from our licensed expert pros. We also offer classes from beauty experts to help elevate one’s beauty radiancerituals as well as private virtual At-Home Facial Parties.
SALT: What did it mean to you to be beautiful when you were growing up? What does it mean to you now? Why is it so important that our children are exposed to diverse concepts of beauty?
When I was young, I grew up with barbie dolls that had big boobs and blond hair so I thought this was an ideal beauty. However, I now know that it’s about feeling irresistibly good and unshakeably confident about your authentic radiance. Just like gorgeous glowing skin is about creating morning and evening rituals, daily spiritual inner work helps you to find--and keep--your authentic radiance.
THE SALT STRAP THAT’S SO ME IS:
the Ari--love the classic neutrals with the pop of peach!
THE BAG I SWEAR BY EVERY DAY IS:
The Celine Nano Belt Bag or The Chloe Vick bag (loved this bag so much that I bought one for my mom!)
THE INSIDE OF MY BAG IN 5 WORDS (OR LESS!):
Minimalist with curated essentials.
I STAY UP LATE WITH:
Good music, a "Beautiful" cocktail or Averna digestif, and great company.
MY BEAUTY SECURITY BLANKET IS:
The Manuka Honey Mask mixed with Pumpkin Enzyme Peel for soft, glowing skin.
PLEASE TRANSPORT ME TO:
The south of France: a magical village I love is Tourtour.
MY UNIFORM IS:
An easy-breezy jumper from CPW, a local woman-owned boutique, with high-top wedge sneakers that dress everything up.
RECENTLY, I’M GIRL CRUSHING ON:
Audre Lorde, an American writer and civil rights activist. Her work confronted racism, sexism, and homophobia.
THE CAUSES CLOSEST TO MY HEART ARE: Freedom, Minorities and Girls supported by charities like The Audrey Lorde Project, Liberty in North Korea and She's the First. My company also hires women/moms who are re-transitioning into the workforce to make and ship products.
The Source to Angela's Edit
Savor Beauty, The Ari Strap, Manuka Honey Mask, Pumpkin Enzyme Peel, Chamomile Moisture Mask, Skin Radiance Virtual Consults, Celine Nano Belt Bag, The Chloe Vick Bag, The Beautiful Cocktail, CPW Jumpsuit, High Top Wedge Sneakers, The Audrey Lorde Project, Liberty in North Korea, She's the First