Meet The Founder

Top Facialist Su-Man Spills Her Skin Care Secrets

Su-Man Hsu

{Cult Beauty} ‘Essence’ is a term that’s slowing creeping onto the Western beauty radar, but it’s something Asian women will be much more familiar with. What exactly does ‘essence’ do, and how does it differ from a toner or a serum?

{Su-Man Hsu} Essence is a term that’s often used in Asia – it basically means a product (or ingredient) in its purest form. In beauty terms however, it can also refer to the property of a formula – something potent, yet lightweight and easily absorbed – a bridge between a toner and a serum.

Serum’s have a higher concentration of mixed actives, designed to tackle a spectrum of skin issues; brightening, conditioning, anti-ageing etc. Essence, on the other hand, has the highest concentration of a single extract or oil, and is usually developed to target specific skin needs. In Asia, we move from extreme humidity to almost Arctic air conditioning throughout the day, so most women use a toner, essence, serum then moisturiser, to complete their skin care ritual. My {Rehydrating Toning Essence} is brimming with hyaluronic acid, to soothe and intensively hydrate which (when done effectively) also ‘plumps’ and tones.

{CB} Western women are increasingly looking to the Far East for the latest in beauty innovation. Why do you think Asia’s so far ahead of the curve when it comes to exciting new products?

{Su-Man} Being healthy is inseparable from being beautiful in the Far East – you find this ethos across everything we do; diet, medicine, exercise etc. We also have a wealth of fantastic tradition and wisdom that’s been passed down through the generations. Anti-ageing typically starts at 18 in Asia (we being early!), which means that Asian women have a long relationship with their skin, and are consequently very savvy. We’re also lucky not to have a handful of mega beauty companies dominating the industry – there’s a lot of scope for smaller, niche brands to flourish; competition and personal commitment fuels innovation. However, I still believe the future of skin care is a collaboration between East and West – amalgamating the best of nature, tradition and science.

Su-Man Skincare Cult Beauty

{CB} When we last spoke, we discussed the differences between Eastern/Western approaches to skin care, with reference to ‘layering’ several products, rather than expecting miracles from one. What would be your recommended skin care regimen – and how many layers are ‘enough’?

{Su-Man} We Chinese believe that there is no single ‘super food’ or supplement to guarantee longevity and beauty, just like there is no lone ingredient or magic jar that is the answer to anti-ageing. We treat skin care like our diet; lots of tiny, healthy dishes instead of one heavy meal. Anti-ageing has a lot of facets; brightening, softening, firming, hydrating, replenishing, purifying, exfoliating etc. and each aspect requires targeted attention. It’s not unusual in Asia to have twelve steps in a layering system (the Koreans are the most fanatical), but as my skin care line strikes a balance between East and West, I’ve streamlined it to (only) five – cleanser, toner, serum, eye cream and moisturiser. Supplement this with masks and exfoliation – and learn to know your skin and understand its nuances. Every skin is different.

{CB} We’re obsessed with your {Exfoliating Facial Polish}! It’s the perfect cosmetic – and emotional – pick-me-up whenever we’re looking and feeling fatigued. Why did you choose to make coffee the key ingredient?

{Su-Man} A few years ago, one of my clients asked me to create a product for her (severe) cellulite. I knew there was one, stand out ingredient for the job – and that’s coffee. We associate coffee with ‘waking up’ but one of its key benefits, is its ability to break up fatty acids and draw excess fluid from tissue – which is why it’s so dehydrating. As a consequence it tightens the skin which can reduce the appearance of cellulite, so… I decided to experiment. Whilst playing, I combined camu camu and white lily with exfoliating beads and enriched the whole mixture with oils. The result was a wonderful cocktail of polishing, de-puffing and exfoliating – the effects are instantaneous and skin feels so wonderfully silky afterwards. It was a beautiful accident that started as a body scrub and ‘grew’ into the first of my self-titled skin care range.

Su-Man Hsu Skincare

{CB} What’s next for Su-man?

{Su-Man} I’m getting more and more invitations to be a guest facialist at some of the world’s leading spas and hotels. It’s a lovely validation of a lifetime of work, risk and creativity – but I need to balance this demand with my desire to create new products…

I already have some very exciting products in development. I don’t want to give too much away – what would life be without surprises? – but what I will say, is that I’ve been focussing on skin that needs intensive nourishment, and how to make my skin care seem more ‘comforting’. I’m naturally creative and the business side both scares – and inhibits – me in some ways. I’m very lucky to have people working with me who ‘get’ this side of things. I certainly don’t want to confuse consumers with an army of products for commercial reasons. My artisanal approach means I long to create timeless masterpieces that they will have a lifelong love affair with. In a few years time I will turn to the body, but I need to get the face right first!


Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Cult Beauty’s Content Editor and a Cult Beauty OG, Verity loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm. A quintessential Libran, she’s a self-professed magpie for luxury ‘must-haves' and always pursuing the new and the niche — from the boujee-est skin care to cutting-edge tech. Balancing an urge to stop the clock with her desire to embrace the ageing process (and set a positive example for her daughter), Verity's a retinol obsessive and will gladly share her thoughts about the time-defying gadgets, masks and treatments worth the splurge...