Welcome to The Glow Up, Highsnobiety’s series examining the bathroom shelves of beautiful people.
For Asian women like myself, sex can be a fraught topic. We’re hyper-sexualized, portrayed in pop culture as subservient wives, exotic dragon ladies, or anime schoolgirls. Navigating a landscape full of stereotypes, preconceived notions, and violence is — to put it lightly — scary.
“A lot of my Asian friends, they don’t want to talk about [sex],” says Joyce Lee, founder of sexual wellness platform and brand Her Place. “I still don’t feel comfortable, as a Korean American woman.”
Spurred by an alarming rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, Lee built Her Place as a sort of sanctuary where Asian women — and sex-positive folks in general — can explore pleasure, on their own terms.
“Sexual wellness has a direct relationship to self-confidence,” Lee tells me over Zoom. “I think it’s very important and powerful to know what you want and ask for what you want and get what you want. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
It’s a lesson that took Lee decades to learn. “I have a fashion background,” she explains. “I worked at Opening Ceremony about eight years, and then worked in commerce… I transitioned into wellness after talking to my girlfriend about sexual wellness. It took me 40 years to realize the importance of sexual wellness.”
A symbolic kick-off to her sexual wellness awakening, Lee devised Her Ribbon, a luxurious silk hair bow that doubles as a bondage device. To accompany the product, she launched Her Stories, an interview series asking women in Lee’s sphere about their relationship to pleasure, both sexual and non-sexual.
“Scent, for me, is the strongest [sense],” Lee says. “It’s very romantic — it’s like a song you takes you to a certain place, [or a] certain time.”
A stone-shaped bar soap, home spray, and body oil are formulated a cocktail of aphrodisiac ingredients, including sandalwood, patchouli, and ylang ylang. The trio of products aren’t meant to be hidden, stowed away in a bedside table. To help normalize sex and sexual wellness, Lee made sure the soap, spray, and oil were designed and packaged beautifully, “so you are not ashamed of it.”
After sampling the products myself (they smell heavenly), I spoke to Lee about pregnancy-safe skincare, the one product she wishes she could use while pregnant, and her four keys to clear skin.
First-ever beauty purchase
JL: Off the top of my head, I think it was Clinique, in high school or even middle school? I think it was the moisturizer, the yellow one.
JL: I’m now pregnant so I can’t use it, but I love the exfoliation pads from Dr. Dennis Gross. I’m very big on exfoliation.
JL: I just can’t stand my lips being chapped. For high-end, La Mer [lip balm] is really good. I’m obsessed with Onda, the beauty store — I get the [Henné organics lip balm] from there.
JL: This is kind of boujee, but they’re in drug stores: Living Proof shampoo and hair conditioner. I love [Palmer’s stretch mark cocoa butter]. This is for pregnant moms, but it’s really good stuff — I apply this a lot.
Best under-the-radar beauty brand
JL: A Korean beauty brand, Sioris. From formulation to packaging, it’s very thought out. It’s good for anybody, pregnancy to sensitive skin.
Beauty hot tip
JL: Clean your skin every day, every morning and night — super important! Don’t touch your face. Change your pillowcase often. And clean your phone. Sorry, I gave you too many.