From Super Serums to Superpowers

Green Tea Serum. Pore Clearing Facial Foam. Volcano Blackout Balm. These coveted creams and lotions are not some secret elixir to save the city, but rather part of a self-care routine that reaffirms a sense of grounding normalcy at the end of each day. When L.A. first went into COVID lockdown with much swirling uncertainty about how the virus spread, I’d rush home and straight to the bathroom to wash my face, hoping that whatever potentially garnered germs could somehow be scrubbed clean with water and facial cleanser. 

It’s not something I’ve often stopped to reflect on, but these products slowly became an integral part of my life as I’ve gotten older. My husband J once joked that it was just a matter of time before I would be seduced by the realm of K-Beauty: what started with a foray into random KBS YouTube clips a few years ago eventually unfurled into a love for K-dramas, K-fashion, and now all of my beloved skincare products. 

My regiment isn’t simply limited to K-beauty products, either. Over the past few years, makeup and skincare have become my constant companion; they are my warpaint, as I once told a co-worker. They were all part of the gateway to feeling more confident and sure of myself, a 5’2” warrior in a world where my often soft-spoken, introvert voice doesn’t always feel heard in a world of dissenting opinions, “let’s talk about it later’s,” and me just plain not feeling like I know what to say in the moment sometimes (I attribute this to years of being taught to not talk back, which is a story for a different time). However, I know that once I make myself up for “battle” that I will feel more prepared to speak up, stand up, and feel confident enough to act like the person who I want to be inside.  

There is a photo of me as a three-year-old back in the late ’80s wearing a long strand of Mom’s pearls, oversized black heels, and my beloved Snoopy sweatshirt, happily coating bright fuchsia lipstick on and around my lips. Then flash forward to 7th grade, when I would covertly pilfer Mom’s Cover Girl lipsticks and pressed powder to wear at school. Even if I was a few shades darker than my Mom, which made me look like I was wearing a sad, cheap version of oshiroi powder, it still made me feel like the ever-rebellious teen at my Catholic school, smugly bearing my secret “strength” among a collective sea of burgundy plaid skirts and ties—a world where makeup, short skirts, and outlandish hairstyles were banned.

As time wore on, no one really taught me how to put on makeup or invest in a nightly routine; Mom didn’t really say much of it either, scoffing that I needed to keep things simple by sticking to water, sunscreen, and sleep (but if you think about it, though, these are the basic building blocks of good skincare, so kudos to you, Mom!). I didn’t have older sisters or cousins who I could sit with to expertly apply eyeshadow; Seventeen Magazine was considered too risque and thus taboo for my sheltered eyes, and there was no YouTube yet to speak of, so it was much of what I saw other people around me do, as well as whatever commercials I saw on T.V. Then followed college and the days of watching my roommate Leslie prepare for late-night sorority parties and dates, which resulted in me attempting to emulate her eyeliner technique by lining my ENTIRE eye in black eyeliner (a huge no-no, as I learned later). Years of trial and error led me down the path to the cosmetic aisles of Target and eventually Sephora, where numerous tutorials and consultations introduced me to consumeristic alliances with Urban Decay, Fresh, and Innisfree. 

These days, serums and night creams must go on nightly; I try my best (although laziness often sets in) to masque up on a weekly basis. My nighttime ritual is a chance to wash away the shortcomings and failures of the day, and with every squeeze of exfoliant and face wash, I give my face a chance to start anew. I am the co-worker who cannot show up to work without a full face on, and when we had a Zoom webinar a few weeks ago with the intent of putting us in breakout rooms, I promptly left, convinced that I wasn’t “ready” because I was barefaced. Some may judge this move as superficial or shallow, but for me, makeup provides a sense of mental and emotional power, a chance to put my “best face forward” in a world where first impressions matter all too much. Although these days with COVID and mask-wearing it is a different story, I still “suit up” when Zooming in front of my students, and must, MUST take care of my skin at the end of each day. During a time and especially a year where I don’t feel like I have a lot of control over what’s happening in this world, my self-care routine is my own way of ensuring I fortify my inner powers for whatever 2020 has to throw at me next. Jumanji level 7, anyone? 

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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