These AAPI-Owned Wellness Brands Deserve Your Support — and Are Just Really Cool
The racist and often physical attacks Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have recently experienced across the country are unfortunately not new. In California in the late 19th century, for example, public health departments used to wrongfully accuse Asians of spreading diseases such as leprosy and malaria in their communities. These problems, both then and now, stem from hateful, misinformed rhetoric.
But with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, those attacks have become alarmingly more prevalent. And while racism can rear its ugly head in the form of violence and vandalism, it can also do so in other less obvious ways, such as attacks on livelihoods. A report from the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge noted that roughly 233,000 Asian-owned small businesses closed between February and April 2020, a 28 percent plunge from closure rates prior to February 2020. (In comparison, non-Hispanic white-owned businesses experienced a 17 percent drop over the same period.)
Naturally, digesting these dreary statistics can be downright depressing — and obviously far more so if you are AAPI or another minority bearing the brunt of equally ignorant attacks. Racism is associated with a host of psychological consequences such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even substance abuse, and this is especially the case among minorities who've experienced repeated incidents of discrimination, according to research. And while it's easy to feel powerless against the atrocities AAPI communities have experienced, you do wield influence when it comes to buying power.
Know that buying from AAPI-owned brands can't be situation-dependent. See, continuous support and elevation of Asian- and other minority-owned companies can help boost diversity and foster inclusivity — not just in the wellness world but in society overall. So, start scrolling and get ready to go shopping.
Brown Girl Therapy
Sahaj Kohli originally started Brown Girl Therapy on Instagram as a creative outlet as she left her journalism career to pursue a master's in clinical mental health counseling, according to The Werk. But the account quickly ballooned into something bigger: a much-needed mental health platform for South Asian women, such as Kohli herself. Today, Brown Girl Therapy has solidified itself as a mental health community, as indicated in its IG bio, "for all children of immigrants." It's a safe space for honest dialogue about the importance of prioritizing your mental health and offers resources, such as a database of culturally-competent therapists.
If your Insta feed is flooded with fitness pros, there's a fairly good chance that L.A.-based Cassey Ho has crossed your screen at some point. Since founding her company Blogilates, along with a workout-focused YouTube channel, back in 2009, Ho and her high-energy, heart-pumping routines have exploded in popularity — so much so that her channel now boasts more than 5.5 million subscribers and Ho's expanded her offerings big time. Today, the OG fitfluencer is also the creator of the Body by Blogilates workout app, the brains behind a Pilates certification for her signature POP Pilates, and the founder of the fitness line POPFLEX Active. In December, Ho took her designs and go-to gear mainstream by partnering with Target to offer Blogilates Home Gym collection, which includes essentials for exercise enthusiasts from resistance bands (Buy It, $17 for three, target.com) to jump ropes (Buy It, $15, target.com).
Not a frequent flosser? You're not alone. A 2018 study found that only 32 percent of adults ages 30 and above floss daily. Motivated by that concerning stat — and the fact that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get her own patients to floss — Chrystle Cu, D.D.S. set out to make flossing less of a hassle and more fun (yes, fun). With help from her sister Catherine, the duo ultimately developed Cocofloss, a colorful, cruelty-free, coconut oil-infused string floss that comes in flavors such as Delicious Mint (Buy It, $9, credobeauty.com), Fresh Coconut (Buy It, $9, credobeauty.com), and Cara Cara Orange (Buy It, $9, credobeauty.com). (Oh and if you're still not sold on the whole fun floss thing, just take it from one Shape editor who is obsessed with the oral hygiene brand.)
Us Two Tea
For many non-coffee drinkers, a warm, soothing cup of herbal tea is just as crucial to any productive day as a workout, protein-packed meal, and moment of meditation. And it's a product that Us Two Tea founder, Maggie Xue, has perfected with her "farm-to-cup" strategy that sources tea leaves directly from small farms in Taiwan. Take the brand's oolong tea (Buy It, $6, ustwotea.com), for example: The leaves are grown at the top of a 5,000-foot mountain, where they're also picked, processed, and then packaged into biodegradable bags before being shipped directly to you. (Related: These Chai Tea Benefits Are Worth Switching Up Your Usual Coffee Order)
During her final year at Georgetown, Tiffany Yu was participating in a discussion on diversity only to realize that disability was missing from the conversation. As a disabled person herself (a traumatic car accident left her leg shattered and lasting nerve damage in her right hand), Yu knew she needed to take action — and, shortly thereafter, Diversability was born. A community-based network dedicated to amplifying and empowering disabled voices, Diversability hosts both in-person and online events ranging from the educational — i.e. panels about disability employment and dating — to the social — i.e. seasonal soirees and mixers.
As if being a college student with exams, athletics, and other collegiate activities (ya know, a social life) wasn't enough, Rachel Geicke decided to take on another project: creating an allergen-friendly, vegan ice cream that's flavorful and filling. What began as a fun experiment in her university kitchen has turned into a collection of supermarket star products that even earned Geicke a spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in 2019. Available in a range of flavors from superfood-y Acai Berry (Buy It, $6, freshdirect.com) to traditional Chocolate (Buy It, $6, freshdirect.com), Snow Monkey packs nearly 20 grams of protein per pint, making you ask, "Halo Top, who?"
Seoul-based designer Carolyn Jang put her degree from the Parsons School of Design to good use in 2018 when she started Nylora — and she continues to do so with every chic collection the company creates. From the sleek Nolan Biker Shorts (Buy It,
$115 $79 intermix.com) to the Morton Ribbed Open Back Bodysuit (Buy It, $148 $89, intermix.com), the fashion brand boasts an array of athleisure wear that's equal parts chic and comfortable. And with colorways such as terracotta, sage, mint, and pale rose, Nylora elevates even the simple style of high-waisted leggings.
Although it's common to think of wellness in terms of fitness and nutrition, the space you inhabit and curate has a direct impact on your overall health, too. Enter: The Homebodies, a one-stop shop for sustainable (and seriously aesthetically pleasing) household goods, such as the Bamboo Soap Shelf (Buy It, $10, thehomebodies.co) and Ceramic Wisk Stand (Buy It, $12, thehomebodies.co). Take one scroll through the online store and you'll start to feel like everything on their virtual shelves looks like it's straight out of an influencer's feed — and that makes sense given the company's founder is Jules Acree of the aspirational wellness account, @omandthecity. Whether it's the brand's calming minimalism or its green goods that pull you in, you're sure to get stuck shopping for hours. (Related: How to Design Your Home to Boost Your Mood and Curb Stress)
Bangkok-born Vincent Kitirattragarn (who's more often known as just Vincent K) started Dang as a pop-up restaurant with a single recipe from his mom: Thai lettuce wraps with toasted coconut. And while that menu has since expanded to vegan- and keto-friendly bars and chips, the now snack brand's ode to traditional Thai food — and the rich, satisfying flavors that come along with it — has remained constant. Made of sticky rice soaked in watermelon juice and coconut milk, the Thai Rice Chips (Buy It, $48 for 12, walmart.com) is sure the full dang-on experience.
If anyone knows shoes, it's sisters Julie and Connie Kuo. Thanks to their family history in the footwear industry, the duo was able to observe first-hand the negative impact fashion often has on the environment. Determined to break this cycle and the glass ceiling, the Kuos set out to create kicks that are both stylish and sustainable. The result? Avre (which stands for authentic, versatile, responsible, and empowered) and several collections of sleek sneaks that are made of repurposed plastic bottles. Styles such as the sporty Infinity Glide (Buy It, $145, avrelife.com) are designed to keep pace with your preferred exercise, from running to weight lifting to high-intensity boot camp. (Related: How to Shop for Sustainable Activewear)
Hate to be the bearer of bad news but some of your go-to cleaning products might contain chemicals that can harm the environment and your health. But swapping them out can be easy thanks to Blueland, a company (once featured on Shark Tank) specializing in eco-friendly cleaning supplies that are both safe and simple to use. Once you buy reusable containers from the brand — see: The Clean Up Kit (Buy It, $29, blueland.com) — or already have some stashed at home, just toss in one of the tiny tablets, add some H2O, and violá, you have a soapy solution that can be used asap or saved for scrubbing at a later date. And with refill packs for every product — laundry detergent (Buy It, $14, blueland.com), dish soap (Buy It, $10, blueland.com), and more — you can continue cleaning your casa without worrying about clogging your drain with harsh chemicals or filling the ocean with boatloads of unnecessary plastic.
Founded by DJ, model, and so much more (surfer, influencer, fashionista, entrepreneur) Mei Kwok, the Take Care project is a loungewear line with a very important purpose: to spread and promote self-care, compassion, and mental health. With every purchase of the brand's signature crewneck sweatshirt (which, unfortunately, is currently sold out), you're prompted to schedule a complimentary check-in with a certified life coach, which will hopefully encourage you to take a step toward taking better care of yourself. What's more, 10 percent of proceeds each month are donated to Mental Health America, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting mental illness.
For Nihaar Sinha — founder of Maiya and the son of Indian immigrants — South Asian representation was key in creating his line of stylish, sustainable yoga mats. Designed by an artist in Mumbai, the culturally-inspired prints feature spiritual symbols such as the Hamsa or evil eye (Buy It, $148, livemaiya.com), the Padma or lotus flower (Buy It, $148, livemaiya.com.com), and the Mayura or peacock (Buy It, $148, livemaiya.com) — all of which are exclusively shown alongside South Asian and BIPOC models. The yoga mats also contain a closed-cell surface that prevents moisture from even the sweatest of hot vinyasa flows from seeping into the mat and breeding bacteria (yuck).
For first-generation Vietnamese-American sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham, authentic Asian cuisine should be bold, flavorful, and loud –– but it should be accessible and simple, too. That mentality drove the sisters to found Omsom, a company on a mission to make meals as vibrant as their packaging. How exactly? Through their "starters," which are ready-to-use seasoning and sauce pouches that serve as the foundation of specific Asian dishes. Whether you're a fan of firey Korean Bulgogi (Buy It, $12 for three, omsom.com) or prefer something aromatic such as Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ (Buy It, $12 for three, omsom.com), just rip and pour a packet into your favorite protein and veggie creation and, boom, a quick, flavor-packed dinner is set. (Related: The Misappropriation of Asian Culture In Wellness and Food Is Doing More Harm Than You May Realize)
You'll seldom find a piece that costs more than $50 in this affordable, form-flattering athleisure line from New Dehli-native Aneesha Labroo. While living in New York City, Labroo witnessed the city's boutique fitness boom (and subsequent rise in activewear retail stores) first-hand, prompting her to bring that same exercise enthusiasm back to India and create Kica Active. Boasting high-quality garments at a budget-friendly price, Kica Active's stand-out items include squat-test-approved leggings (Buy It, $19, kicaactive.com), brightly-hued tanks (Buy It, $10, kicaactive.com), and seemingly every style of sports bra you could ever want.
While pregnant with her daughter, founder Pinky Patel quickly realized the lack of resources and support available to help her alleviate stress and better understand her changing body. And so, Patel — who's also a clinical pharmacist, NASM-certified personal trainer, and pre- and postnatal corrective exercise specialist — set out to create the ultimate "postpartum assistant," according to the brand's website. The offerings on the SnapBack app are all geared toward helping guide new parents through the fourth trimester and include virtual courses, postpartum-specific workouts, weekly resources (think: research-backed articles), and more. And despite the name, there's no pressure to "snap back" in any swift manner, but rather in a way (and speed) that works best for you. (Related: Why It's Okay to Grieve the Woman You Were Before Motherhood)
Do Anything Foods
Built on the belief that "a feel-good and healthy meal should always be within reach," Do Anything Foods provides versatile, veggie-rich sauces that are equal parts tasty and nutrient-dense, according to the company's website. From Cauliflower Alfredo (Buy It, $36 for four, doanythingfoods.com) to Beet Pesto (Buy It, $36 for four, doanythingfoods.com), all of Do Anything Foods' offerings are crafted with organic, non-GMO vegetables and seeds as well as fresh roasted garlic and EVOO. What's more, the produce goes through a process called high-pressure pasteurization, which, unlike heat, allows the veggies to retain their nutritional content and fresh flavor.
Meet, Frances Tang, the founder of Awkward Essentials or, in her words, "Captain Awkward." Another title she should consider adding to her resume? Wizard. After all, she created a medical-grade sponge that quickly soaks up all of the excess fluids you might experience after having (unprotected) sex. But the post-sex cleanup solution known as the Dripstick (Buy It, $25 for 20, awkwardessentials.com) is only one of Awkward Essential's offerings. The brand also sells a disposable pee funnel designed to help you urinate while standing up (Buy It, $8 for three, awkwardessentials.com) because sometimes squatting over a public toilet can be downright terrible.
Silk + Sonder
From improved self-awareness and boosted mood to reduced stress and strengthened mental resilience, journaling boasts a bounty of benefits. And getting into this self-care habit has never been easier thanks to Silk + Sonder. This AAPI-brand is a subscription-based journaling program that delivers journals inspired by positive psychology and bullet journaling techniques alongside guided prompts, wellness trackers, and dated calendar spreads. The brand offers monthly, quarterly, and annual subscription plans, varying in price and frequency of delivery.
If the name "Momofuku" sounds familiar, that's likely because it is. Founded by chef David Chang (as in the David Chang you've likely seen on Netflix, read about in articles, and recognized as the byline of books), Momofuku has grown exponentially since its inception as a New York City-based noodle bar in 2004. Today, it's part-restaurant group with eateries across North America and part-retailer selling restaurant-grade products for home cooks. In other words, you can bring Chang's next-level cuisine to life from the comfort of your very own kitchen, be it by topping off your avocado toast with a touch of Momofuku Chili Crunch (Buy It, $13, shop.momofuku.com) or dressing your salad with the brand's unfiltered, nutrient-rich rice vinegar (Buy It, $12, shop.momofuku.com). (Like apple cider vinegar, the rice variety is also fermented and in turn, can provide some A+ health perks.)