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It’s Deeper Than Skin™
It’s Deeper Than Skin™ is a compilation of interviews featuring diverse multicultural individuals each carrying unique aspirations and desires yet bound by a common passion to create a more joyful, diverse and inclusive space for us all. They inspire, empower and help transform the way we think and feel about beauty, culture, ancient traditions, diversity, mental health, societal standards and more. Through these multifaceted lenses, we learn to celebrate our uniqueness and are reminded once again that our beauty is deeper than skin.
In this interview, we connect with beauty blogger and author behind the popular skincare blog "Fifty Shades of Snail" - Jude Chao (@fiddysnails) to share her insights on embracing a dual identity in the online space and how it can lead to a rich and multifaceted creative expression. Through the lens of her multicultural upbringing, she skillfully intertwines her passion for skincare and literary talents, creating a digital presence that reflects not only her expertise but also her diverse cultural influences.
1. Hi Jude, tell us a little bit about yourself. (We’d love to know a bit about your background and what you love to do!)
I think I was always destined to work in beauty, thanks to my mom! I grew up poring through the pages of the latest issue of Vogue every month when my mom got it, and seeing her do her beauty routines. She’d take me with her to the department stores to buy her Estee Lauder and Clinique skincare and makeup, and gave me the little travel sizes from all the gifts with purchase pouches. I attended a very intensive STEM school in high school but fashion and beauty magazines were still my most studied texts. (And my best subjects were always English lit and comp, so I guess my destiny was to write about beauty.)
Outside of beauty, I’ve gotten very into my yoga practice in the last several years! Yoga absolutely transformed my body and my outlook on life, and I’m working towards yoga teacher certification now. I know it sounds totally different from skincare, but I actually see it as an extension of my skincare philosophy. It’s something we do for our body that can also become a way to soothe our minds and souls!
2. What got you started in the online beauty community?
I got into the online beauty community in the early 2010s because that’s when I had finally started making enough money to actually be able to buy and experiment with products and have a real skincare routine! Reddit was just getting big at that point, and on a whim I searched for skincare there. That led me to the Skincare Addiction subreddit, and from there I went down the rabbit hole and ended up where you see me now.
3. Growing up, what skincare traditions or customs did you practice?
My mom instilled a good basic skincare routine in me. I always cleansed with a dedicated facial cleanser (often the mini version of her Clinique facial bar, before I discovered teen magazines and switched to Noxzema and Oxy acne pads). By the time I was in high school, I was experimenting much more. My best friend was also my roommate through most of high school, and we would have spa nights where we gave ourselves multi-step facials with St Ives apricot scrub and some Freeman peel-off or charcoal masks from the supermarket.
4. What does having a “Dual Identity” mean to you?
I didn’t grow up in a very diverse environment. I was often the only Asian kid in my class and only knew of a few other Asian families in town. However, my parents kept our Taiwanese identity at home through the food we ate, the languages we spoke, the music we listened to, and the TV shows we watched. Meanwhile, at school outside of the home, I didn’t have anyone to relate to culturally, so among my friends, I only showed and developed the American side of my identity.
5. What is something you have struggled with in regards to your identity? Has your perception changed over time, and if so, how?
I’m very comfortable with all the facets of my cultural identity now, but it was a long journey to get there. As I mentioned, I didn’t grow up in a very diverse environment. Almost all of my school friends were white, especially in elementary school. And although we did watch some Taiwanese media at home, of course growing up in America in the 80s and 90s, my primary exposure to pop culture was to Hollywood depictions that set whiteness as the norm and established whiteness as the beauty standard too. So I definitely had those moments as a kid where I wished I was white, so that I could fit in, not have “weird” food or parents or customs that my friends didn’t understand, and so I could feel as valid as others were perceived to be.
I’m fortunate that that phase didn’t last very long. My high school was a charter school that admitted students from all over the state, and a lot (if not the majority) of my schoolmates at that point were East or South Asian. It was a huge culture shock but it was also a hugely validating experience! It was the first time that I actually felt “normal” within the group and the first time that I didn’t feel inherently inferior due to being different. I had other problems during that time, but I learned to be comfortable and confident in myself and that has helped me in every other facet of life ever since then.
At this stage in my life, I’m happy and grateful to have been able to develop both sides of my identity. Those early struggles helped to make me more mentally flexible and able to empathize with different cultures and perspectives. I’ve felt at home in an amazing range of situations because of it!
6. We love your thoughtful in-depth beauty reviews on your page. Has your content shifted from when you started up until now?
Definitely, and sometimes it does make me sad. Blogs were the major beauty content platforms when I started, and I’m very at ease with communicating with the written word. I’d also worked in digital media and had a good foundation in SEO and social media promotion, which helped me get the blog off to a good start. I remember spending days working on a single blog post with a very detailed structure and a lot of research to read and distill. It was so fun and felt so natural.
Sometime in the mid 2010s, content audiences started to shift more and more away from blogs and towards YouTube and social media. I was seeing from the stats on my blog that I’d have to transition to one or both of those platforms if I wanted to keep growing. I found the idea of being on camera extremely intimidating, and I was too intimidated by the idea of learning video editing too, so I went with Instagram and kept on growing there. (Naturally, of course short form content then became a thing so in the end I had to adapt to at least some basic video production too. But in that time, I also got more comfortable being on camera, so I’m actually belatedly posting to my YouTube channel now.)
Obviously social media content is very different from blogs. There’s an expectation of shorter attention spans. There are character counts on captions and an understanding that many viewers won’t read captions anyway. I’m still constantly learning to communicate in brief points and with images and videos rather than just words. I find it so absorbing as a creative exercise and have so much respect for creators that do it so well.
I miss blogging and have occasionally posted more to the blog. But I have a new problem now. There are bots that will instantly copy all the text and images from a blog post onto scam websites now and there doesn’t seem to be a way to reliably prevent this from happening as far as I’ve found. It’s frustrating to have to sit for hours doing the DMCA and Google takedown process every time I publish a blog post, so until I can figure out how to fix the issue, I unfortunately won’t be posting much. Seeing my work stolen the second it’s published has been absolutely infuriating.
7. We absolutely love your book “Skincare for Your Soul: Achieving Outer Beauty and Inner Peace with Korean Skincare”. Was the book a natural progression from the blog? How did this come about?
It very much was!
My first love, and the only thing I felt I had a strong natural aptitude for from a young age, was writing. I went to writing camps as a kid. I aced any tests that were essay-based and no matter how much I struggled in other subjects or with my mental health in school, I always enjoyed and did well in lit and comp classes. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up (even though my family discouraged me as that is not as stable or predictable a career path as medicine or accounting).
All of that is to say that I found writing my blog very natural and enjoyable. Writing is a process of organizing and formulating one's thoughts in order to come to clearly reasoned conclusions. I think looking at it that way helped me construct my reviews and tips in ways that worked well for the readers. The book is essentially just an expansion of that. One of the major flaws of a blog is that it would be quite the project to go back in after years and attempt to organize the posts and information into a cohesive whole with a clear progression of ideas and information. So if someone comes to my blog with no prior knowledge, when I've already got 250+ posts published over a span of many years, it can be really overwhelming knowing where to start.
When I was offered a publishing contract, I saw it as a way to rectify that for someone new to skincare or new to my approach to skincare. It happened very organically. I was approached by an editor at Mango Publishing, and after looking at their proposed contract and running it by a few friends in the industry, of course I jumped on it!
8. Tell us about your skin journey and how would you describe your current skin type?
My skin journey has primarily been a journey of repairing old sun damage! Might be hard to believe since I don’t go out without the full 2mg/cm2 of sunscreen every day, but I used to tan a lot. I even worked in a tanning salon for about a year and used the machines all the time. Then when I was pregnant, I was outside a lot without sunscreen (I don’t think the little smear of SPF 15 face lotion counts) so that was even more sun damage as well as pretty intense melasma.
So my main focus from the beginning has almost always been to protect from more sun damage and to fade dark spots and repair old photodamage. At this point I’m very happy with my skin! I’ve found ways to keep it even and bright while also respecting the health of my skin barrier and, of course, preventing more damage. I’ve learned a ton along the way too.
9. What is your current skincare ritual?
I’d call it easy mornings and restorative evenings. In the mornings I’m quite efficient normally, with just cleanser, one or two very light and fast-absorbing serum or essence products, and moisturizer and sunscreen. Then in the evenings I take my time to use my actives and other targeted treatments, add a lot of hydration, and seal it in with a cream.
10. Do you have a favourite Sachi Skin product?
I’m loving the Pro Resilience Serum! It’s the only one of yours I’ve tried so far and it is a joy to use.
11. If you could make one change in the beauty industry, what would it be?
I would really like to see more accountability for misinformation spread for profit. As an example, there are an endless amount of social media posts spreading misinformation as part of influencer marketing campaigns planned and instigated by brands. I think a lot of the general audience doesn’t realize how much detail goes into this side of marketing. Some brands will issue a very detailed brief to all the creators that get their products or are being paid to create content—they’re often given specific messaging to communicate. This is why you might start to hear the same thing over and over from a hundred different creators. Obviously, if it’s just messaging revolving around the promotion (like an upcoming product launch, a sale, etc) then it’s perfectly fine. But when the messaging includes scientific misinformation, it can have a really damaging effect because it gets spread so widely. I’ve seen so much fear mongering throughout the years that can be traced back to specific brands’ marketing campaigns. It’s insidious.
In the absence of that, more media literacy for everyone would help!
...And some rapid fire questions!12. What is on your current playlist?
2000s house music and 1990s Mandarin pop music! I’ve been listening to a lot of Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung lately. There were two of the biggest Chinese pop stars when I was growing up. There’s a lot of Jay Chou in my playlist too.13. What are you currently watching on Netflix?
An old season of the Great British Baking Show. It’s my comfort background viewing.14. Finish the sentence: I feel beautiful when…
I’m rested and fed and have had the time and space to really take care of both my outside and inside.15. Anything exciting coming up for you in the next few months?
I’ll be launching a fitness channel in partnership with a new workout streaming platform! Stay tuned for that!