When Toni Ko launched NYX Professional Makeup in 1999, terms like “incubator,” a coveted word in the startup space, didn’t exist on her radar. “I sound like a dinosaur now but this was a time when we were printing with dot matrix printers,” the beauty entrepreneur and long-time investor says. “Maybe it was available but this wasn’t a term that was in my world.”
The beauty industry has come a long way since Ko went from releasing the brand’s inaugural jumbo eye pencils to turning NYX Cosmetics into household name. After more than a decade of overseeing itsj expansion, she ultimately sold the multi-million dollar company behind drugstore cult faves like the HD Finishing Powder and Butter Gloss to L’Oreal in 2014.
After a five-year hiatus, Ko stepped back into the beauty ring- this time to help other brands grow and experience the same type of meteoric success she did with NYX. Bespoke Beauty Brands was launched in 2019 as part of Toni’s quest to further diversify the industry:
With a small team made up of 13 women and 2 men, Bespoke Beauty Brands has been behind the launch of exciting releases including Hayley Williams’ vegan hair color brand Good Dye Young and RuPaul Drag Race queen Kim Chi’s beauty line, KimChic Beauty. The latest brand debut came with a name that fashion-lovers instantly recognized.
Arriving at Target last January, Jason Wu Beauty is the fashion-beauty crossover the industry needed – it’s also cruelty-free and Target Clean approved. Ko worked with the designer to make a line that was “elegant, toned-down, and ethereal.” While every beauty launch is a cause for celebration, Jason Wu Beauty marked the first time a designer launched into the mass-market beauty space. Ko likens it to “bringing haute couture to the floors of your mass market -with an approachable price point.”
When it comes to how the pioneering beauty figure approaches her own makeup, it’s surprisingly simple. She sticks with a few tried and true products, -“Moira Complete Wear Foundation in classic beige, Kimchi’s Puff Puff Pass Set & Bake Powder in translucent, it has rice powder in it so it’s really great for your skin, and I’ve been using Bobbi Brown’s Eye Shadow in the color taupe for maybe 10 years “ – and keeps it soft glam with a red lip. To achieve her signature cherry pout, she uses a combination of the NYX Professional Makeup Slim Lip Pencil in Cocoa and the Soft Matte Lip Cream in Amsterdam. “And voila, it’s finished! The only question remaining is whether I put my lashes on for the day.”
But as any any beauty aficionado will tell you, healthy skin makes for the best base. “I’m Korean-American and Korean women are serious about our skincare. I started wearing eye cream when I was 18 years old,” Ko says. “I look up to my mom when it comes to these things, she instilled in me the importance of taking care of yourself before things, like the wrinkles and sun spots, start to set in. Skincare should be preventive measure—not a fix. ”
For our latest segment of Drop The Routine, Ko shares her secrets to glowy skin and dishes on why expensive face wash is overrated.
I have two types of cleansing routines – one for the morning, one for the evening. My secret product is the original Dove soap. People splurge on cleansing gels that are super expensive but really the best product is just at your grocery store. It’s infused with moisturizers, and the key is to not dry out your skin and retain moisture. Because our bodies are hormonal, and we go through different changes in textures, I’ll take a look at my face in the morning and if I feel extra oily or greasy, I’ll use the Dove in the morning. But if I look nice and dewy in the morning, then I just wash my face with water.
My Makeup Removers
How you put on makeup is so important but how you take it off is even more. My nighttime cleansing routine starts with eye makeup remover and I use Lacome Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover. I have short lashes so I cake on mascara. I’ve tried many different brands of eye-makeup remover, but nothing removes my mascara as cleanly as this one does.
Then I use either a Neutrogena face wipe to remove my makeup or sometimes I’ll use Pond’s Cold Cream to remove the remaining residue. I grew up watching my mama remove her makeup with the cream and the fragrance of it is both nostalgic and intoxicating to me. It also smells great, works well, and the value is not comparable to anything else.
I always use the lighter texture first when it comes to layering. After I wash my face I tone. My favorite thing about the La Mer’s The Tonic is that it does not feel alcohol-y or drying. It feels luxurious on the skin and it prepares it to receive the nutrients from the serum and cream I layer on top.
My second to last step is putting on my Estee Lauder Night Repair serum -it’s classic and every time I wear it my skin feels so hydrated and moisturized. I’ll often apply this serum as a base for another serum I might layer on top. It has amazing ingredients that protect and heal your skin while you are sleeping, yet it’s light enough to be layered and quickly absorbs into the skin so it doesn’t feel like my skin is getting clogged up.
I apply moisturizer last. I do rotate products and there’s isn’t really a formula to it – sometimes when I finish a jar, when I’ve heard of another cream I would like to try, or when I see a new brand while traveling overseas. It’s very random. Even right now, I have a jar of Creme De La Mer open and also a jar of SK2 Skin Powder cream. Between these two, La Mer Crème de la Mer Moisturizer is the one I tend to use the most and the SK2 cream is when I feel my skin needs an extra deep moisturizer.