Perhaps as a direct result of growing up rarely seeing myself represented in pop culture, I am constantly seeking out the Asian or half-Asian character in just about everything. I won't bore you with my sob story of the weirdness that comes along with being half-Filipino and raised in Mississippi—the state isn't exactly known for its strides in diversity—but you think about it a lot when you rank somewhere between Barbie's ethnic sidekicks Kira and Teresa, but never really see yourself reflected in either. Especially today, my background is an even bigger part of my identity. When I had the chance to interview Chrissy Teigen and Shay Mitchell, respectively, we spent about half the time reveling in the fact that we are both half-Asian. The fact that Korean and Japanese products are becoming part of the mainstream market is so exciting to me, and my heart sang upon hearing news that Kenzo cast all Asian models for their upcoming runway show. That being said, Pili Ani, the first Filipino skincare line to arrive in the United States, is a very big deal in my eyes.
At least on a global scale, I hadn't heard of a Filipino brand that was available in the U.S. market. I was probably biased, but I was into the idea right away, though actually learning about the history behind the brand was what really drew me in. It was a project that creator Rosalina Tan embarked on with her daughter Mary Jane, but initially, Tan had no intentions of launching a product line. "I've always been so impressed by the pili tree, and I've been an organic advocate for the past 20 years," she tells InStyle. "I started buying pili oil from the local organic farmers to help support them, and I made my own products like moisturizers and lipstick after testimonies from a few farmers about how it improved their skin problems." One farmer who suffered from psoriasis over the course of 10 years found that his issue cleared up when he started working on a pili farm, and Rosalina even started distributing the products among her friends, all of who sung praises for the range.
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The pili nut is indigenous to the Philippines, and according to Tan, it is often referred to as the "chosen tree." I've had sugar-coated variations of it from time to time, and while it would make sense for the oil derived from the pili tree to have nourishing qualities, it was something I never quite thought about prior to my conversation with Tan. "Nobody had done anything with it, and the pili pulp in particular contains a lot of beta carotine, as well as vitamins A and E," she explains. "It's a natural antioxidant, and in our clinical studies, it really reduced the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles." The formulas were those that had been studied by Tan for over 10 years, and with that, her daughter took on the business end by meeting with people in the industry, taking aromatherapy classes, and attending events like Cosmoprof in the United States and Hong Kong.
The fact that the focus was based around this healing, natural ingredient that focused on skin health was also unique to me. Even in countries where brown skin is the norm, products designed to bleach it to a lighter state are still pretty mainstream. Though other ranges focused on skin health certainly do exist in the Philippines, you hear more about the dangers of the lightening products in the U.S. than you do about the former—kind of like how plane crashes always make national news when thousands of planes land safely every day. I expressed this to Rosalina, and she agreed that the Philippines was long overdue for its place in the global beauty market. "When I started attending Cosmoprof and the other international beauty shows, I always wondered, why were there no Philippine-made products at these exhibits?" she tells us. "We have all the raw materials here in the Philippines, and I didn't just want to export them. We wanted to develop them here. That's why I challenged my daughter to give the Philippines a place within the global brands."
Head over to piliani.com now to check out the range.