Eco & Organic Skincare- Interview with Li, Founder of Li Organics
I was both impressed and inspired by my virtual chat with fresh-faced beauty and former model Li Ming Geh of Li Organics. With a background in neuroscience, this beauty has brains to match and combined her passions to find solutions to her own skin problems. I’m a true convert as my skin has been transformed from patchy and irritated to smooth, plump, and nourished. This is the girl that you want to hang out with at a party as her joie de vivre and drive are infectious. Read on for Li’s unique story, New York haunts, and latest obsessions!
Tell us about Li Organics and how you got started.
Li Organics was born out of two things; pure necessity for my own wildly sensitive skin, and yet everything about it has also been a culmination of my two worlds of science and fashion+beauty coming together. I grew up in Malaysia in a tropical paradise with mango trees, papaya trees, and all sorts of aromatic herbs and vegetables in my family’s’ backyard and my dad was a huge inspiration to me. We made things together from scratch and he taught me about not using parabens, sulfates, and phthalates when I was just 10. And this was important because I always had sensitive skin and every little thing would cause a reaction in me.
After high school, I left for my undergrad degree in Canada and had every intention to go down an academic path. I loved being in the lab, designing experiments, and conducting research. Then, while I was getting my Masters in Neuromechanics, I got scouted to be on a popular sci-fi tv series that was being filmed in Vancouver. Long story short, that led me into modeling and before I knew it, I was walking runways in New York, Paris, London, and Milan and doing back to back shoots, and living out of a suitcase.
This whole time I had actually been experimenting with making my own skin care because I found it such a challenge to find something that I was willing to pay for that was effective, didn’t cause any reactions, AND free from the toxins and harmful chemicals my dad taught me never to touch. Plus I have always loved making things, so this was fun for me and I continued working on formulas all throughout my 10 years of modeling. When my friends and family started to ask if they could buy some of the products I was making and using, I knew I had something.
How does your background influence the creative process? What are you inspired by?
I’m inspired first and foremost by my home in South East Asia, and the roots I have there. Many of our ingredients hail from this side of the globe and I’m so thankful for the land there because we get incredibly fertile soils from the abundant rainfall and sunshine. Think guava seed oil, turmeric, lemongrass, tamanu, palmarosa, cajeput, vetiver, key lime- these all grow so easily in South East Asia. But aside from the ingredients and how potent and effective they are, it is a poetically beautiful place with a very rich culture.
What is the process of formulation and philosophy behind each product?
I approach each formulation thinking first about what I would like each product to achieve. I then list down all of the results I would like to see from this formula and then work from the ground up choosing each ingredient for the purpose of working synergistically together (meaning each ingredient working together to make the other more effective). Then, I make multiple versions of each formula and test, iterate, and keep testing till they feel perfect. For example it wasn’t until I tested through 14 iterations of my Palmarosa Revival Mist until I was perfectly happy. And each product goes through the same rigorous method. I’m also fortunate enough to be working alongside my chemist who’s had over 40 years of industry experience formulating for the very best brands out there and we work so well together, so the process is really a joy for me.
What are your favorites in the collection?
We have a very tight collection of only 4 products so it’s tough to choose favorites- they really are all great. But I would say, if you’re brand new to the line- trying out the Obsidian Renewal Scrub, Liquid Amber, and Rice Pebble Mask is a skincare game changer.
What are some of your go-to spots in NYC?
Cafe Gitane in Soho, Good Thanks in the LES (they have this blue smoothie bowl thing and it’s so good), Ralph’s in the UES (for the best hemp cortado), Detox Market, Hortus Nail Works for a manicure enclosed in what feels like a greenhouse, Totokaelo on Crosby, The Ramble in Central Park, and hanging out at my best friend’s apartment.
What are your latest obsessions, beauty or otherwise?
I think I’ll forever be obsessed with candles and finding really good coffee. I’m also currently obsessed with the newly launched Alex Mill (my friend Somsack is the creative director and designer- and beware because you just might want everything). Finally, I’m always thinking about new plant ingredients, new formulas, and the future of the line.