Friday, May 24, 2024

Mei Kwok, DJ + Co-Founder, Dune Suncare


“I was born in Hong Kong, but my mom moved me and my brother to New York when I was four years old. Growing up here, I thought I wanted to be a cartoonist, but I got really into fashion and ended up going to FIT. Straight out of college, I was the PR manager at Archetype Showroom. I think I made something like $28,000 a year; I was a hostess at Bond Street trying to make ends meet at the same time. Immediately after that I dipped my toes into other brands, like Pamela Love and Kimberly Ovitz, and quickly realized that fashion was not my thing. I went on to be the production manager at Paper’s Extra Extra, one of the first experiential marketing agencies out there, and then later landed a production director role at The Gathery, where I helped scale events, from small intimate dinners to large-scale conferences like Sophia Amoruso’s Girlboss Rally. The events industry is tough though, and I suffered from burnout almost immediately. I had been DJing as a side hustle too. I’ve been lucky enough to DJ for some of the best-in-class brands like Valentino and Lamborghini, but at the time, I was exhausted. I got really into wellness and taking care of myself, and I started learning how to surf in Rockaway Beach. After that, I quit my job to open up my own pop-up surf shop called The Notion in the Rockaways. The surf industry was—and still is—so dominated by men, and I wanted to create a space for female surfers.

I moved to Los Angeles in 2019, but fast forward to March 2020, I went to Puerto Rico on a weekend long surf trip and got stuck there for three months because of COVID. The first month and a half was especially tricky because Puerto Rico was so strict. You couldn’t even walk on the beach. I called my friend and now co-founder Emily Doyle, who had experience in the beauty game, and said, ‘This is the time to build our dream company. We’re not going to have this time and space again.’ As a surfer, suncare was one of my personal pain points within the beauty industry. I refused to buy a sunscreen that was $50 for a 1.7 ounce bottle. But the drugstore brands marketed as clear would leave me with a white cast. It was very difficult finding a product that was affordable, innovative, clear on my skin, and easy to access. Enter: Dune Suncare, where we offer everything from face sunscreen to body SPF in varying formulas.

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SKINCARE
I battled crazy acne as a teenager. It’s in my family DNA. I went on Accutane in my twenties—definitely did not get the info about how bad it is for you then—and it worked, though my hormones still break me out every once in a while. That means I’m constantly looking for skincare with non-comedogenic formulas. Ease is also important to me; I love two-in-one formulas.

In the morning, I use my Osea Ocean cleanser, followed up by the iS Clinical Pro-Heal serum. It’s a vitamin C serum, and it’s helped me so much. I’ll admit that I’m a skin picker and I love the sun, which means I’m the prime suspect for hyperpigmentation. I’ve recently started using the Topicals Faded. I’m hoping to see some changes with that, but I have to be honest, it doesn’t smell the best. I’m committed to it though; I know consistency is key. I finish off the morning with the Dune Mug Guard SPF 30.

Since I don’t wear too much makeup on the daily, I just use my Osea cleanser again at night. Then I either use the iS Clinical Active serum, which is really good for acne, or the Sunday Riley Good Genes. The Active serum feels a little cool and tingly when you put it on, which makes me feel like it’s working better, and the Good Genes has been incredible with my fine lines. I like the iS Clinical Active Peel Treatment System, too. And, like my mom taught me, I always wear eye cream. I like the iS Clinical Eye Complex, which I always apply with my ring finger. I love Colleen Rothchild’s Weightless moisturizer. It’s truly very light. And I love to roll my face with the ReVive contouring massage roller. It really helps accentuate my cheekbones.

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I travel quite a lot, so my skin is always feeling dehydrated and dry. I lather on Summer Fridays’ Jet Lag mask on planes. I even use it on my hands, and I put it on top of my sunscreen. And I always have Lucas’ Papaw ointment on me. I use it all day long.

Post-surf, my body is so salty, so I use the Dune Lifeguard, our take on after-sun gels. It’s aloe-based and doubles as a moisturizer. But on a regular basis, instead of regular body lotion, I use our Dune Bod Guard because I live in LA and get a lot of sunlight. It’s SPF 30, really hydrating, and smells like the ocean. Osea’s Undaria algae body oil is really hydrating, too. It gives you a little glow.

I was 35 when I first got Botox. Kim Kardashian inspired me to start—just kidding. [Laughs] I go to Cienega Med Spa now. I like it for my crow’s feet, frown lines, and on my brows for a little lift. And I just got the TheraFace mask, so I can’t speak to it too much, but I’m excited to use it. It’s supposed to help with fine lines and wrinkles. It has both red and blue light, and it vibrates, which feels great.

I was given a gift card for The Things We Do recently. It’s a cute spa. I went in for their ‘complete peel’ and I had a five-day recovery period. The first day after, I was like, ‘My skin is too strong for this peel. Nothing is happening.’ But oh my God, on the second and third day, my skin was flaking off in pieces. Then I looked great. [Laughs] I normally go to Skin Laundry for resurfacing facials, which use a fractional laser. It hurts and you peel with it, too, but the glow is worth it.

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MAKEUP
I like an easy-breezy makeup look, so I don’t use a lot of products on a daily basis, but if I have a big gig, I’ll hire a makeup artist and ham up the looks. I’ve been loving Ilia’s Skin Rewind stick in Cypress 24N. It’s matte but buttery and velvety when you put it on. It’s also buildable, so if I want more coverage, I can add more. The complexion brush really makes you look airbrushed. It’s incredible. And then for my lips, I’m obsessed with Glossier’s G Suit in Lane. It’s this rosy, maroon-ish shade that’s perfect.

A cat eye is my go to liner look. Ilia’s liquid liner is really good for this because the tip is super pointy and doesn’t smudge easily. And I cannot live without my eyelash extensions. I’ve been going to Jen Barrera for five years. At this point, she’s so quick because she knows my eye shape very well—I have a standing appointment with her every two weeks. I love that I don’t need to curl my lashes and wear mascara with them, but I still look awake and great.

HAIR
For 10 years, since I turned 30, I’ve had crazy hairstyles. I went from black to a platinum blonde bob in one session. I just do not give an F about hair. It’s so cool to showcase your personality through color. I was platinum for five years, and of course, it ruined my hair. Eventually the breakage was so bad that I had to stop—but I did go pink before I went back to black. Four years ago, I rocked the craziest baby bangs for a while. Then last September I was feeling red. The next day, I booked an appointment. Nancy Contreras at Framed Salon in Santa Monica is an incredible colorist. She does fun stuff; some of her clients have rainbow streaks or leopard spots. For cuts, I go Kristen Shaw. Demi Willis at Trim on Main Street cuts my bangs.

I use Gem Lites Ruby Red Colorwash to refresh my hair, but I also try not to shampoo a lot. When I surf, I put Crown Affair’s leave-In conditioner in my hair. I’ve learned from my years of having bleached hair that if you layer it with a conditioner before you go into the ocean, you’ll get less damage. When I get out of the water, I use a Wet Brush detangler and add in Andrew Fitzsimons’s AF1 10-in-1 leave-in. I’ve been using the Crown Affair hair oil recently because my strands are starting to get a little crunchy. I love Crown Affair’s dry shampoo, too.

FRAGRANCE
Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf has been my scent for over a decade. Seeing an ad sold me, and I have never used anything else. When it comes to my home, I hate paying for scented candles. Instead, I like Diptyque’s Baies room spray. I’m like, ‘Oh, this spray would last me probably six months versus burning this candle that’ll last me two weeks and costs $80.’ I’m always thinking about efficiency.”

—As told to Daise Bedolla

Photographed by Brittany Bravo in Los Angeles on April 17, 2024





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