Meet D.C.’s Newest Beauty Guru

We love to see female entrepreneurs pursuing their passion, and June-wei Sum, founder of the skin-care line Lilikoi Living, is definitely not lacking in the drive department. Sum's line of organic, unisex products is focused around a signature ingredient, passion fruit, and steers clear of phthalates, parabens, and other nasties. We're already big fans of the line, so when we learned that Sum is based here in D.C., we had to chat with her about her inspiration, how she got into the skin-care biz, and where she gets her beauty fix in the DMV.

You worked at the World Bank before starting Lilikoi Living — how did you get into the skin-care business?

"As an international-development consultant, I worked a lot on women, business, and economic empowerment issues, so it was a chance for me to put words into action. I’ve always loved skin care —especially coming from Asia, where skin care is taken very seriously. In my travels, I’ve tried a lot of beauty products and brands from around the world. I realized there was a gap in the market for products that are designed to meet the needs of active, on-the-go women and men, and went about trying to fill that need."

What was the hardest part of starting your own business?

"The hardest part so far [has been] sourcing the right manufacturing partners who were willing to think outside the box, and cocreate the innovative formulas I wanted."

What is it like running a beauty business in D.C.? Have you found that there is a community of female entrepreneurs?

"There are definitely an increasing number of entrepreneurs in D.C., and while there seem to be more service-based than product-based businesses, I know of at least three other beauty companies run out of the D.C. area. What’s exciting is that D.C. has a good base of well-informed customers, who understand the importance of choosing natural and organic skin care. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and absorbs 70% of everything you put on it."

What was your inspiration for the Lilikoi Living line?

"I’m inspired by this quote by Maya Angelou: 'Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.' Lilikoi Living is skin care for all your adventures."


Why passion fruit?

"My entrepreneurial spirit got a kick-start during my honeymoon in Hawaii, where passion fruit (‘lilikoi’ in Hawaiian) is abundant. I love the idea that someone’s passion can bear fruit. And, of course, passion fruit is very high in Vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene, both of which protect against free radicals that cause skin damage."

Do you have a favorite local beauty boutique?

"It has to be a homegrown favorite, Bluemercury — in particular, the store on the south side of Dupont Circle. I do, however, shop online for a wider range of natural products."

Walk us through your daily beauty routine.

"On a typical morning, I wash with Bamboo Buff Exfoliating Facial Wash — regular exfoliation is so important, and this is gentle enough for every day. Then a spray and a quick pat-in of our Hibiscus Passion Active Hydrator, followed by Ginseng Genie Peptide Priming Serum for instant skin illumination and a collagen boost. Ginseng Genie is a cross between an anti-aging serum and a complexion-enhancing primer. I like to stick to natural and organic makeup, too, and RMS Beauty is my go-to."

What's the one beauty product you can't live without?

"It would have to be Lilikoi Living’s Hibiscus Passion Active Hydrator. It is so easy to spritz on, even when running out the door, and I spray it on obsessively when I’m traveling by plane to combat dry cabin air."

What advice do you have for busy women to help maintain their skin?

"Exfoliate, moisturize, and feed your skin and body healthily. Those are the most basic steps, and they do make a difference."

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