Lily Kwong, Student & Model


"I study urbanism at Columbia—I’m a sociology and urban studies undergrad student. I went back to school because I was working with Joseph [Altuzarra] and dropped out when I was nineteen. When I graduate, I’m pretty much going to work on my non-profit full time. But writing is really my first love. My dad is a screenwriter and I had written little things with him since I was a kid, but I’ve really found that I love writing essays and criticism while I’m at school. You know, I really like doing research. I love that.

My beauty routine! I was such a tomboy—I don’t think a dress was in my wardrobe until I was like seventeen or eighteen. So, I kind of missed that whole boat on the sleepovers and experimenting with makeup and putting nail polish on. My mom was really cool; she never tried to push me to be anything that I wasn’t. So I feel like I’ve learned my beauty stuff since I started modeling, kind of. I’ll pick up tips from makeup artists and it’s all random scraps of information that I’ve accumulated. I just wash my face with that Go Clear Cleanser that’s from Sephora. And then I’ve been using Lubriderm since I was a kid. I use it on my face. I don’t know if that’s bad, but I do it.

I had perfect skin when I was in California and I never really thought about it, but in New York there are so many more elements, and the seasons are always changing and it’s harder to maintain, and I really think what you put in your body is so much more important than the products you put on your face. So I just drink a ton of water, and I take biotin and zinc supplements. Biotin will help make your hair shiny, and zinc will help with your skin. I was speaking with this herbalist the other day about it, and it has something to do with giving you the right enzymes. Acne and breakouts are because there are too many toxins in your body and its coming out or you’re not cleaning your face properly, and I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure it’s just about giving you the right balance of enzymes to regulate what’s going on. The Romans thought that your face was a picture of your mind, and I really notice that when I’m stressed or upset or sad or nervous, my skin is a wreck. I wear it all in my face. I mean, during finals week, it’s shocking.

My dad is Chinese and my mom is white and so the cure was always Chinese medicine. If I take a Nyquil now, I feel like I’m majorly drugged. So, I really believe in that kind of stuff and I see someone who gives me the right things that I need to be taking, be it for my skin or also just for balance in general. And then about once a month—a makeup artist recommended to steam your face—I just get a big bowl of hot water and put a towel over my head and I just listen to my headphones for five or ten minutes and that kind of seems to clear everything up. She said to only do it once a month because it can really dry out your skin. But for people who live in New York, I really think it’s a great thing to do. Yeah, game changer. The other thing I’ll do sometimes is get a lymphatic drainage massage. If you’re bloated or anything, it’s magical. It’s crazy. You feel a million times better afterwards because it’s really relaxing and it’s slimming—it takes at least an inch or a half an inch off your waist immediately. It really works. If you want to feel super sexy that night, it’s always good to go for the lymphatic. [Laughs]

I’m telling you, I’m just a smorgasbord of random advice from people who are experts. A hairstylist recommended Love and Toast Soy Protein & Almond Milk Super Shine Daily Conditioner and I love that—I ordered it online. Those products smell really good. And smell is your strongest sense, so I go for things that smell good. For other hair products, I rely on the Bumble and bumble Surf Spray. I mean it’s so easy. I really don’t like blow-drying my hair because it seems to fry it and this stuff just seems to give it cool texture, I find. I just put it in when my hair is damp and then I’ll shake it around and braid it or something. I’ve been trying to do hairstyles that look good when your hair is kind of damp because I have such thick hair it takes forever to dry, if you’re not going to stick a blow-dryer to it. I wash it probably every other day. I feel like you shouldn’t wash your hair too much.

I’ve never been that big of a makeup person…a girl at a Benefit makeup counter when I was fourteen showed me a routine and I haven’t changed it since. I’m just like, ‘There is too much information! I don’t know what to do!’ I just have these same four or five products that I’ve been using since I was fourteen. So embarrassing. The concealer and Tea Party Foundation are godsends. And then, I have this stuff that I love because it smells like rose petals, it’s Benetint, and then High Beam. I use the High Beam on the center of my cheeks, and I always think that’s really pretty. And I am a total victim of the Asian Glow—even if I have a glass of wine, Benetint cannot be worn! It has to be the high beam to cover my glass of red wine! And then, I sometimes use this orange Revlon lipstick—Kiss Me Coral. I like the orange. La Roche Posay Nutritic Care is kind of my go to for lip balm. When my skin was really bad, I used La Roche moisturizer, and I find that French products are really are a lot more robust, in a way, so that came in a kit and I totally fell in love with it, and now I buy it all the time. I use the Givenchy mascara. I so can’t deal with high maintenance things at all and the brush is also a curler. It’s the one where the brush looks like a ball—it curls while you’re putting the mascara on, so it takes out a step! It’s perfect for me."

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Messamet serdane

    quite simple person who does what she likes !

  • Phil

    Hmm I've been using some of those texturizing sprays for a while now by osis+, but I wonder if anyone has any experience with this bumble & bumble one. I keep reading about it.. is it just a salt water spray or actually worth the money?
    Zinc is the only supplement that actually did something for my skin, and if I take it regularly, I get smooth & pore-less skin. Sadly it takes a few weeks to fully show.

  • erin

    she is beautiful. great to get insight into her faves! x

  • Helena

    such beautiful skin and hair... I'm going to investigate lubriderm. sometimes simple is best! her degree sounds really interesting.

  • Ana

    her hair is amazing. god bless asian hair.

  • VTang

    I love this interview! I look forward to more interviews with Asian women and beauty products. Can't help myself. It is in my blood :P

  • Jane Ahn

    I knew it was only a matter of time before you featured Lily Kwong. To me, she epitomizes the "ITG girl" - cool, chic, but doesn't try too hard. Needless to say, I loved this post!

  • Refusal

    I'm confused, but intrigued.

    What does she mean when she says "And I am a total victim of the Asian Glow—even if I have a glass of wine, Benetint cannot be worn! It has to be the high beam to cover my glass of red wine!"

    What is Asian Glow and how does "Benetint cannot be worn" connect to this?

    Maybe I've just had too much coffee and am over thinking this........

  • Laura

    She is a cool lady!

  • Claire

    LOL I was excited to read the myriad of comments until I saw that 3/4 of them were about the "asian glow". Nonetheless ,great post I love her skin!

  • Material Fixations

    Love what she says about the romans, your mood really does relfect on your face, long term and short turm!
    Material Fixations

  • Joy Of Stranger Sensibilities

    I thought I was the only person who's crazy about lymphatic massages! Good to know I'm not the only (young) one! Great Q&A.

    • Sofia

      Any recommended spots in NYC for a great lymphatic drainage massage?

      • Sarah

        Yes recommendations would certainly help.

  • Xeana

    Beaty girl! Her style look is elegant.


  • Jolie Jouel

    Cute article! Nice routine that she seems to follow beautifully!

  • A Reader

    Her hair is absolutely fabulous!

  • Gabrielle Langlois

    Nice Routine, that is why she got perfect complexion I guess!

    Gaby Lang

  • The Blossom Shed Beauty Blog

    She's lovely - is that the Revlon lipstick she's wearing in the pics?

  • Michelle Lee
  • MyDearGirl

    You really notice a difference in your face complexion whent taking zinc supplements. My face is less oily around my nose. Good for her to point it out to the rest of us! :)

  • Irene

    Well, finally a person who I truly believe when she claimes that she is low maintenance and used to be a tomboy.
    Really like this post!
    Also some good tips that I will certainly remember, such as the face steam.

  • Fera

    what a nice experiance... Girl always have a great story boout their life. :)
    btw, I like her hair. I wish I have a beauty hair like her.