Cocokind Founder Priscilla Tsai on Running A Business and Getting Married in A Pandemic

Cocokind Founder Priscilla Tsai on Running A Business and Getting Married in A Pandemic

Priscilla Tsai is fluent in adaptability.

It’s how she left her job in equity research to enter an unknown industry and launch her clean skincare brand, Cocokind. It’s how she moved from New York to San Francisco and learned the nuances of a new city while Cocokind was still in its infancy. It’s how she kept her company afloat when the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, even taking herself off the payroll for a brief period when things got particularly squirrelly. And most recently, it’s how she planned her own wedding in less than two days.

“We knew that we wanted to get married this summer legally, but we were on the waitlist because the courts weren’t open here,” she says via phone from San Francisco. “The county clerk gentleman just called me on a Wednesday and was like, ‘Okay, your appointment is going to be tomorrow.’” She thought she’d get a few weeks’ notice to get things in order, but it was time to adapt.

Tsai and her fiance ended up setting their appointment for that Friday, which was less than 48 hours away. Her parents flew in from Michigan wearing hazmat suits; her in-laws drove down from Portland; and luckily, most of their siblings already lived in the Bay Area.

“We rented this really beautiful location in Napa and just did this video conference, which was kind of hilarious because the first part of it was just signing a document with DocuSign, and everybody was waiting around. And the actual ceremony was like two sentences,” she says. “But it was really nice for what it was. And we were just happy to be able to actually get it done.”

For her wedding-day skincare routine, she kept things pretty simple. That meant Cocokind’s Sea Kale Clay Mask, followed by her usual toner, essence, serum, moisturizer, and oil. She did her own makeup, contouring her face with Cocokind highlighters. Her hair was pulled back in a low pony. Just like that, gorgeous and married. In the middle of a pandemic.

For Cocokind as a brand, said pandemic has been definitely a challenge—but Tsai is very aware that things could have been a lot worse. “Our category is not one that has been disproportionately affected by people being at home, so we’re really, really lucky to be in the category that we are,” she reflects. “I think it’s been the hardest year of the five years that I’ve been running this business, and just required the most amount of flexibility, problem-solving, and resilience on a day-to-day basis.”

Priscilla Tsai Cocokind

Tsai founded Cocokind in 2014 after years of her own skin insecurities. The idea was to create gentle yet effective formulas, using clean ingredients and superfoods, and doing it all at an affordable price point. In terms of values, the brand actively promotes the concept of skin positivity: as in, focusing less on perceived imperfections and accepting your skin for where it’s at in the moment. This is present in Cocokind’s messaging and in its imagery, which often features bare-faced humans—breakouts and all.

“Most people don’t have perfect skin and don’t have the skin that we see in typical beauty ads,” Tsai says. “So it’s just not a message that I want to put out there and have people absorb that information coming from us. Because there’s enough of that coming from other places.”

Tsai struggled with skin issues including redness, cystic acne, pain, and sensitivity for many years, and Cocokind helped heal her both physically and emotionally. “In college I just remember not wanting to go to daytime parties or socialize during the day because my skin would get really inflamed and I’d just feel like people were staring at my skin and my breakouts,” she admits. “And just feeling really self-conscious about that and not walking out the door unless I had a full face of makeup on to cover the redness, cover the breakouts. And feeling like I needed to touch up; there couldn’t be any imperfections at any point in the day. So that was the old mentality, and I think through Cocokind and through me realizing this is something I wanted our brand to stand for, it taught me a lot: the brand itself and our work there, and realizing that so many people feel the same way. It’s really crazy just looking at how I’ve come into my own appearance and become comfortable with who I am.”

Even today, while her skin is much calmer than it used to be, Tsai still deals with pesky breakouts. But instead of stressing over them, she simply dots on some Cocokind Turmeric Tonic and goes about her day with a “this too shall pass” attitude. Acne is normal, after all, and when it shows up, it is simply another opportunity to adapt.