How Former Power Ranger Star, Jennifer Yen, Built a Beauty Empire


Way back in the mid-1990s, long before people were taking online quizzes to determine which Friends or Sex and the City character they related to most, an entire generation was eager to declare themselves one of the five Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. In case anyone's unfamiliar, the iconic TV series — which is now in its 25th season — features five badass teenagers who transform into alien-fighting superheroes that must work together in order to walk out of the ring victorious.

It goes without saying that no superhero-based TV show would be complete without its despised villains. Enter Vypra, a demon who donned slick serpentine armor and wasn't afraid to employ evil magic against her colorful enemies. In the early 2000s, Vypra was played by Chinese-American actress Jennifer Yen, who has swiftly gone from powerful villainess in the fictional world to a kick-butt female entrepreneur.

Interestingly, it was Yen's time spent on set that inspired her to start a skincare brand you're likely familiar with, Purlisse, which has since blossomed into a major player in the beauty space. We spoke to Yen about her Power Ranger years, what triggered the founding of her company, and how she's grown it over the years into a flourishing business.

“Being a Power Ranger villainess was an amazing experience. I loved channeling myself through acting, and it quickly became an outlet for emotions"

That Power Ranger Life

Yen was a spokesperson and model for many years before she took up acting. When she heard about auditions for the Power Rangers Vypra role, she seized the opportunity and headed to the casting call where, among other things, she was asked to give her best “side kick." It was that killer kick that landed her the role, which was also her first major acting gig.

"Many of these ingredients have back stories involving Yen's grandmother. For example, she would use leftover homemade soy milk to cleanse her face"

Being a Power Ranger villainess was an amazing experience. I loved channeling myself through acting, and it quickly became an outlet for emotions. Also, it was a lot of fun working with so many creative and passionate individuals. There will always be a little bit of Vypra in me — in a good way." -Yen

The thing with acting, especially if you're playing a role that requires a dramatic physical transformation, is that all that makeup application and removal can start to wreak havoc on your skin.“Being on set meant being in full uniform, and that included makeup," she says. “Wearing heavy makeup for hours and days on end really took a toll on my skin. I started noticing more and more irritation, itchiness, and redness on my skin. This irritation was being sparked by the daily makeup use, as well as my lack of an efficient skincare routine to address my sensitivity."

The Birth of a French-Asian Skincare Line

After an ongoing battle with her skin, Yen made the decision to start her own skincare line in 2008 with a focus on products that were nourishing, gentle, and effective. And that is precisely how Purlisse, which means “pure and smooth" in French, came into existence. In addition to being born out of personal need and a recognized gap in the market, the line was also inspired by Yen's grandmother's Asian beauty recipes.

Today, products are formulated with the help of French, Korean, and American chemists with Yen's oversight. The line utilizes carefully curated ingredients including calming and antioxidant-rich blue lotus flower extract, skin-bolstering seaweed and white tea, nourishing lupine peptides that strengthen the barrier and impart a healthy glow, and soy beans, which are packed with micronutrients and lock in moisture.

Many of these ingredients have back stories involving Yen's grandmother. For example, she would use leftover homemade soy milk to cleanse her face and home-brewed white tea was used as a soothing antiseptic on childhood cuts and scrapes. Blue lotus, which is a hero ingredient throughout the line and one not commonly found in other skincare products, was a DIY beauty recipe favorite of her grandmother's as well.

Growing a Brand in a Saturated Market

Over the last decade, Purlisse has remained a niche brand that's dedicated to its original tenets of providing gentle, effective, high-quality products to discerning consumers. It's relatively small in size with roughly 30 SKUS, which includes both travel and full-size products. Products are sold primarily online through the brand's website, as well as at Dermstore.com, Nordstrom, and Amazon. Another way Purlisse has reached new customers is via subscription boxes, such as IPSY, Birchbox, and Fabfitfun.

The brand also has a robust celebrity following with Jamie Chung, Michelle Phan, Desi Perkins, and Whitney Port expressing their love for Purlisse products. Makeup artists also swear by the line. For example, Cardi B's makeup artist uses the Green Tea + Ginger Sheet Mask, Blue Lotus Seed Mud Mask + Exfoliant, and BB Tinted Moist Cream on the singer, and Denise Hooper, lead makeup artist for Scandal, often reaches for the Blue Lotus 4-in-1 Eye Adore Serum on set.

"Many of these ingredients have back stories involving Yen's grandmother. For example, she would use leftover homemade soy milk to cleanse her face"

Yen says that she's truly enjoyed watching Purlisse grow over the years and spends a large portion of her time overseeing the brand. Taking the leap certainly required some faith and a relentless drive for success, but all that hard work has been worth it.

“While starting new businesses can be risky, the risk is much more bearable when you're supporting a product that you truly love and believe in," says Yen. “Women are so unbelievable, capable, and inspiring when it comes to starting businesses. I advise other women to delve into ideas and concepts that they're truly passionate about, and to give it their best shot. If it's something you're passionate about, then it's worth the risks."

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
5min read

What I Learned From Dating Younger Men - It's Refreshing and More Authentic!

"There are no good men out there," yet another woman my age declared. At 50, I was freshly divorced after two decades of marriage and motherhood. My unhappy marriage had shattered my faith in men and romantic relationships. Based on my ex-husband's opinion of my sexual appeal, I was afraid my naked body would cause future lovers to run screaming from the room. Rather gleefully, I announced to my girlfriends that I was done with men, and sex, forever.

For the first year, I got tangled in my sheets alone every night, overjoyed to have the bed and my body to myself. I felt liberated by divorce—free to be me, skip showering, and make dinner for one. But it bothered me when women decried the scarcity of men, because I'd known so many good ones—college boyfriends, my brother, my best friend from business school, etc. The first of many naked truths gradually crept up on me: I was not going to find my juju again through self-help and yoga. The feminist in me didn't want to admit it, but going for too long without men was akin to starvation.

I didn't want another husband. But I needed men, a lot of them.

The universe signaled its approval by sending Mr. Blue Eyes to me at an airport. He was 29 and perhaps the sexiest man I'd ever kissed. Being with him convinced me, pretty decisively, that men were going to heal me, even though men had destroyed me many times before. I became the female incarnation of a divorced, clichéd older man: I bought a sports car, revamped my wardrobe, and took younger lovers. "I want five boyfriends," I told my best friend KC after that first tryst ended. "Sweet, cute, smart, nice. Enough that I won't get too attached to one." My message from the frontlines of divorce at 50 is that to restore your confidence as a woman, especially in the wake of a crushing breakup, try dating outside your comfort zone, expanding your dating pool to include partners you might never have considered before. It may not be the recipe for a lasting union, but in terms of rebuilding your self-esteem, it can work wonders.

The first thing I noticed—and liked—about dating younger men is that they didn't want to marry me or make babies with me. And I didn't want that either. Frankly, I didn't even want them to spend the night. Since I'd been 11, I'd been taught to seek out and value men who wanted commitment. To my surprise, I found it refreshing, even more authentic, to be valued not for my potential as a mate, but instead for my body, intelligence, life-experience and sexuality.

And the sex! I quickly realized that—warning, blanket stereotype coming—men under 40 are more straightforward and adventurous than older men, maybe since they were raised with the Internet. You hear so often about the scourge of crude, sexist online pornography; and I agree that the depersonalization of women as sexual playthings is deeply destructive to all genders. However, from sexting to foreplay, I found younger men uniquely enthusiastic about getting naked and enjoying sex. Every younger man found my most erotic zones faster than any man my age ever had, with a lack of hesitation men over 50 seemed unable to fathom.

Also, about my big fear of getting naked in front of a younger man? Completely unfounded. I started to shake when Airport Boy took off my sundress in our hotel room. Had he ever seen a woman my age nude? How could I stand to be skin-to-skin with a body far more perfect than mine? I had given birth to eight-pound, full-fucking-term babies. I'd nursed them, too, and at times by breasts looked (from my view at least) like wet paper towels. "You have a spectacular body," he told me instead, running his hand over the cellulite on my stomach that I despised. That night I learned that younger men who seek older women accept our physical flaws—they don't expect perfection in someone 20 years their senior. These men taught me to see my body through a positive, decidedly male lens, to focus on the pretty parts (and we all have them) rather than the flaws that we all have too, whether you're 19, 29 or 59.

I even found the pillow talk lighter, easier and more intellectually stimulating, because a younger man's world view differs so vastly from the pressures of my 20-something kids, annual colonoscopies, 401K balance and mortgage payments. They have simple financial problems, like "Can I borrow a few quarters for the parking meter outside?" or "Do you have any advice on consolidating my student loans?"

Everything feels simpler with younger men. Men under 40 seem less threatened by assertive women; they grew up with them. They like cheap beer instead of expensive wine. They don't snore (as much). Leftovers a 55-year-old would scoff at look good to them. Their erections NEVER last more than four hours. Their hard-ons end the old-fashioned way and 45 minutes later they are ready for more.

But what I enjoy most about younger men is not the sex, or the cliché that they make me feel young again—because they don't. Younger men make me feel old, and to my delight, I like that. I feel valuable around younger men, precisely because I am wiser and more experienced in life, love and between the sheets.

I know I'll never end up with one for good. The naked truth is we don't have enough in common to last. One recently put it exactly right when he told me, "I love this, but there's always gonna be a glass ceiling between us." That lack of permanence, the improbability of commitment and "forever," doesn't mean I can't pick up a tip or two about self-esteem, and enjoy the magic of human connection with younger men. And vice versa. The experience can enrich us both, making us better partners for people our own ages down the road.

*My viewpoint is from the perspective of a heterosexual woman, because I am one. But change the gender identification and/or sexual orientation to whatever works for you and let me know if the same advice holds true. Thank you.