Meet Stephanie Zheng of Mount Lai

Mount Lai founder Stephanie Zheng on bringing the brand to life, honoring the origins of wellness practices like gua sha, and the importance of lymphatic drainage.

"A lot of wellness and beauty practices are rooted in culture and heritage. It’s important to understand the origins in order to celebrate the roots and the rich history that these practices come from."

Tell us a little bit about your background, and how you became interested in beauty and skincare.
Hi there! I’m a skincare-obsessed entrepreneur and holistic esthetician. I’ll admit that my skincare journey has not been easy and I’ve been dealing with cystic acne, hormonal breakouts, and eczema flares for years. My struggles with acne and eczema are what first introduced me to this amazing world of beauty and I’ve learned so much over the years.

Mount Lai was inspired by your grandmother, who has been jade rolling and practicing gua sha for over 50 years. Can you talk about the influence that family has had on your journey to creating and growing the brand? 
Yes! So of course my grandmother was the inspiration behind Mount Lai and our products. Beyond that, my entire family has played a part in creating and growing the brand. My parents helped pack and ship orders when we were first starting out and didn’t have a warehouse. My sister made some of the first packaging designs! My cousin was our first intern haha. My parents are both still involved with the business as my mom helps with our sourcing and supply chain and my dad helps with skincare production.

When did you decide to take the leap to working on Mount Lai full time? What did you learn in the first few years of being a founder and business owner?
When I first started Mount Lai in November 2017, I was still working full-time and I didn’t take the leap until 10 months after the business had already launched. It’s been such a crazy few years! I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I can’t do it all. Building out a strong team is so important and our Mount Lai team is small but mighty.

What do you think it’s important for others to understand about the origins of gua sha and other practices rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine?
A lot of wellness and beauty practices, like gua sha, are rooted in culture and heritage. It’s important to understand the origins in order to celebrate the roots and the rich history that these practices come from, rather than just treating it like a “popular trend." It boils down to cultural appreciation over appropriation.

How would you like to see the wellness industry change?
Going along with the previous question, I would love to start seeing more attention given to the origins, culture, and heritage of wellness practices. This not only applies to jade rolling and gua sha, but also to matcha and cupping and yoga and so many others. We are already starting to see that so we are on the right track!

Why is lymphatic drainage important, and what are some of the benefits?
I could talk about how much I love lymphatic drainage for days! The lymph system serves as both immune defense as well as a filtration system for the body. However, unlike other systems in the body like the cardiovascular system, the lymph system doesn’t have its own pump and instead relies on things like muscle movements to move the lymph along. As a result, there can be stagnation, so manual lymphatic drainage helps support the process and encourage the removal of toxic or congestive substances from the tissues. Because we are removing substances that don’t serve the body, it creates more space for the tissues to absorb the nutrients they need. It’s almost like “exercising” the system to keep it in tip-top shape.

How do you incorporate gua sha into your skincare routine?
One of the beautiful things about gua sha is its ability to fit into skincare routines in many different ways. In the mornings, I love to use my Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool paired with our Calming Herbal Repair Balm over clean, hydrated skin. In the evenings, I love to use my Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool with my cleansing balm. Gua sha works with so many different skincare products and you can pair your tool with oils, serums, balms, moisturizers, masks, and more!

What are some new rituals you’ve developed over the past year?
Two rituals I’ve developed over the past year as I’ve been quarantining during the pandemic have been meditation and journaling. Both practices are so great for mindfulness and mental health.

What does your morning routine look like?
The first thing I do is usually meditate in bed. Then I’ll do my skincare routine and drink a cup of warm water w/ lemon or a cup of chrysanthemum tea while journaling and mapping out my to do list for the day. On days where I don’t have any early meetings, I love to do yoga or take a Peloton bike ride.

Favorite spots in New York?
For beauty + wellness, some of my favorite spots are Susy Qi Acupuncture, The Yinova Center, Stretch*d and Rescue Spa NYC. When it comes to food, my favorite dessert spot is Lazy Sundaes. You can’t go wrong with any of their bingsoos!

Favorite books?
One of my favorite books is Atomic Habits by James Clear and it highlights simple, easy-to-follow steps you can take to build healthy habits and break bad habits. Another book I really love is 10% Happier by Dan Harris as meditation + mindfulness have been life-changing for me. (For a fun read, I love Dear Girls by Ali Wong. She is hilarious and the absolute best).