Make no mistake, Jun Lee is a contender. But when it comes to her product line, Eir, the surfer turned Muy Thai fighter turned green skincare specialist is more focused on comfort than competition. The brand’s of-the-earth ethos rides smoothly on the modern wellness wave—its approach echoes the spirit behind Manhattan’s new Clean Market and Harrod’s Wellness Clinic.
“When I started [Eir], I knew it was a very competitive field,” says Lee, who launched the brand from New York City in 2014 and has since expanded its reach from the beaches of Southern California to the streets of Paris. “Each brand has its strengths and specialties. A lot of other beauty brands that started around the same time as I did, we’re all friends. We trade our products. I love experiencing other brands. It’s just been a really nice community of natural, clean beauty. I never felt like it was a competition.”
From a very young age, Lee was an athletic force. After years of competitive swimming, she honed her surfing skills on the East Coast, then hung up her board to take on a decade-long career in the intense world of Muy Thai fighting, where competition gave way to a close-knit female community.
“There are more women in Thai boxing nowadays, but in the beginning, there were very few that were at the competitive level,” recalls Lee, who trained for Team USA. “I had one woman who was my training partner. But, it’s a really beautiful thing that I witnessed. It’s a very hard sport, and we shared the locker room and could be really vulnerable and share what we were going through. I think it was really important that we had our camaraderie, friendship, and support for one another.”
“I was looking for products that I felt comfortable using long-term
and I really didn’t find anything that I liked
that was effective and felt good.”
After a challenging decade of competition in Muy Thai (which included several worrying concussions), Lee retired to focus on her career in corporate art curation at Ogilvy and resumed surfing. But, before long, a big wave in Bali sidelined Lee with a vicious shoulder injury. A rough post-op recovery period—in which Lee had adverse reactions to the medical-grade pain ointments and patches—led her to study green medicine and more naturalistic solutions to muscle pain, sun protection, and skin hydration.
“I was looking for products that I felt comfortable using long-term and I really didn’t find anything that I liked that was effective and felt good,” Lee says. She remembers wandering the Whole Foods beauty section searching for relief. “I started experimenting with essential oils and herbs and then things fell into place.” Lee began selling balms and body butters out of her kitchen in Montauk, N.Y. Now, pro-surfer Kelly Slater and model Carolyn Murphy are among Eir’s high-profile fans, and stockists include LA’s Detox Market and Merci in Paris.
“The ingredients in our brand are very simple—nothing is so rare that it’s not sustainable. We’re not going somewhere deep in the ocean and using the rarest form of algae,” says Lee, who is herself a proponent of organic, locally sourced foods, versus “organic from Peru.” To that end, items in Eir, named for the Norse goddess of healing, are produced in Brooklyn.
Popular products in the 24-piece line include the water-resistant Surf Mud Pro sunscreen stick; Sunset Body Oil made with aloe, arnica, and calendula; and (Lee’s favorite) the sore-muscle-soothing Rolling Liniment Heat Rub, made with camphor and peppermint. “The Rolling Liniment is like our version of tiger balm. That’s the one that saved my life, basically,” she explains. “It helps with migraines, it helps with congestion, it helps with pain, it helps with mosquitoes, it’s kind of awesome. Plus, it’s really portable.”
Looking back on her path to Eir, Lee sees how her athletic training served to strengthen her entrepreneurial muscles. “The fight training for Thai boxing was definitely a huge inspiration and a lesson that I could never replace,” she says. “You have to be really resilient and have a tough skin—that was a really important lesson for starting my business.”