Tatcha Skincare: Where Sacred Meets Modern

Have you ever wanted to learn the beauty secrets of geishas? Victoria Tsai, the founder of Tatcha, traveled to Japan in 2009 and caught a surprising lightning rod of inspiration. Tsai, a graduate of Wellesley and Harvard Business School, encountered a makeup-free geisha at a local beauty shop. Entranced by the geisha’s luminous complexion, Tsai inquired about her typical skincare and beauty routine. Tsai purchased the geisha-approved products and soon after returned to her home in Seattle. After using the products for eight weeks, Tsai noticed that her complexion had considerably improved. When speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Tsai revealed that finding the right formula meant partnering “with a Japanese chemist to develop Hadasei-3, a formula that blends red algae, green tea and rice branstaple ingredients of the Japanese dietinto an antioxidant complex.” In addition to the benefits of collaborating with a chemist, Tsai credits a 200-year-old Japanese manuscript, the “Capital Beauty and Style Handbook,” as a driving source of inspiration and influence.

Victoria Tsai, Founder
Victoria Tsai

One quick look at the list of ingredients on the website shows that the brand takes great care to incorporate natural elements such as peony, japanese indigo, colloidal oatmeal, gold, silk, rice bran, and green tea, among others. Tsai, who previously had acute dermatitis, values the importance of recognizing the details of what the consumer is putting on their skin. She told Forbes, “The heart of their [geishas’] skin care ritual is purifying which is the opposite of the western world… We’ll use cheap cleanser and expensive moisturizer. They spend time and money on the purifying product. The better you’re able to return your skin to its natural state the more you’ll be able to hold onto the natural moisturizers.”

Recently, I’ve started to reconfigure my approach to skincare. I wouldn’t call myself lazy or apathetic, as I’ve conditioned myself to at least remove my makeup before going to bed, and I make an honest attempt to chug water (never underestimate the power of your water intake in relation to your complexion). In the past, I would’ve reached for some Neutrogena or Clean & Clear and called it a day. After using Tatcha products for a little over a week and a half, I have to confess that my skin has been receptive to the rice powder and moisturizer. Not only have I been breakout-free, I’ve woken up with smoother, brighter skin. I may not look as flawless as a geisha, but it appears that Tatcha has evened out my complexion in ways that my tried and true drugstore brands just weren’t doing. I’ve found myself feeling undaunted by the idea of going out to run errands or going to work without my usual makeup routine, in favor of letting my skin breathe.

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My skin tends to crave moisture, so the products I sampled were all geared towards dry skin. The Polished Gentle Rice Enzyme Powder ($65) is a water-activated enzyme powder consisting of rice bran, papaya and Hadasei-3 Bioactive complex. The consistency of the powder is like fine-grained sand and turns into a foamy cleanser when wet. I used it both when my skin was free of makeup and when I was wearing makeup (BB cream/foundation, bronzer, blush, mascara, brow pencil). The powder didn’t leave my skin feeling tight or dry and unlike cleansers with those abrasive, not entirely environmentally friendly microbeads, I didn’t feel as though I’d just ripped into the top layer of my skin. I followed up with the Ageless Enriching Renewal Cream ($185). The cream can be used for daytime and nighttime moisturizing. It’s as smooth as freshly-churned butter and although the recommended application seemed to go on a little thick, it eventually settled into my skin. Prior to using the Renewal Cream, I’d been dutifully applying Cetaphil every morning. I have to say, Tatcha’s cream seems to leave an overall less greasy sheen than Cetaphil. Cetaphil is an adequate drugstore brand for its price point and like Tatcha, it’s formulated for sensitive skin. However, Tatcha’s moisturizer seems to pack much more of a punch than Cetaphil. Perhaps youthful is an exaggeration, but in comparison to Cetaphil, my face looks considerably refreshed and a little glowy, in the way that Old Hollywood stars, like Marilyn Monroe, were known for their dewy complexions.

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I also had the pleasure of using the Luminous Deep Hydration Lifting Mask ($28). As this was the first time I’d ever used a face mask, I said a silent prayer that my skin wouldn’t get irritated and erupt into a shade of fire engine red. Each mask has 20ml of serum, which is a combination of a proprietary red algae and Tatcha’s HADASEI-3 Bioactive Complex. You leave the mask on your face for fifteen minutes, remove, and then massage the remaining serum into your face. Talk about instant hydration! As recommended, I followed up with the Ageless Enriching Renewal Cream to retain the moisture. The next morning, I looked in the mirror and it was as though I’d gone to the spa. There was certainly a noticeable difference from using the mask. Now that I’ve been properly introduced to the world of face masks, I may have to make it a habit.

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For those wondering how Tatcha reacts to sensitive or problematic skin, the formulas are free of parabens, synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, sulfate detergents, phthalates (often found in cosmetics and lotions), and is not tested on animals. Additionally, Tatcha offers an online skin consultation questionnaire for those unsure of which products to choose.

Founder Victoria Tsai is also about giving back. Tatcha has partnered with Room to Read, which focuses on developing literacy and gender equality in education. Room to Read stretches across the globe, including countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Tatcha products are available on the namesake website, Sephora, Barneys New York, and QVC.

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