Tatcha Founder Vicky Tsai On Being Inspired By Japanese Beauty Rituals | CoolJapan

Beauty brand Tatcha is heavily influenced by Japanese culture, especially by its beauty rituals. It all started with Vicky Tsai’s trip to Japan and her discovery of geisha beauty rituals and Japanese skincare ingredients. Read on to find out how Tatcha was inspired by Japanese beauty philosophies and grew to be what it is today.

Tatcha founder Vicky Tsai

Tatcha founder Vicky Tsai. (Photo from: Sephora Malaysia)

It started with a trip to Japan

“I gave myself acute dermatitis during my time at Harvard Business School, where I interned for a large beauty company and treated my face like a science experiment as part of the job,” Vicky recalled. The result was itchy, flaky red skin that her dermatologist found “irreversible”. All she could use were products with aquaphor, topical and oral steroids and antibiotics to keep her skin in check. When she became pregnant, she was determined to find pregnancy-safe alternatives to her usual regimen. This led her to go on a life-changing trip to Japan.

“The timeless natural ingredients and well-being rituals that I encountered in Kyoto not only healed my skin but at the same time also healed my spirit and restored within me a sense of harmony that I never thought I would regain,” she explained.

The book of geisha beauty rituals

During that trip, Vicky spent some time with geishas and learned about their skincare rituals. She discovered that these rituals were recorded in an old manuscript called the Miyakofuzoku kewaiden, a lost book which she sought to find a copy of. “It is a beauty manuscript from 1813 that describes in detail the classical Japanese beauty rituals that form the foundation of Japanese beauty today.”

After a year of searching, Vicky was finally able to find a copy and was mesmerised by its contents. “What struck me as remarkable was how relevant and modern everything in the book was, even though it had been published nearly two centuries prior,” she shared.

One of these valuable beauty secrets is that the food that keeps your body healthy will also keep your skin looking healthy. “The core ingredients and rituals that comprise Japanese skincare have been perfected over hundreds of years. In Japan, women understand that their skin is a reflection of their health and that the same ingredients that keep their bodies healthy also keeps their skin healthy,” Vicky explained. “As a result, the core ingredients of Japanese skincare are the same as the core ingredients of their diet — rice, green tea and seaweed.”

Simplicity is another core philosophy of Japanese skincare rituals. “The classical approach to skincare in Japan is based on daily purifying, polishing, plumping and nourishing the skin,” she added. “The first step is usually a cleansing oil (purifying), followed by a very gentle exfoliation — historically with rice enzymes (polishing) — then an essence (plumping) and finally sealing in all the goodness with a moisturiser or beauty oil (nourishing).”

“From there, we set out to work with our scientists at the Tatcha Institute in Japan to marry these practices with the best of modern technology and begin crafting our skincare collection.”

“Our philosophy is that what's good for the body is inherently also good for the skin, and the cornerstone of every formula in our collection is an ingredient that can be traced to the traditional Japanese diet and has stood the test of time,” she added.

Tatcha’s beauty secrets

“To select the ingredients used in our formulas, we look at two things: heritage and efficacy,” Vicky explained. “Once we’ve identified an ingredient that can deliver the appropriate benefit, our scientists at The Tatcha Institute in Tokyo will begin testing to find ways to increase its efficacy so it’s powerful enough to deliver results but still gentle enough so that it won’t irritate the skin.”

One of the products that perfectly embodies the brand’s philosophy and process, according to Vicky, is The Essence, a skin-resurfacing, hydrating essence that you apply after cleansing and before moisturising. “It’s composed of 100% double-concentrated Hadasei-3, our proprietary ingredient complex derived from Akita rice, Uji green tea, and Okinawa algae.”

There are a lot of Japanese ingredients that are used in Tatcha’s skincare collection. However, there’s one ingredient that Vicky’s particularly fond of: Japanese indigo, which you can find in Tatcha’s Calming collection. “We harvest the indigo from a family-run farm on the banks of the Yoshino River, which floods annually to replenish the soil with vital nutrients and minerals,” she explained about its harsh cultivating process.

“During the Edo period (1603-1868) in Japan, samurai wore a layer of indigo-dyed cotton beneath their armor to help heal injuries. Known as ‘Japan blue,’ the rich dye was also used for traditional firefighter uniforms and presented to newborns in the form of a blanket — a symbolic testament to its protective qualities — a testament to its efficacy and timelessness.”

In skincare, Japanese indigo is used for its richness in tryptanthrin that helps flush away toxins and irritants, as well as indirubin which supports the skin’s natural barrier function. You can find Japanese indigo in the Indigo Overnight Repair, a soothing serum-in-cream that helps calm skin irritation and protects the skin by strengthening your skin barrier and balancing the microbiome.

What to expect from Tatcha in the future

Vicky hopes that by sticking to its Japanese beauty roots and keeping up with new innovations in cosmetic science, Tatcha will also stand the test of time. “We are in the midst of an opportunity for change and the future is ours to help shape by speaking out, sharing our experiences, and working together to prove that beauty truly is more than just skin deep.”

Tatcha is available in Sephora Malaysia stores, in-app, and online via sephora.my.

(Cover photo from: Sephora Malaysia)

Get to know these Japanese nail artists on Instagram.