San Francisco-based beauty brand Tatcha creates high-end skincare with a holistic approach to health and harmony. With natural and sustainable ingredients, a focus on the five senses, and rooted in ancient Japanese traditions, Tatcha was launched in 2009 by Vicky Tsai.
Tsai is a Missouri-born Taiwanese American with an MBA from Harvard Business School. Stressed and burned out working a corporate job for years led her to the revelation one morning to “choose happiness.” After quitting her job, Tsai began traveling the world while pregnant with her first child in search of happiness and meaning.
While in Kyoto, Japan, Tsai was introduced to a modern-day geisha. It was an experience that turned out to be life-altering as a geisha shared with her 200-year-old skincare rituals stemming from centuries of removing thick performance makeup.
Tsai suffered from acute dermatitis for years, which left her skin damaged with blisters and rashes. It required daily steroids and antibiotics to treat, and the only over-the-counter product she was able to use for some relief was Aquaphor. That is, until her chance meeting with the geisha and discovery of a book published in 1813 with a detailed guide to Japanese skincare and techniques.
Using those techniques and products bought from a Japanese apothecary to treat her own ravaged skin, Tsai was amazed when her face completely healed within months. Wanting to share this experience with the western women of the US became the inspiration and set the groundwork for starting Tatcha.
While in Japan, Tsai came across pedal-thin papers that were byproducts of gold-leaf manufacturing. The geishas had innovated a new use for these papers by using them to blot excess shine from their porcelain skin without stripping it of precious protective oils or disrupting their makeup.
Tsai sold her engagement ring, car, and some furniture and moved into her parent’s house with her husband to buy 10,000 of these blotting papers, which eventually became the first product offered by Tatcha.
The brand’s success did not come easily, however; it was a years-long struggle to get the company off the ground. At the time, Asian beauty and skincare weren’t a trend and there was no interest in clean brands. Tsai was working four jobs and accrued $600,000 in debt without giving up hope on Tatcha’s possible success.
It took time for the brand to gain a following, and when it first launched, Tsai claims the only people who understood it and embraced it from the beginning were aestheticians and makeup artists.
Brooklyn makeup artist Daniel Martin was one of those early supporters who began using Tatcha products on celebrity clients like Elizabeth Moss, Gemma Chan, and Michelle Yeoh. High praise from other celebrities like Meghan Markle, a then lifestyle blogger, and dancer/actress Maddie Ziegler helped Tatcha gain exposure, and even Kim Kardashian posted a how-to video watched by millions of followers on how Tatcha’s Face Mist helps blend her facial contour. These endorsements helped catapult the brand to a larger audience and allowed it to grow from a niche label to the mainstream skincare game.
Tatcha products are crafted at the Tatcha Institute in Tokyo where scientists still use the 1813 book Tsai found as a guide. Tsai vowed to keep Tatcha’s formulas as pure as possible by avoiding parabens, mineral oils, synthetic fragrances, and other skin-irritating ingredients. These formulas are inspired by the ancient traditional rituals of geishas with an innovative balance of timeless Japanese botanicals and proven clinical ingredients to work with the skin.
The ritual is simple: Purify, Polish, Brighten, Nourish, and Blot.
To purify, it’s important to remove all makeup and other environmental traces from the skin, so geishas use tsubaki (camellia) oil to melt everything away. You might recognize this mention of tsubaki oil from another recent blog post.
Once the skin is free from impurities, removing dead skin cells creates a softer skin texture and more luminous appearance. To polish, they use komenuka, which is also known as Japanese rice bran.
To maintain a porcelain appearance and brighten their complexions even without makeup, geishas minimize age spots and hyperpigmentation without sensitizing their skin with licorice root extract.
Finally, they seal in all the nourishing skincare with a lightweight cream moisturizer. When they have makeup on, they also use the previously-mentioned blotting papers to keep their look intact and shine-free.
Most of Tatcha’s skincare line incorporates a trio of ingredients known as Hadasei-3, which is a combination of three Japanese anti-aging superfoods: Okinawa red algae, Uji green tea, and Japanese rice bran.
Company Initiatives and Changes
In 2014, Tatcha partnered with the charity organization Room to Read’s Girl’s Education program, which provides education to girls across Asia and Africa. The program focuses specifically on secondary education and has had a powerful effect on lifting families and communities out of poverty. A portion of the sales from each full-size Tatcha product goes to this program and has already sponsored more than 3 million days of school to educate girls globally.
In 2019, Anglo-Dutch consumer-products giant Unilever acquired the decade-old brand Tatcha in a deal reportedly worth $500 million. Tsai was briefly ousted from the company she created but was asked to return two years later as CEO to help lead the then-flailing brand out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Rice Polish, The Essence, and the Aburatorigami Japanese Blotting Papers are among some of Tatcha’s hero products that have gained a huge following among celebrities, makeup artists, and social media influencers. Let’s dive into more about the best-selling, highly recommended, and most coveted Tatcha products.
Top 10 Best Sellers
A lightweight moisturizer with a super luxe gel-cream texture, this cream immediately absorbs into the skin without leaving a greasy or sticky feeling behind. The formula releases a burst of hydrating nutrients and pore-refining botanicals, including the proprietary Hadasei-3.
Japanese Wild Rose visibly tightens pores and smooths skin texture while Japanese Leopard Lily helps control excess oil and clarifies skin for a shine-free glow. It also calms skin on contact and never causes pilling. This is best for combination or oily skin types.
This cream hydrates and plumps the skin with a blend of Okinawa algae and hyaluronic acid. The super light, non-greasy, emollient-rich formula includes a high concentration of squalane to instantly soften and moisturize. Japanese Purple Rice also protects against pollution and stress while bringing balance back to the skin with a healthy, dewy glow.
This multi-tasking primer has a silky, balm-like texture that glides onto the skin, creating a soft matte finish. Nourishing silk extracts hydrate and instantly reduce the appearance of pores, fine lines, and imperfections for a flawless pre-makeup canvas that can also be worn alone.
Silk powder in this primer allows makeup to apply evenly and last longer while minimizing excess shine and creating a soft-focus finish. It also creates a protective barrier between the skin and makeup to alleviate clogged pores and breakouts while keeping harmful outside environmental stressors out.
Pink and gold pearl help brighten and even the skin’s tone, but don’t let the light pink color fool you: It becomes completely sheer and clear once blended. This primer is suitable for all skin types.
This water-activated gentle exfoliant transforms from a powder to a creamy foam and leaves skin with a smooth, polished, healthy glow. Microcrystalline and rice powder non-abrasively exfoliate the top layer of skin to remove dead cells that build up and create a dull-looking complexion as finely-ground rice bran and papaya enzymes promote natural skin turnover to reveal a smooth, radiant glow.
This pH-neutral, amino acid-based formula provides effective cleansing without stripping the skin of essential moisture. It is ideal for combination to dry skin types.
The Essence is not a toner, but a lightweight, liquid resurfacing treatment designed to smooth, plump, and hydrate the skin. With Hadasei-3 as the key ingredient, this formula boosts the effects of other skincare products like moisturizers and serums while resurfacing and hydrating for primed, plump, soft skin.
This product should not be applied with a cotton round, but rather with clean hands and fingers. Gently pat half a teaspoon onto the skin of the face and neck immediately after cleansing and before other skincare products. It’s suitable for all skin types to combat dullness, dryness, and uneven textures.
This eye cream has a light, cushiony, balm-like texture that melts into the skin while releasing a powerful moisturizing elixir with liquid silk that smooths and blurs fine lines and wrinkles. It provides a doubly-effective shield of hydration: silk protein forms a protective veil of moisture on top of the skin, while Japanese White Peony helps seal it in by supporting the skin’s natural barrier. This enables the thinnest, most delicate skin around the eye area to retain moisture, preventing dryness.
This antioxidant-packed formula also helps protect against future damage. It’s suitable for all skin types to prevent dryness, dullness, puffiness, fine lines, and wrinkles.
The ancient secret of the geisha and the product that started the brand, these soft, strong, and absorbent papers wick away excess oil while imparting a subtle glow. Made of 100% natural abaca leaf, these papers gently lift oil and cut shine without disturbing makeup or stripping skin of essential oil. 23-karate gold also adds a subtle shimmer to the skin.
These blotting papers are also compact and convenient for on-the-go touch-ups. Both sides of each sheet can be used.
This creamy gel-textured 3-in-1 serum multitasks to smooth the skin with lactic acid, plump it with hyaluronic acid, and hydrate it with squalane. Infused with a gentle exfoliating acid that’s safe for daily use, this formula also immediately boosts the skin’s hydration six times over.
Use this serum twice daily in the morning and evening after toner/essence and before moisturizer to amplify results. A little goes a long way; one to two pumps gently massaged into the skin of the face and neck to create a smoother, plumper, dewier, more radiant complexion. It’s ideal for all skin types.
This talc-free, protective setting powder locks in and extends makeup wear, blurs pores and fine lines, and even shields skin against blue light and pollutants. It’s lightweight and ultra-finely milled so it blends into the skin seamlessly and effortlessly while providing a translucent, soft-radiant finish. Did I mention instant and all-day shine control?
Less is more, so apply this powder in small amounts and build where needed using a fluffy brush to buff and blend into the skin with circular motions. Beauty sponges are not recommended for application. It’s compatible with all skin types.
This ultra-fine hydrating face mist absorbs quickly and provides a dewy, soft, glowing complexion. It can be used on bare skin to create a flawless base for makeup application, as a setting spray after, or as an on-the-go touch-up and skin refresher throughout the day.
This mist contains 20% botanical oils, squalene, silk extract, hyaluronic acid, and Okinawan red algae to hydrate the skin with a soft, luminous, all-day glow. It provides full coverage in just two to three spritzes for a refreshing boost of soothing hydration. It is best on normal to dry skin types for dullness and dryness.
The name Tatcha is short for Tachibana, which means “standing flower” in Japanese. And like a standing flower, the brand represents strength, uniqueness, nature, and beauty from its history and formulation to its packaging and the results.
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