Next up in our series on beauty brands that give back, Tatcha teaches us that true beauty stems from within.
by Nora Maloney
Even if you don’t know who Victoria Tsai is, you will certainly recognize her beauty brand, Tatcha. Impeccably presented and exquisitely packaged, every item in her exceptional line of skincare is treated as a profound gem, dressed in shades of jade and amethyst, and, now, in black with Japanese gold-leaf accents. On top of that, it’s all for a very good cause.
In early 2009, Tsai, then in her early thirties and living in San Francisco (where she still resides with her husband and seven-year-old daughter), took a life-altering trip to Kyoto, Japan. Soon after, she found herself maxing out credit cards, selling her car and her engagement ring, and working four different jobs in order to build a brand out of pure belief and passion. Come September of that same year, Tatcha was born.
While in Kyoto, Tsai was introduced to a modern-day geisha, who shared with her the 200-year-old skin care rituals that come with her craft. It was their knowledge, stemming from centuries spent removing thickly layered performance makeup, that set the groundwork for Tatcha.
“In the western world, we often splurge on expensive creams and treatments, and sometimes forgo washing the face altogether,” says Tsai. “Geisha are the opposite. Each skin-care ritual begins with what we like to call the Kyoto Cleanse: a gentle, oil-based cleanser to purify the skin, then a gentle daily exfoliant to polish it like a jewel. Anything you apply after that is more effective, because your skin is so pure.”
Tsai had suffered from acute dermatitis for years, and within months of adopting the geisha ritual her skin had healed in entirety. Like most good ideas, Tsai launched Tatcha from her own personal need for better and gentler product.
Tatcha’s first product, Original Aburatorigami Japanese Beauty Papers, are the exact same as the Aburatorigami (oil remover papers) used by geisha. These papers very quickly became a coveted component in cosmetic bags across the United States. It wasn’t long after that the brand followed suit with moisturizers, cleansers, and serums—all inspired by the rituals of geisha. On Wednesday, the brand launched their highly anticipated Water Cream—a facial moisturizer practically bursting with hydration—that leaves a refreshed and radiant complexion and the Deep Polish, a gentle exfoliant that will leave skin smooth and glowing.
Good skin, however, wasn’t all that Tsai learned about in Japan. “The geisha taught me that beauty begins in the heart and the mind,” she says. “Some of the most revered geisha are well beyond youth, but all are cultured, well-read, intelligent, and warm people.”
With this in mind, in 2014, the young brand entered an ongoing partnership with San Francisco based charity organization, Room to Read, specifically with their Girls’ Education program, to provide education to girls across Asia and Africa. “The Girls’ Education program focuses specifically on secondary education, after they realized that girls are significantly less likely to be sent to secondary school than boys,” Tsai told Vanity Fair. A donation of three-hundred dollars can keep a girl in school for a year, which is why a portion of sales from each full-size Tatcha skincare product goes towards another day of education. “Our partnership with Tatcha has allowed Room to Read to deepen our impact in parts of the world that needed our Girls’ Education program most,” said Erin Ganju, Room to Read C.E.O. and co-founder. “With one million days of girls’ education comes a powerful ripple effect of lifting families and communities out of poverty. When women are educated, it’s amazing what is possible.”
When this partnership first came about, the goal was to, over the course of one year, fund 35,000 full days of school for young girls around the world. But this month, Tatcha has met an entirely new milestone in its impressive history. In three short years, Tatcha has funded more than one million days of school, far exceeding all original expectations. To celebrate hitting this mark, Tatcha launched their Limited-Edition One in a Million collection this month which similarly supports the brand's on-going efforts for Room to Read.
In collaboration with a gold-leaf artisan in Japan, Tatcha redesigned the packaging of their best-selling Dewy Skin Mist and Classic Polish. The cultural, classic pattern of maple leaves and cherry blossoms represents the beauty and fragility of life that must be nurtured– this tying back to the meaning of Tatcha (short for Tachibana) which is a "standing flower" in Japanese. “As a woman today, we have an opportunity to help shape how women define beauty for themselves,” says Tsai. And so, while Tatcha products may bring you beautiful skin, the brand ethos is that true beauty begins on the inside.