Vicky Tsai of Tatcha on J-Beauty & Building a Bona Fide Brand

Written by: Susan Hang

The buzz around acclaimed K-beauty doesn’t seem to slow down and we all know who rises to the top when considering Eastern influences on the West. But do you ever wonder if there are uncovered beauty secrets you might be missing out on? Say Hello to J-Beauty and thank Vicky Tsai for the conception of Tatcha!

Vicky says the modern Korean approach to skincare is all-encompassing, often involving a multi-step regimen. If that’s overwhelming, you might be happy to try the classical Japanese approach Tatcha embraces, which is far simpler.

Tatcha is a US-based luxury skincare brand (with R&D in Japan) founded on the principals of the geishas, specifically inspired by a beauty book, capturing their rituals, written in 1813. Call it serendipity, but Vicky was your ideal Harvard MBA grad and corporate contender traveling for work when she stumbled across dainty blotting papers during a layover in Japan. At the time, she was suffering from acute dermatitis, which doctors told her would never completely return to normal. Intrigued by these blotting papers, Vicky set off to Kyoto in search of a more evolved approach to beauty where she met real life geishas! Vicky said,

tatcha skincare by vicky tsai

The geisha were kind enough to share their secrets with me and gave me my skin back. I was so inspired by their time-tested ingredients and rituals, I knew I had to share them with the rest of the world.

Vicky (like many of us here in the West), at one point, believed that the secret to beautiful skin is piling on expensive creams and treatments. She says, “The geisha recognized that skin is a brilliant organ and can take care of itself – it just needs a bit of help to stay cleansed and nourished.” They focus on three to four multi-tasking steps to care for the skin and taught her that even the most precious creams won’t have any effect if the skin has not been properly cleansed and polished. “They carefully remove their performance makeup with cleansing oil, and then polish away dead skin cells with an exfoliating powder.” You can assume that was the inspiration behind Tatcha’s Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil followed by the Polished Rice Enzyme Powder.

Tatcha skincare lineAlthough Tatcha started with simple blotting papers and evolved into a seasoned skincare line, this is only Chapter 1 of the ancient heirloom…the manuscript’s got seven chapters across three volumes. Vicky and her team have began exploring Chapter 2 (Makeup) starting with their Kyoto Red Silk Lipstick, “a modern version of the geisha’s iconic red lip”, and are excited to try more. If you’ve never tried Tatcha or you’re interested in getting your feet wet in J-beauty, Vicky recommends starting with the Cleansing Oil and Rice Powder mentioned above. The oil breaks down makeup and SPF, thoroughly cleansing the skin, and then the Rice Powder serves as a gentle daily exfoliator, “leaving the skin to glow like a jewel”! She believes that you need to nourish the skin afterwards and recommends doing so with the Balanced Pore Perfecting Water Gel Moisturizer. The team created this product to deliver hydration and powerful actives to the skin.

Beauty aside, it’s evident that Vicky’s got boss advice about running a business and developing a brand. When I asked her what she would tell someone interested in the beauty business, she said:

The beauty industry is cluttered and confusing. Have a point of view and stay true to your vision.

That applies to every entrepreneurial endeavor – even something as basic as a blog. She’s also a huge believer in giving back, which was something she brought from her old corporate life at Starbucks. She said, “Howard Schultz, the CEO, believed deeply in the importance of doing well by doing good, and philanthropy was built into the DNA of the company. While I was there, John Wood, the CEO of Room to Read, visited and spoke.” Before she dreamt of Tatcha, she was all for incorporating a one-to-one giving model, which is no surprise that Tatcha is now two years into a partnership with Room to Read. The company has funded over 1,500 years of school for incredible girls around the world. As far as staying inspired, Vicky believes that a great team is transformational. She’s most inspired by her incredible team, and knowing that, together, they’re all helping incredible girls get an education.

How inspirational is that?!


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Image Source Credits – NY Times (image of Vicky)


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