After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world, Victoria Tsai — founder of Tatcha, a skincare line based upon ancient Japanese traditions and recipes — was feeling burnt out and like there wasn't any meaning in her work.
This is a familiar reality for many, and it's easy to keep slogging along without knowing how to escape. Finally ready to go on a soul-search, Tsai did the only thing that made sense for her — she walked away from the grind.
“I woke up one day and said, 'I choose happiness' and quit my job," she tells SWAAY in an exclusive interview. “I didn't know what I was looking for, but I started traveling in the hopes of finding something to believe in. On the surface, I was looking for a different approach to beauty and skincare, but when I look back, I was also in search of a new approach to life."
In that sense, and to the surprise of many who hear her story, Tsai didn't specifically set out to create a Japanese skincare brand. It just so happened that Japan was where she rediscovered her sense of purpose — where she found herself inspired and healed.
“I fell in love with the simplicity and beauty of the ingredients, and the beautiful heritage behind their rituals," she explained. “It's been a decade now since that trip, and yet I continue to find new treasures and inspirations every time I visit."
Wholly invigorated and with a newfound, grounded sense of direction, Tsai made the decision to launch a skincare brand centered around these Japanese rituals, traditions, and recipes. The desire to take a skincare route was further influenced by her experience with acute dermatitis and a mission to create gentle products that soothed and healed sensitive skin. The view ahead was clouded with a looming mountain of lingering business school debt, though, and figuring out how to fund her business idea took some sacrifice.
Wholly invigorated and with a newfound, grounded sense of direction, Tsai made the decision to launch a skincare brand centered around these Japanese rituals, traditions, and recipes. Photo Courtesy of Tatcha
After investing that money into the seedling that would eventually blossom into Tatcha, Tsai said she felt more confident in moving forward with raising additional funds from those within her personal network. In 2017, the brand partnered with Castanea and continues working with them today.
Tatcha's Recipes & the Rise of Japanese Skincare
Since those early years, Tatcha has become not just a household name, but a skincare brand that's synonymous with simplicity and nurturing, effective luxury. This is a reflection of the brand's dedication to high-quality ingredients, refined formulation and product development, and a commitment to Japanese authenticity.
“Our collection is founded on a beauty book written in 1813 that captured the trends of the time in skincare, makeup, hair, and fashion — many of which happened to be set by geisha," she explained. “In addition to that, our teams in San Francisco and Japan are always researching timeless ingredients and rituals. We marry this heritage with a cutting-edge approach to extraction and formulation to get the best of both worlds."
It's no secret that Korean skincare has been booming, but Japanese skincare has remained quietly and steadfastly grounded in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Photo Courtesy of Allure
It's no secret that Korean skincare has been booming, but Japanese skincare has remained quietly and steadfastly grounded in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres. It continues to rise in popularity and has even experienced an increase in attention in the last couple of years.
When asked to describe the fundamental difference between Korean and Japanese beauty, Tsai explained that while Japan is seen globally as a leader in innovation on both skincare and color, they are not as heavily trend-driven when compared to the K-Beauty market.
“Japanese customers are very sophisticated. They study ingredients, understand how skin works, and ask a lot of questions. You don't see trendy items work with a Japanese audience, which are very popular in Korean beauty," she said.
In that sense, Tatcha is heavily focused on formulas that are grounded in traditional recipes versus playing into splashy packaging and buzzy ingredients. That doesn't mean Japanese skincare isn't innovative, though. Quite the contrary.
“Within the beauty industry, beauty executives from the U.S. and Europe have always made a pilgrimage to Japan to see what's happening. The school of thought is that Japan is always one to three years ahead of the western world in innovation in both color and skincare. It's a long-kept industry 'secret' that Japan is where to go for innovation," explained Tsai. “With the internet, globalization and global travel, great formulas and great innovation make their way around the world pretty easily now. We're so happy that it's not just beauty execs who know that Japan has really sophisticated and advanced formulas and rituals."
"It's a long-kept industry 'secret' that Japan is where to go for innovation," explained Tsai. Photo Courtesy of Sephora
The Future of Tatcha
Tsai said that the brand's fundamental plan is to love their clients and love their formulas above all else — that was the mission before Tatcha bloomed into the large company it is today, and nothing about that will change going forward. “In terms of our collection, the beauty book from which we draw inspiration is seven chapters across three volumes, and skincare is just chapter one. We're excited to explore what else it has to offer," she teased. Tatcha also plans to continue its partnership with Room to Read, a non-profit education program that helps fund full days of school for young girls around the world. “Each Tatcha purchase helps fund school for girls in countries where they are often the last in line to get an education," said Tsai. “Since the beginning of our partnership, we have funded almost two million days of school, and we're so grateful to our clients and to amazing support like [SWAAY's] in making such a difference in these girls' lives."
WRITTEN BYWendy Rose Gould