Victoria Tsai is founder and CEO of Tatcha Beauty, a skincare brand based on geisha skin care philosophy. Tsai spent her early working years in corporate America and have been suffering from acute dermatitis for years. When she became pregnant with daughter Alexa, her learnings about harmful ingredients in skincare accelerated and she started to look for better alternatives.
A chance encounter with a modern-day geisha on a trip to Kyoto introduced her to take a different approach to skincare – one that was based on simplicity and time-tested ingredients that lead to the founding of Tatcha. Tsai is based in the Bay Area where her family and Tatcha HQ are located, but she travels to Japan frequently to work with scientists, researchers – and geisha – to create formulas for the Tatcha collection.
We caught up with Tsai while she was in Hong Kong recently to talk all things beautiful.
What is a typical working day like for you?
I spend most of my days on the road, and each day is different. If I am home, I’m awake by 5am to go through my emails. My six-year-old daughter wakes up around 7am and we have “coffee” in bed together (hers is hot chocolate), and then I get ready to go to the office. I stay until about 6pm, meeting with my team, developing formulas and exploring new designs. My husband, daughter and I have dinner together and then he gets her ready for bed while I do my evening skin-care ritual. It doesn’t take me long to take care of my skin in the morning and night, but it is time that I have come to really value. Whenever I finish washing my face and massaging in the treatments, I feel like a new person. Finally, my daughter and I sing our Snapchat friends to sleep (her favorite nighttime ritual) and we’re both asleep by 9pm.
What do you think is the most impactful thing you’ve achieved with Tatcha Beauty?
The most impactful thing we have done was creating our Beautiful Faces, Beautiful Futures partnership. We were still tiny and in my garage when we decided to build a 1:1 model into the business model, but always knew we wanted philanthropy deep in the DNA of the brand. By ensuring that every full-size skincare purchase funds a day of school, we stand behind our belief that beauty begins in the heart and the mind. Knowing our work gives incredible girls around the world an opportunity for a brighter, beautiful future means so much to our team as well.
To succeed in setting up a luxury beauty brand, one must have…
A strong point of view. The beauty industry is crowded, and it’s important to have a vision and to stay true to one’s vision.
What do you think are the key ingredients to Tatcha’s success?
1. An amazing team – I thank my lucky stars every single day that I get to work with such talented, passionate and kind people. We have Tatcha teammates who are recognised as being the best in the world at what they do – from skincare scientists, to geisha, to designers. Without them, Tatcha would just be a dream in my heart.
2. A value system. It’s more and more important to people to believe in the company they are buying from, not just its products. The internet makes it so easy to share our stories and our values with the community.
3. World-class products. Unless you have a huge advertising budget, your products have to do your talking for you. The more care you put into the formulas, the more likely you’ll be able to break through.
What have you learnt with the Geisha’s beauty secrets that become the birth of Tatcha?
The geisha taught me that beauty begins in the heart and the mind. This helped us create a brand that focuses on creating beauty from the inside out.
What is your daily beauty regime?
In the morning, I exfoliate with our Polished Rice Enzyme Powder—normally I use Classic, but I take an Indigo Soothing Rice Enzyme Powder with me when I travel, as my skin can be more sensitive. I apply the Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum to wake up under my eyes, the Radiant Deep Brightening Serum to brighten my skin and then finish with our Supple Moisture Rich Silk Cream to hydrate without weighing my skin down. Then I use our Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen. Even in winter or on cloudy days, it’s so important to protect skin from the sun. I don’t often have time for a full face of makeup, so I’ll swipe on our Kyoto Red Silk Lipstick and head out the door.
In the evening, I unwind with a short facial massage. I apply the Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil and take about thirty seconds to gently massage it around my face and eyes. This takes off my makeup completely and helps to unwind after a long day. If I have a few extra minutes, I use one of our Luminous Deep Hydration Lifting Masks—if not, I apply the Luminous Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate for an instant glow. I finish with a rich moisturizer and eye cream, like our Ageless Enriching Renewal Cream and Eye Cream.
What are your tips for beautiful skin?
Lots of sleep, a clean diet (the Japanese diet is based on rice, green tea and seaweed) and purify your skin each and every day.
What’s in your cosmetic bag right now?
Tatcha Petal Fresh Original Aburatorigami Beauty Papers
Tatcha Kyoto Red Silk Lipstick
Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist
How would you describe your every style?
I wear the same thing every day to avoid having to make decisions: black boots, black leggings, a black blouse and a red lip.
Where to you like to shop?
Modern Citizen, because their clothes are effortless to wear, great to travel with and easy on the wallet; and Jennifer Fischer – I love her beautiful, understated statement jewellery.
What are you listening to right now?
I had to clean out my high school closet recently and rediscovered all my old music, which is what I have been listening to: Annie Lennox’s ‘Why’ and Prince’s, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U.’
I also have a new favorite artist, named Emi Meyer, and have been loving her song ‘Galaxy’s Skirt’. She actually created an amazing music video for this song based on our story, which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig7SU07notA
What books, movies and TV are you into right now?
Books: I am always reading and rereading the anthology of Matsuo Basho, an incredible haiku poet from the Edo Period.
Movies: I haven’t seen a movie in a long time but loved The Intern with Robert De Niro because it reminded me of Tatcha, minus the sad parts. We even have a real-life Robert De Niro character. His name is Tanaka-san and he is one of the most respected veterans of the Japanese beauty industry. He came out of retirement to help Tatcha and is now the General Manager of our Japan team and my mentor.
TV: Orange is the New Black. I love the actress Uzo Aduba.
Tell us about Tatcha’s partnership with Room to Read. Why did you decide to give the company a philanthropic edge from the beginning?
When you are a small company, it’s easy to make excuses not to give: you haven’t met your goals yet, your expenses were too high, et cetera. We built our Beautiful Faces, Beautiful Futures partnership directly into our business model so that there would never be an excuse not to give – it’s just part of our cost structure. For every full-size skincare purchase, we fund a day of school for an incredible girl. Starting the partnership so early also helped to define our brand value system. To date, we’ve funded over 2,200 years of school and we hope to do so much more.
What do you think is your purpose on earth, if you have pondered this question?
I think about this all the time. My purpose is raise my daughter to be a kind, happy person and to use the opportunities I have been to given to give back. Room to Read has taught me that world change through children’s education is possible. When you educate a girl, you can change a community.