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There’s a mystique and fascination around the centuries-old Japanese female courtesans known as geishas. From their dazzling silk kimonos to their striking make-up and perfectly coiffed jet-black hair they’re a timeless reminder of a different era, representing the highest form of Japanese beauty and grace.
But how do these women maintain such flawless complexions under the heavy white make-up all geishas must wear? The answer to this question is what led Vicky Tsai to found her exceptional skincare brand Tatcha in 2009.
On a flying visit to Sydney to launch Tatcha into Mecca, Tsai shared with Vogue the beauty secrets and unique skincare ingredients the geishas have been using for centuries, which form the foundation of her brand.
In early 2009 Vicky Tsai was living in San Francisco with her husband and daughter running hard on the corporate America treadmill, when a trip to Japan and a chance encounter with a geisha completely changed the course of her life.
“The first time I met a geisha, I didn’t know what to expect,” Tsai says. “I didn’t even know if they existed anymore. She was like living art: her silk kimono, her exquisite make-up, the way she walked, every part of her exuded grace. I wasn’t planning on creating a skincare brand, but I did ask her about her make-up—my skin at the time was scarred and sensitised from three years of acute dermatitis, with bleeding, blistering, cracking and peeling all over my face. I thought, if anyone knew about coverage, the geisha would.”
Tsai adds, “Instead, I began learning about their skincare rituals and the ingredients they have used for centuries which healed my skin over time and thus Tatcha was born.”
With the help of scientists in Japan and her hometown of San Francisco, Tsai translated these rituals into a skincare brand, Tatcha, which she launched at the tail end of 2009.
Over the past nine years the brand has become a cult favourite introducing unique Eastern skincare rituals into the Western world. It’s been especially game-changing for people with sensitive skin, like Tsai, whose skin healed after she adopted the geisha beauty practices. It’s also reported to be a favourite of princess-to-be Meghan Markle.
One of the key secrets Tsai says she learnt from the geisha is to always, “Protect your skin from make-up and pollutants. The secret to the geisha’s pristine skin is that make-up never directly touches the skin.”
Which is where Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Mist comes in, Tsai says, “Make-up artists have made this a favourite. It’s a liquid moisturiser with botanical oils and dispenses in a perfume spritzer for a very fine spray—perfect to prep skin before make-up, or to keep it glowing throughout the day.”
Another of Tatcha’s hero products based directly on geisha know-how is the Petal Fresh Original Aburatorigami Beauty Papers. These blotting papers are the same as the oil removing papers the geishas use and are ideal to blot any shiny noses or forehead oil slicks away.
As for what ingredients the geishas—and now Tsai—swear by it’s all about the traditional Japanese trio of rice, green tea and seaweed. One of Tatcha’s best-sellers, The Essence a product which Tsai says “hydrates and plumps skin, which makes all your other skincare work better” boasts all these ingredients in a specially formulated fermented mix.
Tatcha skincare is now available from Mecca.