Vicky Tsai | Founder of Tatcha Beauty
Vicky is the founder of Tatcha, the cult-favorite skin care brand inspired by centuries-old Japanese beauty rituals. The idea for the business came about after a trip to Kyoto and an enlightening encounter with a modern-day geisha.
SO HOW'D YOU GET STARTED?
During business school, I interned for one of the big beauty companies. I tested so many products on my skin that I gave myself acute dermatitis. My entire face was bleeding, blistering and scaling including my lips and eyelids. I was on steroids and antibiotics, but my skin would react to everything I came in contact with. My doctors said it would never return to normal.
At the same time, I became disillusioned with my corporate work. I woke up one day and decided I wanted to find a simpler, more authentic approach to life. I began to travel, eventually finding myself in Kyoto. When I found the gold-leaf beating papers that would become the first piece in our collection, Tatcha was born. The papers, a sheet of 100% abaca leaf that were originally used to protect gold sheets, are one of the original beauty products used to lift away excess oil without disturbing makeup or stealing moisture from the skin. I fell in love with them because they embodied everything I was looking for: natural and simple with high-quality ingredients, and imbued with history, authenticity, and artistry. I sold my engagement ring, our furniture, our house, and anything else of value we owned to bring them back to the U.S. If they resonated with people the way they had resonated with me, they would be the beginning of our skin care collection.
When I traveled to Japan, I found myself healed in the truest sense of the word. The beautiful ingredients and timeless rituals I was introduced to calmed my skin. The kindness and mindfulness of the people nourished my soul. Creating Tatcha was my attempt to bring a small piece of Japan home with me — I often call it my love song to Kyoto.
"Aging is not something to be reversed, but to be celebrated—beauty is gained over time, not lost."
LESSONS LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
The people I met in Japan taught me an entirely new way to think about beauty. Aging is not something to be reversed, but to be celebrated—beauty is gained over time, not lost. To care for the skin is to care for one's health because the skin is our body's largest organ and reflects our stress, our diet, and our environment. Instead of constantly going to battle with their skin, they consider it with gratitude for all the incredible work it does for us.
BIGGEST AHA MOMENT?
Working with the skin care scientists at the Tatcha Institute is always eye-opening. One of the moments that really stands out to me was when we talked about ingredients and formulas, and how to ensure that formulas are pure and efficacious. I was fascinated to see that many of the ingredients they loved — rice, green tea, seaweed — are the same often seen in food. They explained that because skin is the body’s largest organ, it makes sense that healthy ingredients make for healthy skin! Thinking of skin as a hardworking part of my body, like my heart or lungs, has changed my perspective on it.
ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF?
Even before I started Tatcha, I knew I wanted to do work that would have a meaningful impact. Long before we were profitable or I was able to take a salary, we built a giving model into the company—every purchase would help support girls’ education through a partnership with Room to Read. We started out small, pledging 35,000 days of school in the first year, but grew quickly and are coming up on three million days of school funded. Thinking about these incredible girls and the difference an education can make in their lives makes me so proud of our clients and our team for making this happen. We just passed the milestone of funding two million days of school—something all of us at Tatcha are humbled by.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
Making a positive meaningful impact.
WHAT ROLE DOES FAILURE PLAY IN BEING SUCCESSFUL?
The more you fail, the more you learn—the more you learn, the faster you’ll succeed.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
People are endlessly inspiring. Their capacity for generosity and kindness and their talents amaze me every day.
ULTIMATE LIFE HACK?
GO-TO PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
I recently put on a permanent out-of-office message to refocus on my colleagues and work, rather than wading through emails every day. It’s given me so much more time in my day.
"Every decision is much easier to make when you can determine whether it ladders back to your values."
PIECE OF ADVICE?
Find your value system and build your work around it. Every decision is much easier to make when you can determine whether it ladders back to your values.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE NOT WORKING?
I spend time with my daughter Alea, who just turned 9. Seeing the world through her eyes reminds me how much magic and wonder is around us.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?
Hopefully more days of school for incredible girls around the world.