#WomanBoss: Vicky Tsai Of Tatcha On Her Journey To Creating Sell-Out Skincare


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If there’s one thing we love to see, it’s women owning it in beauty! Tatcha creator, Vicky Tsai is killing it in the skincare world; not only do her products give amazing results and support education for young girls, they’re also some of the prettiest products on our bathroom shelves. We spoke to Vicky to find out how her journey into skincare began, and how she managed to become a cult beauty brand in such a short time.

It all started while working towards an MBA at Harvard, Vicky Tsai interned at one of the biggest beauty companies where she tested so many products, she eventually contracted acute dermatitis. “My entire face was bleeding, blistering, and scaling including my lips and eyelids,” she said. “Even on steroids and antibiotics, my skin would react to everything I came in contact with. My doctors said it would never return to normal.” It was during this period Tsai says she woke up deciding she wanted to find “a simpler, more authentic approach to life.” Inspired to see more of the world, she eventually found herself in Kyoto, where a meeting with a geisha changed the course of her life.
vicky tsai-geisha

“The geisha shared their skincare secrets that not only brought my skin back, but showed me a more beautiful way to live.” Soon after, in January 2010, her company Tatcha, which is based on Japanese beauty secrets, was born.

Just this month, her ‘The Water Cream Moisturizer’ has become the best-selling moisturizer at Sephora, and it’s sold out TWICE already. The entrepreneur, mother, and jet-setter who now splits her time between San Francisco and Kyoto (“although it often feels like I’m based on a plane”) answered a few of our questions on how she’s #OwningIt.

1. I should have known I was going to be a founder of my own company when… I found out from a personality profile test at Harvard Business School that I required an unusual degree of “Enterprise Control” in my work. Enterprise control refers to how much you are able to affect the final outcome of something in your work. CEOs have full enterprise control, but I never really considered starting my own company. It wasn’t until years later, I woke up and said aloud, “I choose happiness.” I quit my job that day and starting traveling. The rest just happened by following my heart.

2. The hardest part about setting up my own company was… Getting the capital to get started. I didn’t want to take money from big investors, so I went the old-fashioned route: I sold my worldly possessions (including my engagement ring), worked four jobs and amassed credit card debt. I’m glad we did it this way, because it has forced us to be smart about where we invest. All the money went into our formulas and customer service. That’s still our guiding principle today.

3. The most rewarding part is… Our one-to-one partnership with Room to Read, where each full-sized skincare purchase funds a day of school for an incredible girl around the world. We are on track to fund 1 million days of school by the end of the year for incredible girls around the world!

4. The most surprising beauty tip I’ve learned during my journey has been… The importance of purifying the skin. In the West, we focus on serums and creams but in Asia, anti-aging skincare starts with cleansing and exfoliating meticulously. Our rituals come from the geisha’s beauty traditions, and cleansing is a necessity for them. They use camellia-based cleansing oil to remove their makeup and then exfoliate daily with rice bran to remove their wax-based primer. When I started following this ritual, it fundamentally changed my skin. Who knew the easiest, least expensive steps would be the most impactful?

5. The most important piece of business advice ever given to me was…“You either stand for something or you stand for nothing.” To me, this speaks to the importance of a well-defined value system. Having a value system makes tough decisions a lot easier.

6. If you haven’t already, you NEED to try our… Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil. It’s one simple step to melt away everything: sunscreen, dirt, even waterproof makeup. And you should always take off your makeup at the end of the day. Beautiful makeup starts with a beautiful canvas.

vicky tsai kyoto

7. I don’t leave the house without… My Huda Beauty lashes! I keep the Alyssa #2 individual lashes with me in case I need to look glam in a hurry.

8. When I saw my first product come to life, I felt… Like I was meeting my baby for the first time, except it took much longer than nine months. We had been in research and development for years before our collection was ready. We did it the old-fashioned way, hiring our own scientists, building each formula from scratch like a couture gown, performing extensive clinical testing and then designing custom packaging. Even now, whenever I see our collection in a store, it’s like seeing my child out there in the world.

9. I wish someone told me… How much fun this would be! I might have started a company a decade earlier when I was younger and had even more energy, although I admit I really needed the experiences I had before Tatcha to do what I do today.

Follow Tatcha on Instagram at @tatcha, and Snapchat (tatchabeauty)