The beauty rituals of the geisha fascinate me endlessly, and inspire everything we create here at TATCHA. Honed by generations of women, their secrets feature pure, natural ingredients and centuries-old techniques that are as effective today as they were in the Edo period. I learned that often, their recipes are mixed in small batches to maintain purity and maximize benefits. To share these secrets with modern women everywhere, we worked with renowned chemists to marry these ancient methods with advanced scientific technologies..
One of these outstanding chemists—and the head of our new TATCHA Institute—is Masato Tagawa. A world-renowned skincare chemist and gifted educator, Tagawa-san is a pleasure to work with and a true visionary when it comes to skincare. I am honored to introduce him here and share his story with you.
V: What inspired you to become a chemist?
T: Ever since I was young, I have very much admired my father. He was a doctor, and after the second World War he developed the first emulsifier (a substance made by suspending one liquid into another). He really influenced me—I saw his amazing work and wanted to do what he did.
V: What is the greatest joy in your work?
T: TATCHA is a young company, but it has an old soul, and it's a very exciting place to work. I have worked with many companies that are well-established, but have an unexciting internal culture. When I first met you, I really felt the passion and curiosity that you have. It left a strong impression. Before, I had always worked to help many people in many different companies, where the main requirement was that I had to keep costs under a certain cap. But at TATCHA, the only rule is that we have to be authentic to our heritage and be the best in the world. We never discuss cost; we just do whatever we need to create something genuinely transformative to the skin that our clients will love, because they deserve nothing less. On the other hand, there are challenges because there is a long list of no-no ingredients because of TATCHA's promise of purity. So it can be exceedingly difficult to recreate from scratch some formulas because of the ingredients that are not allowed, although this is the most fun part of the process for me.
V: What changes have you seen in skincare since you began?
T: I began by studying both chemistry and skincare. The principles of both are inseparable from dermatology—how actives are absorbed by the skin, how they affect it. Understanding that relationship is very important. The surface of the skin is covered by what is called the “horny” layer, which is very important to the skin’s appearance. If the structure is good, it is healthy and protects the body. Below the surface, skin is very sensitive. To me, healthy skin is beautiful skin.
V: How do you find kodawari in the work that you do?
T: Kodawari has many meanings. It’s difficult to explain exactly, but it speaks to the history and the culture of Japan. Promising to formulate without harmful ingredients, that is a form of kodawari. Creating skincare that our clients always want to use, that is also kodawari. The history, culture, ingredients, and quality—everything together creates kodawari and makes TATCHA special. For me, creating a formula requires perfect harmony. Many people think that one ingredient is the most important, so you should have more of that ingredient. But it’s just as important to consider how Ingredient A will interact with Ingredient B, and how that combination will work with Ingredient C. It is like an orchestra—you have the violin and the piano and the cello, many players with amazing skill. But still, if one rises above the others, they are not harmonized. So it is in formulating: if you make it harmonious, you create beautiful music, you create a beautiful product.
Chief Treasure Hunter
published September 2014