THE JAPANESE GEISHA’S GUIDE TO ANTI-AGING
When Victoria Tsai met a group of geisha on a trip to Japan in 2009, she was awed by their luminous skin. “Without their stage makeup on, their skin is so clear and smooth, whether they’re 20 or 80,” she says. “My first thought was: ‘I’ll have what you’re having.”
A Harvard MBA taking a break from her career in marketing, Tsai spent the next three years finding out exactly what the geisha’s secret was. She ultimately launched Tatcha, a line of seven cleansers and moisturizers rich in the antioxidants—red algae, rice bran and green tea—that the geisha use in their (surprisingly simple) skincare routine. Here, Victoria Tsai who studied with geishas and meets with them regularly shares some of her own beauty wisdom on anti-aging…
Aging is inevitable for all of us. If they haven’t already, lines are going to start appearing where they once didn’t exist, and plucking out or covering grey hairs will happen more frequently.But perhaps the key to aging gracefully is to just accept it, and get yourself into a simple skincare routine that focuses on prevention rather than fixing the damage that’s been done—that’s what Japanese geishas do.
«I think that aging is a gift—not everyone gets to do it. If you get to 80, it’s because you got to 80! You got the big prize!» She explained how aging doesn’t seem so bad if you just reframe the way you think about it. «We don’t call these crow’s feet—we call them laugh lines because you’ve spent a lifetime laughing. These are smile lines because you spent a lifetime smiling.»
Then Tsai, who is an American of Taiwanese background, explained how Japanese geishas take care of their «They start with prevention. The cleansing step is most important—in fact, it’s purifying—and prevention is far more important than everything because once it cracks, it’s really hard to fix it. That’s a fact,» she said.
To cleanse properly, Tsai said geishas focus on two important steps: removing makeup with a cleansing oil, and then exfoliating with a rice powder-based product.
«The geisha, in order to take off their makeup, they have to use a cleansing oil, but it is so good for your skin, as long as you use one that doesn’t have mineral oil. You’re massaging your skin; oil dissolves oil—a lot of the pigments that we use are actually coated in something that’s similar to an oil—so it’s the best way to release all of that from your skin without stripping your skin. So that’s one. It’s like giving yourself a moment and a massage, to disappear and melt the day away,» she said.
As for the exfoliation, geishas steer clear of abrasive products for something milder, but just as effective. «Underneath that makeup they have a layer of wax—it’s the same wax that they use in their hair—but then the way you have to get that wax off is by exfoliating it. But they never use anything that would pull or tug or scratch the skin. They use rice powder that foams and is enzymatic, so it just disappears off the debris from the skin. So that’s the second step that we do. Those two things together, if you do just that—one, it’s a beautiful experience and only takes about 30 seconds, and two, the results are bananas.»
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Tsai’s overall skincare philosophy? «Just cleanse the right way—that’s 90 percent of the work.»
And she advised that a good skincare routine doesn’t have to be overly complicated, or even 10 steps, even though that’s how Koreans generally prefer it.
«Their rituals are only three to four steps—ever. [The double cleanse] is two steps. At night, you take off your makeup, so that’s one. Then you’re exfoliating, so that’s two—they call it ‘polishing’ because you polish your skin like a jewel. Then you use an essence, so an essence is a plumping beauty water that goes 40 percent deeper into your skin than water, so that when you put anything on over it, it goes deep into the skin, instead of getting stuck. Then you moisturize.»
Sounds easy enough to us.