Book Review: Pure Skin
San Francisco-based Victoria Tsai is the founder of the beautiful boutique brand Tatcha and Pure Skin is her first book. I first met Vicky some eight years back in Hong Kong when Tatcha was being launched in Asia and I have been a fan of this glorious quintessential Japanese skincare ever since, primarily because the trusted ingredients are perfect for our skin (at every age but most especially as we approach our middle years) and Vicky herself is so passionate about skincare and her Japanese heritage. Finally, Tatcha works very closely with Room to Read, a charity very close to my heart and with whom I helped spread the message about childrens' education through schools in Asia.
Pure Skin is a real treat: Easy to follow as it digests complex scientific terminology into easy-to-follow tips. In essence, akin to Japanese skincare as it should be - gentle yet effective all the way - from the timeless seaweed, rice bran, camellia oil and green tea that have been used since the days of the geisha and are centre stage in Tatcha, science has now proven their efficacy on our skin.
Effective Japanese skincare is gentle and nourishing on the skin, much like my recent review of Biologique Recherche (see here) its gentle and nourishing all the way. Many of us are far too harsh when it comes to skincare, and while a little glycolic really does rid the skin of tough dead outer layers, when acids are used in almost every step of the daily skincare routine (think exfoliating, toning, serum) skin will suffer from this constant stripping and the protective acid mantle of the skin will be damaged.
Key Ingredients for Glowing Skin
Generations of wisdom surround the delicate Camellia flower and its deeply nourishing oil that was believed to have been first discovered thousands of years ago by Japan’s Oshima Island Girls (or Anko) who harvested the winter bloom for its precious oil. Rich in vitamins, oleic acid and essential fatty acids, camellia is one of the most treasured secrets of the geisha who used the oil to cleanse the skin and remove their iconic stage make up, while also nourishing their skin and hair. This legacy has passed through generations to modern-day geisha who continue to reap the wealth of skin-enhancing benefits to keep their skin, hair and nails nourished and glowing.
When it comes to exfoliating (or polishing as it referred) finely milled rice powder is the Japanese secret. Rice bran (or komenuka) is a rich source of Vitamins A, B2, B12 and E and generations of women used the leftover water from rinsing rice in their baths to soften their skin and add silkiness to their hair. Just try it - it really works! The combination of both oil and rice powder is referred to as The Kyoto Cleanse - or Double Cleanse in our world and this winning duo not only removes surface debris, sunscreen and makeup but also unclogs pores prepping the skin for hydration and nourishment courtesy of seaweed, green tea and other traditional ingredients.
Japanese skincare routine
A daily skincare routine, Japanese style, is perfect for our busy lives too as according to Vicky 'classic rituals are as short and effortless as they are transformative for skin and soul alike. One to two minutes each morning and night will feel like a relaxing, mini-spa experience.'
The steps: Purify (20 seconds to remove makeup and rinse or wipe away cleanser); Polish: 20 seconds to create creamy foam in palms, apply in circular motion with fingertips and rinse away; Plump: 7 seconds to press essence onto dry skin and allow it to absorb and; Nourish: 20 seconds to apply cream or oil in upwards and outward strokes - add 30 seconds to gently massage face and neck. Done!
Your Best Skin
Finally, refreshing for us middle years folk is the belief in Japan (as indeed most Asian cultures) that ageing is a gift rather than something to dread and the goal is not to look perpetually twenty years old (which can lead to 'wind-tunnel face'). Instead the Japanese approach is about having the best skin of your like, at any age. Such a great take-home message.
Pure Skin: Discover the Japanese Ritual of Glowing by Victoria Tsai, published by Clarkson Potter, New York (£12.00/E 13.60)