The Fascinating True Story Behind Tatcha's New Serum

Photo: Courtesy of Tatcha.
We hear a lot of talk these days about small-batch beauty, as many brands try to emphasize the handcrafted, sustainable practices their lines have adopted. But, how many companies can say the ingredients for their products are handpicked from the bottom of the sea by a lone fisherman in one of the most celebrated beauty destinations in the world?
Japanese skin-care brand Tatcha, for one. Its beloved Luminous line is getting two new additions: a hydrating serum and an under-eye mask. And, like the Dewy Skin Mist and Deep Hydration Mask before them, these two new offerings feature a precious red-algae extract from the coast of Japan's Okinawa Islands. Referred to by the locals as the "treasure from the god of the sea," this unique algae was treasured by the geisha as a deeply hydrating treatment that keeps skin looking luminous and dewy.
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Combined with rice bran and green-tea extracts, this anti-aging trifecta helps give the mask and serum their intense nourishing and hydrating properties. The serum, in particular, is made with a blend of 40% of that precious red algae and hyaluronic acid for superior skin-plumping power. It also has 24-karat-gold flakes to add to that lit-from-within glow it bestows.
Tatcha founder Vicky Tsai is so in love with this algae that she's willing to go to great lengths to get it into her products. She gave us an inside peek into how this ingredient is harvested, and it's one of the more fascinating origin stories we've ever heard. Ahead, Tsai shares some breathtaking shots of the harvest, plus some personal narration on how she came across this amazing ingredient and why it's so revered in Japanese culture.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tatcha.
"When I first traveled to Japan, I was quickly taken with the bustling, neon-lit streets of Tokyo and the serene canals of Kyoto. I soon learned, however, about one of Japan’s lesser known treasures: Okinawa, a collection of islands south of the mainland," says Tsai.

"The more I discovered about Okinawa — a pristine haven of sandy, white beaches sloping gently toward an aquamarine sea — the more entranced I became. Not only does Okinawa host botanical gardens, national parks, and endangered creatures like the Iriomote cat, but it’s also home to some of the most abundant coral reefs and wildlife in the world."
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Photo: Courtesy of Tatcha.
"Perhaps what I found most remarkable is that the inhabitants of Okinawa are famed for having the longest average lifespan in the world. This astounding longevity is attributed in part to their activity — Okinawa is the birthplace of karate — as well as to their plant-based, nutrient-rich diet," explains Tsai. "Surrounded by water, Okinawans have much respect for the ocean and its bounties, and a meaningful part of their diet consists of seaweed, the most precious of which is a red algae. Harvested during special times of the year for religious ceremonies, its name in Japanese means 'treasure from the god of the sea.'"

Tsai works directly with a fisherman who is, according to Tsai, the only local resident able to perform the unique task of harvesting this algae. You'll see why on the next slide.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tatcha.
"These tropical islands feature a dazzling array of flora and fauna, with white-sand beaches sloping down to a sparkling ocean. I learned that the warm waters of one particular Okinawa lagoon are the perfect temperature for delicate red algae, allowing it to thrive and absorb minerals to achieve its full nutritional potential," says Tsai.

"In this lagoon, a fisherman harvests the algae by hand to avoid disturbing the coral beneath and to ensure sustainable farming." The local fisherman spends the day submerged, with only a mask and his bare hands to harvest this precious resource. Because of the delicate nature of the work and because it's imperative that the harvester knows how to remove the algae without causing any harm to the coral and wildlife that call the lagoon home, it's not a job just anyone can jump in the water and do.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tatcha.
After a full day's work, this one bag constitutes the daily haul. "The algae is laid in the sun to dry before making its way to our formulators," says Tsai. "My scientist friends taught me that algae is rich in natural polysaccharides, the molecule that provides its incredible moisture-retaining properties. If you drop dried red algae in water, it instantly drinks up the moisture, blossoming and turning from a dull maroon into a vibrant red."
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Photo: Courtesy of Tatcha.
The finished product. "I was delighted to learn that [the algae's] long-lasting moisture retention applies to the skin as well," says Tsai. "We blended the powerful Okinawa red algae with hyaluronic acid, known to hold 1,000 times its weight in water, to increase your natural moisture content, leaving skin hydrated, replenished, and glowing. It is my hope that, with these new discoveries, we can bring some of Okinawa’s purity, health, and glowing beauty to you."

Anxious to try these new launches out for yourself? We've teamed up with Tatcha to offer R29 readers a special offer around this new Water Collection. Starting today through June 16, when you spend $90 or more on the Tatcha site, you'll receive a free Deep Hydration Revitalizing Eye Mask ($12 value) by typing in code R29GWP at checkout. As loyal fans of the brand's red-algae-packed mist and face mask, we can tell you these products are the real deal — our faces have never looked so fresh and dewy.

Tatcha Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum, $95, available at Tatcha.
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