From geisha beauty rituals to millions in start-up sales

While interning at big beauty companies during her time at Harvard Business School in 2005, Tsai developed acute dermatitis as she tested various products. She took oral and topical antibiotics and steroids that got her skin under control, but doctors said her skin was permanently sensitized.

After graduating in 2006, she worked for Starbucks in China when a layover landed her in Japan. There she picked up a product she wasn’t able to find in the U.S.: a blotting paper used to absorb oil off the skin. Turns out geishas are also big fans of blotting papers. Tsai eventually was introduced to a geisha, who took her to an apothecary to help Tsai select products she uses to care for her skin. Within a few weeks “my skin went back to normal,” Tsai said.

She went on to research materials used in Japanese skin care and decided to launch her own beauty line. She sold her car, engagement ring and worked four jobs to finance her business, formally launched in 2009.

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