I remember when Tatcha launched so many years ago. Covered breathlessly in all the magazines, this elegant little company made blotting papers, inspired by ancient geisha beauty wisdom. The thing is, I don't need blotting papers. I've never had a moment where I've thought, "Ew, my face is shiny." (I have thought, "That is a huge pimple," though, lest you think I am a perfect goddess.) Luckily, Tatcha has expanded their skincare line to include cleansing oils, creams, serums and polishers, all referencing back to that quiet Japanese beauty. Tatcha offered me the opportunity to try out their line, which I accepted, since their products do not have mineral oil, synthetic fragrances, sulfates, parabens, PEGs, PPGs, Urea, DEA, TEA or phthalates. So I filled out an online skin profile, and received a pretty package a week later with travel sizes of their products.* My Ritual Discovery Kit for normal skin included cleansing oil, rice polish, brightening serum, face cream and eye cream, to be lovingly applied in that order. (Camellia beauty oil was also supposed to be included, but through an error I got another cleansing oil. Which I didn't mind--it's a very pure, pleasantly-smelling formulation.) I have to admit, the emphasis on ritual was quite nice. Almost immediately I began looking forward to my nightly ministrations, and I'll continue to use the line until it runs out. The products feel genteel and effective, their subtle scents soothing my mind before bed the way a cup of green tea does. And given all the media devotion to the Asian art of layering skincare products lately, I was happy to have a pre-packaged layering ritual arrive on my doorstep. The products feature many botanical extracts, including green tea, papaya, camellia, pearl protein, licorice root, and others. As for breakouts, my level of blemishes stayed just about the same. My skin neither cleared up nor broke out more than usual. But I had to wonder: if this is all based on ancient Japanese rituals, does it matter than my heritage and skin is European? Taken as a whole, the Tatcha skincare line comes off as extremely sophisticated, and I mean that in a good and bad way. In a good way, because the packaging is quite beautiful, plus you can tell a lot of thought and research went into each product. On the other hand, there is quite a lot of plastic involved--not out of the question for even very sustainable brands, but worth noting. Oh, and the impenetrable ingredient lists alarmed me when I dug into the product details. So I investigated all these strange formulas on the Skin Deep Database. The camellia cleansing oil has only four pure, natural ingredients: Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Algae Extract, and Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract. Perfect. But in the classic rice enzyme polishing powder, not all of the ingredients check out--Red 30, a synthetic dye produced from petroleum or coal tar sources, raises a medium level of concern (Update: They tell me they are reformulating to take this out); and phenoxyethanol, a preservative, can cause irritation and maybe toxicity. The ingredient lists for the moisture rich silk cream, the eye cream and the brightening serum are loooonnng. Ingredients like Bis-behenyl/Isostearyl/Phytosteryl Dimer Dilinoleyl Dimer Dilinoleate check out as completely safe, but cyclopentasiloxane (cyclomethicone) a silicon-based cyclic compound that may be associated with environmental toxicity, is in there; plus petrolatum, a mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. Overall, no ingredients raises more than a medium level of concern. Remember, they've cut out the nastiest ingredients on the market.