The ingredient breakdown | Tatcha Radiant Deep Brightening Serum

Earlier this week, a good friend of mine (aka She of the Glorious Cheekbones, or “Xiao,” for short) asked me to tell her about the ingredients in the Tatcha Radiant Deep Brightening Serum. I’m no skincare expert, but I do end up doing a lot of skincare research just for interest’s sake, so I thought I’d share the breakdown with all of you, too.

To start off, here’s the full ingredients list: 

Water, Glycerine, Propanediol, Alcohol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Squalane (Olive Extract), Isocetyl StearateInositol (Rice Bran), Phenoxyethanol, Oryza Stavia Germ Oil (Rice Bran)Polyglyceryl-2 Triisostearate, Polyglyceryl-10 Isostearate, Ethylhexylglycerine, Glyceryl Stearate, Behenyl Alcohol, Sericin (Silk), Arginine, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Sodium Hyaluronate, Zizyphus Extract (Jujuba Fruit), Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract (Licorice Root), Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract (Baical Skullcap), Ctearyl Alcohol, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Sorbitan Stearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Red Algae ExtractCamellia Sinesis Leaf Extract (Green Tea), Fragrance.

[Italicized ingredients are of natural origin.]

What you need to know about ingredients lists

As I’m sure you all know, the FDA dictates that all ingredients be listed in order of predominance, with the notable exclusion of:

a) Any ingredients that are also drugs (eg. chemical sunscreens), which are listed first;

b) Colour additives, which can be listed at the end in any order;

c) “Trade secrets,” which can be listed as simply “and other ingredients,” and finally;

d) Any ingredient making up less than 1% of the finished product, which can be listed in any order amongst themselves.

Because of this, I’m going to focus on the first handful of ingredients, and touch on the rest only briefly — just in case you were wondering why I haven’t broken down all 32 ingredients for you!

The base


Okay, this one’s obvious. Most skincare products do start out with water (aqua/eau, whatever you care to call it); starting out your product with water doesn’t make it a “cheap dilution.” Dilution? Well, yes, but it’s always nice not to burn your skin off with overly-concentrated ingredients!

Remember, when it comes to skincare, more isn’t always better. It’s all about a balance: you don’t want a product that’s too diluted, but you don’t want one that’s too concentrated, either.


Another common ingredient. My worry with glycerine is always that, while a good, cost-effective humectant (think of humectants as skin conditioning agents for locking in moisture), it can give a suffocating, sticky finish if you use too much — which I definitely find is the case with this serum. (I’d recommend starting off with just two or three small drops for your entire face if you want a soft finish, rather than a sticky one.)

Effective or not, I’m a little disappointed to see so much glycerine in a product that retails for $150 a bottle, to be honest — it’s hard to fork over that much when you know the largest components of a product are dirt-cheap!


Um, this is awkward.  1,2- or 1,3-propanediol? Anyhow; this is probably around as a humectant and/or viscosity-controlling agent; group it in as “supporting character” rather than “story arc.” There have been some concerns raised over this one with regards to skin irritation, so do keep an eye out for any unusual redness or sensitivity, especially in your eye area.


Don’t freak out; alcohol is a normal ingredient in skincare, too. I’m of the camp that you shouldn’t ever write off a product just because it has oils or alcohols in it, but I know not everyone thinks the same way.

Alcohol is great for dissolving certain ingredients, and often functions as an activator — it’s typically there because the product wouldn’t function the same way without it, and if you have a well-balanced formula, it’s not going to cause any excess dryness.


Ah, ‘cones. Siloxanes (typically used as conditioning agents/emollients) have a pretty high spreadability and evaporation rate, which make them really popular as skincare bases. Despite not being able to use them myself (silicones make me break out like crazy), ‘cones are actually one of my favourite ingredients — they give a gorgeous, slippery feel to a product, and do a great job of delivering a smooth finish. 

With that in mind, though: I like to think of silicones as one of the Great Beauty Fakers of the industry. They do a stellar job of smoothing things over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean what’s underneath is in any better of a condition! Personally, I find their “faking” qualities to be most obvious in terms of haircare — a slippery, silicone-y serum will make even the driest hair feel silky soft, but the effects don’t last once the ‘cones come off of your hair shaft.

Overall, though? I do like how ‘cones function in formulas, so don’t write them off altogether.


What’s with all the extracts?

Here’s where stuff really starts going on. Your extracts and so fourth will be in your formula in smaller amounts, both because they tend to be more expensive (sometimes by a lot), so companies are only put in the amount you need — silk protein, for instance, isn’t going to be used as a filler.

The Tatcha line (as you might already know) is inspired by an old geisha skincare formula, so they really focus in on the benefits of things like rice bran, silk, and green tea extracts. Personally, I’m not one to be swayed by extracts but here are the actives in Tatcha’s Deep Brightening Serum:

Squalane (Olive Extract), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Germ Oil, Inositol (Rice Extract), Sericin (Silk Protein), Algae Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Zizyphus Jujuba Fruit Extract, Hydrogenated Lecithin (Soy Derivative), Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract

One of the more interesting things to note is the rice-based ingredients Tatcha use in their products — anything listed as Oryza Sativa. There are so many different ingredients you can get from rice, and such a range of things they can do: for instance, rice bran and rice germ powder are used as abrasives (great for exfoliants), whereas rice starch makes a great absorbent (e.g. in blotting powder or tissue). As far as flexibility of a key ingredient goes, and in terms of staying true to a Japanese formula ethos, I think it was a great choice for a key ingredient. 

My overall thoughts

Honestly, I’d be a bad judge of this one in terms of efficacy. While I wouldn’t personally pay $150 for this serum due to the texture, I do like a number of the components of the Tatcha line; for instance, the very cohesive brand image and ingredients lists. I’ve been trying out their Rice Enzyme Powder recently, though, so expect a full review on that soon, instead!

With that in mind, I like that this serum isn’t too fragranced; it does have a scent, but it’s fairly light. If you use it sparingly, it soaks in relatively quickly and does feel quite hydrating, but again, it’s definitely on the sticky side. It is really nice to see a brightening serum that doesn’t use sensitizing ingredients (think hydroquinone, etc), but because I don’t know how effective this will be, I really can’t recommend it either way.


Resources used in this post

Again, I’d just like to reiterate the fact that I am not a cosmetic chemist, and I don’t have much in terms of a skincare background! I just happen to really love both science and beauty, and I wanted to do a full ingredient breakdown of this serum in particular because there has been a lot of interest in it.

The sites that I found really helpful in writing this post were the FDA site, EWG/Skin Deep, and, the latter two of which I visit on a fairly regular basis for general (EWG) and more in-depth (CosInfo) research on skincare ingredients.

I hope you enjoyed this post!

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  • Love your reviews, as always. The ingredient breakdown is so helpful when choosing a serum. Personally though I need a vitamin c serum to really brighten and improve my skin – it's a bummer this doesn't have any.
    My recent post Bourjois Bio Detox Organic Foundation Review

    • Thank, you, Clare! Glad I could help :) I'll let you know if I find a great vitamin C serum in the future!

  • Aaa

    Don't mean to be picky, but "Radiant" is spelled incorrectly as "Radient" both times in this post.

    • Fixed, thank you! This is what happens when you write thousand-word posts at one in the morning >.<

  • niche

    Great topic. The ingredient list either reaffirms the value you are getting or it really shows how creative marketing departments are. I have always wondered how effectively extracts and specialty ingredients work when your face is covered in silicone. But I guess we need a bio-chemist to answer that?

    • Ha! Well said :p

      Depending on what studies you're reading, silicones are typically recognized as breathable ingredients/skincare bases, typically due to their high volatility. As long as you're not sensitive to them, a product with 'cones in it isn't a bad thing (and won't stop the actives from getting to your epidermis!)

  • Anahita

    I tried the sampler set and my skin hated it. I developed huge cysts along my chin and cheeks. I am not sure which of the products in the set was responsible. My skin took weeks to recover. I would caution those with sensitive against it.

    • Oh no! Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience to the line, Anahita :(

  • LOVE this post Rae. I am very interested in skincare too and do a lot of research in my own time, so this was particularly interesting for me! Great job!
    My recent post The Sample: NEW L’Oréal Colour Riche Colour Caresse Lipsticks Review &amp; Swatches

    • Thank you, honey! <3 (P.S. It's nice to find another skincare junkie out there ;))

  • This line reminds me of Kanebo Sensai Silk skincare highlighting silk as one of their star ingredients. One of the products I love from the Kanebo line is the Silk Peeling Powder, an exfoliant. I am intrigued by Tatcha, it looks promising but quite a bit more expensive than I expected. Thanks for the in depth review.
    My recent post Liebster Blog Award Recipient

    • Np, Rola :) We don't get Kanebo in my area, but I can definitely see how the brands' images would be similar! Tatcha was quite a bit more expensive than I had been expecting, too, but I guess we'll see how they fare as the months go by :)

  • I'll be trying to out myself very soon, got the box in today.
    I'll keep an eye out for your own review, because you'll probably finish way before me.
    The downside of very strict skincare testing is that it takes time.

    • Doubtful — I'm the worst when it comes to getting reviews up quickly >.< Products can literally sit around for a year before I get around to testing/photographing them, if they're permanent-range items!

      I'm curious to hear what you think of the line, too :)

  • Victoria Tsai

    Hi everybody, my name is Vicky Tsai and I am the founder of TATCHA. I’m so excited to find a group of women online who care about ingredients, because that is where I spend the most time in my work – I personally formulate every piece in the collection with our renowned chemist and love when people care about this part.

    Rae has done a wonderful job of examining the base ingredients, which are found in most skincare brands. The function of the base is to help the actives really bond to and affect the skin, which is why are actives are so important to us.

    A quick note about propanediol: propanediol is naturally derived, and is a highly effective preservative system, an alternative to butylene glycol, propylene glycol, and parabens, which we are proud to not formulate with.

    With regards to the stickiness, we’ve actually never received that feedback before. The most likely cause is humidity in the environment preventing the serum from completely absorbing.

    Anahita – this is the third blog post I have seen your comment on. I am so sorry to hear you had what sounds like an allergic reaction to our collection. We are of course happy to provide a full refund, but have not yet heard from you directly. Please feel free to reach out to me personally – – and I will do my best to help you out.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Vicky! I always really appreciate when brand founders & reps address concerns directly, and I'm sure a lot of our readers feel the same way, too. :) (Welcome to theNotice!)

      Edmonton has been unusually humid this summer, so I'll be sure to give this serum another try in the winter (when it gets quite dry). Thanks again for your comment — as a blogger (and someone who loves both beauty and science), it's amazing to see how involved you are with TATCHA, both in terms of PR and formulation!

  • This is so well written… covers all the important information, holds interest, and understandable on a topic that most women brush off because learning about ingredients is so much work. I'd love to see more of these!
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    • Aww, thank you Alison! <3 I didn't have any more of these planned for the future, but I'll definitely think about it — I wasn't expecting people to actually <em>like this post, but the fact that you guys found it helpful does change things!

      Feel free to give me a shout if there's ever a specific product you'd really like broken down ;)

  • cocoatsecretindulgence

    I love to hear all new skincare brand. This one sound interesting. Too bad that we don't have it in Asia.
    My recent post Guerlain F/W 2012 Blush Duo in Peach Boy

    • Sorry to tempt you with things you can't find in your country! :)

  • lisa

    Hi Rae,
    Thanks for this post! I was very interested in Tatcha until I found that it has alcohol high on the list. My research indicates that alcohol and, sd alcohol, causes skin inflammation which you can't see in the short term, but the results of this inflammation will be seen in the long term. One of my sources where I do cosmetic ingredients research is Paula Begoun's "The alcohols to be concerned about in skin-care products are ethanol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl, and SD alcohol, which can be extremely drying and irritating to skin, as well as capable of generating free radical damage" (unless they are way down in the ingredients list). I would appreciate any one else's comments on thos alcohols. Thanks again!

    • Hi, Lisa! It's great to see someone else who really looks into their ingredients list — nice to know I'm not the only geek in the beauty world ;)

      I'm not a derm (really, really, very much not a derm), but I honestly just don't get the hubbub around ethyl alcohol, etc. Yes, it's a drying ingredient, and yes, some skin types are going to be irritated by it — but the alcohol most people consume is worse for their skin than any alcohol they're putting on it via their skincare regimen!

      I typically will not use a product if the alcohol in it functions to strip my skin of its natural oils, but if it's in there because of how it will interact with other ingredients (eg. as an antibacterial, or to make sure the other ingredients are blending together and doing their jobs properly), I personally will give it a try. Worst case scenario, it'll dry out the top layers of my skin, and I'll stop using it — your skin is a living thing, and it's constantly renewing itself, so it'll be back to normal in no time :)

      If anyone else would like to weigh in, please feel free to pipe up! (I'm on the market for some good skincare articles or journals, too, if any of you have recommendations ;))

      • NeenaJ

        Hi Rae and Lisa.

        Some active ingredients must be in an alcohol solution to dissolve and mix with other ingredients to form a consistent (homogeneous) solution. Other actives which require deeper penetration into the skin, are boosted by alcohol as a delivery system.

        Alcohol is not always a bad thing. My skin is dry and temperamental though, so it doesn't always share that opinion. ;) I only completely avoid alcohol in cleansers – where they serve no other purpose than to strip the skin. In serums and other active concentrates, alcohol can provide essential functions. As Rae notes, the dryness can be buffed away in a day or two and once I know that a particular product dries out my skin, I will use it only a few times a week and be sure to follow up with a good moisturizer about 30 minutes after application.

        For example, my current vitamin C serum has alcohol and I've learned not to apply it on mornings when I've applied retinol the night before. It compounds the drying effect. So, I alternate every other morning with the retinol the other every other night. It can get confusing it you've got too many skin care products in your regimen, though. So, I've been known to keep a chart taped to my bathroom mirror!

        • Thank you, Neena! Those are pretty much my thoughts exactly, but my explanations are always quite a bit more roundabout and rambling :p (And I'd never be brave enough to have multiple actives in my skincare regimen — it's hard enough to get me to try one, much less two!)

  • messywands

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  • Mah goodness, Rae. This post is magnificent! Such an detailed review and such comprehensive ingredients break down deserves a slow clap. Please imagine me slow clapping cause that's exactly what I'm doing when I'm not typing!!



      • Do they?! Forgive me, Rae! That's the opposite of what I'm going for ><
        *furiously claps instead*

        • If it were anyone else, I'd hesitate to believe you, but it isn't :p Thank you, hon!!

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  • Ela

    I read all your posts but never comment. I felt the need to do so in this post because I found it very helpful. I tend to ignore the ingredients list quite often and just go by the claims the brand makes but I should start doing some research too. Thanks for the amazing blog :)
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    • Thank you so much, Ela! I had a lot more fun doing this post than I'd expected, and it's been so much better-received than I'd expected. If there's ever a skincare product that you're dying to know more about, give me a shout — I wouldn't be adverse to more ingredient breakdowns in the future! ;)

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  • Sasha

    Hi, Rae. Did you ever post a review on the Rice Enzyme Powder? I'd love to read it. I don't have sensitive skin and am 23 with ever pervasive issues with quite bad acne. AHA+ has been a Holy Grail product from, but I find I still have issues with finding a good cleanser and exfoliating schedule and hope the Enzyme Powder is what I need.

    • Hi Sasha,

      I never got around to it, I'm afraid! I just have little sachets of the product, and things tend to be nixed or back-burnered without a full product to photograph. The enzyme powder is really good — it sort of sloughs off all your dead skin without irritating or having to manually scrub. If I can get ahold of a full-sized product to photograph, I will try and have a review up in the new year!


  • I wouldn't dare use it at that price! Anyway, thanks for the ingredients explanation, very detailed,.
    My recent post U little beauty vitamine C serum: review

  • Eliana

    U didn't mention the main ingredient, sodium hyaluronate. That retains 1000 times the moisture in the skin. One can get this ingredient in other brands way less expensive like Dior, Biotherm, etc for half of the price. Shame on Tatcha…

    • As I mentioned in the post, Eliana, I actually have gone over the main ingredients — ingredient lists are written in order of predominance, so I discussed the main components of this formula as well as the active ingredients (which are always included in smaller amounts due to their potency) :)