1. Underneath Gesha Makeup: Skin Care

Underneath Gesha Makeup: Skin Care

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Yuko Kuriyama

Being a native Kyotoite is not easy; can't get anywhere without weaving through the World Heritage sites, expected to talk like a maiko, and too many old and new restaurants to choose from...and I am loving it! Happy to show you the city I live and love.


Secrets Behind Perfect Geisha Makeup

Geisha wears a thick white makeup often called as geisha makeup to the extent that the skin (almost) cannot breathe so that she won’t have to excuse herself for touch-ups during work, a banquet called ozashiki-asobi. The distinctive white geisha makeup is heavy and can be a burden to the skin. However, geisha’s bare skin is surprisingly smooth and beautiful and I want to know the secret of it. At Kamishichiken Beer Garden I went to the other day, I asked a geisha whose name was Ichitaka what she does to maintain her beautiful skin ( I was fully aware that it was a weird question, but I had to ask!) and she told me that she does nothing special and does not use expensive skin care products, just doing some simple steps with regular products daily.


Ichitaka, a geisha of Kamishichiken geisha district


Girls who are called maiko, or apprentice geisha are the ones that age between 15 and 20 (or 21) due to a traditional job requirement, so they have fresh, resilient skin to hold up to heavy geisha makeup, to begin with. But still, taking care of physical appearance is part of her job since she is trained to become a professional entertainer who is skilled at traditional dancing, singing and conversations among many other Japanese traditional arts and gracious manners as well as being a stunning Japanese beauty that symbolizes Kyoto. After maiko phase of her career is over, some choose to become a geisha who does generally the same things entertaining patrons as maiko does, however, the difference is that there will no longer be age restrictions. Geisha in her 80s or 90s and still active as well as maintaining a beautiful skin. 


Fukune, a geisha of Gion geisha district



Kamishichiken Beer Garden





■A Quick Overview of How to Apply Geisha Makeup

1. Take a piece of Bintsuke-abura (mixture of oils in a solid form) known as Japan
  wax in the hand and warm to melt, then the app to it on face smoothing out evenly.
  This oil works as a primer in geisha makeup and is also used to shape sumo
  wrestlers’ hair…, just imagine how thick this Bintsuke-abura is! 

2. Mix white powder called oshiroi with water and apply to the face, front and back of
   the lower neck

3. Finish with white face powder. 




Maiko Makeup Tutorial-Do It By Yourself!





■Geisha Skin Care Routine

| How to Remove Geisha Makeup

1. Cleanse with Oil

Oil dissolves another oil. To remove thick and oily geisha makeup, she uses gentle or natural oils such as baby oil, olive oil, or tsubaki (camellia) oil.Gently massage it onto the skin and wipe off with a soft towel.



2. Splash 100 Times with Water

Key to a beautiful skin is to thoroughly wash off any makeup or residues such as soap. However, she avoids using foam often to wash face because it may take off too many natural oils in her skin. Rinsing with mild Kyoto water by splashing face as many as 100 times (or close to 100 times) ensures a perfectly clean skin. If you are not wearing a geisha makeup and 100 times sounds outrageous, this method works anyway and worth a try in achieving a beautiful skin!



3. Lock Moisture In

Apply skin toner and moisture-rich cream. Ichitaka says Bintsuke-abura oil used in geisha makeup does help lock moisture in the skin even though it is removed at the end of the day. Both geisha and maiko wear the same white geisha makeup base, but they might need different products to treat her skin since they have different degrees of skin maturity. 


4. Shaving

Geisha has her face and neck shaved every couple of weeks by a hairdresser. Shaving facial hair contributes to a beautiful skin. It brightens skin by shaving off dead skin cells as well and results in a smoother skin. Also,
shavings boost skin cell turnover. All these elements are crucial to achieving a perfect geisha makeup. By the way, in Japan, professional shaving with a razor is permitted only by a hairdresser with a national license or someone who possesses a medical license. I have never done this before, but I am tempted to receive one as I am writing this article right now, how about you?



Geisha makes daily efforts to maintain her skin clear and fair so that the signature bright red lips look perfect with or without geisha makeup. She watches her skin condition as she applies geisha makeup each day and if she notices any troubles, she will fix it by eating right and a better sleep.






舞妓倶楽部.(n.d.). Retrieved 2017/07/27, from http://maikoclub.com/

Twitter.(n.d.). Retrieved 2017/07/27, from https://twitter.com/hashtag/%E6%A4%BF%E6%B2%B9

H&B lab.(n.d.). Retrieved 2017/07/27, from http://hb-l.net/face-shaving/


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Yuko Kuriyama
Yuko Kuriyama
Being a native Kyotoite is not easy; can't get anywhere without weaving through the World Heritage sites, expected to talk like a maiko, and too many old and new restaurants to choose from...and I am loving it! Happy to show you the city I live and love.