Geisha Make-Up History

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Topics: Geisha
Today the make-up of geisha is one of the most recognizable characteristics about them, but historically this has not always been the case. The origins of white face make-up in Japanese culture are largely disputed. Some believe that the Japanese were inspired by "pale faced" European women, while others believe that it originated in China and was later adopted by the women in the Japanese court. The use of white make-up in Japanese history can be dated back as early as the Heian Era (794-1185 AD), a time Chinese influence was high; leading historians to believe the second story is more likely.

Women during the Heian period, and ever now, used rice-flour powder or lead-based powder mixed with water which turned into a thin paste and applied
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The geisha make-up was simple and light, to match their kimono which was made with plain patterns. The geisha's low key look was mostly due to government regulations which were created to stop the geisha from competing with the courtesans. The geisha's style and make-up would soon become to be seen as chic, while the courtesans' appearance to be seen as old …show more content…
During initiation the maiko is helped with her make-up by either her older sister or okasan, after this she applies the make-up herself. After a geisha has been working for three years, she changes her make-up to a more simple style, the reason for this is because she has now become mature which shows in her own natural beauty. For formal occasions the mature geisha will still apply white make-up. For geisha over thirty, the heavy white make-up is only worn during special dances which require her to wear make-up for her part.

The application of the make-up was hard to perfect and was a time consuming process. Make-up was applied before dressing to avoid it getting on the kimono. First, a wax or oil substance was applied which is called bintsuke-abura to their skin. This is put on to the face, neck, chest and nape area. Next, white powder is mixed together with water into a paste and applied with a brush to the face, neck, chest and nape. Originally, the use of white lead for the face was quite common, but, as it is known today, it is highly toxic and lead to illnesses and un untimely death for a few of the geisha that used it.
Today, modern cosmetics are now used. When applying the foundation, geisha leave a line of bare skin around their hairline, which gives the illusion that they are wearing a mask. On the nape of the neck they leave two

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