Have you ever seen a photo of a geisha, and noticed that her face is covered in a thick layer of white makeup? If you have, you might have wondered why they wear such distinctive makeup. While the traditional practice of geishas may seem outdated or exotic to some, it has a rich history and culture behind it. In this article, we will explore the fascinating reasons why geishas wear white makeup.
Geishas are known for their distinctive makeup, which includes a layer of white foundation on their face and neck, and bright red lips. This makeup style has become an iconic symbol of Japanese culture, but it is not simply a matter of aesthetics. The use of white makeup, known as “oshiroi,” serves a specific purpose in the geisha world.
The History of Geisha Makeup
The geisha profession dates back to the 18th century, where they were entertainers who performed songs, dances, and played music for their clients. In the early days of the profession, geishas did not wear any makeup at all. However, as the profession evolved, so did their makeup.
The use of white makeup was first introduced in the early 18th century, and it was initially only used by actors and dancers in kabuki theater. Geishas adopted the white makeup style later on, and it became a defining characteristic of their profession.
The Symbolic Meaning of White Makeup
The white makeup used by geishas serves a symbolic purpose. It represents purity, clarity, and a blank slate. Geishas are known for their skill in conversation, dance, and other forms of entertainment. By covering their faces in a blank slate of white makeup, they are able to transform themselves into vessels for the client’s desires and entertainment.
The white makeup also serves a practical purpose. It acts as a base layer for the rest of the makeup, which is applied on top. This helps to create a uniform and flawless appearance that is essential to the geisha’s profession.
How Geishas Apply Their Makeup
Geishas go through a rigorous and time-consuming process to apply their makeup. It can take up to two hours to apply the full makeup, and it is typically done by a senior geisha or maiko (an apprentice geisha).
The first step in applying the makeup is to apply a layer of white foundation, which is made from rice powder and water. This is followed by a layer of red lipstick, which is applied in a unique shape that is specific to each geisha.
The eyes and eyebrows are then defined with black eyeliner and brow pencil. The final touch is a layer of blush, which is applied to the cheeks and the bridge of the nose.
The white makeup worn by geishas is more than just a cosmetic choice. It has a deep cultural and symbolic meaning that reflects the unique role of geishas in Japanese society. By using the blank slate of white makeup as a foundation, geishas are able to transform themselves into skilled entertainers who are able to meet the desires of their clients.
While the geisha profession has evolved over time, the use of white makeup remains an important part of their identity. It serves as a reminder of the rich history and cultural significance of geishas, and the important role they play in Japanese society.