Brief History of makeup in Japan and Kaoshi
Just as in Ancient Egypt, the cosmetics in Japan were originally used for warding off evil spirits by using red pigments. Clay figures found
in Japan from the 3rd to 6th century had red paint on their faces as makeup. Also, the f i r s t colored painting from 7th century, excavated i n 1972, indicated that women in that era already had white makeup on the face and red color on the lips, and black eyeliner on the eyes. Interestingly, red, black and white are commonly seen as primary colors in primitive societies around the world.
Since the early times, the basics of Japanese makeup remained unchanged through medieval and modern times until Western culture was introduced in late 19th century when Japan lifted its national isolation policy. Shortly after that Western-style foundation, lip colors and eye shadow were introduced to Japanese consumers along with the makeup patterns and techniques.
The traditional Japanese makeup was preserved in theater performances such as Kabuki and Kyogen, religious ceremonies and festivals. It is called Shironuri, liteally translated means “White Makeup” as it still uses white foundation as a base, and red and black as accents. The technique of Shironuri has been carefully preserved by a handful of Makeup Masters (Kaoshi) and can only achieved by a long period of training and practice. It is said
that there are only 10 Masters in Japan, as the title should be strictly handed down from one Master to his/her apprentices after a long period of training which could take more than 20 years in most cases.
Products used for Shironuri
White foundation using lead was originally imported from China. A Japanese monk was able to produce and distribute it by the end of 7th century. Red lip color was extracted from Safflower, but it was treated as precious due to its scarcity. Red dye yielded from Safflower could be as expensive as $4,000/oz, as the concentration of red dye is only 0.4% of the flower petal. Naturally, nowadays all products used in Shironuri are manufactured in an industry scale, using modern
ingredients and raw materials.
1. Foundation (Mizu-Oshiroi)
Water-based paste-type foundation. When used, diluted with water, mixed and applied with a special flat-shaped brush.
2. Pre-makeup base (Binzuke-Abura)
Oil-based product used as a hair styling oil and makeup base. Hardness/consistency of the product is controlled by the composition of multiple oils in the formula. Hard product is used for hair, while soft, fluid formula is used for face.
3. Face Color (Shikon and Tonoko)
Color pigments to add shade and tone to the face. Shikon (purple dye extracted from a flower) is diluted with water to pink and used as blush. Tonoko is finely-ground soil, used to add brown shade to the skin tone.
4. Red color (Beni)
Red is used around eyes and lips. Especially in Kabuki makeup, prominent red pattern is drawn on the face to enhance facial structure and expressions. As mentioned above, red color was originally extracted from Safflower but now mostly replaced with synthetic pigments and dyes. However, for historically important festivals and ceremonies, traditional natural Beni is still being used, as the depth and intensity cannot be replicated with synthetic dye.
5. Black eyeliner
Traditionally charcoal was used to create black color but currently iron oxide is commonly used.
Shironuri step by step
1. Planning and prepping
First, the objectives of the makeup for that day are checked and confirmed. It is for a play, or a festival? How long should the makeup last? Is there any intensive perspiration expected? Can a model have a touch-up? All of these need to be factored in when planning a makeup plan. Next, the facial structure of the model is closely examined; in order to decide which part of the face should be enhanced, which part needs to be concealed. All the hair will be tucked into a Habutae silk turban. The turban also functions as a temporary “facelift” to create a lifted look for a mature model.
2. Creating a base
Applying the pre-makeup base is one of the most critical steps. In some cases, it takes 10 years for apprentices to learn how to create a base properly. Makeup Master is to select one base out of 11 types, depending on the makeup plan. Thinner base provides more natural finish while thicker base creates more opaque finish when foundation is applied. Therefore, sometimes a Makeup Master changes the thickness of the base depending on the part of the face to create more complex finish.
3. Applying foundation
White foundation is diluted with water to desirable thickness and opaqueness. Using a flat makeup brush, foundation is applied evenly over face.
4. Adding color (face)
Face color (Shikon pink or Tonoko brown) is applied. Sometimes it is mixed with foundation, or separately applied where needed. Shikon pink is used for natural blush glow, and Tonoko brown is used to create shadow around facial contour.
5. Eye and lip makeup
Using Beni and black, the final character is created. For theater makeup, each role has a certain makeup pattern which is also handed down from one Master to his/her successor.
Text：Yumiko Nishikawa, Information from Satomi Shiroma Assistant: Senna Abe