Geisha Makeup forums

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Oct 14, 2011
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I study theatre production (focusing mainly on costume) and have been appointed to be one of the MUA's on a dance show! It's based on the film Memoirs of a Geisha so obviously it's going to be geisha makeup. This will be my first time putting actually makeup on someone elses face (I have done face painting before) so I'm a bit nervous. Has anyone here done geisha makeup and can give me a few tips, or just a few tips on applying makeup on other people in general? TIA :D /emoticons/[email protected] 2x" width="20" height="20" />

There are different versions of Geisha makeup. If you plan on doing a modern twist to it then you don't need to follow the strict Geisha rules but if you plan on doing traditional makeup then you need to study it because there are different versions for different levels the woman is in, same with the hairstyle. Also the nape of the neck is painted in Geisha but I don't remember if Maiko's have their napes painted and there is a specific pattern for Geishas. Best place to start would be with

From Immortal Geisha

•Make Up: Maiko paint their faces white, but leave a line of bare skin around their natural hairline. There is also a greater amount of pink blush on the cheek and eye area, and her eyes and eyebrows have a noticeable amount of red. She will also only partially paint her lips in (refer to the diagrams below). When Geisha wear the white make-up, they leave no bare hair line, due to them wearing katsura. They have minimal amount of red outlining the eyes and eyebrows, and the pink blush is subtle. She will paint her lips almost in full. A Geisha not wearing white make up will wear a subtle, often natural shade of make-up and her hair pulled back in a simple bun. Please view the make-up article for further information.

Junior maiko
• faces painted white leaving bare skin around hairline
• cheek/eye areas a noticeable cherry blossom pink
• eyes outlined in deep crimson and black
• eyebrows defined with red/pink under the black
• noticeable element - small proportion of her lower lip is painted in crimson.
   Senior maiko
•faces painted white leaving bare skin around hairline
• cheek/eye areas a subtle cherry blossom pink
• eyes outlined in deep crimson and black
• eyebrows defined with red/pink under the black
• lips partually painted in crimson.

Junior Geisha/Performance Geisha
• faces painted white with the most subtle hint of pink for contouring
• subtle outlining of crimson and black around eyes
• eyebrows faintly defined with red/pink under the black
• lips painted almost in full with crimson.
Senior Geisha
•subdued make-up of choice - generally of a natural colour or base.

Some images to illustrate the differences. The following images were found using Google.

Junior Maiko​
Senior Maiko​
The difference between a Senior Maiko and Junior Geisha is very very slight when it comes to their makeup. At first the middle and the right images I thought were of Junior Geisha however because of the bare skin it makes them Maiko and not Geisha.

Performance Geisha​
Senior Geisha in makeup​
If I remember correctly, and I don't so verify this, the one on the left is Geisha while the one on theright is Maiko (judging by her companion).​
As for makeup itself, in the Western part of the world we do not have access to the same makeup as Maiko and Geisha so to improvise use a clown white with a white setting powder. Any pink blush can be used (depending on if Maiko or Geisha makeup is done). Use a true red opposed to a red with an orange in it for the lips. There are so many reds out there now but I recommend Sugarpill's Love+ for the eyes (which you can also use on other parts of the face). Because you won't have access to the Geisha's makeup brushes you'll have to substitute the flat wide brush used to apply Maiko and Geisha makeup with a flat makeup brush. There is Hannari-Ya where you can buy Japanese Geisha makeup.

Oh looks like Hannari-Ya also has instructions on how to do makeup.

Also on YouTube if you look for Maiko or geisha making up you'll find tons of videos.

Hope that helps. Like I said do the research if you want more historically accurate makeup versus a Western/modern twist to it.