During our last visit to Kyoto, a dear friend of ours invited us to dine and drink with several Geiko Geisha and Maiko. Maiko (Geisha in training) wear their hair naturally up. Only Geisha wear wigs. A Maiko’s kimono is much more colorful than a Geisha’s
We had so much fun enjoying how charming and clever they are. We visited several secret bars with them. During our conversation, I asked one of the ladies how long it took for her to put on her make-up, the girls offered to take us to the store where they all buy their make-up and explained how they apply it. We bought a few sets for the store if anyone is interested. Similar styles are used for the actors in Kabuki theatre.
They start with washing their faces. Then apply a simple cream, any cream but many of the young ones said that since this is a process they do so many times that since the make up is think, they prefer Nivea because it is quite heavy to protect their skin.
Pull your hair back and than apply a wax (Bintsuke-abura a soy based wax) over your face, neck, and chest. This is a hard wax that you warm up in your hands until it dissolves into an oily like texture. This is used to give the final make up a look of a matte face. It also protects your pores from the white paint.
After that another stronger wax is applied to your eyebrows and any hair around your face so that they don't show.
Next apply the white paint, which is made from white powder mixed with water. Using a special brush paint yourself starting from your neck and using a mirror to see the back of your neck. This obviously takes practice and skill. Apply it to your neck and face.
Next use the red and black paint for your eyes and to paint your eyebrows higher than they actually are.
Finally use the hard red lipstick paste, add it with water. This color is especially beautiful as it is an extremely dark matte red. Not at all shiny like other women wear.
Some prefer to add a bit of pink blush around the eyes and cheeks.
Finally you use a white powder for your face. During the night this powder is used quite often to avoid sweat and to powder up before your next appointment. Unlike what is commonly thought, Geisha and Maiko do not usually spend the entire night with one party. They are constantly running from engagement to engagement in the Gion district. They are usually paid by the hour for their visit and have to constantly run from location to location.
If you ever have a chance to see them running from place to place, please be respectful and ask before taking a photo. It is in bad form to flash camera lights in their face.
When in Kyoto we say, Okini instead of Domo Arigato both meaning Thank You.