Meeting a living, breathing geisha for the first time is a bit like looking at someone who just stepped out of a museum painting. The elaborate kimono and perfect hair capture the eye first, but it’s the iconic white makeup that mesmerizes me the most. The layered pigment, called oshiroi, was one of the main inspirations behind our new sunscreen because of its flawless, smooth-as-silk finish.

“Oshiroi is comprised mostly of natural ingredients, including titanium dioxide and zinc oxide ...”

During the four-year journey to create a modern-day, translucent version of this complexion perfector, I learned many fascinating things about oshiroi—including its theatrical origins. Centuries ago geisha performed in candle-lit rooms and relied on oshiroi to illuminate their faces.

The tradition continues largely unchanged to this day. Oshiroi is comprised mostly of natural ingredients, including titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which have sun protecting properties. Moist to the touch but solid in its small pan, the makeup is gently brushed onto skin in thin layers to achieve the look. Before applying it, geisha use a thin layer of wax-based primer, called bintsuke to protect their pores and create an even canvas. The combination of primer and makeup allows geisha to wear their performance makeup for hours without any creasing or caking. Its mineral-based ingredients created a protective veil that reflected and scattered the sun’s rays, serving as one of the earliest forms of sun care.

From the beginning, I knew our Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen would include light-deflecting protection from zinc oxide, which we blended with Japanese Wild Rose extract to tighten pores and leave skin petal-soft. For those who wear makeup, it doubles as a primer so that cosmetics look better longer. For those forgoing foundation, it gives skin a naturally beautiful finish that lasts all day. Even though our version of everyday oshiroi is not as recognizable, it effortlessly imparts the same elegant, skin-perfecting look that geisha mastered long ago.

Victoria Tsai
Chief Treasure Hunter

published August 2015

Beauty Secrets, Geisha
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