Beauty Lessons from a Modern-Day Japanese Geisha

Beauty Lessons from a Modern-Day Japanese Geisha

Japanese geisha still exist, just not in the way most westerners think of them. In Kyoto dialect, geishas are actually referred to as geikos, someone who is older than the age of 20, or maikos, someone who is between the age of 15 and 20. The modern the geiko's role is to keep a centuries-old cultural tradition alive, and from their masterful etiquette skills to their pristine, time-honored beauty look, they commit 100% to the role. Those interested in becoming a geiko must complete junior high school to begin training. 

The most popular misconception of geiko tradition is that these women are the equivalent to prostitutes, which couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, according to an article in Vogue, it a prestigious profession that women seek out. Those wishing to be entertained by a geiko or maiko must be referred from an existing client and have built some sort of relationship with the ochaya, the mother of the house. It is extremely rare to be with a geiko without the ochaya supervising. 

Training consists learning traditional geiko dance, playing the shamisen (an instrument with three strings) and tsuzumi, singing, and learning the art of the tea ceremony. On top of that, the makeup and beauty routine is an intense process that can take up to 40 minutes. The makeup itself is stunning and the adornments featured in their strong, healthy hair are a Pinterest boards staple. To learn more about the geiko beauty routine, we spoke with Japanese beauty expert and founder of Japanese skin and body care brand Mirai Clinical Koko Hayashi -- see what she had to say below!


Deodorizing Hair Brush Liner 

“Brushing your hair is a good way to reduce [hair from getting dirty],” says Hayashi. “It’s like a pre-shampoo that you do everyday.” But to take it a step further, she explains that geikos line their brushes with this a hundred percent cotton liner on their hair brushes to really keep it clean. The liner not only deodorize hair with Japanese persimmon, it also prevents hair static. All one has to do is stick it through the bristles before use and can use it as many times as one sees fit. 


Special Hair Dryers

Geikos like to blow dry their hair because air drying it can take a long time. According to Hayashi, they choose hair dryers that contain negative ions and control the amount of electrical waves that are omitted so that it’s overall healthier for one to use.  


DIY Skincare

Beauty routines pre-date department stores, so traditional geiko skincare routines include a lot of DIY. Because of the enviable beauty of geikos, you would think their routine involved a super-secret ingredient, but the basis for most routines were actually quite simple, including rice, seaweed and green tea (all common skincare ingredients today!). To protect their skin from the intense makeup, geishas actually used the OG makeup primer called bintsuke, a wax they would make themselves to create a “barrier” between their makeup and their skin.

As you can probably tell, a geiko’s job is intense: they’re requires to study all day and stay up all night! So during off-duty moments, they keep it simple: they don’t wear makeup, use minimal skincare and do their best to connect to the woman within. While the Japanese geisha beauty routine certainly yields enviable results, we can get the best of both worlds with simple, efficacious products!