How to Do Geisha Face Make-up

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Things You'll Need

  • Bintsuke-abura, or makeup wax
  • White face powder
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Spoon
  • Make-up brush
  • Black eyebrow pencil
  • Red eyebrow pencil
  • Red liquid eyeliner
  • Thin brush
  • Black liquid eyeliner
  • Red lipstick

Few make-up styles are as culturally distinctive as that of the geisha. The image of the strikingly white face with its accentuated black and red lines seems to invoke scenes straight out of Japanese history. Traditionally, a geisha spent several years learning not only how to apply make-up, but also how to sing, dance, massage and entertain as required by their profession, according to Marquette University. Learning to re-create the distinctive face of a geisha does not require years of training and often can be mastered with a few hours’ practice.

Apply a small amount of bintsuke-abura or makeup wax to your face, neck and chest. Rub on the wax thoroughly so the entire face along with the nape of your neck is covered.

Add 1 teaspoon of white face powder to 1 cup of water in a bowl. Stir with a spoon until the foundation forms a thick, pasty consistency, adding more powder or water as needed. Dip a brush into the bowl and apply the foundation over the wax coating on your face, chest and neck. Apply several layers until your skin appears completely white, while being sure to leave a small amount of bare skin around your hairline.

Draw a solid line over your eyebrows with a black eyebrow pencil once the foundation is dry. Shade in your eyebrows so they appear dark and full while maintaining their natural curvature and arch. Add a hint of red to your eyebrows by gently shading them with a red eyebrow pencil.

Paint a red layer along your top eyelid using a thin brush and red liquid eyeliner. Start the line in the middle of the lid and flare outward as you reach the end, forming a subtle red pattern on the outside of your eyes. Rinse out the brush and use it to apply a thin stroke of black liquid eyeliner along the entire top of your eyelid.

Apply the red lipstick so roughly two-thirds of your lips are covered. Start in the center and fill in the shape of your lips while making sure you keep a thin part of your outer lip white. This helps re-create a slightly puckered look common in traditional geisha make-up styles.


  • Pulling off a traditional geisha look also requires a hair bun and kimono. If you don’t have the long, dark hair required for a hair bun, consider buying a geisha-style wig. Always apply your make-up before dressing to prevent it from dirtying your kimono.