If you've seen the film "Memoirs of a Geisha ", from which our cover image was derived, you'll recall the exquisite makeup used by the top Geisha girls, especially the intense red rouge they would delicately paint onto their lips and dilute to create a soft, natural pink tone for their faces.
This unique, all-natural makeup is called "beni", and it's making a comeback after decades of decline.
Though its beauty is unmatched, beni's high cost and scarce availability caused it to be quickly replaced by standard makeup and lipsticks in the post-WWII years. Now, however, Japanese cosmetic company Isetan-Honten is reintroducing Kyobeni Rouge for those women who would like to re-establish a link to an ancient and honorable tradition while pampering themselves with a frighteningly expensive beauty product.
Kyobeni Rouge, from Japan's Isetan-Honten
Kyobeni Rouge is undeniably expensive. According to Britain's Daily Telegraph, Isetan-Honten's "new collection costs from 70,000 to 300,000 yen ($675 to $2,850) for a pot holding less than a third of an ounce, or 30 to 50 applications, so an evening's use can cost up to $100."
Traditional Geisha's makeup kit
The selling cost can be justified by the manner in which beni is made. The process starts with a certain species of orange-petalled safflower found in Japan's Yamagata mountains, and only flowers hand-picked before sunrise in July are used. These flowers contain 99% yellow pigment but just 1% red - and it's the red pigment that must be isolated through soaking and steaming.
Orange-petalled Safflower from which Beni is derived
The finished product, says Isehan-Honten spokesperson Yoko Oshima, "is easy to apply, lasts for a long time, is a beautiful shade of red and is 100 per cent natural." (via Telegraph and MandyPandy's Beauty Blog)