Cosmetics of Edo: Am I Beautiful?

Our desire for beauty, whether you are a man or a woman, is universal.

If we had a choice, most of us would probably opt in for looking gorgeous than the other way around. (To avoid misunderstanding and potential loss of readership, I would like to add that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.)

The people of Edo (1603-1868) were no different.

Readers, be prepared to be surprised by what they used for cosmetics to stay youthful.

The most common beauty product was nuka or rice bran.

They put rice bran in a bag and washed their body with it.

It is still sold in Japan, and I have tried it a few times myself. It actually works, and your skin will be noticeably smoother.

They also used funori, a kind of seaweed.

It was used as hair product to keep their hair nice and shiny. They melted it in hot water and mixed with other ingredients like flour.

But the ultimate beauty product of Edo was…

Drum roll, please…

Japanese bush warbler or uguisu’s waste.

They smeared this bird’s… ahem… poop on their faces!!!

It was very expensive and cost a fortune.

I have no idea how they collected it, but that will be my next research topic.

And guess what, it is STILL used in Japan though it isn’t common, and you can purchase it online wherever you are in the world.

If you ever decide to give it a go, please send me the before and after photos.

I am very curious.

Photo Attribution

Alpsdake, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

8 thoughts on “Cosmetics of Edo: Am I Beautiful?

  1. Nice. I love your writing style that is clear, simple and filled with your wit. So fun and entertaining to read. . Glad Japanese used natural things, as they had to in the zero period. The 18th Century French Court used white lead paint on their faces mixed with flour that they left on & didn’t wash off. It would crack so they just filled it in with more pasty stuff. Naturally because of the lead many went insane. They did the same to their hair with those tall hairdos. It required lots of floury paste and since it was so difficult to do they didn’t wash it out regularly either they just had to sleep sitting up! As the hair grew out the weight of the pasty stuff ripped their hair out. So they’d have to wear wigs. Oh, The things we remember from our fashion history classes we had to take for our theater degrees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Sydney, for your positive comment!!! I am not really a writer, so I just write in the way I talk 😃 Wow, I didn’t know that white lead paint actually drove them insane!!! They also went bold for their (rather interesting) hairdos… that’s a commitment, isn’t it. I’d rather avoid wearing wigs if I had a choice 😁 I took a costume design class for my theatre degree, but I didn’t learn that! I remember that the Greeks actually wore very colorful (and skimpy) clothes as opposed to what most people today would think.


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