The evolution of techniques for chasing Japan’s kogao ideal.

They say the only constant is change, and that’s definitely true for fashion and beauty trends. Especially in a country like Japan where people take so much pride in their personal appearance, the definition of the “in” look is always evolving, and Japanese cosmetics maker Kate recently took a look back at Japan’s major makeup trends of the past 25 years.

The journey begins in the late 1990s with the “suntanned gyaru” look which skyrocketed in popularity as the fashionable young ladies of Japan drew inspiration from J-pop recording star Namie Amuro. But they weren’t just applying bronzer in admiration of the tropical tanning properties of the sunshine in Amuro’s home prefecture of Okinawa, but also to help achieve the coveted kogao look. Kogao literally translates to “small face” and refers to defined yet delicate facial characteristics, and many felt that the bronze foundation that was in vogue in this period helped bring their facial features visually closer together.

The next stop on the cosmetics timeline is the late 2000s, with the “mote OL” (“popular office lady”) look. The objective here was to make the rest of the face look smaller by making the eyes bigger. Upward-angling eyebrows and volume-boosting mascara worked towards that effect, while foundations went back to lighter shades.

The early 2010s came with a sudden boom in the popularity of Korean pop music in Japan, and with it increased admiration for K-pop idols’ makeup techniques. This became known as the “oruchan makeup” style, coming from an approximated pronunciation of …continue reading