Skip to content

Sick Is The New Black


In the eternal search for a beauty trend that their mothers dare not copy, young women in Japan are now trying to look…sickly. Yes, it’s gone beyond dyeing their hair gray to using makeup in ways that makes them look positively feverish!

I first noticed this trend when I signed up to be a Lolita for a day, and the hair-make artist used pale, glittery, shadow under my eyes to make them look PUFFY. At first I thought she was just using Japanese makeup techniques that didn’t really work on a foreigner, but later I discovered that it was A Thing for girls to make their lower eyelids look swollen, almost as if they’d been crying. Or not sleeping much. Or suffering from some kind of killer allergy attack.

But this latest trend – called byoujaku, or sickface – goes way beyond that just-pulled-an-all-nighter look. Pale foundation and eyeshadow colors usually reserved for lips and cheeks are used to make you look positively contagious. There’s even a crowdfunding campaign for a line of makeup called Little Red Riding Hood that’s specifically designed to give you that distressed, get-thee-into-quarantine look.

Little Red Riding Hood looks upset that the big bad wolf was not waiting at granny's with chicken soup.
Little Red Riding Hood looks upset that the big bad wolf was not waiting at granny’s with chicken soup.
Of course, everything old is new: oiran courtesans were apparently in the habit of making their eyes look weepy and sick too.
Of course, everything old is new: oiran courtesans were apparently in the habit of making their eyes look like they were suffering from hay fever too.

For more, head over to Marionchan’s blog, which has a lot more byoujaku and oiran makeup details & pix! Tip o’ the top hat to RocketNews for the photo & crowdfunding heads-up, the exiletribe blog for the sickface makeup photo, and to TokyoGirlsUpdate for the oiran makeup info.

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon!

Hauntingly beautiful, an instant immersion into feudal, wartime and modern Japan.” —Melissa MacGregor, author of The Curious Steambox Affair

For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

10 thoughts on “Sick Is The New Black Leave a comment

    • Haha, I think it doesn’t make them look cute enough! Been thinking about some of these recent odd Japanese beauty trends – megane-ko, for example – and it seems like looking imperfect and vulnerable (big black glasses with no lenses, red-rimmed eyes etc.) while still having cuteness show through, is appealing right now. Maybe an blatant “I’m not a nikushoko onna” message?

    • Arg, arg, I am so sorry! I meant to link to you too, because although I got the Rocket News thing before seeing your blog, I loved what you wrote and I found the oiran makeup thing through you and AIEEEE I am horrified that I didn’t check to make sure everything was there before I hit publish! Will go back and put it in now. I really am sorry – I’d be pissed if someone did that to me, and I really do love your blog and hope my readers discover it. (><;;)

    • Arg, sorry I didn’t see you comment until now (><)! Thank you so much for reblogging, and yeah, I often look at the newest twists and turns of women's fashion and think it's so ugly, its main purpose must be to separate the young from the old. Only the very young can wear it and STILL manage to look halfway attractive!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s