It is a skin-thin issue, but it could also be a matter of life-saving gravity. Such is the significance of “rehabilitation makeup” in the eyes of leading makeup therapist Reiko Kazuki.

Kazuki has played a major role in establishing the new field by incorporating counseling and the study of blood circulation into facial makeup. She wants to encourage people through this therapy to lead their lives in a positive manner.

“Scars or birthmarks on the face are serious problems for some people,” she said. “Some suffer so much that they want to erase themselves together with the unwanted things.”

Kazuki, 49, understands the feeling well because she herself had a congenital heart disease that caused her face to get reddish in winter.

“I practically hibernated every year until I underwent heart surgery to cure the interatrial septal defect when I was 30,” she said. “I was more pleased by the fact that my face did not get reddish any more rather than the fact that the life-threatening disease had gone.”

Doctors only focus on how to save lives, and do not care much about how their patients look, she said. She cites remarks by her husband, a doctor of internal medicine, among others.

But some patients do not want to take the necessary medicine if it causes certain side effects, such as a swollen face, or “moon face,” that appears when steroid hormones are taken for a long time, she said.

The greatest difference between rehabilitation makeup and regular makeup is that the former is provided along with psychological care to revive patients’ dignity and self-confidence, Kazuki explained.

Counseling is necessary so that patients do not hide what they think are their “defects” but accept them and live with them.

“The goal of rehabilitation makeup is to get patients to return to a normal life and participate in society,” she said.

Kazuki began her career as a makeup instructor a dozen years ago. She now spends half of the week providing rehabilitation makeup on a voluntary basis at a variety of facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes.

“It has been proven that rehabilitation makeup makes people more energetic and high-spirited,” she said. “Some senile elderly women with incontinence are now free from diapers. And other ailing seniors now need less medication because of heightened immune functions.”

She believes that the therapy can be effective in reducing the nation’s medical and welfare costs at a time when the country is aging at an unprecedented rate.

To that end, Kazuki, who calls for having the therapy covered by the national health insurance scheme, hopes to establish a school to train specialists.

Practitioners of psychosomatic medicine should also take heed of makeup therapy. It is known that the face, the mind and the body affect each other and can determine a person’s health, she said.

Recipients of her therapy include socially withdrawn people mainly in their 20s. For both males and females, problems related to facial appearance cause social withdrawal in some youths, she said.

“Their ‘problems,’ such as a bigger-than-usual face or thicker-than-usual eyebrows, are highly subjective. Therefore, it does not help if doctors tell them there is no problem,” she said, adding that it is necessary to utilize counseling and makeup techniques to divert patients’ attention from what they are most concerned about.

Kazuki blames the mass media for excessively standardizing “beauty” types, making many people worry that their appearance does not fit those stereotypes. She also notes that in line with the social trend of admiring the West for over a century, ideas of what “beauty” is have been defined along Western standards.

Amid such a trend, many Japanese feel insecure due to a lack of self-confidence as they do not have Western features — a situation Kazuki wants to correct.

“We are different,” Kazuki said. “Without accepting ourselves as we are, we cannot have self-esteem.”

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