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Seiichi Hirabayashi, 59, a drug store clerk in Nichinan, Miyazaki Prefecture, underwent an operation in April 2006 to remove epithelial cancer in his mouth, transplanting flesh and skin from his chest to his left cheek.

The patched skin formed a ringlike shape measuring 5 cm in diameter, standing out like a white piece of cloth on his suntanned face.

At first, his doctor urged him to wear a surgical mask to cover the scar when he is at work. But it made him think twice when a customer asked him one day, “You sell medicines but is something wrong with your teeth?”

He even thought that he shouldn’t appear in front of customers with the white patch on his face.

That was when he learned about medical makeup, which is gradually taking root in Japan among those who want to cover birthmarks and postoperation scars.

Medical makeup users apply cosmetics, mainly foundation, to cover up stains or postsurgery marks on the face.

“As a man, I was a little embarrassed about putting on makeup,” Hirabayashi said.

He initially tried on some foundation available at his drug store but gave up because he could not get the right color of his skin.

Realizing that he had to work to live, he received a three-hour private lesson from makeup therapist Hiromi Haraguchi of Kagoshima, who was introduced to him by the hospital.

Haraguchi taught him how to mix creamy foundation in two different colors in his palms, spread it over the face and applied powder for a final touch.

The result was remarkable. He succeeded in virtually matching his face color in five minutes. The cosmetics cost him about ¥5,000, which would last for several months.

“What makes me happy is that the skin color remains unchanged even after bathing in a hot spring,” he said.

According to cosmetics maker Shiseido Co., about 3.3 million Japanese, or roughly 3 percent of the population, are presumed to be suffering from a variety of skin complaints, including white spots and bluish birthmarks around eyelids.

Some of them are afflicted after undergoing operations or as a result of accidents.

In 2006, Shiseido opened facilities to offer makeup advice to those who have skin problems. Men account for nearly 30 percent of all those who sought its counsel.

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