Applying makeup may halt the progress of dementia among elderly people, helping keep their brains active, recent studies say.

Cosmetic therapy also appears to be effective in treating depression in younger people and stress.

In 2013 Shiseido Co., the nation’s largest cosmetics firm, launched what it called a “cosmetic therapy program” for elderly people and organized makeup lessons at about 400 care facilities across the nation.

Nursing Plaza Kohoku in Yokohama organizes Shiseido’s makeup lesson for residents in their 80s and 90s twice a month.

During the hourlong event, participants do stretching exercises and apply makeup with partial support from staff.

An official of the nursing home said some residents are now able to sit up straight and eat without assistance, while others have developed enough muscle strength to support their own bodies and walk to the toilet by themselves.

A Shiseido official said the process of applying foundation and rouge to the face apparently helps “change the state of mind and stimulate both the brain and body.”

Kaoru Sakatani, a professor specializing in brain science at Nihon University’s College of Engineering, conducted a separate study about the effects of cosmetic therapy on development of dementia by comparing two groups of elderly patients in the early and moderate stages.

In the study, one group took makeup lessons for three months, while the other took none.

The research showed the level of cognitive decline in the first group was milder than in the second. Sakatani concluded the therapy prevented early-stage dementia from worsening.

The professor said cosmetic therapy will also likely benefit younger people suffering from stress, fatigue or depression.

Some psychiatric clinics have introduced such therapy for their patients.

Sapporo Ota Hospital in Sapporo started a makeup program in 2003.

“This makes me feel cheerful and will be useful for my job interview,” said a 43-year-old woman who participated in a lesson in June. She is looking for a job while coming to the hospital on a regular basis.

Instructor Rina Kurosu said, “When wearing makeup, the patients seem to be able to forget the troubles they face.”

Miyako Harasaki, chairman of the Makeup Therapy Association of Japan, said many patients hospitalized for long periods no longer care about their appearance.

But their self-confidence gets a boost when they get compliments after applying makeup, Harasaki said.

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