His makeup tips more than skin deep"Makeup professionals choose the best tools they can, just as painters choose the best paints and as doctors choose the best medicine," said the Japanese makeup artist Shu Uemura, who has worked in the beauty industry since 1955.
His line of cosmetics, which bears his name, has a huge following among industry professionals and beauty-conscious people around the world. The brand is considered upscale with a professional touch, and offers virtually everything technical and artistic in makeup. Its elaborate catalogue lists more than 110 shades of eye shadows, 105 lip rouges and 8 makeup bases that can be used to contrast, accentuate or enhance your natural colors and features in myriad ways. Every Shu Uemura package and campaign features clean yet aesthetic images, which evoke the zen state of perfection -- Japanese-style.
Mr. Uemura visited Seoul recently to promote his brand and a new product, a set of cleansing oils tailored for different types of skin. In person, Mr. Uemura seems like an Asian version of Giorgio Armani -- his face has classic features framed by short white hair, and he wore a simple, casual outfit of a freshly pressed white shirt over black pants. At 74, he is still the picture of good health and dynamic energy. He stays fit by keeping extremely busy with work, much of which involves traveling all over Japan and the world promoting his brand. His hale and hearty look is all the more incredible when you learn that he chose his career, instead of tougher jobs, in his early 20s because he suffered from tuberculosis.
Early in his career, while doing makeup at a shoot for a movie jointly produced by Japanese and American filmmakers, he stumbled upon a problem: The actors had difficulty removing their heavy makeup, and cosmetics removers badly damaged their skin. Later, while working on a movie production in Hollywood in the early 60s, Mr. Uemura began experimenting with a concoction of oils based upon his theory that you need grease to remove grease; eventually he developed a mixture that worked well and decided to market it.
That light golden oil with Mr. Uemura's own secret formula worked like magic. Upon contact, the grease melted away, leaving the skin clean, supple and refreshed. Since Cleansing Oil was introduced in 1968, it has remained an international best-seller. "The inspiration for my brand was that I wanted to provide professional usage, professional opinions and professional recommendations to consumers," he said.
The two-day trip to Korea was Mr. Uemura's third visit here, but the most recent one was long ago. He said he was pleasantly surprised to see the dramatic changes Korea has undergone. "On the way from the airport to downtown Seoul I could feel the outstanding progress and development," he said. "And from the magazines I read in the hotel room, I could observe some of Korea's modern ladies."
So what does the beauty expert from Japan think of Korean women? "The two countries, Korea and Japan, are very close in the aspects of race and place," he said. "Both nationalities are 'neighbors,' respecting each other's individuality while sharing common characteristics, as well as information and trends from Europe, and a similar philosophy in beauty. If you allow me, in the past, Japan was 'an older sister' to the Korean 'younger sister,' because Japan was more economically advanced. But it often happens that the younger sister becomes more beautiful and sophisticated than the older sister. This kind of thing might happen between Korea and Japan. And I feel that they will welcome competition in their fashion, too."
He said he believes that beauty has become something that you don't have to be born with. "With better techniques, better artistic sense and better cosmetics, the best results can be obtained," he explained.
His advice to contemporary cosmopolites? "Maintaining beautiful skin is most important," he said. "Skin has a natural adjusting ability to only some extent, so we have to be careful not to expose the skin to severe conditions. To keep skin of all colors and types in good shape, you need to keep it at the optimal moisture, eat the right foods, avoid extremes in temperature, humidity and mental states and avoid ultraviolet rays."
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