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Friday, January 28, 2011

Visual Kei Makeup

According to Urban Dictionary, visual kei is roughly defined as a genre of rock music that involves men wearing elaborate costumes and such. Wikipedia, however, says otherwise. On Wikipedia, visual kei is defined as a movement among Japanese musicians, not a genre of music. If you listen closely enough, some visual kei bands' music sound pretty much like other regular Japanese rocker bands.


Even so, there are different genres of visual kei, such as oshare kei, decora kei, angura kei and so on. (The linked page is in Indonesian, and Google Translate doesn't work that well, so it might be a bit confusing) Each type of kei's makeup elements are different - some wear more, some wear less, some are pretty versatile.


In the visual kei movement, dressing your gender isn't necessary. You could be male and dress entirely like a female, or you could be female and wear masculine clothes.


The sheer basics of visual kei makeup is actually pretty simple - pale, porcelain skin, super contoured nose, sharp brows with no arch, pale lips, circle lenses and eye-enlarging makeup ... most of the time. I won't dive so much into the hair topic, but visual kei hair is usually spiky or extremely textured, which is achieved by lots of hairspray and teasing most of the time.


Whether or not they need eye-enlarging makeup, everyone wears eyeliner. I kid you not. Liquid or pencil, winged or not, they wear it. The eye makeup rules don't always apply in visual kei makeup, you can have not only harsh edges, but sharp edges as well.



The basic visual kei eye makeup would be over-the-top smokey eyes, which is achieved by smudging shitloads of black liner (gel or pencil). Depending on the type of kei, colors or others are added. Let's take visual kei band the GazettE for example - their style of makeup has changed somewhat throughout the years. Let's go by member. All of them have sharp brows, contoured noses and matte pale-ish lips.
  • Vo. Ruki - though his hair goes through lots of changes over the years (bleached, red, dreadlocked, etc) his makeup doesn't seem to have changed a lot. Sharp edged liner all over the lid, accented with funky lenses.
  • Gt. Aoi - his makeup also hasn't changed much - slightly downward winged sharp-edged liner that gives him a slightly sad-eyed look. Not a fan of his current hair though.
  • Gt. Uruha - his makeup is by far (among the band members) the most unique - fake crease makeup (which if effing hard to do). Uruha's eyes are naturally extremely small, and fake crease makeup joined with black all over the lid gives an illusion of bigger but sleepy looking eyes. Recently he's changed the look to super smoky eyes.
  • Ba. Reita - His eye makeup is something similar to Aoi's, which is downward winged liner which gives that sad eye look. His look is somewhat more special than the others thanks to the trademark noseband.
  • Dr. Kai - Kai's makeup is also similar to Aoi's and Ruki's, with some variation once in a while.

From this we can deduce that the basic eye makeup for visual kei bands is just a huge smudging and shaping of eyeliner on the lid. Let's move on to more colorful makeup.


SuG (Heavy Positive Metal) is an oshare band. Oshare bands are usually themed around upbeat and cute stuff, their music revolving around themes like friendship, puppy love and such. I don't know much about SuG's members apart from Vo. Takeru. As shown, the basics of their makeup is eyeliner, to accent the eye shape. I have a hunch that they use eyelid tape or glue, 'cause all of their eyes look really big. The hints of colors at the outer corners give their entire look that positive vibe, as well as their pinkish lips. The member on the far left has visible false lashes.


The theme and style of the makeup depends entirely of the type of kei or the pre-selected theme for the band. For example, the neo-classical J-rock band Versailles. Their band's theme is French aristocrat, so their outfits revolve around that, sometimes more elaborate and sometimes more toned down, but Gt. Hizaki and (RIP) Ba. Jasmine You always French dresses. Practically only Vo. Kamijo's nose is contoured.

  • The most elaborate makeup would be Ba. Jasmine You's. Thick black rimming of liner, super-dramatic false lashes, lipsticked lips, super-thin arched brows and face jewels. Part of his face is covered with his elaborate hair style, in which has also a super-elaborate hair piece.
  • The second most elaborate is Gt. Hizaki's. Think lolita makeup - super smokey eyes with a hint of color at the outside, light brows that are covered with bangs and pale pink lips. Sometimes he will wear false lashes or alter the shape of the liner a bit.
  • Gt. Teru would be the one with the super pale, flat face which looks as if no contouring whatsoever has been done. His makeup is similar to that of Hizaki's, but without color and washed out lips.
  • Vo. Kamijo also sports washed out lips, but he usually has subtly smoky eyes accented with extremely light colored lenses.
  • Dr. Yuki sports the most normal visual kei makeup - gentle smoky eyes, washed out lips and sharp brows.

There are some bands that are more gothic themed. Instead of the usual pale lips, they would sport dark colored lips, or just black or grey rimmed lips that gives that gothic feel to the face. These are usually paired with pale skin and dark eye makeup. Examples of gothic-themed visual kei bands are Moi dix Mois (created by Mana, the man who popularized visual kei) and Phantasmagoria (disbanded).


Piercings are a common sight among visual kei musicians. Lips, brows, ears, tongue. Smoking is also a common sight, even among vocalists. Phantasmagoria's vocalist Riku has multiple lip piercings; solo musician Miyavi has brow, lip and multiple ear piercings (let's hope his daughters don't accidentally pull on them =P).


The key to achieving visual kei style makeup is to master the art of black eyeshadow and eyeliner, flawless pale foundation, nose contouring, and the sharp brows. If you're really hardcore and plan to wear visual kei style makeup everyday (and please make sure that you're good at drawing brows), you can just shave your own brows into sharp brows and fill them in. Otherwise, you could cover your brows then carefully draw in the sharp brows.


Your foundation should always be one or two tones lighter than your natural skin tone, but please keep in mind that even foundation has color undertones. Some foundations are more yellow or more pink than others. For visual kei, you may want to go even lighter than the default foundation shades. If you're reluctant, test some of the shades and/or purchase multiple shades of different undertones (M.A.C makes lots of shades) to cover everything, unless you only use foundation for cosplaying. =x


For the circle lenses, I would recommend purchasing from your local opticians. If you really have to purchase online, go to reliable sites. I would recommend Mukuchu - they sell practically all colors and sizes and types of lenses from Geo and EOS (EOS would be more comfortable). If you're going for a cosplay event and you're not sure what type of lenses your character is wearing, you could ask them in the comment box and they'll get back to you. Same goes with purchasing.


Most lenses would cost around RM40-70 (locally) or US$20. Unfortunately, brands like G&G and EOS aren't available locally. As for how long you wear the lens depends on the type of lens. If it's the normal kinda lenses (enlargening, regular colors like green, blue, brown, black, purple), wear it for a maximum of 8 hours a day. If you have to wear them for more than that amount of time, take them out for about an hour or so to let your eyes get some air, then put them back on. As for special lenses like reds, whites and such, maximum 2 hours at a time.


Visual kei skin is MATTE - they very seldom have that 'sun-kissed glow' or peachy pink cheeks. You can contour your face, but with a brown shade. Keep the face pale and matte, no shimmers. As for the lips, stay as matte as possible - apply some colorless lip balm or any lip moisturizing product then pat on matte powder.


I would recommend using good quality, pigmented products for any type of makeup. I don't trust no-brand or generic brand products, as most things are made in China these days (though my 120 is MIC). There are lots of inexpensive drugstore brands that make amazing products.


If you need guides, it would be best to have good quality pictures of your chosen visual kei musician on hand and a pretty large range of colors and brushes to choose from. If you still can't replicate the look, there are countless tutorials on video sites like YouTube. The end note is to practice and have patience.


DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be professional. I am only giving my own interpretations and opinions on the subject.

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