As well as its role in enhancing beauty, makeup also helps conceal scars and other skin irregularities as an extension of medical treatment.
Cosmetics makers have developed products designed to camouflage birthmarks, discoloration, post-operative scars as well as chromatosis and swelling resulting from the use of anticancer and other drugs.
Shiseido Co., Japan's biggest cosmetics company, leads the market in this field, as it began to develop and sell products to hide skin problems more than 60 years ago.
Maki Tsunoda, a 56-year-old housewife in Tokyo's Nerima Ward, visited the Shiseido Life Quality Beauty Center in the city's Ginza shopping district recently because her face turns a reddish hue in the colder months.
A staff member at the center recommended a skin-care foundation and gave her advice on how to use it.
Tsunoda's problem is one of side effects of the drug treatment she began to receive in 2013 following the discovery that she had ovarian cancer. Eyebrow loss is among other adverse effects.
"I was shocked when I realized how my appearance would change, so I rushed to find out what I could do about it," Tsunoda said. Learning that the side effects can be masked by cosmetics, she visited the Shiseido center.
"I can rediscover the person I lost since falling ill," Tsunoda said with a relieved smile.
The Shiseido center prepares makeup plans for individual visitors free of charge based on the cosmetics they use and other data they provide. Shiseido also sells cosmetics suitable for skin disorders via some 440 shops and medical institutions across Japan.
Nonprofit organizations are also involved in assisting people who would benefit from makeup for skin irregularities.
For example, the Medical Makeup Association in Tokyo, which has instructors with skin disorders of their own, promotes makeup products in cooperation with Pias Corp., a cosmetics maker in Osaka.
The MMA offers a one-hour free consultation at its centers in Ginza and Umeda, a major commercial district in Osaka, and has some 120 advisers around the country.
Fumiko Oyama, a 67-year-old housewife in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, has learned from the MMA how to cover up patches of colorless skin, or depigmented macules, with makeup.
"I want to spread the word to people with the same problem," Oyama said, revealing that she had been avoiding jobs requiring workers to wear company uniforms because she did not want to reveal her skin condition by putting on a short-sleeve shirt.