I'm Addicted to Japanese Blotting Papers, the Ultimate Geisha Beauty Secret

And Starbucks is helping me fund this dependency.

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When it comes to beauty secrets, ones of the "ancient" variety always seem to have a certain appeal. The idea that it's been passed down to from generation to generation inevitably leads us to conclude: there must be something to it.

So, it's with that sentiment I jumped back on the blotting paper bandwagon for the first time since dabbling into Clean and Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets as a teenager. My interest was not reignited by the latest iteration of a squeaky-clean young girl in a commercial, but rather because I read that using oil blotting paper, called "aburatorigami" in Japan, was an age-old ritual of geishas and kabuki actors who wanted to refresh their look in between performances. Fun Fact: Aburatorigami was a by-product of handmade paper that was used to protect gold and silver valuables. Geishas would then use the scraps, speckled with the aforementioned metals, to absorb their face oils.

Prior to this intel, I always viewed blotting papers as a useful, but ultimately unnecessary step in my low maintenance routine. But with the hot, humid weather—and oil, sweat, and shine in spades—it seemed like the right time to revisit them.

As someone who typically uses powder foundation versus liquid, I often need to reapply to a maintain coverage, but also address the oil that surfaces through the day. Geisha women loved blotting paper because the micro-pores of the sheets remove excess oil without disrupting makeup. And considering their heavy-handed application of said makeup, that's a considerable feat.

By sticking blotting papers in my purse (I was using Tatcha Aburatorigami Japanese Beauty Papers—don't forget to scoop up a Tatcha promo code if you're considering investing), a few quick blots (it's kind of addicting) on the sides of my nose, chin, and more, removed excess shine without ousting the easily-transferable powder. I found that I didn't have to leave to "powder my nose," as often and be conscious of a fresh application looking too dusty in certain light or in photos with flash—à la Angelina Jolie.

As far as options go, there's certainly a range. For one, there's the tried-and-true drugstore option from Clean & Clear, which are economical and get the job done. Plain and simple.

For a decidedly more luxe experience, it's got to be Tatcha's Aburatorigami papers, which are all-natural, made from 100% abaca leaf, and even have flecks of gold in them. And for the most economical of blotters, there's the ultimate hack: Starbucks napkins.

The recycled brown freebies have become notorious within the savvy beauty underground for banishing shine just like aburatorigami. I put them to the test, and while they're not as elegant as their ancient or Sephora-bought counterparts, let's just say I've been hoarding them in my handbag. (And using it as leverage to further justify my daily $5 latte habit).

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1. Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets, $5.49; drugstore.com.

2. Tatcha Aburatorigami Japanese Beauty Papers, $12; sephora.com.

3. Starbucks Napkins, $0.00 (or the price of a grande latte); starbucks.com.

Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.