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Aburatorigami (Oil blotting paper)

The cosmetics industry continues to churn out new ways of improving and maintaining our skin, and more and more we have no idea what we’re putting on our faces. Now, not to knock the scientific advancements that make our daily lives easier (or for the technology challenged like me, more complicated) but you need only to look at history to find some ingenious and simple methods of skin maintenance. This month, we focus on the ancient Japanese product, Aburatorigami.

Abura-tori-gami, or ‘oil-blotting-paper’ is a very common product to find in any household, purse, or jacket pocket in Japan, but is still in the beginning stages of catching on in the US. These thin, delicate pieces of paper have an incredible absorbent quality – especially for oil and sweat – and are perfect to wick away any moisture or grease that can ruin make up or make the skin look unsightly.

Aburatorigami was created over a millennia ago when Kyoto, not Tokyo was the capital in Japan. During this period, from around 794 AD to 1192 AD, very thin gold leaf was being used very heavily to adorn the temples in Kyoto. During the process of beating gold into very thin pieces, the paper used to support the gold was also thinned to an extent that they were incredibly fine. This incidental product was the first version of Aburatorigami.

It was almost by accident that it was discovered that this thin paper could absorb oil so easily, but once the rumors spread, Aburatorigami caught on and became all the rage for everyone from housewives to Kabuki actors. Kabuki actors, like geisha, were especially grateful to have a product that would help keep their thick make up on for their performances in non-air-conditioned theaters.

Now, I remember as a teenager in New York City how many anti-pimple pads I would use daily, drying out my skin with alcohol based solutions. If only I had known, I would have written to my relatives in Japan and asked for some of these. Using them now, only for this article of course because my skin is perfect, I couldn’t imagine a gentler way of keeping pores from getting clogged with oil and causing these nasty blemishes.

One touch of the delicate Aburatorigami, and I could see the difference between the parts of the paper that did and didn’t touch any oil. Touching my face, there was also a clear ‘before and after’ sensation, and my face felt less greasy but soft, and not dried out.

The Aburatorigami you see here is by Yojiya, which has been manufacturing these fantastic papers since the 1920’s. I received my stash as a gift (unrelated to this article), but you’ll be able to find it at most Japanese stores, including Mitsuwa in Edgewater NJ – 20 sheets per packet for about $4. A definite must have with the summer months ahead.

For more information on the featured product, visit:

———- Reported by Nobi Nakanishi

In this ‘before’ picture, you can appreciate how thin and delicate the paper is. It’s hard to imagine that this one piece will be enough for your face. I wonder, however, if they have pieces big enough for my back?

In this ‘after’ picture, you may or may not notice how much oil it has absorbed. Trust me, you can administer your own Rorschach inkblot test once you’re done. (Here, the oil is generously donated by me.)

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