This Bizarre Japanese Face Mask Promises Brighter, Better Skin—But Does It Work?
From freezing our faces to using moisturizers made from our own blood, we've experienced our fair share of bizarre beauty practices here at Byrdie. With that being said, we've never encountered one that involves applying well, excrement, to our faces.
May we introduce the so-called bird poop facial. Other names include Uguisu no fun (which is the Japanese translation) and the geisha facial, which hints at its historical and cultural roots. According to Japanese skincare expert Cynthia Popper, "Uguisu no fun in Japanese skincare dates back centuries in Japan, pre-Edo period.” For centuries, Japanese geishas turned to "nightingale droppings" (another of the product's many monikers) to brighten, illuminate, and gently exfoliate. It’s only recently that the West has taken notice (after all, it's hard to ignore when celebrity bird poo devotees include the likes of David and Victoria Beckham).
It all starts with a nightingale of the Japanese Bush Warbler variety. Their droppings are collected, sanitized under a ultraviolet light, and then milled into a fine powder. When mixed with water, a paste forms, which can then be used as a cleanser or face mask.
So what do we do with this information? Naturally, we placed our strangest Amazon order to date, purchasing pure bird poop straight from Japan. Keep reading to learn if and how the bird poo facial can benefit your skin.
Cleansing my face with bird droppings seemed somewhat upside down to me, so I opted to use them as a face mask instead. The white bullet tube opened to reveal a yellow, finely milled powder inside. There was absolutely no smell. If I didn't know otherwise, I would have never guessed I was staring at bird poop. Following instructions, I mixed about a tablespoon with water to form a liquidy paste and slathered it on my skin.
The mask dried to a hard, plaster-like texture, and after ten minutes I splashed my face with water to break it up. I dried my skin and patted on my favorite Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream ($28). The process was quick and easy, and my skin looked incredibly glowy. Seriously, contrary to what my normal bare face resembles, the results were pretty amazing. It looked like I was wearing highlighter. This made me wonder, was I pleasantly surprised due to low expectations, or was there some real benefit to this bird poo? Thankfully, Popper was there to explain.
Benefit #1: Proteolytic enzymes exfoliate the skin.
Uguisu No Fun contains enzymes that break down certain molecules, meaning skin surface debris is all but banished. The slightly grainy texture of the mask also does its part to slough away old skin, revealing fresh, bright, and healthy cells underneath. So, first and foremost, the bird poop exfoliates—gently and without irritation. For someone with sensitive redness-prone skin, this is a must.
Benefit #2: Guanine has brightening effects.
Guanine is one of the four bases of DNA. It's also known for its glow-inducing strength. According to Popper, "The key derivative in the fun is guanine, which imparts a pearlescent luminosity. Today, it's more commonly derived from fish scales and is used in shampoos and pearl-finish eye shadows." Although, she adds that now "most companies are using lab synthesized materials to obtain this finish."
Behold, the ingredient I have to thank for my post-mask dewiness.
So is putting bird poo on your face really a good idea?
Interestingly enough, Popper says Japanese women don't always turn to this "geisha facial" whenever they need a skin treatment. "It should be noted that most women in Japan are not using uguisu no fun," she says. "Japan is home to the best beauty technology in the world, with unparalleled standards in both hygiene and botanically based skincare." Nowadays, Popper says, "There are simply better ingredients and technologies for treating dullness and for cleansing the skin, especially in Japan." Antioxidants, placental and stem cell formulas, and exfoliating acids are all effective ingredients found in modern-day Japanese skincare.
Popper also notes that the West's enthusiasm might have to do with our own projections and assumptions about international beauty. "Ancient Geisha skincare mythology is romantic to the Western beauty world, but all told, modern Japanese women aren't buying into it," she says. But Popper does confirm that there are benefits to the treatment: "If you have no problem rubbing refined excrement on your face, and you're getting results, it likely won't cause harm."
So, onward, I might reach for the bird poo out of sheer curiosity: Will continue its glow-inducing benefits. Either way, it's always interesting to delve into new beauty practices, culture, and history.
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Would you try the bird poo facial treatment? Next up, read up on the mind-blowing haircare routines of modern-day geishas!