From freezing our faces to using moisturizers made from our 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, aka the Uguisu Poo Uguisu No Fun Illuminating Mask ($30). 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).
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.
Pros + Cons
- No scent
- Easy to use
- Results are fast and visible immediately after using
- Smooth skin
- Tightened pores
- A bit gimmicky
- Can be messy
The Bottom Line
The Uguisu Poo Uguisu No Fun Illuminating Mask is a bit gimmicky, but it definitely delivers visible results. Expect smoother, softer, and more glowing skin after just one use.
Uguisu Poo Uguisu No Fun Illuminating Mask
Best for: All skin types
Uses: Exfoliation, pore tightening, skin softening
Star Rating: 4
Potential allergens: None
Active ingredients: 100 percent purified Uguisu No Fun
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.
It all starts with a nightingale of the Japanese Bush Warbler variety. Their droppings are collected, sanitized under 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.
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.
And now, behold, the ingredient I have to thank for my post-mask dewiness—Guanine. 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."
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 ($30). 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.
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.
Priced at $29, the Uguisu No Fun mask is a bit on the steep side, especially for something I don't see myself using often. However, if you're an ingredient purist (this mask only has *one* ingredient) and you want to try something new, it's worth a shot.
Herbivore Brighten Pineapple Enzyme + Gemstone Instant Glow Mask: This mask gives you a similar glow, thanks to the exfoliation power of pineapple enzymes. But priced at $48, it is slightly more expensive than the Uguisu No Fun mask.
First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads: These pads, priced at $36, aren't a mask, but if you need a way to get a glow quick, you'll want to reach of them. They are formulated with exfoliating ingredients like lactic and glycolic acid that whisk away dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to reveal a brighter look.
Popper also notes that the West's enthusiasm might have to do with our 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, I might reach for the bird poo out of sheer curiosity and will continue to bask in its glow-inducing benefits, or I might try out other ways to get dewy. Either way, it's always interesting to delve into new beauty practices, culture, and history.