How far would you go for beauty and anti-aging? What would you be willing to put on your face if it promised to take years off your look or give you the skin you wanted?
Here at Spa Manners, we’re more into the health aspects of spa-going (versus beauty or “pampering”) and we strive for healthy skin from the inside out. We’re pretty careful about what we put on our faces and don’t often get facials from estheticians we don’t know. We’re reluctant to shell out hundreds of dollars on new and untested products or treatments, but we’re still curious about what’s happening with new anti-aging treatments and which celebrities are gutsy enough to try crazy facials all in the name of beauty.
Here’s a short list of all the crazy facials that are apparently a thing right now and are being peddled around the world to people with enough dough and guts to try them:
The Breast Milk Facial
Apparently there’s only one place that has actually put breast milk on their treatment menu, and that’s Chicago-based “facial bar” called Mud, which looks legit. Offered as an add-on and substitute (for the bovine variety, I’m assuming) to their “Breathe” facial for sensitive skin, this treatment incorporates all-natural skincare products from US-based brands for a facial in 30-minutes or less.
Know before you go: While it’s not on their website (there’s not a lot of information at all their website, really), founder of Mud Shama Patel told local media that she purchases breast milk from local moms registered with a certified milk bank. Suppliers are medically screened and notified if their milk will be used in the spa.
Breast milk is said (according to mommy blogs) to have all kinds of medicinal and cosmetic benefits for skin. Science has shown that breast milk contains antibodies that combat diseases without causing inflammation, as well as lauric acid, a fatty acid that also contains bactericidal and antimicrobial properties. No clinical human studies have been done on breast milk treatments for acne or other skin inflammatory issues. Studies on animals have shown that lauric acid has potential as an alternative to antibiotics in treating acne.
Go for it or skip it? A 30-minute facial at Mud is $40 and the breast milk add-on is an extra $10. If you are comfortable with using some anonymous woman’s breast milk on your face to see if your acne will clear up, then go for it.
The Bird Poop Facial
Also known as the “Geisha Facial” and Uguisu no fun in Japanese, the bird poop facial can be found exclusively at one spa in North America, and it ain’t cheap. Shizuka New York Skin Care Salon in Midtown Manhattan offers the 60-minute Geisha Facial® for $180. Shizuka uses traditional Japanese ingredients (like rice bran) combined with powdered nightingale droppings to “soften, brighten and nourish” the complexion.
Know before you go: Apparently this is no ordinary bird shit. The use of guano from the very particular Japanese bush warbler (a nightingale) goes back over 1200 years. At first it was used to remove dye and stains from silk clothing, and then around 1600 Geishas and kabuki actors started using it to clear up skin problems caused by the lead and zinc in their face makeup.
This nightingale guano contains a high concentration of urea and guanine. FYI: Urea is a component of urine. In small amounts, it has good water-binding and exfoliating properties for the skin. Guanine has been used in the cosmetics industry to provide a pearly iridescent luster to eye shadow and nail polish, but as part of Uguisu no fun, it’s the brightening agent for skin.
If you have a little germ OCD like me and are squeamish about putting bird poop on your face, know that the guano comes from caged nightingales that eat organic seeds and caterpillars that eat from plum trees. Their poop is then scraped from the cages, sanitized with UV light and ground into a powder. The folks at Shizuka say their facial mask mixture smells like rice bran, and not like bird poop.
Apparently Victoria and David Beckham are fans, after it helped clear up Victoria’s long-time acne problems.
Go for it or skip it? If you want Geisha-like skin at the cost of $180 a pop, then go for it. Skip it if the price tag seems steep for fancy imported poop that’ll only be on your face for about 15 minutes.
The Sheep Placenta Facial
Victoria Beckham isn’t stopping at bird poop. Apparently she and other celebs like Kim Kardashian, Eva Longoria, Madonna are shelling out $500+ for this hydrating, nourishing and “results-driven” facial that also purportedly boosts skin immunity and helps fight inflammation.
The skincare experts and estheticians who perform this treatment in Beverly Hills use products from the Stem Cell Beauty Innovations (SCBI) line, founded by Robin Gray. Gray has stated that she suffered from chronic illness and hormonal imbalances, and that after taking stem cell supplements derived from sheep placenta, her skin felt more hydrated, and her hair and nails were thicker and growing faster. SCBI claims that their products “provide exceptional results by transferring large numbers of bio-active stem cells directly to the dermis of the face.” And when applied in sufficient concentration and on a regular basis, their stem cell products “‘de-age’ the skin.”
Know before you go: So what is placenta exactly and what does it do? Placenta is an endocrine organ, expelled after birth, that serves a few “transportation” purposes during pregnancy: it sends nutrients and oxygen from mother to fetus and sends waste products to the mother. It is also responsible for the production of hormones.
SCBI uses a proprietary “O-Placenta” process to harvest stem cells from New Zealand sheep umbilical cords, post birth. No harm is done to the animals. SCBI claims that sheep stem cells are similar to human embryonic stem cells in their “pluripotency” — meaning they are able to repair every type of cell in the body.
SCBI products retail in price from $200 for half an ounce of stem cell gold serum to $350 for 0.845 oz for stem cell concentrate, so it’s no wonder Beverly Hills dermatologists and estheticians are charging $500 upwards for their sheep placenta facials.
Go for it or skip it? Just skip it. First of all, it remains to be determined with scientific study as to whether or not placenta is good for your skin, and there are no scientific studies on the regular application of placenta to skin.
There are a lot of hormones in placenta, and medical professionals usually prescribe topical creams with hormones in order to treat hormonal imbalances or other serious issues stemming from hormones, and they are extremely careful when they do so since these creams can increase the risk of certain cancers. While cosmetic companies claim their intensive sterilization process removes hormones from their products, this may also render the placenta less potent.
If you are hell bent on trying this so-called “miracle” treatment, then buy samples or small versions of these stem cell products and try them on yourself at home. But so far, it seems that placenta as a miracle anti-aging ingredient is gimmicky at best.
The Sperm Facial
No, we’re not talking about the kind found in porn or with your man. This one is technically called the Spermine Facial, so don’t go googling “sperm facial” or you’ll find um, other results. This thought-provoking facial gained some traction back in 2009 after straight-male journalist Marty Beckerman went to the posh Townhouse Spa in NYC to experience their $250 Spermine facial and then wrote about it an article called “Spermboarded”.
Know before you go: So what are we talking about here? Spermine is a crystalline polyamine compound found in sperm. Don’t confuse it with semen — it’s not semen or even sperm. Spermine is apparently an antioxidant, but this particular antioxidant is said to diminish wrinkles, smooth skin and help to reduce acne. A Norwegian company called Bioforskning (for reals) claimed that Spermine is the “most efficient antioxidant against aging” and is able to “delay aging by 25%” — so they’ve synthesized it in their labs and are now putting it in products for spa professionals. However, if you look up Bioforskning or Skin Science Spermine for Professionals, all their domains are now defunct. Townhouse Spa doesn’t list the imitation spunk facial in their menu anymore. The only place that seems to still have a supply for this particular antioxidant is the Graceful Services Spa in NYC.
Go for it or skip it? I would skip it. Sounds like a load of bunk to me. There isn’t any scientific data on the anti-aging or skin repairing benefits of spermine (natural or synthetic) for skin. $125 is a lot for a synthetic antioxidant that you could really just get at home, naturally.
The Snail Facial
Some people love escargot and then there are those who haven’t yet tried ‘em. I happen to love eating snails when they are doused in garlic butter and properly prepared by a savvy French cook. But would I let them crawl across my face a few times to improve the texture and tone of my skin? There are a handful of spas around the world that are using snail trails in some form or another in their facials — some use creams or serums derived from snail slime, others actually put live snails on your face and let them wander for a while, all in the name of achieving a “near instantaneous” glowing and radiant complexion. These treatments can go from dirt cheap ($30 in Southeast Asia) to luxury pricing ($300-$350 in Tokyo and NYC).
Know before you go: The technical name for the thick fluid gathered by stimulating live snails is “Helix Aspersa Müller Glycoconjugates.” Snail goop is a complex mixture of proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, glycoprotein enzymes, hyaluronic acid, copper peptides, antimicrobial peptides and trace elements including copper, zinc, and iron. (Thank you to The Beauty Brains for that)
Some brands and skin care professionals claim that snail slime produces a significant increase in collagen and elastin in the skin, and also increases the skin’s natural ability to hold water — which plumps it up, making wrinkles and lines seemingly disappear. There is some scientific data showing that snail slime can stimulate collagen production and elastin fibers (on cell cultures though, not human skin) and other studies do indicate that snail extract does improve the skin’s natural ability to take up and hold water (probably due to the hyaluronic acid content). Some studies even suggest that snail slime might have topical wound healing properties.
Depending on what spa you choose for the snail extract treatment, you’re either going to get snails crawling across your face, or a serum made of snail slime extract. The spas that use live snails are careful to point out how well their snails live and eat, and how well they are treated. But you should also know that a snail has 14,000 microscopic teeth that reportedly produce “a slight, not unpleasant scratching” when it crawls across your face. The spas that use the extract are usually luxe spas or facial plastic surgeons, and they will charge you luxe prices for snail secretion that is concentrated and purified.
Go for it or skip it? If you are in Southeast Asia and can stand the ick factor, then go for it. It’ll probably only run you thirty bucks after all. If you are in stateside, your only choice may be to combine the pricey serum with microneedling (aka collagen induction therapy) at the plastic surgeon’s office who copyrighted his treatment’s name, Escar-Glow. Not only is this seriously pricey for a facial ($300-$350) but it involves running a device with a wheel of needles or a pen with a cluster of needles at the tip, all over your face during which time they slather on the snail slime, er, serum. I personally would skip it, as running a wheel of needles all over my face is not in any way something I would do, let alone pay for, and the risks seem too high for me. If you really want to see if snail slime works to firm your skin, you can buy some of the extract online. I would just buy a really high quality hyaluronic acid like this one, which will also plump fine lines and prevent moisture loss, sans les escargots.
Always remember that celebrities have luck-of-the-draw genetics, entire glam squads and heavy use of Photoshop in order to make them look as good as they do. Attached to their flawless faces are a hefty price tag, and pricey facials are only one small part of their beauty and anti-aging regimes. Beautiful skin starts with being healthy and maintaining a good skincare regime. Wear sunscreen, people! It’s your first line of defense in the anti-aging battle.