8 of the most bizarre trending facials ever

They say that it is only after you have experienced something, that you can truly reflect on the horror or happiness of the situation. Crazy doesn’t feel so crazy when you’re living in that moment. The fickle trends that circulate the beauty and aesthetics industry I work in, come by just as quickly as they fade into nothingness. And after hearing so many other bizarre aesthetician stories, and experiencing my own, I have come to learn that you can just about put about anything on the face if our trends on social, training media and brand reps tell us to do so. Some trends are just better left in the past. From the bird poop facial to caviar, we look at some of the most popular and bizarre facial trends from the last decade. 

1) The Bird Poop Facial 

The Bird Poop Facial stormed the media as early as 2008, when news spread of Victoria Beckham booking in this treatment whilst visiting Japan (although her spokesperson cleared up that this didn’t actually happen.

But this isn’t a new technique. The bird poop facial uses product that contains nightingale faeces which translates to Uguisu no fun. The beauty practice was introduced to the Japanese by the Koreans during the Heian period (AD 794-1185) and is still part of a modern-day geisha’s beauty regime.  

Uguisu no fun is harvested in nightingale farms in Japan; the poop is collected from a specific breed of nightingale from the cages they live, sanitised with UV, dried out by machine, then sun-dried and ground up, ready to apply to a skincare formulation.

Rice bran is sometimes added to Uguisu no fun skincare products to provide the skin with a manual exfoliation.


Also known as The Geisha Facial, the nightingale faeces contains 3 main components that is thought to help even skin tone and treat sun damage and existing pigmentation:

Guanine

An enzyme that works as a natural bleaching agent on the skin. 

Urea

A component of the Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF) produced naturally by the skin. Urea is also a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains moisture.

Proteolytic enzymes

These break down other proteins on the surface, removing dead skin cells and encouraging cell turnover.

Despite these factors I can’t find any scientific studies to support the claims of this bird faeces facial.  It is safe to say that this  bizarre treatment is not really a trend anymore amongst Western practice, although you can still make a booking today in the odd UK medispa. If that doesn’t float your boat, you can buy bird poop products online right now, in the form of clarifying soaps and masks.

2) The Red Wine Facial

The Red Wine Facial instantly caught my eye, because red wine already has many known benefits when consumed in moderation. Scientists tell us drinking the odd glass of wine can lower bad cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and reduce risk of cancer, to name a few examples. Red wine also contains two known powerful antioxidants including:  

Resveratrol

Present in topical skincare, resveratrol protects the skins surface, fights free radicals and helps to brighten the skin, as well as displaying calming properties which helps to even skin tone and reduce redness.

Polyphenols

Studies show us that polyphenols in skincare can have an anti-inflammatory effect and may act as a sunscreen as they reduce oxidative stress and DNA damage associated with UV exposure to the skin.



Does red wine offer the same benefits when applied topically? How does it work? Sebastian Zulch reported for Bustle in 2015, when he tried the DIY yoghurt, honey and Merlot concoction and described: 

“The next day my face was still baby soft, my eczema flareup had disappeared, and my acne was considerably reduced (with whatever spots left being less red than before).”

Stephanie Nuzzo for Body and Soul Mind was “blown away by the results.”

Hundreds of other bloggers recite the same story. The DIY red wine facial has also been prominent in media in India this year.

Despite on/off popularity with carrying this wine treatment out at home, the Red Wine Facial is clearly not a service that has taken off amongst professionals. And that leaves me with a lot of cynical questions, especially as to why that is. 

3) Snail facial

The use of using snails to treat the skin is said to date back from Ancient Greece, when Hippocrates crushed the slimy creatures with sour milk to treat skin inflammation. The mucous substance has different functions for the snail – it acts as an emollient, adhesive, moisturiser, lubricator and protection. 

Snail mucin was officially discovered as a beneficial skincare ingredient by a Spanish oncologist in the 1960s, Dr Rafael Abad. In 1995, the world’s first slime-based skincare was introduced by Chilean brand Elicina. K-beauty has picked up the trend in recent years, and although snail mucin is not well-studied and difficult to replicate in the laboratory, it is widely prevalent in many cosmetic skincare products today. 

The snail facial does not involve applying these products, but instead actual snails are placed on the face and allowed to move around as the please, leaving trails of mucus slime. This is usually followed by massage, masks and/or electrical currents to ensure the fresh, slimy secretions penetrate into the skin. 

The Toyko – based facial reportedly ‘arrived in the UK’ in 2013 according to The Mirror, but the fad never really continued. 


4) 24-karat gold facial

Historians say that gold has a long history of being used a skin saviour throughout the ages. In Chinese Medicine, gold was used to treat small pox, skin ulcers and to help cure diseases like measles. In Ancient Rome, gold salve was used to treat an array of skin concerns and Cleopatra apparently slept in a gold mask every night to maintain her infamous beauty.

The claims to what gold, particular 24-karat gold in skincare can do are endless, and questionable. When applied to the skin, 24-karat gold is thought to rejuvenate and increase the oxygen in the skin, reduce wrinkles and creating a lifting effect.

The 24-karat gold facial usually involves the application of a serum, followed by a series of thin, dissolvable, foil sheets. These are then massaged in until the gold completely absorbs. Some other gold facials involve the use of expensive rubber or jelly masks containing the ingredient. 


Surprisingly there is a serious lack of scientific study to back up these profound anti-aging benefits. In fact, there are no studies to suggest that 24-karat gold has any effect on the skin.

Peter Thomas Roth and Chantecaille are just some of today’s beauty brands that use 24karat gold in their products. Several types of gold home kits are available to purchase on websites like Amazon

5) Huo Liao Fire Facial

This facial that originates from China, involves applying fire to areas of the face or body to stimulate blood circulation and reduce swelling, and to treat a number of problematic symptoms of arthritis, constipation, back pain and numbness.

Huo Liao literally translates to ‘fire treatment’ in Chinese and is a widely practiced treatment, despite how controversial it is. 

If carried out properly, the fire apparently doesn’t burn the skin, but warms it (-good to know.) Fabric is soaked in a solution and placed on the problem area. Thankfully the fire is put out after just a few seconds.

The lack of study, and the unnecessary risk of carrying out the facial is possibly the reason why it isn’t practiced professionally in Western parts of the globe.

Source: Bollywood Shaadis

6) Cat litter facial mask

In case you missed it, in 2009 Youtube beauty sensation Michelle Phan posted a viral video of herself mixing water, cat litter and aloe vera together to apply to her face for super soft skin. 


The theory behind this crazy idea actually makes sense. Most cat litter contains sodium bentonite clay which is a key ingredient in purifying skincare products. Bentonite clay absorbs oil and when it comes into contact with a chemical, it absorbs the toxin and releases minerals. This natural ingredient can also helps get oxygen to cells.

There are over 2500 articles in Pubmed on bentonite clay and is respectfully regarding as a treatment for an array of internal and external disorders but also requires further research.

Cosmpolitan reported of the risks of using cat litter over bentonite clay for a DIY facial.

“Some brands of kitty litter contain aluminium silicate, the same ingredient used in glass-making as well as housing insulation. Plus, it’s a known neurotoxin for humans.”

Because bentonite clay is a natural product, there is small risk of it being contaminated. It is also important to note this ingredient is not ideal for dry skin types.

7) Caviar facial

Caviar, as you probably already know is extremely expensive, salt-preserved, non-fertilized fish eggs. Companies claim that the proteins, vitamins, minerals and amino and fatty acids that make up caviar extract stimulate cell metabolism and boost collagen.

Some caviar facials consist of caviar-extract infusions, followed by needling or electrical therapy to enhance the penetration of the skincare product.

Other establishments claim to use fresh caviar and crush it up in one of their signature skincare products, to be then applied to the face for a few minutes.

Similar to the other facials listed in this blog post, caviar in cosmetics has been studied very little. All I could find was a 2017 report was publishing investigating the effectiveness of caviar in cosmetic products and concluded that they do “show to contain higher concentrations of omega-3 FAs and linolenic and oleic acids” – all effective skin-moisturising agents.  

Whilst La Prairie lead the caviar skincare market with their £407 Caviar Cream, I am left still trying to find one independent study on how caviar actually has any effect on the skin.

8) Placenta facial

Placenta is an internal organ that links the foetus to the mother in animals and humans, and known to be rich in vitamins, minerals, antibodies, fats and blood cells. As well as being used in medicine and food, placenta is widely used in cosmetics, particularly in Japan. 

In 1958 Lambert-Hudnut introduced Elixir Narde and Cream Natal to the American market, containing high concentrated placental extract. The claims were profound but dangerously misleading, and the shipments of these cosmetics were seized by authorities.

Since then, placenta research has taken off in many different areas all over the world. Placenta is believed to help reduce wrinkles, whiten the skin, add moisture, and normalise cell turnovers, according to JBP Global. JBP say placenta is usually injected to achieve such an effect, but placental extract can also be found in other skincare products and facial routines.

Most ‘placenta facials’ use techniques like microdermabrasion, light peels and light therapy alongside product containing placenta extract. Because of this, it’s difficult to measure the efficiency of these products alone. Headlines says the placenta used in these facials are derived mostly from sheep.

Outside of the trials that are set up by the company (selling placenta products) themselves, there has been little evidence to prove the role placenta plays when applied topically, or injected in to the skin.

Did you enjoy this article? Then you'll love this one, on the female beauty trends in the Victorian era.


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