Does the bird poop facial really work?

MG must know…A couple of years ago I heard a lot of buzz about the Geisha Facial that uses bird poo to improve your complexion. What’s the science behind this?

We know that a lot of beauty claims are bullish*t, but this one is literally birdsh*t! Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped modern spas from adopting this ancient Japanese tradition. Shizuka New York, for example, charges you $180 for the privilege of having bird poop rubbed on your face. Supposedly, the poo brightens skin and evens out your complexion. Does it really work? Here’s the scientific scoop on bird poop.

How a bird poop facial is made

First, you get some nightingales (specifically Japanese bush warblers). Why nightingales and not other birds, you ask? Because they have a short digestive tract, which allegedly allows their poop to maintain more of the chemicals that are good for your skin. Then you feed the birds a special diet of organic seeds. The seeds work their way through the birds, and what comes out the other end is called “uguisu no fun” in Japanese. Yes, that’s right. The actual Japanese expression for nightingale crap that you rub all over your face includes the words “no fun.” Ironic, ain’t it? Next, the poop is scraped from the cages (and you thought YOU had a crappy job) and then sanitized with an ultraviolet light before being dried and ground into a fine white powder. This powder is reconstituted and used as a facial cream.

What does bird poop do for your skin?

Supposedly, bird poop contains a high concentration of urea and guanine. Urea is one of the components of the skin’s Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF for short), and it’s added to a number of skin creams to improve moisturization. It really works, but you certainly don’t need bird poop to get a good dose of urea! Plus, urea has to be left on the skin to provide a moisturization benefit. Leaving it for a little while and then washing it off does no good. Guanine is a naturally iridescent material that can make you look sparkly. But, again, it only works when left on your face. It doesn’t have any lightening or brightening properties other than being glittery. At least one source claims that uguisu no fun contains an enzyme that lightens skin. But we could find no evidence of this at all. Most sites report that guanine is an enzyme, which it’s not.
Historically, Geishas used bird poop to bleach stains from their kimonos. This makes sense, since the bird droppings could have a high pH due to ammonia, which could lighten the kinds of pigments used as fabric dyes. It won’t, however, remove melanin, which is the pigment in skin that gives it its color.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Instead of wasting your money on a bird poop facial, buy a good moisturizer with urea. And if you want to get rid of acne scars or dark spots, use retinol or a skin lightener that’s proven to work.