Uguisu no fun
Uguisu no fun (Japanese: 鶯の糞) (also called the "Geisha Facial"), which literally means “nightingale feces” in Japanese, refers to the excrement (fun) produced by a particular nightingale called the Japanese bush warbler (Cettia diphone) (uguisu). The droppings, the use of which was introduced to Japan by Koreans, have been used in facials since ancient Japanese times. Recently, the product has become present in the Western world. The facial is said to whiten the skin and balance skin tone, as well as treat skin affected by hyperpigmentation such as in the case of acne or sun damage.
The use of nightingale excrement dates back to the Heian period (A.D. 794 – 1185) where it was introduced to the Japanese by the Koreans. Koreans used the guano to remove dye from kimono fabric which allowed them to make intricate designs on the clothing. The Japanese used the bird droppings to remove stains from silk garments, like kimonos. Then, during the Edo period (A.D. 1603–1868), the Japanese expanded its use by using it as a beauty treatment. Some sources, however, report that as early as the third century, Japanese women used bags of rice bran and supplies of nightingale droppings to whiten their skin. Geishas and kabuki actors used heavy white makeup that contained zinc and lead, which likely caused many issues such as skin diseases. Uguisu no fun was used to thoroughly remove this makeup and to whiten and balance skin tone. Also, Buddhist monks used the droppings to polish and clean their bald scalps.
The first modern written mention of the use of uguisu no fun is in a book entitled Shunkin-sho (Portrait of lady Shunkin), published in 1933 by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, set in Japan’s Meiji period (1868-1912).
Uguisu no fun is harvested in nightingale farms in Japan. Though wild nightingales eat insects and berries, the diet of the caged birds consists of organic seeds. Some nightingales feed on caterpillars that eat from plum trees. The guano is scraped from the cages, and an ultraviolet light is often used to kill the bacteria to sanitize it. The droppings are then usually dried with a dehydrator. Some are sun-dried for over two weeks while simultaneously being UV sterilized. Next, it is ground into a fine white powder, and it is sold in this form. The droppings are turned into powder in a special container that rotates for 18 hours with a ceramic ball.
Rice bran is sometimes added to the guano for the purpose of exfoliation. The powder is mixed with water yielding a paste. The paste is massaged into the skin for a few minutes and then it is rinsed off. The facial is usually rather odorless and sanitized. The added rice bran can also neutralize the slight musky odor.
Mechanism of facial
The way the facial works is not entirely clear. The guano from the nightingale has a high concentration of urea and guanine. Because birds excrete a fecal and urine waste from a single opening, called the cloaca, the fecal-urine combination give the droppings a high concentration of urea. Urea is sometimes found in cosmetics because it locks moisture into the skin. The guanine may produce shimmery, iridescent effects on the skin. It is claimed that because of the short intestine of the nightingale, the droppings have protein, a fat-degrading enzyme, and a whitening enzyme that acts on fat and scurf to whiten skin and even out blemishes.
In popular culture
Victoria Beckham, who has long suffered with acne, used uguisu no fun to improve her skin. It was reported that Victoria Beckham admired the clarity of the skin of Japanese women and subsequently learned about the droppings. David Beckham has been said to use the product as well.
In the 2012 movie Mirror mirror, which is based on the fairytale Snow White, the evil queen, played by Julia Roberts, undergoes extreme beauty treatments in order to woo a prince. The treatment begins with an application of bird droppings to her face.
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