Uguisu no fun

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Uguisu no fun (Japanese: 鶯の糞, also called the "Geisha Facial"[1]), 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).[1] The droppings have been used in facials since ancient Japanese times.[1] Recently, the product has appeared in the Western world.[1] 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.[2]


Geishas historically used uguisu no fun to remove their heavy makeup, and to whiten and condition their skin.

The use of nightingale excrement dates back to the Heian period (AD 794–1185) when it was introduced to the Japanese by the Koreans.[1][3] Koreans used the guano to remove dye from kimono fabric, allowing them to make intricate designs on the clothing.[1][3] The Japanese used the bird droppings to remove stains from silk garments such as kimonos.[4][5] Then, during the Edo period (AD  1603–1868), the Japanese expanded its use by using it as a beauty treatment.[3] 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.[6][7] Geishas and kabuki actors used heavy white makeup that contained zinc and lead, which likely caused many issues such as skin diseases.[1][8] Uguisu no fun was used to thoroughly remove this makeup and to whiten and balance skin tone.[1][4] Also, Buddhist monks used the droppings to polish and clean their bald scalps.[1][3]

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).

Currently, Hyakusuke is the last place in Tokyo to have the government-approved uguisu no fun.[9] This two-hundred-year-old cosmetic shop carries the powder along with other cosmetic products.[9][10]

The modern-day revival of uguisu no fun in Japan may be attributed to a respect for ancestral traditions as well as to the innovative culture of Japan.[11]


The Japanese bush warbler (Cettia diphone) produces uguisu no fun.

Uguisu no fun is harvested in nightingale farms in Japan.[1] Though wild nightingales eat insects and berries, the diet of the caged birds consists of organic seeds.[1][12] Some nightingales feed on caterpillars that eat from plum trees.[5] The guano is scraped from the cages, and an ultraviolet light is often used to kill the bacteria to sanitize it.[1][12] The droppings are then usually dried with a dehydrator.[1] Some are sun-dried for over two weeks while simultaneously being UV sterilized.[13] Next, it is ground into a fine white powder, and it is sold in this form.[1] The droppings are turned into powder in a special container that rotates for 18 hours with a ceramic ball.[13]


Rice bran is sometimes added to the guano for the purpose of exfoliation.[1] The powder is mixed with water yielding a paste.[1] The paste is massaged into the skin for a few minutes and then it is rinsed off.[1] The facial is usually rather odorless and sanitized.[1][5] The added rice bran can also neutralize the slight musky odor.[14]

In one New York spa that offers the Geisha Facial, the process takes about one hour and costs $180.[8]

Mechanism of facial[edit]

The way the facial works is not entirely clear.[4] The guano from the nightingale has a high concentration of urea and guanine.[1] Because birds excrete a fecal and urine waste from a single opening, called the cloaca, the fecal-urine combination gives the droppings a high concentration of urea.[1][4] Urea is sometimes found in cosmetics because it locks moisture into the skin.[1][4] The guanine may produce shimmery, iridescent effects on the skin.[1][8] 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.[13]

Numerous sources comment that "the amino acid guanine" gives uguisu no fun its cosmetic properties, though guanine is a nucleotide base, not an amino acid.[1][3][14]

In popular culture[edit]

Victoria Beckham, who has long suffered with acne, used uguisu no fun to improve her skin.[15] It was reported that Victoria Beckham admired the clarity of the skin of Japanese women and subsequently learned about the droppings.[12] David Beckham has been said to use the product as well.[15]

In the novel Memoirs of a Geisha, Chiyo repays Hatsumomo’s cruelty by mixing pigeon droppings with her face cream that contained unguent of nightingale droppings.[16]

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.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Shanna Freeman. "How Geisha Facials Work". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  2. ^ Amy Eisinger (23 July 2008). "New York's weirdest spa treatments". Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e Moore, Janet H. (December 16, 2001). "The Nightingale Facial". Asian Wall Street Journal.
  4. ^ a b c d e Liane Yvkoff (26 September 2008). "Try a placenta or bird poop facial". Cable News Network. Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  5. ^ a b c Carroll 2007, p. 249
  6. ^ Berg 2001, p. 174
  7. ^ Drill et al. 2002, p. 86
  8. ^ a b c Shizuka New York Day Spa. "The Geisha Facial: From an ancient Japanese tradition...Bird Poop Facials!". Retrieved 13 July 2010.
  9. ^ a b Fodor 2009, p. 180
  10. ^ Frommer 2010, p. 241
  11. ^ Stephanie Rafanelli (25 June 2007). "Turning Japanese: Beauty thats taking over". London: Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  12. ^ a b c Melissa Whitworth (16 October 2008). "Geisha facial, the 'latest beauty secret' of Victoria Beckham, brought to the masses". London: Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  13. ^ a b c "Japanese Nightingales Droppings (Uguisu No Fun)". Archived from the original on 11 September 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  14. ^ a b Timothy Gardner (25 April 2008). "Facial with bird excrement takes flight at New York spa". Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  15. ^ a b Chris Johnson (7 October 2008). "Victoria and David Beckham's secret to perfect glowing skin: Bird poo". London: Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  16. ^ Golden 1997, p. 80