Published August 13, 2008
If you've ever had bird poo drop from the sky and onto your head — heck even if you haven't — it's probably pretty hard to imagine forking over almost $200 to have someone massage bird doodoo into your face for the better part of an hour.
But there's a price to pay for healthy skin and many in New York City are “flocking” to try this latest anti-aging craze.
The Geisha Facial given at Shizuka New York, a day spa in midtown Manhattan, doesn’t contain just any run of the mill pigeon poo. It’s made from dried nightingale droppings imported from Japan and mixed with rice bran.
Spa owner Shizuka Bernstein said she came up with the idea after recalling a story her mother told her as a child.
“When I was 12 or 13 years old, she had told me that in 18th Century Japan, the Geisha, who were known for their beauty and their porcelain skin, needed something to remove all the heavy make-up they wore,” said Bernstein, an aesthetician.
“At the time, the make-up contained lead, which was very damaging to their skin,” she continued. “So they tried everything to take it off and nothing worked. And then they tried the nightingale droppings and it not only worked, but it left their skin smooth.”
A native of Japan, Bernstein said she always tries to share her heritage with the spa that shares her first name. So, in January of this year, she shared the Geisha Facial with spa-goers.
The nightingale poo used in Bernstein's potion is dried and sanitized under ultra-violet lights, but slathering it on isn’t for the faint of heart.
“When I explain to my customers they think I misspoke because of my accent,” she said. “But after they understand, many of them are willing to trust me and give it a try.”
And at least one person is singing its praises.
“The results are amazing,” said Erin Zantello-Clary, a marketing coordinator who lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Zantello-Clary has been going to Shizuka for about a year and, although she has always had positive experiences, she was skeptical when first approached by Bernstein.
“She e-mailed me some information, I definitely needed to know more before I committed to the procedure,” she said. “But then I thought about it and the Japanese have been doing it for such a long time and the Geishas have such beautiful skin even though they put such harsh chemicals on it.”
Zantello-Clary said the mixture, which smells doughy and is applied during a 50-minute facial, leaves her skin feeling softer and makes her pores appear smaller.
And, maybe it's the mood music, the low-lighting, or just the "pooey" substance itself, but Zantello-Clary said she always emerges relaxed and rejuvenated from the facial.
“It doesn’t feel as abrasive as some other facials and it smells organic,” she said. “And it doesn’t tingle or burn. It just sort of stays there. It’s a really simple, calming facial.”
The natural enzyme guanine, found in the nightingale excrement and used in some cosmetics, provides the after-facial glow Zantello-Clary, who has had the facial twice, seemed to be sporting after the procedure, Bernstein said.
At $180, the Geisha Facial costs about $80 more than the spa’s other facials. If clients want Bernstein herself to apply it, the price goes up another 20 percent.