The XX Factor

The New York Times Is Full of Poop

Facials, bringing a whole new meaning to the birds and the bees.

Shutterstock/Valua Vitaly

Alix Strauss kicks off her New York Times “trend” story about animal-based additives in beauty products with an account of her bird poop facial. The procedure, which she underwent at a fancy midtown day spa, features UV-disinfected nightingale poop air-lifted from Japan and mixed with rice bran to hide its smell.

Strauss swears that the $180 treatment made her skin look radiant. The “poop powder … brushed up against my lips and slipped into my mouth. I fought my desire to leave, and surprisingly the next morning my skin did glow.”

Good thing, that. Strauss would feel pretty silly if she let a stranger smear bird excrement on her face and it didn’t work. When it comes to assessing efficacy claims for beauty products, a testimonial is all but worthless. Never underestimate the power of suggestion or the allure of wishful thinking.

Strauss bills the bird poop facial as evidence of a new trend toward animal-derived additives in premium cosmetics, but the bird poop facial isn’t new. Shizuka New York, where Strauss had her treatment, has been touting the dung-based “Geisha Facial” since at least 2008, garnering credulous coverage from Today, Good Morning America, and other high profile outlets.

While not new, the poop facial was apparently a pioneer in the animal secretions luxury market. Yes, the 1 percent are bored with useless plant extracts and are eager to waste their money on something new. At last, snake oil with real snake:

“People discovered organic didn’t always mean organic, and marketed naturals could be harmful to one’s skin,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “Animal extracts are a new way of treating the skin, while offering a new definition of natural.”

Over the next several months, creatures like snails, bees and worms will inch their way from the great outdoors to human skin.

You would think that consumers, having been burned, literally and figuratively, by various botanic essences would greet this new crop of animal-based additives with skepticism.

High-end personal care products are notorious for adding questionable ingredients to justify their premium price tags. Because these preparations are sold as cosmetics, rather than as drugs, the manufacturers are under no obligation to back up their insinuations with evidence. And they can pretty much bank on the publicity.