The Secrets of Traditional Asian Beauty

We take a look at ancient natural beauty remedies that Asian women have been using for centuries.


This next beauty secret used by geishas is understandably less popular, at least for the moment. Geisha facials, or uguisu no fun, literally means “nightingale droppings” in Japanese. Originally used by the Koreans to strip dyes from fabrics and create elaborate patterns, uguisu no fun was adapted into a beauty product by the Japanese during the Edo Period.

Favored as a soothing cleanser by geisha and kabuki actors, who often wore heavy white makeup containing zinc and lead that caused severe skin irritation, today, fans of the treatment include UK footballer David Beckham and his fashion designer wife, Victoria Beckham.

Before you start looking out for the nearest pigeon, do note that bird droppings can contain harmful bacterial or fungal spores. Uguisu no fun is collected from special farms where Japanese bush warblers (Horornis diphone) are fed organic seeds. Bird droppings are scrapped off the cage floor, sun-dried and sterilized with ultraviolet light.

Scientists do not yet understand why uguisu no fun appears to smoothen skin and reduce wrinkles. However, it has been suggested that the high urea content helps skin retain moisture while guanine creates a shimmering effect.

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

Rebecca did her PhD at the National University of Singapore where she studied how macrophages integrate multiple signals from the toll-like receptor system. She was formerly the editor-in-chief of Asian Scientist Magazine.

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