Kim Kardashian gets vampire facelifts. Demi Moore uses leeches to detox her body. Bull semen is harvested for hair masks. What’s next — snail slime facials? Already happening. Pig placenta face cream? Oh, you betcha.
Since time immemorial, people have been obsessing over appearance-enhancing treatments. And some beauty tricks leaned towards the gory side — in Victorian England, upper-class fashionistas ingested tapeworm eggs to lose weight, practiced bloodletting and applied radioactive radium masks to achieve that come-hither, deathly palid look they found so fetching.
Luckily for us, cultural developments and advances in science (and common sense) have since collaborated to make these ‘therapies’ go out of style. But we are a vain species — old freakish rituals have been replaced with new ones that also bear the promise of eternal youth and beauty.
Welcome to the dauntingly alluring world of bizarre beauty therapies (and unfounded science). Here are ten mind-boggling cosmetic treatments — all available in Singapore — that make your cleanse-tone-moisturise routine sound like plain vanilla. But be warned: Read no further if you are faint-hearted or squeamish. These unconventional beauty tricks are for risk-takers who dare to tread where no Health Sciences Authority (HSA) regulators have yet to venture.
Smear bird poo all over your face
For centuries, nightingale droppings have been used in Japan as a mask. Known as the ‘geisha facial’, it is thought to repair the damage done by the lead once contained in white face paint.
What it really is: A delicate little bird’s excrement luxuriously spread on your face.
Supposed benefits: The droppings contain urea, which helps the skin retain moisture and guanine to whiten blemishes. Break the poo-taboo with this facial and you’re one step closer to joining the ranks of people who are into scatology.
Where to get it: Ikeda Spa Prestige in Clarke Quay.
How much it costs: $240 for a 90-minute facial.
Soak up pig placenta
It’s the closest you’ll get to crawling back into a womb — even though it once belonged to a sow.
What it really is: Extracted pig placenta in the form of a serum or cream slathered on your face (as you lie in fetal position). For the lack of an umbilical cord, ultrasound is used to help you absorb the nutrients.
Supposed benefits: Your cells will literally be ‘born again’, having absorbed residual DNA from the placenta. You’ll enjoy that fresh-out-of-womb look, and your skin will be as velvety soft.
Where to get it: Face Bistro in Holland Village.
How much it costs: $168 for a 90-minute session that includes cleansing, pre-treatment mask, blackhead removal, placenta treatment, ultrasound and massage.
Marinate in snail mucus
Live snail spas are not yet available in Singapore, but you can get slug slime creams to make you slitheringly sultry.
What it really is: Sticky snail mucus in a jar. Smear yourself in it.
Supposed benefits: Have you noticed how you can’t tell the age of a snail? Someone in Japan finally revealed the secret of their luscious looks — their slime is a fountain-of-youth. A gooey yet potent moisturiser, it’ll make your skin as supple as a snail’s underbelly.
How much it costs: You’ll have to fork out $55 for Snail Cream from Snail Street, which displays a whole range of snail products; $64.90 for Premium Secret Snail Cream and $7.90 for 10 snail masks at The Skin Shop; and a range of $27.40 to $45 for cleansers, masks and creams from Snail White.
Pamper yourself with the luxury of gold
Wearing gold jewelry is so passé. Now you can gold-plate your face and feel like a modern-day, 24-carat Cleopatra.
What it really is:
An offbeat way to invest in the gold market A method that blends gold in face masks and treatments to be absorbed into the skin.
Supposed benefits: Human skin cells bind to gold micro-particles whirling at very high speeds and form a new super molecule that blocks all UV, instantly reversing skin aging and making you feel like a million dollar holler.
How much it costs: Premium Gold Face Therapy ($258/60mins) and Premium Gold Eye Treatment ($150/30mins) at FIL; Gold Deluxe/Platinum Face treatment ($283/150mins) session that includes cleansing, gold mask, gold serum eye treatment and shoulder massage at Bioskin.
Freeze your Face
Cryotherapy is nature’s way of slowing time. It’s also a chance to feel like you’re in a sci-fi experiment, so beat your biological clock by freezing your face today.
What it really is: A scary-sounding technique that exposes you to extremely cold liquid nitrogen, where temperatures dip as low as -300°F.
Supposed benefits: Believers in cryonics say you can preserve a body by freezing it, only to revive it later by unfreezing it. With regular facial cryotherapy, you can extend the lifespan of your skin cells. In fact, if you die, your epidermis (outer layer of cells) will survive and your corpse will enjoy flawless skin for the duration of the wake (with a, um, three- to seven-day money-back guarantee).
Where to get it: Absolute Zero at Scotts Road.
How much it costs: $234 for a 30-minute facial cryotherapy session.
Exfoliate with Fish
Get soft and tender skin at a fish spa, where the little swimmers nibble at your dead skin while you wonder how many legs they’ve snacked on.
What is really is: Hundreds of toothless little Garra rufa, aka “doctor fish”, busily feeding on your dead skin cells (usually on your feet, but if required, your entire body).
Supposed benefits: A day at the fish spa will cure that stubborn psoriasis, help you overcome your tickle phobia and allow you to reap the benefits of a pedi without strangers awkwardly fondling your feet. It could also be a fitting metaphor for your social life: as long as you provide the snacks, you’re the life of the party (but take note, if you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time, you might get a fungal infection).
How much it costs: $10/30mins at Qian Hu, $30/30mins at Kenko, and $30/30mins at Alleviate Fish Spa.
Feed bloodsucking leeches
Live your fantasy of being sucked on… by a slithery slug. Leech therapy has been around since ancient Egypt and is relatively common in several parts of the world.
What is really is: Five or six slithery slugs attach themselves to your skin and make languorous swallowing motions.
Supposed benefits: Leeches suck impure blood and leave behind a magic enzyme so detoxifying that there are people who swear by it. It’s said to be an alternative treatment for ailments like gout, sinus, acne and diabetes.
Where to get it: Leech Therapy.
How much it costs: A two- to three-hour session provides five to ten leeches; $10/leech.
Get silky with silkworms
Another secret geisha beauty trick leaked to the world, silkworm cocoons have been used to complement their nightingale doo-doo masks for hundreds of years.
What it really is: Flossy white casings woven by silkworms and used as thimbles to be rubbed on your face.
Supposed benefits: Sericin is the protein in cocoons that binds the silk threads together. It is marketed as a skin super food that will miraculously clear up your complexion. But don’t forget to thank the hapless silkworms that sacrificed their own metamorphosis for yours — the cocoons are thrown into boiling water before the silkworm emerges as a moth.
Where to get it: Cocoon Skin Care.
How much it costs: Products range from $12 to $30.
Feel the sting of bees
Known as ‘natural botox’, bee venom is all the buzz in Hollywood. Kylie Minogue, Victoria Beckham and Michelle Pfeiffer are all firm bee-lievers.
What it really is: The venom is collected by electroshocking the bees (apparently they survive) — it’s then mixed into a cream base that stings when applied.
Supposed benefits: It tricks your face into thinking it’s stung, so blood rushes forth and stimulates the production of collagen and elastin. The venom also penetrates your blood stream, turbocharges your neurones and helps you see through your rivals’ dark plots against you (we kid about the last one).
How much it costs: $22/60min massage and 15min apitherapy body treatment at One Beauty Spa; Heaven by Deborah Mitchell products range from $195 for Heaven Bee Venom Eyes to $1,050 for Heaven Gold Label Bee Venom Mask at Q Beauty and Wellness.
Suction your face
Cupping is an ancient form of therapy. In Singapore, it’s used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to improve blood flow, qi and drainage. Spas and beauticians offer cupping for anything from anti-aging to slimming treatments.
What it really is: Lots of cups applied to your skin, which feels like it’s being mildly vacuumed upwards.
Supposed benefits: The cupping action reboots capillaries, which then irrigate the whole face and carry away the fatty acids to the breast and buttocks area. The sensation of heat helps to chase away the ‘evil spirits’ — y’know, those that cause skin laxity and uneven tones. Qi is boosted for overall good health and you’ll probably be lucky in your gambling efforts that week.
Where to get it: SkinPerfect at various outlets.
How much it costs: From $68/90min session for cupping with radio frequency using Skin Refinery System.