Uguisu no fun

Uguisu no fun (うぐいすの粉), 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 been used in the Western world.[1] This facial has been referred to as the “Geisha Facial”.[1] The facial is supposed to lighten the skin and balance skin tones that have acne or sun damage.[2]



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

The use of nightingale excrement dates back to the Heian period (A.D. 794 – 1185) where it was introduced to the Japanese by the Koreans.[1][3] The Koreans used the guano to remove dye from kimono fabric which allowed them to make intricate designs on the clothing.[1][3] The Japanese used the bird droppings to remove stains from silk garments, like kimonos.[4][5] Then, during the Edo period (A.D. 1603–1868), the Japanese expanded the use by using it as a beauty treatment.[3] Some sources, however, report that as early as the 3rd century, Japanese women rubbed bags of rice bran on their faces and used nightingale droppings to whiten the skin.[6][7] Geishas and Kabuki actors used heavy white makeup that contained zinc and lead, which could have caused skin diseases and other issues.[1][8] Uguisu no fun was used to thoroughly remove the makeup and whiten and even the skin.[1][4] Also, Buddhist monks used the droppings to polish and clean their bald scalps.[1][3]

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]

Modern day use of uguisu no fun in Japan may be attributed to a respect for the ancestral tradition as well as 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

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 give 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

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]


  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)". 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

  • Carroll, Marcie; Carroll, Rick (2007). The Unofficial Guide to Maui. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Inc.. p. 249. ISBN 9780470052242. 
  • Fodor’s (2009). Fodor’s Japan (19 ed.). Fodor’s Travel. p. 180. ISBN 9871400008278. 
  • Golden, Arthur (1997). Memoir’s of a Geisha. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.. p. 80. ISBN 0-375-40011-7. 
  • Frommer’s (2010). Frommer’s Tokyo. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Inc.. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-470-53764-0. 
  • Berg, Rona (2007). Beauty: The New Basics. Wiley Publishing Inc.. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-7611-0186-4. 
  • Drill, Esther; McDonald, Heather; Odes, Rebecca (2002). The Looks Book. Penguin (Non-Classics). p. 86. ISBN 978-0142002117. 

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