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10 Insane Beauty Treatments

by Mike Devlin
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Since time immemorial, humans have been willing to endure grievous sacrifices to conform to society’s idea of beauty. In Africa and Asia, the women of certain tribes wear deforming metal coils that deform their neck and shoulders. In China, where foot binding was in vogue, there remain elderly women crippled by the procedure. The Western world too has its bizarre practices. The obsession with youth leads people to take terrible risks, injecting their faces with toxins, going under the knife, even bathing in excrement… Below are ten of the most dangerous, disgusting, and downright ridiculous beauty treatments in the world.


Thai Face Slapping


While many of the procedures on this list are quite risky, the face slapping bit is in good fun. Offered by Bangkok masseuse Tata in her San Francisco massage parlor, the treatment consists of pinching and manipulating the skin and light slaps that are said to cure wrinkles and shrink pores. Whether this is at all helpful in restoring a youthful appearance is highly debatable, but it doesn’t come cheap. A single 15 minute session will set you back $350.


Stem Cell Cosmetics


The use of stem cells in medical treatments remains highly controversial, with detractors claiming their use is “playing God”. Very basically, stem cells can “transform” into any other cell, and are used by the body to make repairs. The only stem cell treatment approved by the US Food and Drug Administration is a bone marrow transplant in the instance of leukemia, but that hasn’t stopped many patients from seeking cutting-edge plastic surgeries, wherein the cells are drawn from the body via liposuction and then re-injected into the face, to repair wrinkles. Unfortunately, the procedure is in its infancy, and there is no way to predict exactly how the cells will behave. In at least one horrifying instance, a woman grew bones in her eyelid.


Fish Pedicure

Ifwt Fish-Pedi

The doctor fish is native to the rivers and springs of the Middle East, a toothless creature around the size of a guppy. Like a lot of fish, these guys are not particularly picky eaters. In fact, they have been used for some years to perform pedicures; gnawing the dead and callused skin away from the feet. The creepy procedure is apparently quite effective, and those who have had it done claim it is painless. However, in much of the world, just as these pedicures began taking off, they were banned, as letting fish in communal baths chew on toes of multiple customers is not in the least sterile. Seized fish have been shown to carry a wide array of bacteria, including that which causes cholera and streptococcal infections.


Bird Poop Geisha Facial

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The ideal of the geisha is quite foreign to Western sensibilities; her role often varied, anything from servant to concubine to entertainer, and everything in between. Perhaps the best known aspect of the geisha is her white pancake makeup, which was once lead-based and ravaged the skin. To restore their appearance, the geisha used a cream made from the droppings of nightingales, which contained revitalizing enzymes. Or so the staff at Shizuka New York, a posh Japanese spa in Manhattan, would lead you to believe. For just $180, they will paint your face with bird poo, carefully sanitized under ultraviolet light and mixed with some other ingredients to hide the rather disagreeable smell. While the claims seem dubious, some customers have reported a “glow” on their face after the treatment.


DC-CIK Cancer Therapy

Blood-Test--Lab-File-JpgDC-CIK treatment is another controversial procedure which involves drawing blood from a patient suffering from cancer. The blood is then turned over to a lab, where it is concentrated, then injected back into the body after chemotherapy or surgery. It is said to promote healing. However, some dubious clinics in Hong Kong have begun offering the treatment to give patients a more youthful appearance. At least one death from septic shock has been reported, and several others have been sent to the hospital, infected by mycobacterium abcessus, a nasty bacteria known to cause lung disease and wound infections.



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Most of us have a relationship of absolute necessity with our urine; one quick flush and its gone. There is however, a small but dedicated community that extolls the supposedly restorative properties of urine. These people claim drinking urine can cure (or at least relieve the symptoms of) a vast number of diseases, ranging from lupus to multiple sclerosis, and even cancer. Urine is also used for beauty treatments; when applied topically, advocates claim it is excellent for the skin, clearing up psoriasis, eczema, and acne. The best urine is apparently taken midstream first thing in the morning, when beneficial hormones have been able to build up overnight. Perhaps not surprisingly, the legitimate medical community has not recognized any benefit to the consumption of urine.




Although many bodily modifications made in the name of beauty could be described as frivolous, toe narrowing is amongst the most foolish. A growing number of people, unsatisfied with “fat” toes, have been turning to podiatrists for help. The procedure, which is somewhat gruesome, involves splitting the toe open and grinding down the bone and fat inside. While not a terribly risky procedure, it still carries the dangers inherent in any surgery. There is also usually a long recovery time.


Micro-Needle Therapy


The micro-needle roller resembles some kind of medieval torture device; sporting hundreds of tiny spikes, it is designed to puncture the skin at the microscopic level, both inducing it to heal itself and allowing for the penetration of creams. Many celebrities are said to use micro-needle treatment, and it is particularly popular in China. While the effectiveness of the treatment itself is debatable, the danger is not: there is no way to truly sterilize the equipment, and using it on multiple people provides a vector for infections, including blood-borne pathogens like HIV and hepatitis.


Bee Venom Mask


Advertised as a “safer” version of botox (itself a tamed version of the Botulinum toxin, one of the deadliest known substances), bee venom wrinkle cream has become all the rage, the beauty secret of the UK’s Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Cornwall. Quite expensive, the cream apparently induces a reaction in the skin that causes the body to believe it has been stung or damaged, increasing blood flow and collagen and repairing the area. The venom itself is harvested in a process wherein a “harmless” mild electric current is run through a pane of glass, inducing the bees to sting. There has been a larger movement for some years to use bee venom to cure all sorts of maladies, from multiple sclerosis to arthritis, but tests have shown it to be largely ineffective. Obviously, the use of venom carries with it serious risks; those who find themselves allergic can easily succumb to anaphylactic shock.



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This one takes masochism to extremes rarely imagined. A few decades ago, the vast majority of those sporting tattoos were bikers and sailors, outlaws of a sort. Today, sorority girls the world over are inked. Cosmetic tattooing is not a terribly new phenomenon, with many women getting their eyebrows or lips done. But a strange new craze has begun sweeping the UK; women getting their nipples darkened and defined. Over a dozen salons offer the treatment, and word continues to spread. Local anesthesia is administered and a color complimentary to the patient’s skin tone is added. Every year to year and a half, a follow up appointment is scheduled to maintain the appearance.

Mike Devlin is an aspiring novelist. He cuts his own hair, so he probably isn’t the person to look to for beauty advice.

fact checked by Jamie Frater