What price beauty?

Keep young and beautiful,
It’s your duty to be beautiful!
Keep young and beautiful,
if you want to be loved.

So says the Annie Lennox song:

But sometimes we get a little crazy in our quest for beauty. The search for that miracle cream that will sweep away blemishes and wrinkles, or the magical hair product that will give us luster and shine, can lead us to some outlandish places.

One salon in London is offering clients a protein treatment made from – wait for it – bull semen:


Touted as “Viagra for Hair,” this 45-minute treatment ranges from £55 to £85 ($90-$138 U.S.) and uses semen from Aberdeen Angus bulls. Hari’s combines the sperm with the root of the protein-rich plant Katera. The protein-enriched potion is massaged into the client’s hair after it has been shampooed. Then the client is put under heat so the treatment penetrates the hair. The final step is the blow out, which gives the hair an awful lot of body, as well as shine.

As someone who has spent plenty of cash on different conditioners and treatments in the pursuit of frizz-free, shiny hair, I can honestly say this is a bit much for me. But it’s nothing compared to using urine as a facial treatment. Urine! On your face! It seems to me that if your body had much use for what was in that urine, your body would have kept it in the first place. But don’t worry about that, because you can skip the urine and get a facial that uses synthesized human sperm or snail slime instead.

Total Beauty has a list of ten strange beauty treatments that includes the bull semen hair treatment as well as procedures involving live fish, the feces of nightingales and crocodiles, and placenta.

Vanity is a strong force, isn’t it? We spend so much of our lives being judged on how we look that it can make us crazy and the next thing we know we’re paying hundreds of dollars to have things smeared on us that we’d otherwise avoid in the hopes that it will make us beautiful or keep us young for a little longer. I certainly have nothing against natural remedies – I’m a fervent champion of honey and its many many uses. (I use it mixed with my conditioner and occasionally with crushed aspirin tablets as a facial mask.) But there’s a difference between embracing the idea of alternative methods and leaping into any unproven (and/or gross) new thing just because it’s trendy. A few years back Gwyneth Paltrow caused a stir when it was rumored she was using a facial moisturizer containing snake venom because the paralytic venom was believed to have a Botox-like effect on the face. Like a lot of these types of things, the claims were unproven and the side effects potentially dangerous. But tell women the stars are doing it (or just charge a lot of money) and we’ll line right up.

Some of these things do have a basis in science – the bull semen hair treatment is high in protein, for example. But you can get any number of protein-packed hair treatments without spending that much cash or drenching your head in bovine bodily fluids. In fact most of these trends have lower-priced and less insane counterparts. If you look at what’s supposed to make it work, it’s usually based on the ingredients and science already present in the beauty products you can get at any drug store. (Well, maybe not the live fish that eat the dead skin off your feet… but that’s another story.)

The Beauty Brains are a great resource for topics like this. The site, run by cosmetic scientists, explains the science behind beauty in terms anyone can understand and debunks a lot of the claims made by trendy beauty treatments.

It comes down to research. Before you try any new “miracle” treatment or product, do a little Googling and a little reading. It might save you some cash and some time.

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2 responses to “What price beauty?

  1. To be fair, we put petrol all over ourselves. I’m just saying.

    Spoog may be just a little too far though. And yes, I agree with your assessment on urine – if our body needed it/wanted it, it would keep it.

    • Having allergy-sensitive skin has made me a little more aware of what’s in the products I use. I’ve switched to a lot of natural products with limited chemicals. Not that chemicals are bad, but there’s something comforting about being able to pronounce what’s in my shampoo.

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