5 Exotic Ingredients Found in Moisturizers

By: Jennifer Sellers

What does this nightingale have to do with moisturizer ingredients? See more pictures of unusual skin care ingredients.
David Tipling/Getty Images

Face and body moisturizers are essential to most beauty regimens. As a basic skin care component, moisturizers are known for their ability to soothe and protect dry and aging skin. Dermatologists recommend it, and aestheticians lavish it on their clients. Even the simplest drugstore moisturizer can feel luxurious and pampering -- particularly to dry, flaky or itchy skin.

There are many different types of ingredients that help a moisturizer do its job, which is to attract moisture to the outer layer of skin from the inner layer and to prevent the loss of moisture on the outer layer [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Some of these ingredients can be as basic and unremarkable as lanolin or mineral oil. Though effective, these elements don't necessarily convey a sumptuous skin care experience to moisturizer users. Therefore, moisturizer manufacturers will often add in more lavish -- even unusual -- components. Take a look at the five most exotic (and bizarre) moisturizer ingredients.


5: Cocoa

Cocoa beans usually end up producing chocolate, but some people have tried adding it topically in order to moisturize skin.
Cocoa beans usually end up producing chocolate, but some people have tried adding it topically in order to moisturize skin.
Simon Rawles/Getty Images

If you've been to a spa or beauty counter recently, you may have noticed cocoa being used in moisturizing products. This addition adds a sensory experience, if nothing else, but it may also be beneficial for your skin.

Cocoa is the bean from which chocolate is derived. While chocolate is a popular product in our society and is by no means a rarity, it still has an association with extravagance. It brings to mind indulgences such as truffles and bon-bons. Recently, however, scientists are noticing the more practical, beneficial side to chocolate: the antioxidants it contains.


Studies have shown that cocoa has a higher antioxidant capacity than both tea and red wine [source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry]. Of course, the health benefits of cocoa have mostly been studied in subjects who consume cocoa -- either in food or beverage. By and large, the benefits of cocoa when applied topically are largely unproven. The exception is cocoa butter, the vegetable fat from the cocoa bean. The moisturizing properties of cocoa butter have been known for years, and it's frequently used to treat everything from stretch marks to dry elbows.

4: Snake Venom

Fortunately, the snake itself isn't directly involved in the moisturizing process.
Fortunately, the snake itself isn't directly involved in the moisturizing process.
Win Initiative/Getty Images

Not all ingredients in moisturizers actually moisturize the skin. Some have other jobs, like smoothing wrinkles. If you want to smooth the wrinkles in your face, you could go through the trouble of getting Botox injections (which involves needles), or you could simply apply moisturizer that contains snake venom. Yes, you read that right: snake venom.

Synthetic venom from the Temple Viper is being used as a special ingredient in moisturizing creams. The synthetic venom paralyzes facial nerves in a way that's similar to how Botox works. While it doesn't create quite the same results as Botox, it does allow for more facial expressions. So, if you want to smooth wrinkles while avoiding needles -- and fangs -- this synthetic poison may be just what you're looking for.


3: Crushed Pearl

Could crushed pearls add some luster to your skin?
Could crushed pearls add some luster to your skin?
Tom Grill/Getty Images

Pearls, the coveted, beautiful productions of shelled mollusks, are usually worn as fine jewelry. They convey simple beauty and classic elegance. Yet, as alluring as they are dangling from your earlobes or hanging in a string around your neck, they may attract more attention when added to your moisturizer.

When pearls are crushed into a powder and added to face creams, lotions and ointments, they can add an incandescence or glow to skin. In addition, studies have shown that crushed pearl may actually reduce skin discoloration and improve skin tone. Scientists believe conchiolin, a protein similar to keratin that's found in pearl powder, is responsible for these benefits [source: Inside Cosmeceuticals]. Pearl powder also contains many minerals and amino acids that potentially add to its beautifying properties. If this elegant addition is in your moisturizer, it could give your skin a beautiful sheen that rivals that of an actual pearl.


2: Nightingale Poop

Believe it or not, a hygienic form of nightingale droppings is used as a moisturizer.
Believe it or not, a hygienic form of nightingale droppings is used as a moisturizer.
David Tipling/Getty Images

How far would you go for beautiful skin? If you would consider applying the excrement of nightingales to your face, you're not as extreme as you may think. Nightingale guano is a fairly popular Japanese beauty ingredient that's now becoming popular in Europe and the United States. According to legend, geishas used it to ensure clear skin and to remove heavy makeup.

Fortunately, these days you don't have to apply the bird poop directly to your skin to experience its benefits. A hygienic form of the droppings can be found in some moisturizing pastes and face masks. The excrement, which when used as a beauty ingredient is sanitized with ultraviolet (UV) light, contains an enzyme known as guanine, which has a cleansing, smoothing effect on the skin. If you're still unsure about whether you want to invest in a product containing bird poop, try it out at one of the many salons that offer it as the "geisha facial."


1: Caviar

If you want to moisturize in style, consider caviar.
If you want to moisturize in style, consider caviar.
Claudia Uribe/Getty Images

The edible fish eggs (also known as roe) that are a delicacy throughout the world are also showing up in moisturizers. If you want the same world-class skin care that the rich and famous receive, then moisturizers containing caviar extract are for you.

Caviar contains omega-3s, fatty acids known to be highly beneficial to a number of the body's systems -- including the skin. However, it's not believed to have a higher or more concentrated amount of omega-3s than other sources. The main draw of moisturizers containing caviar extract, however, is their luxury factor. The manufacturers of these moisturizers have taken an upscale culinary indulgence and integrated it into a rich, sumptuous skin cream. If you're looking to truly pamper your skin, what ingredient could be more extravagant than caviar?


For lots more information on strange skin care regimens, see the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

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