Top 5 Weirdest Beauty Cream Ingredients

Unusual Skin Care Ingredients Image Gallery Do you know what you're putting on your face? See more pictures of unusual skin care ingredients.

Facial creams claim to do everything from minimizing wrinkles to completely reversing the aging process. The formulas for these cosmetics are complex and usually closely guarded, but it's mandated that the ingredients are clearly listed. If you took the time to read the label, you may be surprised at what you see. Human breast milk? The bone marrow of a chicken? Those are just a couple of things you may find in your beauty cream.

Our ancient human ancestors used various natural concoctions to help preserve their skin. Rose oil, kiwi, mud and honey are just a few "normal" examples of natural skin preservatives used then that are still used today. Then there are the weird ones. Cultures used different ingredients depending on what was available in their region. Some of those ingredients lasted through time and went on to play a part in the mainstream cosmetics market. So, thanks to ancient practices from all over the world, beauty creams can contain some pretty unusual ingredients.


5: Placenta

The female uterus lining that's expelled during childbirth is called the placenta. Placenta products were aggressively marketed in the 1940s in the Unites States with claims of wrinkle removal and initiating tissue growth. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disagreed and declared the products ineffective and the claims illegal. Shortly thereafter, placenta was declared a good source of protein. While this is true, it's not been proven to be any better for your skin than other proteins. In the right amounts, protein can be beneficial for your hair and skin. The placenta that's used in beauty creams today has been washed and processed many times over, ensuring that it's safe to use. The binding agents contained in the cosmetic also make it tough for any kind of bacteria to form. Because it's now FDA-approved, placenta still remains a popular beauty cream ingredient.


4: Whale Vomit

It may not sound very appealing, but whale vomit is actually quite valuable.

The first time people hear that whale vomit is an ingredient in some beauty creams, they may feel like someone is pulling their leg. But it's very much true, and it's perhaps better known by its other name -- ambergris. This flammable waxy substance has been used for centuries and is very valuable. It's added as a fixative in perfumes, some of which find their way into your beauty cream. A fixative is used mainly to reduce the rate of evaporation of the perfume. Ambergris is hard to find and tough to identify, which makes it worth so much money. The price of ambergris varies like any sought-after commodity, but it generally hovers around $10 per gram. Considering that you could find a chunk as large as 100 or more pounds, ambergris hunting can be a pretty profitable pastime.


3: Bird Droppings

The Geisha of Japan were some of the most revered entertainers in the entire Far East. Skilled performers in music and dance, they were trained in how to dress, behave, converse, dance and play traditional Japanese instruments. Geishas still exist in today's modern culture and some of their traditions have bled over into mainstream Western society. One New York salon offers what they call the Geisha Facial. This is a special facial that costs $180 and takes about an hour. The customer's face is gently brushed with a concoction made from a very interesting ingredient -- bird droppings. "Uguisu no fun," or powdered bird droppings, are the key ingredient in this ancient facial treatment. The uric acid in the poop is supposed to do wonders for your skin, and when you see the flawless, porcelain skin of a Geisha, it's hard to argue.


2: Cow Dung

A cow's waste just may save your face.

While it may not be on the shelves just yet, researchers in Japan have devised a way to create a sweet vanilla fragrance from cow dung. In 2006, it was announced thatwhen the manure goes through a specific heating and pressure process, it produces the central component of the vanilla bean, vanillin. While it was determined that the extract shouldn't be used in food items, they do promise to eventually use it as a fragrance in cosmetics, soaps and shampoos. It's a promising development, since it's essentially a recycling process and it costs less than half of extracting vanillin from a vanilla bean. The researchers are working to refine the process and they hope to be able to use it in a commercial application by 2010.


1: Semen

Yes, semen. Several companies are making moisturizing creams with this very unusual ingredient. Semen contains a very powerful antioxidant called spermine. A Scandinavian company called Skinscience makes an entire line of spermine beauty creams and tout the antioxidant as being 30 times stronger than Vitamin E [source: SkinScience]. This means that semen can be used to do everything from moisturizing your skin to healing your sunburn. Not only that, but a bull semen treatment is being used in some hair salons to give your locks some extra shine. Another company called Cmen Beauty Now delivers actual semen to your home in discreet packaging. They maintain that the donors for their product are tested monthly to ensure a safe and quality moisturizer.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • "Animals: Ambergris.", March 19, 1934.,9171,747186-1,00.html
  • "Celebrate Mother's Day with a Face Full of Placenta.", May 13, 2008.
  • "CMEN BEAUTY NOW: Unique, Innovative, Cutting Edge.", 2005.
  • "Glossary: Ambergris.", 2009.
  • "Japanese researchers extract vanillin from cow dung.", March 6, 2006.
  • Prance, Louise. "Bull-derived protein could signal new hair care trend.", March 13, 2007.
  • "The Geisha Facial.", 2009.
  • "Top 10 Strange Cosmetic Ingredients.", July 23, 2008.