Here’s a little Cosmo-style quiz. Instead of testing your Penis Perspicacity, you’re finding out whether you have what it takes to live the New York Times Style section lifestyle! Just think about the question, formulate your answer, then read on to find your score.
You look in the mirror, and notice your skin isn’t looking very radiant. You want to look younger, eliminate wrinkles and clogged pores, and have softer, more supple skin than ever. What do you do?
If you said Botox, you get a 0. A real Style section reader would already be getting Botox treatments every week. You should be Botoxed to the max. Botox isn’t like spin class — you can’t get better results by going three times a day. Think outside the Botox! (I’m the first person to think of that Botox-related play on words, right?)
If you said anything about lasers, 1 point. Using lasers suggests you’re willing to put in the effort, but come on, this isn’t the 90s. I suppose you’re also still conflicted about the ethical implications of Napster. It’s 2012! You should be seeking an all-natural, organic way to defy the aging process forever.
If you said yoga, you get 2 points. Yoga is renowned for promoting relaxation and health, but it will also kill you. “Live slow, die young, leave a beautiful corpse,” that’s the yogi’s motto. It’s not worth the risk!
If your answer involves nutricosmetics, cosmiceuticals, collagen marshmallows or phytonutrient-enhanced vodka, you’re getting warmer! 3 points. These are all great, prestige-enhancing ways to preserve your youthful appearance, but they’ve been around since the dawn of time (2010). If they worked, everyone would look great already, and cosmepreneurs would have stopped inventing new skincare breakthroughs. You don’t see that happening, do you?
Did you guess “bird poop”? Good job! You score 4 points and, in an ideal world, would win a dream date with the Fat Radish guys. For those who didn’t get it right away, I hope you now realize why this answer makes perfect sense. Bird poop enters the beauty arena with all the surprise, shock and horror of the new. And it’s not just birds — all animal species are hot right now. While plants basically sit in one place all day photosynthesizing and being inert, animals are unpredictable. They’re constantly on the go, crawling or flying around, pooping and emitting various (presumably therapeutic) slimes and venoms, trying to sting you and infect you with malaria. Or is it malaria? Maybe it’s a moisture-infusing bioactive compound! Sure, most products of animal glands and orifices look revolting, but that’s just an evolutionary adaptation. It’s designed to protect organisms from the more appearance-conscious members of the ecosystem. Just as nuts have shells (to stop foraging mammals from using them as hair serum) and cactuses have thorns (to discourage grazers from turning them into antioxidant-infused tequila), birds, reptiles and insects make their secretions extra-disgusting to prevent predators from harnessing their glowifying and anti-aging powers. It’s nature’s way of saying “no pain, no gain.”
Yes, if the fountain of youth is ever to be found, it must be wrung from the living flesh of kingdom Animalia. That’s why Alix Strauss writes, in “Fertilizer for the Face,” that “a recent Monday morning found me at Shizuka New York Day Spa in Midtown, getting the Geisha Facial.” The Geisha facial is made from sterilized nightingale poop. It is traditional, all-natural, “said to break down dead skin cells,” and most importantly, is in no way a metaphor for the absurdity of an advanced capitalist system that forces workers to perform demeaning tasks at subsistence wages while allowing capitalists to reap the rewards of their labor by transforming worthless “commodities” into fetishized luxury goods that can be sold to bourgeois consumers at inflated prices. That’s ridiculous, how could you even think something so immature. (However, it is ironic that rich ladies are paying to put doo-doo on their faces.)
“The treatment, I was told by Asako Nunose, the aesthetician, originated centuries ago when Japanese entertainers damaged their skin from the high lead level in their white makeup. As a remedy, they used a mask containing nightingale droppings.” It just makes sense: The people best qualified to advise you on preventing skin damage are the people who ruined their skin by smearing lead on it in the first place. It’s like how AA sponsors are always former alcoholics, or Republicans have the best plans for fixing the deficit, or Medieval alchemists always had lots of base metals around needing to be transformed into gold.
“For this modernized hourlong version, which costs $180, the excrement is sanitized under ultraviolet light, then mixed with rice bran, an exfoliant and brightener.” This is a very “stone soup” approach to sanitized excrement. Throw some Oil of Olay in there, and it might actually work!
“Because the poop contains guanine, a nucleobase, it supposedly shines the skin as well.” Thanks for not taking the time to explain what a “nucleobase” is. Since all readers of the Style section have advanced degrees in biochemistry and are extremely busy, it would be a waste of our time to read extra words. However, I am confused by the statement that the masque “shines” the skin. Is that another technical term? Because my skin isn’t a patent leather boot, plus I don’t want it to look shiny. Once your skin is shined, do you have to apply a mattifier made from ragweed pollen?
“I was calm as Ms. Nunose explained all of this while applying the poop powder, prepared and flown in from Japan.” Yes, Japan, exotic land of mystery. You didn’t think they were going to use boring old American bird poop, did you? I can’t decide whether to be relieved or disappointed that this nascent industry isn’t providing jobs for U.S. workers.
“Then it brushed up against my lips and slipped into my mouth.” It seems like for $180, at minimum, you should be guaranteed a dung-in-mouth-free application process. I don’t want to cast doubt on this woman’s aesthetic prowess, but remind me never to get a Brazilian bikini wax from Asako Nunose.
“The next morning my skin did glow.” Another triumph for nucleobases! “’Though turning to animal ingredients isn’t the newest concept, it categorically popped out of nowhere,’ said Jeanine Recckio, of Mirror Mirror Imagination Group, which forecasts beauty trends. ‘Consumers are gravitating toward their exotic or shock appeal.’” So conceptually they’re not new, but categorically, they are? The lucidity of that statement is only matched by the flawless logic of the idea that people are buying something because they “gravitate toward” it. However opaque, this theory of consumer motivation occurs with surprising frequency in the Times archives. For instance, “many of Brazil’s creative types gravitate to Rio,” and biker jacket wearers “gravitated toward authentic American models from Harley-Davidson and Avirex.” “Those with the money to collect [art in New York] often gravitate toward traditional landscapes and portraits,” while buyers at an art auction gravitated toward “quintessential” works by George Moore and Juan Le Gris. You never hear about people “gravitating toward” payday loans, or riding the bus. My theory is that trend gravitation only affects the more prosperous among us, because their wallets have more mass.
“Some of these consumers are famous, like the Duchess of Cornwall and Gwyneth Paltrow, who have reportedly tried the Bee Venom mask, the creation of Deborah Mitchell, a beauty specialist. According to promotional literature, bee venom is said to freeze muscles, creating a Botox-like effect.” So far we’ve heard the phrases “is said to,” “supposedly,” and “according to promotional literature.” Not to discount the wisdom of Dr. Passivevoice Tryingtosellsomething, but until they can prove it really works, I’m just going to keep eating dehydrated bear gallbladders.
“And Mel Gibson has acknowledged using cow brains, or selegiline, a smelly yellow ointment that, in other forms, is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and depression. In his case, he has said that ‘it cleans the neurotransmitters and sharpens mental focus.’” Coming from a mentally sharp individual like Mel, that means a lot. Does it just clean the neurotransmitters, or does it plump and shine them, too? I feel like my neurotransmitters are starting to look old.
“Cosmeceutical brands, which include biologically active ingredients like those derived from animals, were the fastest-growing segment of the prestige skin-care market in 2011. Perhaps this is because some people trying high-tech ingredients (like peptides or StriVectin) or stem-cell technology or even purportedly natural and organic products have been disappointed.” What have I been telling you? You can’t expect something to work just because it’s new and exotic. Thank God people are finally learning, and playing it safe with brand-new remedies that haven’t been disproven yet.
“’People discovered organic didn’t always mean organic, and marketed naturals could be harmful to one’s skin,’ said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. ‘Animal extracts are a new way of treating the skin, while offering a new definition of natural.’” So the new definition is that it’s from…a different part of nature? The part that’s made of animals instead of plants. Meet the new definition, strikingly similar to the old definition. Cosmeticeutical researchers, don’t quit your day jobs and become lexicographers.
“Wrinkle Butter with earthworm complex, a cream derived from earthworm excrement, went on the market at the end of December.” I learned in elementary school that all dirt is worm poop, and that’s how dirt got there in the first place. So, this company is selling dirt to people for $26.99. Contemporary fiction writers, take note. Your latest Gary Shteyngart-esque satire on the contemporary zeitgeist is going to have to feature a company selling antiaging dirt for even more money than this. I suggest using a memorable number, like $666.69. Also, is there a more beautiful phrase in the English language than “Wrinkle Butter with Earthworm”? Not yet, but just wait until I launch my revolutionary new product “Goiter Bacon with Brown Recluse Spider Complex.”
The company is planning “more earthworm-based product”; somebody else is making a synthetic snake venom skin cream called Syn-Ake. “And last month, Dermelect Cosmeceuticals introduced its ME collection of anti-aging nail lacquers, an extension of its well-selling treatment line. The six polishes contain ProSina, a protein-peptide derived from New Zealand sheep’s wool, which, the company says, closely resembles protein found in nails.” Oh sure, laugh all you want. Right now, you don’t think you’ll ever need it, because you’re young. You can just party all night and go off to work in the morning, and your nail beds will look as fresh and nubile as ever. But let me tell you, it won’t always be that way. Get a few more miles on the odometer, and all the cold cream in the world won’t hide the abuse you’ve put that cuticle area through. Enjoy those perfect, unlined nails while you can. I wish I had, believe me. “Now of my threescore years and ten,/ Twenty will not come again,/ My nail beds look totally busted/ I feel like such a hag.”
“’For many, a plant or a completely organic product isn’t satisfactory to women who want healing properties and a solution to their problems,’ said Amos Lavian, founder of Dermelect Cosmeceuticals, who said he got the idea for the sheep’s wool from reading the New Zealand Journal of Medicine.” Yeah, fuck plants! So unsatisfactory. I would love to know what Amos Lavian’s method for reading medical journals is. Perhaps it involves looking up his lucky horoscope numbers for the day, then flipping to that page and turning whatever the article is about into a cosmeceutical. Or maybe he just throws them down the stairs. If he reads them cover to cover, that’s even worse. “Complications of diabetes… boring… suicidal depression… who cares… testicular cancer, what a fucking joke… dengue fever, cholera, intestinal parasites, blah blah blah, people in India are pussies… wait a minute, wombat earwax can shrink pores by 12%?! This is huge!”
“‘We have very little data to know if those cosmetics work,’ Dr. Zeichner said. ‘Perhaps all they do is moisturize. But these animal ingredients have some medical research behind them. All we can do is to wait and see how well they work.’” Yes… all we can do is wait. As long as there’s a chance, no matter how small, that smearing dung and poison on your face might improve your appearance, we can’t afford not to give it a shot. In a world crying out for answers, the greatest mistake… would be failing to act.
“Masque*ology, a new mask-based skin-care line developed in South Korea, whose Cell Renewal Mask contains snail secretion, recently arrived at Sephora. ‘I’d been searching for an animal-extract product for a few years, but couldn’t find one that seemed legit,’ said Carolyn Bojanowski, Sephora’s director of skin-care merchandising. Independent vendors with homegrown concepts don’t have conglomerates behind them, she said, ‘which can mean they don’t have testing or stability, so the product can be sketchy.'” Multinational conglomerates seem to get all the bad press, so I’m glad someone finally stuck up for them. This reminds me of something, though. Sketchiness… sinister corporation… slime… that’s it! Company tricks consumers into eating ammonia-laced beef slime, has to lay off workers. Company tricks consumers into putting snail slime on their faces, is hailed as “legit,” gets contract with Sephora. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? There’s gotta be some sort of dermal revitalizing effect of Lean Finely Textured Beef. If we all just put pink slime on our faces and snail secretion in our hamburgers, we could save American jobs, solve the world’s food crisis, end the obesity epidemic and look 10 years younger! Forget about cosmeceuticals and nutricosmetics, how about cosnutrimetics and nutricosmetrition? This is genius!
“After a week of smearing snail secretion and snake and bee venom — the worm poop was a bit too hard to commit to — over my face and body, my pores looked slightly smaller, and my skin felt marginally softer and moisturized.” A ringing endorsement. Maybe the nucleobases in the snail secretion and the venom are opposites, and cancel each other out. “It wasn’t the visual transformation I was hoping for — I still require Botox for the massive crease in my forehead — but I didn’t break out either.” I guess in the end, it’s the simple things that matter. We can go chasing rainbows, trying to keep up with the Joneses, “getting and spending” to acquire the latest technology, but in the end, nothing works better than good, ol’-fashioned Botox.
Likelihood that trend exists: 4/10
Importance of trend in grand scheme of things: 2/10
Adherence to trend piece formula: 7/10 (disappointed by failure to consider how current economic situation could impact consumer demand for animal-based skin products)
Best aspect of author’s writing style: Mentioned lots of cool animals
Suggestion for improving author’s writing style: Stop subjecting self to ridiculous scam “beauty treatments” in name of journalism