Does the foreskin facial prove that the beauty industry has gone too far?
What looks 32, is actually 45 and has a face covered in cells from a baby’s circumcised foreskin? I’ll admit, that last bit doesn’t roll off the tongue but the answer is Hollywood actress Kate Beckinsale. She is just one of an increasing number of people who hope to have found the elixir of eternal youth in a rather unusual place.
The serum, which is thought to reverse the signs of ageing, is derived from the foreskins of South Korean newborns. To get scientific for what I promise will only be a few seconds, the treatment uses the progenitor cells of the human fibroblast and its technical name is “Epidermal Growth Factor” (EGF) serum.
While the origins of said elixir are somewhat unsavoury, the results are said to be fantastic. It helps build collagen and elastin - smoothing away wrinkles and making one appear radiant. Other notable EGF alumnae include Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock who, to be fair to them, also seem to be defying the effects of ageing. There are some downsides, however.
After joining the two year waiting list, you will eventually have the treatment which requires a technician to microneedle your skin - literally stabbing you in the face hundreds of thousands of times. Furthermore, each treatment costs around $650. Lastly - and this one probably pales in significance compared to the previous points - the serum itself is said to smell just like sperm.
However, having mentioned the exorbitant price tag, there are now some cheaper EGF products on the market (albeit without the benefits of the painful microneedling process). Icelandic company BIOEFFECT explains: “We believe effective, transformative, truly hydrating skin care is not created by marketing departments, unpronounceable ingredients, expensive packaging, or outdated technology, but by cutting-edge science and a radically new approach.”
On their website, where they sell EGF products for as little a $90 per tube, they explain: “Today, consumers understand the difference between antioxidants, AHAs and retinoids, and can make informed choices about what their skin needs. One of the advantages of scientific skincare is that ingredients have been thoroughly tried and tested as well as having a specific, proven effect on the skin. BIOEFFECT’s star ingredient is of course EGF, a protein in human skin that signals cells to boost collagen and elastin production to maintain healthy, dense, and youthful skin. Being plant-based makes it uniquely pure and stable.”
While medical waste seems like a weird place to rummage around for beauty products, the cells in the serum are actually cloned. (It’s a bit like rubbing mould from rotting food into your skin - but not the actual mould, just the mould that grew from the original mould in a lab.)
However, it is perhaps not the most bizarre skin treatment out there. The snail facial, for instance, first became available in 2013 in Japan and necessitates some adorable gastropods sliming their way across your face. Their mucus, with its antioxidants, hyaluronic acid and proteins, helps your skin retain moisture and exfoliates it at the same time.
This is perhaps not as bizarre as the vampire facial, made famous by Kim Kardashian. Posting a picture of herself covered in blood, Kim’s subsequent selfie was bound to garner attention. The process takes blood from the client themselves before adding it to a centrifuge.
The centrifuge then spins the blood, which splits it into its component parts. The plasma (or PRP) is then injected back into the skin. The platelet-rich substance is supposed to improve texture, skin tone and smooth away wrinkles. If you’re intrigued by the selfie, the process was also in an episode of Kourtney and Kim Take Miami.
But this is probably not as questionable as the placenta facial (not to be confused with the yet-to-be-invented polenta facial, which I think would be great). This treatment uses a delicious cocktail of sheep placenta and hyaluronic acid to create a stem cell concentrate. Victoria Beckham and Simon Cowell are both said to have rocked the afterbirth look - for approximately 75 minutes, which is how long it takes to fully sink in (both physically and metaphorically).
Blurring the lines between the definitions of the word “facial”, there is also a semen facial - for if the mere smell of sperm simply isn’t enough. In a slightly more “backstreet” setup, a beauty blogger claimed in 2015 that she accepted donations from male friends in order to create a mask of semen to help treat her rosacea. That said, she also has a rather racy premium section on her website so perhaps she was aiming for some publicity.
While the semen selfie is yet to truly take off, the concerning truth is that, with a bit of celebrity endorsement, it probably would. The anti-ageing industry is worth at least $250bn globally and much of this is driven by Hollywood stars’ sponsorship of unusual and often extortionately-priced treatments. Personally, when I can afford it, I might opt for a liquid gold facial - where colloidal gold is applied to one’s visage. As for sperm, snails and foreskins, I’ll probably pass.