When a bird shits on you, it’s generally not the finest moment in one’s day, even despite the incident being a supposed omen of good luck to come. But what if applying bird shit to your face really did climb up to be the finest moment in your day?
Set in midtown Manhattan, there are no “what-ifs” at Shizuka New York Day Spa — the staff here are proving nature’s less than pretty wonder, to be the secret behind a glowing complexion.
Borrowing an ancient Japanese tradition of integrating nightingale droppings into one’s beauty regime (a practice previously reserved for geishas), owner, Shizuka Bernstein, has incorporated the method into a modern day facial. Intrigued by the somewhat comical idea of paying to have poo applied to my face in the name of good skin, I just had to give the Geisha Facial a try. My boyfriend on the other hand, who was not feeling as adventurous as me (not surprising since this would count as his first visit to a spa ever), opted for a classic Shiatsu Massage.
Upon entering the spa, an interesting mix of Japanese culture is immediately noticed — it’s part businessman, part Zen. Shizuka is set within an office building, with a space that resembles the shell of a doctor’s office, filled with the décor elements of a spa. While in might not sound ideal to those who prefer their spas with luxury waiting rooms complete with plush recliners and pitchers of cucumber water, the combination works well considering Shizuka is a medical spa.
To begin, we are both lead to cubbies in the separated waiting room, and asked to get undressed and slip into the robe and slippers provided. Once under the covers, we sink into relaxation in our respective treatment rooms.
For him, it’s about releasing the tension in his back and shoulders, and discovering the relaxation found in being worked on by a masseuse with what he later described to me as an “intuitive touch” and “veteran massage swagger.”
For me, it’s about the anticipation…and it’s high; I can’t even imagine how one begins a facial centered around bird droppings. I would soon learn.
As Bernstein shares, her own knowledge of the benefits of this curious beauty tool was passed down from her grandmother, who shared the history of nightingale droppings in Japan. Discovered by geishas who needed a remedy for removing the white makeup off their faces (a tough substance which formerly contained lead causing many geishas to be sick or even die), the ladies stumbled upon nightingale droppings, which they found to not only remove the stubborn makeup, but also left the skin with a “radiant shine,” says Bernstein.
Achieving a radiant shine is on my mind, when my own Geisha Facial begins. It starts as per any ordinary treatment, with the skin being cleansed, in this case, with Bernstein’s own line of Shizuka New York cleansers. After my skin is cleaned, a mix of bird droppings — chock full of natural enzymes — and rice bran is used to exfoliate. This is followed by a light extraction, and then a facial massage made lovely with fragrant lavender oil (the Western component) and moisturizing camellia oil (the Eastern component, traditionally used on scalp). The treatment ends with a collagen mask and an application of the facial’s namesake moisturizer.
Berstein’s fusion of east and west is as clear as night and day, but it is the furthest from a trendy gimmick that you can get. Every aspect of Shizuka — from décor to services — combines the best of both worlds to create advanced treatments that provide both wellness and beauty benefits. “Our skin care treatments are based in Western medicine, which uses science and modern technology, and my Japanese heritage reflects Eastern philosophy, which is a holistic approach stressing hospitality,” Shizuka explains. “I always try to bring Japanese beauty secrets and hospitality to my work. I take tea ceremony classes every week, and I learn Zen philosophy from it.”
The pay off is clear in the final results: mind and body. My boyfriend re-enters the welcome area a new man, seeming as if made of jelly his shoulders are so at ease. “It’s a relief that comes only from a master masseuse,” he sighs with satisfaction. And me, my skin is noticeably glowing, with a smooth shine that I previously thought impossible for regular human beings (not a product of Photoshop) to obtain.
They say you learn something new everyday: bird poo. Who knew?
(feature as seen in FILLER Magazine)