This article originally appeared on VICE Spain
Mankind is so obsessed with the concept of beauty that we're constantly committing utter atrocities in order to keep ourselves flawless and eternally youthful. Men and women alike shave, wipe, anoint, moisturize, foam, scrub, fill, inject, color, and suck the ugly away. Meanwhile, the high priestess of the unholy beauty rituals is undoubtedly Kim Kardashian, whose Instagram is a testament to how far humans can take their desire to be beautiful.
A while back, I rinsed my hair with vinegar. It's not something I usually do, but my grandma always tells me that back in the day, when there wasn't any shampoo or conditioner available, she'd use vinegar or lemon to rinse her hair. And my grandmother's not alone: Scarlett Johansson also uses vinegar to beautify. Talking about it with my colleagues in the office, it seemed that everyone had their own homemade beauty tip—yogurt with sugar to get rid of cellulite, avocado for dry skin, frozen spoons to get rid of under-eye bags. The tip that took the cake came from my colleague Alvaro Piñero, online editor of i-D Spain, who applies hot sauce on his lips to make them "nicely red and plump" without any lip balm. I liked this idea, so I decided to try it out.
I went down to the supermarket near the office to get some Sriracha sauce, and I put it on my lips. They were a bit chapped, so it stung a lot more than I thought it would. Straight away, I noticed them swelling up. I thought that was a lot easier and tastier than the legendary #kyliejennerchallenge, which saw teens post videos on social media of themselves trying to get Kylie Jenner's full lips by suctioning a shot glass to their lips.
While I won't be doing that last thing, what follows is a personal investigation into the world of celebrity beauty treatments—because if any group of people should know, it's the people making a living out of looking hot. I rubbed some placenta on me, had snails take a hike on my face, bathed in vinegar and lemon juice, whitened my teeth by rubbing them with strawberries, put hemorrhoid cream on the bags under my eyes, and underwent Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy—which basically means I had blood injected in my face.
PLACENTA ON MY FACE
Apparently placenta—human or animal—is very beneficial for stimulating collagen in the skin. The idea of having a bloody afterbirth on me made me want to retch, but if it's good enough for Kim Kardashian, Harry Styles, and Victoria Beckham, it's good enough for me. Even Madonna has tried it, although she used placenta-based creams. I preferred to get hold of the raw material directly—if I was doing it, I wanted to do it right.
It was pretty difficult to get hold of a placenta. I called up a number of vets, but I quickly learned that asking a stranger for placenta is asking to get hung up on. I got lucky when I called a horse-breeding center in the area that has stallions, mares, and foals hopping about. No question there would be heaps of placentas in their stables. When I called them up, it didn't even surprise them that much that I was asking for a placenta. They were very sweet about it and invited me to go and collect one during a birth that was going to take place that very day.
When I got there, the foal was a few hours old and she was enormous. They explained to me that the mare was called Divina and that her baby didn't have a name yet. Apparently, they baptize their foals with names starting with a different letter of the alphabet each year, and this year, they were using the letter O. Then, the sweetest thing happened: They asked me whether I wanted to be the godmother of the young mare and name her. The tiny giant deserved a name as divine as her mother's, so I decided to name her Olympia. That was it, nothing more to it.
Divina's placenta was kept in a tub and I brought it home quickly, so I could put it in the fridge. It stayed there for a night, together with some soy shakes, radishes, and carrots. When we took it out of the tub the next day, it already smelt like death—really one of the most unpleasant smells I've come across in my entire life. But there was no getting out of this. With the help of my friend Gonzalo I cut a piece of placenta that would be the bit I'd have on my face. It wasn't easy to pick a bit but we did in the end.
It rested on my face for a couple of minutes, while I tried not to think about how much it stank. It was moist and sticky and nightmarish.
I struggled with it for a few minutes, until I couldn't take it anymore. I ran to the bathroom with my bloody face, about to throw up. Luckily, I didn't. I didn't look any younger, either. All I had for the rest of the day was a weird smell lingering in my nose and a blood-stained fridge. In order to calm myself down and to be sure that it hadn't been in vain, I called up Dr. Marisa Manzano, plastic surgeon of the Anti-aging Group Barcelona and a specialist in aesthetic plastic surgery.
Her response was quite depressing: "Creams with animal and vegetable stem cells are a scam. It's not scientifically proven that they work. Think of lizards—when you cut off their tail it grows back again. We have a much more complex system than animals and rely on a much richer immune system. Putting animal placenta on your face has no effect whatsoever, because our tissues do not absorb the benefits of an animal placenta," she explained.
SNAILS ON MY FACE
That last comment was a bit of a setback given that I wanted to test what snail slime would do to my face. I decided to not let myself be influenced by Dr. Manzano's opinions, because for every doctor saying something can't work, there's a pretty celebrity saying it does.
It proved pretty difficult to find a living snail to hang out on my face—especially after days without rain. I asked in food shops, because I know that there are people who buy and cook them. I've never tried eating a snail but I have this idea that they taste like chewing gum. Supermarket chain Carrefour sells pre-cooked snails in a sauce and frozen. I bought the frozen ones because I didn't think the sauce would do much for my face. Katie Holmes is said to have happily used snail slime cream for her skin, and it makes sense: Snails can make reparations on their own shell. But rubbing frozen snails on my face sadly did nothing for me. I had to try this with living snails.
When it finally started to rain, I found a couple of snails lurking on the landing of the stairs to my house. I invited them over to my place to freely wander over my face. That's what they did.
One made his way mostly over my forehead, while the other one preferred my chin. We spent some time like this, with me putting the snails back into position every time they nearly fell off. When I decided that it was finally enough, my face was all sticky and felt like cardboard. After I washed with water, my face really did feel cleaner and smooth—though a little slimy, too. I do wonder if there was some wishful thinking there, given the fact that I had just had a horse's placenta and live snails on my face, but all I can say is that my face felt good after the snails.
ACID BATH WITH VINEGAR AND LEMON JUICE
The next day, I decided to purify myself further by filling a bathtub with water, vinegar, and lemon, for an acid bath. Vinegar and lemon are age-old beauty secrets, and their glories have recently been sung by people like Karolina Kurkova, Scarlett Johansson, and Hilary Duff. Vinegar and lemons are commonly used to disinfect all kinds of surfaces, and lemon contains ascorbic acid – a form of Vitamin C that is good for everything.
I was worried the acid would start to sting as soon as I got into the bathtub. I'm prone to eczema so I expected the worst: small spots, rashes, and burns. None of that happened. I smelt like salad for three days after the bath, but my hair and skin were smooth. I was very happy to learn I could just find something that works in the fridge, instead of having to look for it in a horse's uterus.
BRUSHING MY TEETH WITH STRAWBERRIES
I couldn't wait to try out Catherine Zeta-Jones's fave beauty regimen: Cleaning teeth with strawberries. I ate strawberries for a full week, chewing on them and allowing them to rest on top of my teeth—all of this with the intention of whitening my tooth enamel. Apparently the acid in the strawberries removes stains and whitens teeth.
It was mostly delicious, but my teeth were none the whiter. What I did learn was that there are some mutant strawberries around that have seeds so large they get stuck in your teeth, and there's nothing you can do to avoid that. And there are many, many strawberries that taste of nothing, and others that taste like cork. I should change grocery stores.
HEMORRHOID CREAM UNDER MY EYES
Of course I had to try hemorrhoid cream under my eyes. No one in their right mind would put something under their eyes that's meant to go on their bum but Sandra Bullock does, so I did, too. When I went to buy Hemoal I asked the pharmacist if I could use the cream to camouflage my under-eye bags and, like any good saleswoman, she started to recite the many benefits of the product—including its vasoconstrictive properties reducing burns, irritation, and inflammation. The same pharmacist told me that although many people use it under their eyes and it works well, its effect on my bags would be questionable, as they were more blue than puffy.
I put Hemoal under my eyes every night for a week and although it felt refreshing, it didn't look like I was taking care of my skin. Maybe I just wasn't psychologically prepared to lather my face in bum cream.
INJECTING MY OWN BLOOD INTO MY FACE
I called Dr. Marisa Manzano again, and although she confirmed that Hemoal does work under your eyes, she said that my skin could really benefit from a regeneration therapy with Platelet-Rich Plasma. The concept therapy is used medically for things like bone repair, nerve injuries, and oral surgeries but her clinic offers the service for facial rejuvenation.
The procedure is as follows: They take some of your blood, put it through a centrifuge that separates platelet-poor plasma and red blood cells, and add a serum that's rich in platelets. After that, they inject your own plasma into you. It makes sense—when you have a wound, the platelets get there first to help regenerate the skin. The aim of injecting them is to increase the production of collagen and vitamins in the areas that have been pricked.
Kim Kardashian once posed on Instagram with a mask of her own blood, and although she looks mortally wounded, she also still looks hot. I had to try this.
Entering the clinic, I was under the impression this was going to be something like an exfoliation treatment. I didn't expect it to actually be more similar to a botox treatment. When I saw the stretcher, the centrifuge, and the needles I started to feel a bit queasy, but before I knew it I found myself with a numb face and with three test tubes filled with my blood. There was no going back. The first prick came right in the middle of my under-eye bag. My eye tried to look away but it failed. "You'll have a bruise here!" Dr Manzano warned me. She wasn't lying: It's days later, and the bruise is still there.
When I left the clinic, I felt disfigured. Days later, when the bruises had turned brown, I started seeing the difference. Smoother and shinier skin, especially under my eye lids. There are people paying between $360 to $790 to have their own blood injected in their face, so it would have been very awkward if I hadn't noticed anything.
To sum up: I've learned that filling your face with your own blood works, but it's painful and expensive. Hemorrhoid cream isn't as effective but it is less painful and also more immediate. Strawberries can be tasty but don't do anything for your teeth and the snails are less tasty and about as ineffective. If you can deal with the burn, the hot sauce isn't too bad and the bath with vinegar reeks, but works quite well.
Finally, however desperate about your looks you might get, please never put a placenta on your face. It'll never be worth it.