| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Hollywood stars wanting to look their best for Tinseltown's biggest night of the year are being offered beauty treatments ranging from the lavish to plain loony such as $250,000 black diamond nail varnish and bird excrement facials.
The Academy Awards on February 24 are almost as much about fashion as they are about films, with the televised red carpet arrivals and ceremony drawing an estimated audience of one billion people worldwide.
It's a night when women - and men - spare no expense to out-dazzle other Oscar-goers and ends a two-month run of awards shows to reward the top stars and films of the previous year.
"It's the grand finale to the awards show season so celebrities pull out all the stops when it comes to fashion and beauty," said style expert Sam Saboura, a fashion host on the cable channel TLC. "They're willing to go to any extreme to perfect their look and make a statement on the red carpet."
In the past, the ever-youthful actress Demi Moore, 50, has admitted to having leeches put on her skin to detoxify her blood. Gwyneth Paltrow once arrived at a premiere with her back covered with circular bruises from "cupping," a kind of acupuncture said to encourage blood flow and ease stress.
Angelina Jolie told Vanity Fair in 2011 that her sons Maddox and Pax had pedicures in which fish "eat the dead skin off your feet" while music impresario Simon Cowell was reported to carry pocket-sized inhalable oxygen shots to maintain his looks.
This year, there's a twist on the long-practiced use of injectable dermal fillers to smooth facial creases and plump up the skin. Enter the Vampire FaceLift, which mixes filler with the patient's own blood.
BLOOD AND BIRD DROPPINGS
Plastic surgeon Paul Nassif, who offers the service in his Beverly Hills office, says this process involves removing a tube of blood from the patient, isolating certain components and then mixing it with a dermal filler to inject back into the skin.
"It's a one-two punch," Nassif told Reuters. "You get an immediate response from the filler, and the long terms benefits is new collagen formation, natural volume and healthier skin."
For those who are needle-averse, bird poop could be the answer to brighter skin. Shizuka New York Day Spa in Manhattan offers a Geisha Facial, an hour-long treatment that involves applying nightingale bird droppings in powder form to the skin.
The droppings, which salon owner Shizuka Bernstein imports from Japan, are said to contain natural enzymes which exfoliate the skin.
"There are so many drastic options to exfoliating the skin like chemical peels and microdermabrasion," Bernstein told Reuters. "But if you want a more natural approach, this will give you great results as well. Dead skin is removed, skin tone is brighter and you're left with a radiant look."
When it comes to hair, Santa Monica-based The Broot, an all-natural hair treatment bar, has a secret not-on-the menu ingredient - bull testicles.
Owner Samira Asemanfar said her Persian family had used them for generations, boiling testicles bought from a local butcher to extract a broth of protein and hormones that's added to treatments to strengthen and repair hair.
"Clients have told us their hair felt thicker, more repaired, more fortified. One client said her hair grew faster," said Asemanfar.
BEAUTY ON LOAN
It's no secret that designer gowns and jewels are often borrowed for the red carpet. These days, many designers have some last-minute tricks for looking taller and slimmer for the thousands of photographers and TV crews at the Oscars who transmit images around the world within minutes.
Hong Kong-based shoe company iiJin has an invisible wedge inside every pair of its shoes, giving wearers an extra two to five inches in height depending on the style.
Dresses from NUE by designer Shani Grosz all come with built-in compression fabric to make the wearer look a size smaller, reducing the need for figure-hugging, slimming under garments.
Accessories can make any outfit but bling from New York company Fonderie 47 adds more than sparkle. The company melts down steel from assault rifles seized in African war zones and partners with designers to make earrings, necklaces, and watches.
Fonderie 47 founder Peter Thum said the company has destroyed more than 25,000 assault rifles since 2010 with each piece of jewelry imprinted with the serial number of the gun it came from.
If expense is not an issue, another way to stand out on the red carpet is to arrive with a manicured set of nails containing 267 carats of black diamonds.
Los Angeles' luxury jewelry designer Azature Pogosian, who goes by the single name Azature, has created a black nail polish containing small, full cut diamonds that he said "add a three dimensional sparkle" when applied on the nail.
Only one bottle exists, on sale at London's Selfridges department store for $250,000 since last November. But Azature keeps samples for A-list celebrities, such as Britney Spears, who wore it in a fragrance advert, and Kelly Osbourne, who wore it to last year's Emmy Awards.
"It makes women feel incredible," Azature told Reuters. There is nothing wrong with making someone feel beautiful. We're not spending money on wars. We're not hurting anyone. We make a woman feel like a queen."
(Reporting by Zorianna Kit; editing by Belinda Goldsmith and Jackie Frank)