By now, snail mucin is not a beauty secret anymore. Yes, snails as the critters you don’t want anywhere near your vegetable patch or the delicacies you spy on the menu of a French restaurant. But as said, by now, this ingredient is everywhere and (probably) has lost its somewhat icky associations.
It’s the slime trail you see in the wake of snails. This stuff is made by the snails to lubricate their soft bodies and allow them to glide across surfaces without being injured. It also helps them stick effortlessly on the sides of buildings and rocks.
Combined with their shells, it’s the defence mechanism that protects their bodies. This substance allows the snails to move around without being torn up by pointy, sharp, or scratchy textures while protecting against microbes.
Even if we normal people call it snail slime or maybe snail mucin, it’s labelled snail secretion filtrate or Cryptomphalus aspersa on ingredient lists. The snail mucin is processed and sanitised.
A little bit of background
It’s said that the Koreans (who else?) have made snail mucin popular if not even discovered its benefits. But the use of snail mucin can be traced back the the Ancien Greece.
It was even the “father of medicine” Hippocrates, who wrote how the use of crushed snails mixed with sour milk can reduce skin inflammation.
Fast forward to modern times. While it’s true that the Korean beauty industry made snail secretion filtrate known to the world, it was already in the 1980 that this substance was discovered.
In the 1980, farmers in Chile producing snails for the French food market found their hands to be smooth and soft. But not only that, it seems they also healed from cuts faster with little or no scarring. This discovery led to the first skin care brand based on snail mucin.
A few decades later, and you find beauty salons in Japan popping up that use live snails for their beauty treatments. These are for people who want to remove old cells, clear their pores, heal the skin after sun porn and they only need to invest 5 minutes.
And the rest is history: Thanks to K-beauty, snail mucin has lost its wacky associations and cemented its position along with antioxidants (resveratrol) and hyaluronic acid.
How is snail mucin sourced
Typically, snail mucin for cosmetics Coes from the common garden snails, aka Cryptomphalus aspersa. But don’t worry, the snail slime comes from farmed snails. These are escargot-worthy snails, meaning that they’re bred for the fancy French restaurant or food markets and are safe to eat.
Depending on the snail farmers and cosmetics industry suppliers, extraction methods can vary. In the past, extraction was quite cruel. It involved putting the snails under stress to get the mucin.
Nowadays, the most widely used method is to place the snail in a dark, quiet room on top of a mesh sheet, this is because they’re nocturnal and hence prefer this sort of environment.
The snails are left to roam around. The slime drips through the mesh and is collected on a tray below.
Another way is to put the snails in a special steam bath that acts like a spa for snails.
The collected mucin is then processed: It’s concentrated and then purified to remove any germs and microbes. After processing, you get an odourless, clear or white slime.
The quality of the slime very much depends on the snail’s diet and environmental conditions.
What does it do for your skin
So, how did Hippocrates get the idea that crushed snails can help skin inflammation? It turns out, snail mucin is super moisturising plus it contains stuff like hyaluronic and glycolic acid, allantoin and copper peptides. What does it translate to?
Skin tissue is repaired and regenerated
Snail mucin contains growth factors. These peptides act as chemical messengers to regulate various cell processes. You want to have these kinds of ingredients, because they encourage the growth of new skin cells. This means they’re key to wound healing and tissue repair processes.
Think of more collagen and elastin in your skin. As you know, more collagen equals fewer wrinkles and more elastin equals more suppleness.
Irritation is relieved
Another key component in snail secretion filtrate is allantoin. This substance is known since antiquity for its healing, regenerative and soothing properties. It’s often used in cosmetics as a skin conditioning and in products for sensitive skin as a soothing agent.
Dead skin cells are sloughed off
Allantoin is also a keratolytic. Combined with glycolic acid (a classic chemical exfoliant), snail mucin gently breaks down dead skin. It gets rid of damaged and old skin cells to clear the way for healthy ones.
Glycolic acid has several tasks:
- As an exfoliant, it improves your skin texture
- It encourages the promotion of hyaluronic acid and so helps keep the outermost layer of your skin hydrated
- It reduces premature ageing, due to its ability to increase collagen, improve the quality of elastic fibers, and shrink pores for a smoother complexion
Hyaluronic acid is foundational for many skin care products. It’s a humectant. This means it pulls in and retains moisture in your skin. So, it helps your skin regulate skin hydration levels.
Just in case a snail does get torn up when it slithers over rough surfaces, its slime helps protects it from harmful bacteria. This means snail mucin is a great way to keep your face cleaner and prevent bacteria from growing. This may particularly soothing way of keeping zits at bay and healing wounds and lesions.
There are yet more studies to be done to research in depth what snail mucin can do for your skin. But the key components are well researched and can give you an idea of how it can help your skin:
- Improve wound healing
- Prevent scarring
- Reduce existing scarring
- Encourage collagen and elastin formation
- Improve skin hydration
- Prevent bacteria growth
- Improve skin texture
This means you can use snail mucin-based products to
- Speed up wound healing
- Reduce scars
- Improve fine lines and wrinkles
- Improve dehydrated skin and strengthen your skin barrier
- Lift redness and reduce irritation
Any negative points to consider
First of all, regardless of how snail mucin is harvested, one thing is sure: This gel-like substance is non-vegan. So, if you’d prefer vegan-friendly alternatives with similar effects, you’ll have to look for ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic and glycolic acid, allantoin, or vitamin A.
As mentioned, the research is still quite limited, but what’s found is that snail mucin is a pretty well tolerated ingredient. But as always, start with a patch test and observe for any potential reaction.
How to use
Well, nowadays, you get snail mucin-based toners, essences, serums, creams, masks – you name and there’s surely a product out there.
As of now, it also seems that combining it with other ingredients is ok and no reactions with skin care actives are known as yet. But since it’s still quite a new ingredient in the skin care world, there aren’t a lot of studies yet.
You can generally use it with ease and don’t have to wait before layering on another product. You can use it everyday, once, or twice a day.
If you hear it for the first time, snail mucin could gross you out. But it’s an ingredient that can be used by all skin types. It’s good to hydrate, plump up and soothe, as well as regenerate your skin.
The use depends on why you want to use it or what kind of product you find it in, but in general, you can use it once or twice a day. And, it goes well with other actives.
That said, it’s not vegan and so might not be for everyone. Also, the texture might take some time to get used to. It depends on your product and what concentration, but it can feel tacky and sticky.