Why Is There Snail Slime In My Skincare Products?

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Snail slime in skincare products? Eww!

That was my first thought. My second one, “that must be BS, surely!”. How could something like that possibly work? And who thought about it in the first place, anyway? Chilean farmers, apparently. While handling snails they raise for food, they noticed that their hands healed quicker than normal and looked smoother than their faces too. So, they decided to put this stuff in a cream and sell it.

But it’s only when it became popular in Korea (pretty much any Korean brand features this ingredient, apparently) that the snail slime mania really exploded. From there, it expanded to the rest of Asia, the US and, slowly, it is making its way to the rest of the world. But is it worth slathering snail slime on your skin? Let’s see:

What’s snail slime?

Snails have soft, squishy bodies that easily get cut and hurt by twigs, rocks, and just any other rough surface they move over. To heal themselves, they secrete a thick fluid that’s made up of a blend of proteins, glycolic acids and elastin. Although this secretion looks quite disgusting, when used in skincare products (it’s usually called Snail Secretion Filtrate on the label), there’s nothing gross about it. The slime is blended with other ingredients, so you’ll never see it, feel it or even smell it. But does it work as well for humans as it does for snails?

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What does snail slime in cosmetics do?

Snail slime is touted to be a miracle ingredient that can moisturize skin, fight premature aging and heal wounds quicker. Although I have found some studies claiming it can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, which are essential to keep skin firm and elastic, these were all performed in vitro.

I was able to find only one study where snail slime was topically applied on the skin. Researchers asked 25 patients with “moderate to severe facial photodamage” to apply, for 12 weeks, an emulsion (with 8% SCA – a secretion of the snail Cryptomphalus aspersa) and a liquid serum (with 40% SCA) on one side of the face and a placebo cream on the other side. The results showed that the patients noticed “a significant degree of improvement in fines lines at the 8-week time point on the SCA-treated side but did not report a significant difference in the quality of their skin.”

It seems that snail slime works by increasing the skin’s ability to hold water, keeping skin moisturized. However, there are many other ingredients that can moisturize skin, so there really is no reason to spend a lot of money to buy a jar of snail slime. At least, not until further studies, conducted on real people rather than on cell cultures in vitro, confirm the other many anecdotal beneficial claims of snail slime.

Is snail slime cruelty-free?

If it is important to you to use only products that are cruelty-free, you will want to stay away from snail slime. Snails don’t really produce that much slime on their own, so, to satisfy the large amount requested by manufacturers of skincare products, they must be given some “help”. There are several ways to do this.

According to The Beauty Brains, one Chilean doctor has patented a procedure that requires “agitating snails in warm water and then filtering the mucin”. A Spanish Oncologist, instead, has patented a different method that “involves stressing the snails mechanically to induce the production of their mucin.” I’m not exactly sure of what that means, but neither of these methods seem entirely harmless for the poor snails to me.

The Bottom Line

Although the research on snail slime is promising, there is not enough evidence to confirm the many anecdotal claims about its beneficial effects. Considering there are other, less gross, ingredients that do the same thing, and are made without stressing poor snails, I won’t be trying any skincare products containing snail slime anytime soon.

What about you? Have you tried any skincare products containing snail slime, or are you planning to?

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