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Snail Mucin – I admit, I wasn’t much of a fan when I first heard about it, which was several years ago. That was solely based on my experiences as a child when having a snail set onto your face was a dare commonly used, and little did I know back then that there would be actual snail facials in which you paid for having that done to you in the future.
So I decided to research snail mucin and its benefits in skincare for today’s video and see if that would change my mind.
But before we begin: Do you have experience with snail mucin products that you’d like to share? I am looking forward to reading about your experiences!
What is snail mucin?
Well, it basically is, what it says, a secret produced by snails. It is a mucus made from long-chain glycoproteins called mucins and contains a variety of different ingredients, depending on the type of snail and the reason why it is secreted.
The most common reason for snails to produce secret is for adhesion and lubrication, most commonly produced at the foot of the snail, and then secret for protection against stressors or microbes, often produced at the back of the snail. There are a ton of other options, but the main takeaway here is: Snail mucin is not one thing that is always the same, but can be a variety of things.
What does snail mucin do in skincare?
According to historical documents, snail facials were a thing as early as back in ancient Greece where you would get snails to crawl on your face to hydrate the skin and reduce redness and wrinkle depth. More recently it gained popularity in Korea and from there trickled over to the West.
When you look at the claims, they are quite extensive: Hydration, increase in collagen production, reduction in wrinkle depth, increased wound healing and reduction in redness and inflammation are what you will find, and when you look at the ingredients snail mucin can contain, there seems to be a reason for that. Depending on the type of mucin you have, you can find peptides including copper peptides, different humectants, growth factors, minerals like manganese, glycolic acid and antioxidants, so quite a few nice things.
(More info: Everything you need to know about peptides)
Is there any science behind snail mucin?
But is there data to back up these claims? Apart from anecdotal evidence that you will find plenty, sadly there isn’t much.
When you look at the literature, you will find studies done on mice where the secret showed antimicrobial and hydrating properties, done on rats where the secret showed reduction in erythema and photoaging as well as improved wound healing, and in 2006 the secret of the Garden Snail was shown to help with reduction of the radiodermatitis after radiation therapy in patients.
But an overview of the biomedical literature done in 2020 came to the non-surprising conclusion that more research is needed before we can say for sure if snail mucin is actually a must-have in your routine.
What is the difference between snail mucin and snail mucin filtrate?
The reason why results might vary is actually based on the difference between snail mucin, the original product and the snail mucin filtrate, the refined version used in cosmetics. You see, snails not only secret skin beneficial ingredients, but can, depending on the circumstances, secret stuff you dont want on your face as well, so the stuff you’ll find in your skincare is processed to get rid of any potentially harmful and unwanted substances.
At the same time the actual texture of snail mucin is, well, gooey and slimy, and not everyone wants that, so the product is refined to be more lightweight and watery, and what you end up in many products is Snail Mucin Filtrate which, like other filtrates and extracts, is a filtered down version of what you initially had – and the concentration of the peptides and humectants and other good things ends up being unknown.
It might be high, it might be low, you’ll have no means to tell, not even by the percentage of the filtrate used. 97% of a watery substance with a low concentration of actives might be less effective than 40% of a less watery substance with a higher concentration of actives
How do you incorporate snail mucin in your routine?
Now if you decide that you want to give products with snail mucin a go, you can put them pretty much anywhere in your routine. As the ingredient itself is not light sensitive, doesn’t increase sun sensitivity and plays well with everything else, it can be used morning or night or even twice a day.
Just pick a product and then use it where appropriate by type, so an essence after cleansing or a moisturizer as last step.
Are snails killed for snail mucin? Is snail mucin vegan or cruelty-free?
Snails are no longer killed to get their mucin, and more modern extraction methods claim to be more of “a spa for the snails” than stressful for the animal, but to be honest, looking at extraction methods I am not sure how much truth there is to that.
I will link a video here about an Italian manufacturer’s extraction machine, and while no snails are dead afterwards as far as I can tell, I am just not sure if “spa” is the term I would use. I don’t know much about snails and their preferences though, so watch it and see how you feel.
Brands like CosRX describe their harvesting method as “letting snails wander around on a mesh net in the dark and then letting them rest until the next day”, which sounds less intrusive than other things, but also doesn’t seem to be very efficient looking at the high quantities of snail mucin you’d need to satisfy consumer demand.
In the end snail mucin can be considered cruelty free when purchased from reputable manufacturers, but will never be vegan.
Who should avoid snail mucin? Has snail mucin side effects?
As there isn’t much scientific data on snail mucin, there obviously isn’t much information about side effects documented in a controlled environment either, but from what we know, snail mucin is safe and has shown no adverse effects. As you can be allergic to anything, it is still advised to patch test first.
Is snail mucin worth it?
If snail mucin is worth incorporating into your skincare routine is a very personal question. For me, it isn’t. While I want the benefits of peptides, humectants and glycolic acid in my routine, I much rather have them as part of a product with a defined amount than as part of an extract where I am not sure how much exactly I am getting.
But as you can’t take parts out of something and expect the results to be exactly the same as the original, you might want to give it go anyway, as there are amazing success stories on the internet. If you do, I suggest picking a product that has ingredients in it, that enhance the claimed benefits of snail mucin, like Glycerin for hydration, Niacinamide for brightening or Allantoin for soothing so that if you end up not loving the snail mucin results, it isn’t a complete waste of money. (More info: The benefits of Niacinamide in skincare explained)
Products with snail mucin
Mind you, I have tried none of the products I am mentioning here myself, but they get great reviews in the skincare community.
The CosRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence (14 € for 100 ml) is a cult favorite and has additional soothing and hydrating ingredients, so is a nice pick even if the snail doesn’t do much for you. The same is true for the DEWYTREE Ultra Vitalizing Snail Essence Water (21 € for 150 ml) and the Dr. G Royal Black Snail Essence (43 $ for 165 ml). Beauty of Joseon has a serum with snail mucin as well, the Revive Serum (12 € for 30 ml) and Tonymoly have a cream called Ferment Snail Cream (37 € for 45 ml) that also gets a lot of love and combines fermented ingredients with the snail mucin.
For those preferring vegan products: I have reviewed the Vegreen Nature Mucin products a while ago and really liked them. so these might be worth looking into. (More info: Vegreen Nature Mucin – Vegan snail mucin alternative?)
Snail Mucin is an ingredient that claims to be brightening, hydrating and improving healing and collagen production, but that hasn’t much studies to back up that claim. There is a lot of anecdotes about its great potential though, and when you look at some of the mucins produced by snails – they can differ by type – many contain skin beneficial ingredients like glycolic acid, humectants and peptides.
Snail mucin is for obvious reasons never vegan, but with newer extraction methods cruelty-free and has no reported side effects. It can be paired with everything and can be used, morning, night or even twice a day.
McDermott, M., Cerullo, A. R., Parziale, J., Achrak, E., Sultana, S., Ferd, J., Samad, S., Deng, W., Braunschweig, A. B., & Holford, M. (2021). Advancing Discovery of Snail Mucins Function and Application. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/FBIOE.2021.734023
Nguyen, J. K., Masub, N., & Jagdeo, J. (2020). Bioactive ingredients in Korean cosmeceuticals: Trends and research evidence. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 19(7), 1555–1569. https://doi.org/10.1111/JOCD.13344
Truchuelo, M. T., & Vitale, M. (2020). A cosmetic treatment based on the secretion of Cryptomphalus aspersa 40% improves the clinical results after the use of nonablative fractional laser in skin aging. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 19(3), 622–628. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.13052
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