Run an online search for “snail essence,” and you’ll find a whole host of skincare products that feature snail secretions ― yes, the goo that comes out of a snail ― as a key ingredient.
Used as a skin treatment in ancient Greece, the substance has made a big comeback in recent years as a Korean-based beauty trend. Brands like Tony Moly and Missha sell moisturizers, masks, makeup creams and serums with snail slime in them, and a snail-infused “EscarGlow” facial has made its gooey mark on New York City.
New York City dermatologist Tabasum Mir told HuffPost exactly where snail secretions come from.
“When snails are agitated, they excrete a thick fluid as a means to protect themselves,” Mir said. When concentrated, this slimy snail mucin is said to aid human skin by hydrating, preventing aging and improving wrinkles and scars.
Popular products generally run between $6 (for a snail gel mask by Missha) to $60 (for Tony Moly’s “timeless ferment snail essence set”).
So, is it worth it?
Likely not: Snail mucin is packed with nutrients, but there’s no guarantee it’ll be effective as a skin treatment, Marie Jhin, a dermatologist at California Pacific Medical Center, told HuffPost.
“The slime is not consistently concentrated and [benefits] may depend on the type of snail and amount excreted,” she said. “The way the slime is processed is not easily done and universal, thus the formulation of the slime may not be the same [across products].”
You can find the same key nutrients of snail slime ― which Jhin says are hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein enzymes and peptides ― elsewhere, she added. Mir agrees.
“There is nothing specifically unique to snail mucin that you cannot get anywhere else,” she said.
Ling replenishing hydrator, for example, comes recommended from Into The Gloss and contains the same moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid as snail mucin. And Goldfaden MD’s bright eyes serum is a good source of peptides that doesn’t contain mollusk goop.
The glycolic acid in snail mucin is said to help your cells produce collagen and elastin, which even out skin tone and smooth its surface. But any product with glycolic acid can do the same, Mir says: She recommends her own line of exfoliating pore pads, and Allure recommends The Magic Pads as a cheaper option.
Limited research suggests moderate success of snail slime in improving skin. In one small study, California researchers prescribed snail essence creams to 25 participants with skin damage and found that it improved eye wrinkles and skin texture after 12 weeks. That study dealt with slime from the same type of snail whose mucin is available in products like Biophelle’s, researcher Sabrina Fabi told HuffPost, while noting that the study was not a large clinical trial.
Overall, snail mucin’s practical benefits are few, according to Beverly Hills dermatologist Jennifer Ahdout, who said she conducted her own review of the topic after patients started asking about it.
“[Mucin] can help with hydration of the skin, but to claim that it treats wrinkles, acne scars, and other skin conditions is quite bogus,” she told HuffPost.
Jhin says you’re free to give snail products a whirl if you’d like, but do so with caution as you would any beauty product: Use only a small amount at first on a specific spot to check for reactions or allergies, and don’t use if you have sensitive skin.