If you are into the K-Beauty trend, you must have bumped into snail slime like a thousand times. Korean brands love the ingredient and tout it for its miraculous repair and hydration properties. It's claimed to be able to repair everything from dry patches, acne breakouts to signs of aging and we are happy to say that it might be just true.
So snail slime is the yucky stuff that snails (in cosmetics the secretion of Cornu Aspersum, the garden snail is used) produce when they are in stress (it's not the same as the one they secret to be able to move nicely and smoothly). As the cosmetic chemists at the Beauty Brains blog write, "chemically speaking, snail slime is a complex mixture of proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, glycoprotein enzymes, hyaluronic acid, copper peptides, antimicrobial peptides and trace elements including copper, zinc, and iron." English translation equals it's loaded with a bunch of good-for-the-skin stuff.
As for scientific proof that snail slime does something for the skin, we did find a couple of studies to go by. A Spanish radiation oncologist, Rafael Abad Iglesias MD discovered for the first time that snail mucin can be used to treat radiation dermatitis (skin irritation caused by radiotherapy, a form of cancer treatment). He did a clinical study with 100 patients and reported a "statistically significant clinical improvement in erythema, itching and burning pain" in the group treated with snail slime.
A 2007 study examined the molecular basis for the great regeneration properties of the ingredient. It found that snail slime (SS) indeed does a bunch of positive things that could be the reason for its great repair abilities. First, it has serious antioxidant properties thanks to two great antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase and glutathione s-transferase. Second, SS induces fibroblast proliferation, that's particularly important during wound healing. Third SS was also found to downregulate MMP, an evil enzyme that's out there to destroy skin-firming collagen. These properties add up to give SS not only wound healing and regenerative properties but also serious anti-aging potential.
Regarding anti-aging, a 2013 study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology examined the effect of SS on photoaged skin. The 14-week, double-blind, 25 participant study found that "there was a significant degree of improvement in fines lines", though the participants did not report a significant difference in the quality of their skin.
All in all, we think that snail slime definitely deserves the skin goodie status it already enjoys in the K-beauty space. If you have no problem with somewhat strange, yucky things or animal derived ingredients in your products, it's worth a try.
- Brieva, A., et al. "Molecular basis for the regenerative properties of a secretion of the mollusk Cryptomphalus aspersa." Skin pharmacology and physiology 21.1 (2007): 15-22.
- Iglesias‐de la Cruz, M. C., et al. "A secretion of the mollusc Cryptomphalus aspersa promotes proliferation, migration and survival of keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts in vitro." International journal of cosmetic science 34.2 (2012): 183-189.
- Fabi, Sabrina Guillen, et al. "The effects of filtrate of the secretion of the Cryptomphalus aspersa on photoaged skin." Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD 12.4 (2013): 453-457.
- Ledo, E., and A. Ledo. "Treatment of acute radiodermatitis with Cryptomphalus Aspersa Secretion." Radioproteccion (Madrid) 23.VII (1999): 34-38.