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Snail mucin: Is it beneficial in skin care, or is it just a bunch of goo?
I received this question recently from a reader. Snail mucin skin care has been popular for years in South Korea, with nearly every major Korean skin care brand offering at least one snail mucin product. Although they are often marketed as anti-acne products, they also claim to have scar lightening, anti-inflammatory, wound healing, skin-regenerating, and anti-wrinkle benefits.
Science Says: Some Benefit, But I Personally Keep to Concentrated Ingredients
Snail mucin is a combination of glycolic acid and proteins.
Park Avenue plastic surgeon Dr. Matthew Schulman has introduced the Escarglow Facial, a $300 treatment that combines extracts of the slime with micro-needling to increase the product’s penetration. “People originally used live snails in facials, but you can imagine how some people didn’t like that,’’ Dr. Schulman tells NY Magazine. “There is anecdotal evidence that proteins in snail slime have anti-aging benefits, and clinical trials have looked at that, as well as reversal of sun damage, and shown improvement. Snail slime is not going to help deep folds, but it will improve skin texture and quality.’’
The actual science behind these products is still somewhat inconclusive. Lab cell cultures thus far exhibit positive findings on in vitro skin cells, and a study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment showed an improvement in burn patients who used snail mucin, but there have been no serious controlled clinical trials or long-term studies, so doctors and other skin care experts are divided.
Personally, I would prefer to put a concentrated glycolic acid solution on my face, in a concentration I can monitor for both results and sensitivity. For instance, if I’m using a 15% glycolic acid and getting great results, I might bump it up to 20%. But if 20% leaves my skin irritated, I’ll go back down to 15%. You can’t do that with snail mucin.
The other proteins in snail mucin, like elastin, are generally too large to penetrate the skin. [Read more: What Exactly is the 500 Dalton Rule?] Other products, like hyaluronic acid, may help aid with skin hydration.
On the Other Hand, Mucin May Help with Acne Scarring
In Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, a small study concluded, “Skin care products that include the soluble serum [snail mucin] help to orchestrate the correct assembly of the extracellular matrix, and avoid excess or abnormal scars, including acne scarring.”
Are Snails Hurt in the Extraction Process?
According to manufacturers of POLY-HELIXAN, an ingredient extracted from snail secretions, “the snail mucus extraction process is carried out after submitting the gastropods to extreme stress conditions for a period of time.” (source)
In other words, if you are the type of person who makes sure that you use products that are cruelty-free, I would not use snail mucin.
What is the Best Product with Snail Mucin?
If you want to try snail mucin, the best chances of achieving benefit are with Mizon All-In-One Snail Repair Cream, which contains 92% snail excretion. It’s really more of a concentrated serum, and I do recommend this for acne scars.
The benefits evidenced from snail mucin are generally just from additional glycolic acid and hydrators like hyaluronic acid. That said, preliminary studies do show snail mucin is effective against acne scarring. I would recommend Mizon All-In-One Snail Repair Cream, which contains 92% snail excretion. It’s your best chance at seeing if snail mucin is for you or not!