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Snail slime in skin care? The skin expert explains

Snail slime or substances from snails have been used in traditional medicine for a long time, stretching back as far as ancient Greece where it was used in the treatment of various skin conditions. Today we often see it in modern skin care, especially from Korea. Snail slime in skin care is said to contribute with various skin care properties linked to aging, irritated skin, inflammation or redness. But how does it actually work, what does the scientific literature say about snail slime?

Snail slime in skin care, what is it?

Snail slime has a historical use for the treatment of various types of skin conditions, primarily to cure, relieve or counteract inflammation, irritation, infections and wound healing. It is also reported to have been used in ancient Greece for its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effects. In modern skin care, it has been seen in more and more different skin care products and the mucus that is usually used in cosmetic products is one that is secreted when the snail becomes stressed or injured, but snail eggs are also an ingredient. This is secreted to protect the snail and counteract and heal damage that occurs. The snail slime often comes from a species called Cryptomphalus Aspersa, also known as spotted vine snail. This is found naturally in a few places in Sweden, but the ingredients are not produced in Sweden.

Snail mucus mostly contains water, usually more than 90%, as well as various larger molecules that give the mucus its consistency, such as glycosaminoglycans, proteoglycans and glycoproteins, which are sugar-based large molecules that bind moisture. Collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid are other large molecules that can occur. These substances are so large that they do not penetrate the skin barrier and therefore cannot exert a moisturizing and softening effect other than on the surface of the skin. Minor substances with reported occurrence are allantoin, glycolic acid, as well as various antimicrobial peptides and minerals such as zinc, iron, copper and manganese. These substances could pass through the skin barrier and exert an effect. 

Does snail slime work in skin care?

There is scientific literature showing that snail slime could have an effect in the skin, but few if any controlled studies have shown an effect after using products on normal, undamaged skin.
Most scientific studies on snail slime are so-called mechanistic studies where ingredients from snails are tested for different skin care properties where the aim is to understand the effect of individual extracts or substances in the extracts as well as the effect in different models. There are only a few studies that have been carried out through randomized clinical trials on humans, which means that the study was carried out according to a higher scientific standard and with control preparations. In one of these studies, the effect of extracts from snail slime and snail eggs was studied, but also together with other active ingredients, which makes it difficult to distinguish which effect comes from which ingredient and if the effect comes from the snail extracts that were used.
It is therefore not possible to rule out that the reported effect comes from another of the included active substances.

Good to know is that there is a risk of allergy with snail slime, but it does not seem to be common. However, since snail slime is a mixture of many substances, there is a greater risk that it can cause problems in the skin, especially if the skin is already affected or sensitive.

Summary

After a thorough review of the available literature, snail slime appears as a so-called "story ingredient",
i.e. an ingredient that is primarily added to the product to create an exciting story and give a sense of innovation. Mechanistic studies have shown potential positive effects of snail extract on the skin, and perhaps especially if the skin is damaged. However, it is important to note the lack of studies showing that these effects can really be realized when the substance is used in skin care products on normal skin.

Although some minor constituents of snail slime, such as allantoin, organic acids and minerals, have the potential to cross the skin barrier and provide beneficial effects, it is probably more appropriate to use these isolated substances. By using pure substances, the risk of side effects and other potential problems is reduced.

To provide a clearer picture of the effects of snail slime and to understand which specific substances potentially provide these benefits, further research is required. It is also valuable to investigate whether using the whole snail slime offers any unique advantages compared to using individual isolated substances. Thus, more extensive studies are needed to determine whether snail slime is actually an effective alternative for skin care and whether it provides added value compared to using some of the substances that snail slime contains. Our view is that it is better to use scientifically studied and proven ingredients both from a skin health perspective and an environmental perspective, then we also avoid having snail farms and don't have to worry about the animals' well-being.

SKIN ACADEMY