Snail Mucin... should you really use products containing snail slime?
There is a lot of hype at the moment over products that contain snail mucin (the technical term for this slime is actually Helix Aspersa Müller Glycoconjugates), but you probably, like me, know it as snail slime. In any case, the snail secretion contains a mixture of allantoin (soothing properties) proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans (humectants), hyaluronic acid (humectant moisturiser), copper peptides, antimicrobial peptides (kills potentially harmful microbes), glycoprotein enzymes, and trace elements such as zinc, copper and iron (only very small amounts of these ingredients are contained in the slime – their effect is probably negligible).
If you think the trend is new, think again. Snails were apparently regarded highly for their slimy secretions in ancient Greece, with Hippocrates being cited as a particular fan of the stuff, especially for its use in the treatment of inflamed skin.
One sad aspect of the snail mucin trend is that because snails produce the most amount of slime when they’re stressed, the snails are subjected to various types of… basically torture… in order to harvest the maximum amount of slime... I'm still not sure how I feel about this. I purchased about four snail products at one time (and before I knew how the slime was harvested), and I'm sure they'll last me for a while so I haven't yet decided whether I'll be repurchasing snail products in the future despite my feelings that they've done wonders for my skin.
The Science of Slime
The efficacy of snail slime on various dermatological conditions is supported by quite a bit a lot of research. I quickly found one paper that looked at the healing benefits of snail slime on open facial burn wounds. Frankly, the before/after pictures from this study are amazing and I urge anyone to have a look for themselves! I’ll include the article details below. Interestingly though, this is one of the only research papers I could source that involved the application of a cosmetic cream that contained snail slime to human skin.
Many of the other studies looked instead on a cellular level where other benefits were seen including a reaction that caused the proliferation of fibroblasts (which are crucial to the process of tissue repair due to their role in the production of collagen), as well as increases in collagen and elastin fibers and an increased production of fibronectin proteins.
I suppose that in a way, applying the topical snail cream to open wounds is actually allowing it to work on a cellular level... which leads me to lean towards the possibility that snail mucin is effective as a wound healing ingredient and should be used as such. That's great for those of us who enjoy a good ol' picking session even though we shouldn't (it's just me, my magnifying mirror, my lancets, my 8 cotton buds, my alcohol swabs, my Duoderm healing bandage, and my red face painted with redness and regret after all is done). It actually looks like science is supporting the possibility that snail mucin could help our skin recover faster from our sins!
We also need to consider other relevant factors and variables that may be at play here. Not all snail products are created equal, there is a chance that the quality of slime or the other ingredients that are in your snail product could be an issue. Environmental and preservation factors such as temperature and sterility are also likely to be relevant in determining how effective snail slime can be.
In my own experience, I have noticed a marked difference in my skin since introducing snail products into my regimen. I believe the benefits of snail slime are primarily to do with the healing properties within the slime, as well as the hydrating factors both in the slime and in the other ingredients contained within the snail products I use. When I first started using products with snail mucin in them, I was using Tretinoin .05% every other night, so perhaps the mucin was effective in healing and soothing my aggravated and dry skin at that time.
Tsoutsos, D., Kakagia, D., & Tamparopoulos, K. (2009). The efficacy of Helix aspersa Müller extract in the healing of partial thickness burns: a novel treatment for open burn management protocols. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 20(4), 219-222.