Melia muses….There is alot of hype going on about snail creams where I live. I have friends who have used them for scar reduction/healing for acne and thought that they really did work (they got the tip from their dermatologist). I’ve just watched the millionth infomercial about one of these creams and am wondering if they really live up to the claims.
The Beauty Brains leaves a slimy trail:
When I initially heard about snail extract being used in cosmetics my BS detector kicked into over drive. After doing a little bit of research I’m still skeptical but at least I was able to find SOME scientific basis for using this ingredient in cosmetics.
What is snail extract?
The technical name for snail slime is “Helix Aspersa Müller Glycoconjugates.” It’s described as a thick fluid gathered by stimulating live snails. (Sounds like a job Sarah Bellum would enjoy.) 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.
The science of snail slime
There are a number of brands that claim to harness the power of snail trails. For example, there’s Bioskincare, who says their product “protects, deeply moisturizes, renews and triggers the regeneration of skin damaged by acne, injuries, overstretching, photo-aging or dermatological/medical treatments.” Is there any real science that supports the benefits of snail extract? Sort of. There are certainly plenty of references in the scientific literature. First of all, there a number of patents related to how to gather the secretion and process it for use in cosmetics. One Chilean doctor, for example, patented a procedure for gathering the secretions by agitating snails in warm water and then filtering the mucin. (I wonder how you can tell when the snails are sufficiently agitated?) Another patent, credited to a Spanish Oncologist, involves stressing the snails mechanically to induce the production of their mucin. I wish I could be sure that no snails were harmed in the production of this skin cream, but based on these patents, it doesn’t look good! But just because there are patents on snail slime, that doesn’t mean it actually DOES anything. If you’ll notice the patents are related to how to collect the slime, which has nothing to do with proving it really works on your skin.
Will snail slime make wrinkles Es-car-go-away?
So does it really work? A quick Pubmed search reveals a variety of papers describing the effect of snail slime on cell cultures. In these studies a variety of effects where seen including the proliferation of fibroblasts, stimulation of new collagen and elastin fibers, and increased production of fibronectin proteins just to name a few. But since these effects were demonstrated on cell cultures I have a hard time understanding how they relate to a topical cosmetic product. I did find a few other studies, though, that indicate snail extract improves skin condition by increasing the dermis’ natural ability to take up and hold water. And perhaps most interesting were the studies suggesting that the slime might have topical wound healing properties. There’s enough legitimate science here to make me think that snail extract may be a beneficial ingredient.
However, I didn’t see any data that indicates that any specific cosmetic snail cream has any special efficacy. Until I see some controlled studies of these products, I remain skeptical.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
As ridiculous as this sounds at first, snail slime may be a powerful bioactive material. But translating that efficacy to a cosmetic product is another story entirely. In any given product it’s impossible to predict efficacy because it depends on the quality of the snail extract that was used, the amount in the product, and how it’s formulated and processed. Until a marketer of these products can demonstrate they have data on their specific product, I would avoid spending a lot of money on snail creams.
What do YOU think? Would you use snail snot to keep your skin looking younger? Or is it just too gross? Leave a comment and share your snail-ish story with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.