Snail Mucin Is the Holy Grail Ingredient You Never Knew Your Skin Needed

snail mucin
This Holy Grail of Skincare Comes from... Snails?

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Snails and skincare are two words that don't normally go together. But believe it or not, those slimy little creatures that stick to the sides of flower pots produce a little thing called mucin, which can do wonders for the skin.

Before you knock the idea of trying a byproduct of snails, the skincare ingredient has long been prominent in K-beauty and is widely touted by dermatologists for its ability to deliver healthy, glowing skin. Here, we tapped Carmen Castilla, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Hospital, and James Y Wang, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Metropolis Dermatology, to give us the lowdown on everything you need to know about snail mucin for skin.

What is snail mucin?

"Snail mucin is an excretion produced by snails to aid in hydration, lubrication, adhesion, and other biologic functions," says Dr. Castilla. "Each snail produces distinct mucins that serve different functions; these can also vary depending where on the snail's body the mucin is produced."

While the ingredient has only recently started raising eyebrows, the use of snail mucin goes as far back as Ancient Greece. Greeks used it for its anti-inflammatory properties, while Chilean snail farmers observed that it healed wounds without scarring.

"Snail mucin has a unique combination of exfoliators, moisturizers, growth factors and anti-inflammatory properties, which is why it was transitioned into an anti-aging skincare product," continues Dr. Castilla. "While it has shown great promise in vitro, larger clinical trials on humans are warranted to validate the effects."

Benefits of snail mucin for skin

According to Dr. Wang, "snail mucin can benefit all skin types, but it is particularly beneficial for those with dry, sensitive, or aging skin due to its hydrating, soothing, and regenerative properties." The following are potential benefits:

  • Anti-aging properties. "Snail mucin contains peptides and glycoproteins that in vitro have been shown to stimulate collagen production," says Dr. Castilla. "This is the natural structural protein in the skin, important to preventing fine lines and wrinkling."

  • Antioxidant properties. The extract from snails has antioxidant properties that may help prevent free radical damage. "Free radicals damage collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, which accelerates the skin's aging process," explains Dr. Castilla, noting that snail mucin could aid in treating minor wounds and radiation dermatitis (a common side effect of radiotherapy). "The benefits are thought to be due its ability to neutralize free radicals which contribute to skin inflammation and tissue injury."

  • Contains glycolic acid. Another powerhouse ingredient, glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) known for its exfoliating properties. Snail mucin contains low levels of glycolic acid, which can help unclog pores.

  • Hydrating characteristics. Snail mucin also contains hyaluronic acid, a powerful humectant that helps draw water into the skin.

  • Anti-acne properties. Likely secondary to the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial characteristics, Dr. Castilla says snail mucin can reduce flare ups in skin prone to breakouts.

Are there any side effects of using snail mucin on skin?

Snail mucin is generally considered a safe ingredient, even for sensitive skin, but as Dr. Castilla and Dr. Wang both note, it is always possible for anyone to experience a specific sensitivity or allergic reaction to any ingredient.

"If you are concerned about whether snail mucin is suitable for your skin, it is best to perform a patch test on a small area of your skin before incorporating it into your regular skincare routine," says Dr. Wang.

Dr. Castilla recommends doing a patch test behind the ear or on the inner part of the forearm and waiting 48 hours to see if there is a reaction.

How to use snail mucin

How one uses snail mucin depends on the formulation. If it comes in serum form, Dr. Wang recommends "after cleansing and toning, applying a small amount of snail mucin serum or essence to your face and gently pat it into the skin until fully absorbed. Follow up with moisturizer and SPF during the day." He also notes that it can be mixed with other serums for added hydration and nourishment.

Additionally, Dr. Castilla says to look for products with high concentrations of snail mucins, typically over 70 percent.

Can you use snail mucin every day?

Snail mucin can be used once to twice daily. "Consistency and persistence is important to see any potential benefits," says Dr. Castilla. "Allow at least 4-6 weeks of consistent use before determining your results."

Are there any products or ingredients that shouldn't be used with snail mucin?

Snail mucin pairs well with essentially all skincare ingredients, but as Dr. Wang points out, "it's always a good idea to patch-test new products, especially if you have sensitive skin or known allergies."

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