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Also known as snail slime, snail mucin is one of the buzziest new ingredients in the skincare world. Yes, snails, as in the little critters that live in your garden or show up on the menu at fancy French restaurants. There's a certain ick factor involved, to be sure, but if you can get over that, snail mucin is a surprisingly effective ingredient. Dermatologists do point out that it's not yet quite as well-studied as many of its other skincare ingredient counterparts, and, as such, that it's important to sort out the science from the hype. Ahead, Sheel Desai-Solomon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Raleigh-Durham, NC, and Ted Lain, MD, a dermatologist in Austin, TX, do just that, to help you figure out whether or not it's worth making snail slime a part of your skincare routine.
TYPE OF INGREDIENT: Moisturizer and collagen-stimulator
MAIN BENEFITS: Moisturizes skin, promotes collagen production, aids in skin healing and regeneration.
WHO SHOULD USE IT: In general, snail mucin can be used on all skin types, though its hydrating properties make it especially choice for those with dry skin, says Levin. And unless you’re actually allergic to the ingredient, it’s generally well-tolerated by most. (Though keep in mind that since it is derived from an animal vegans should take a pass.)
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU USE IT: This largely depends on why you're using it—since it does have many benefits—and what type of product it's found in. Generally speaking, you can use snail mucin once or twice per day.
WORKS WELL WITH: It’s often combined with antioxidants and retinol, as well as common skincare staples such as vitamin C, glycolic acid, and other moisturizing ingredients.
DON'T USE WITH: Because research is still limited, it's unknown whether or not it interacts poorly with any other ingredients, says Lain. Right now, there's no evidence that it does.
What Is Snail Mucin?
Simply put, it’s the excretion from a snail, which is why it’s also known and appears on ingredient labels as snail secretion filtrate, or SSF. Snail mucin is naturally created and used by snails as way for them to protect themselves, says Desai-Solomon. “It’s a trusted ingredient in the K-beauty world and has become a popular one because it can offer noticeable results,” she adds. Worth noting: This isn’t an excretion that comes out whenever the snail moves, but rather a substance that's excreted when the snail is under stress, points out Lain (more on the importance of that in a minute).
Benefits of Snail Mucin for Skin
Snail mucin is a mega multi-tasker, with the ability to do everything from moisturize to boost the production of collagen, the protein responsible for strong, youthful skin.
Moisturizes the skin: According to Lain, snail mucin contains moisturizing agents that work to repair the barrier function of the skin, both locking out irritants from the environment while also simultaneously locking in moisture.
Stimulates collagen production: “Because snail mucin is a stress-induced excretion, it's comprised of ingredients meant to repair or protect from injury," Lain explains. "These include growth factors, which work by triggering the growth of new skin cells and new collagen.” And, as we know, more collagen equals fewer wrinkles and younger-looking skin. Desai-Solomon adds that it also contains glycolic acid, another known collagen-booster.
Soothes irritation: Allantoin is another key component in the secretion, an ingredient with healing properties that calms irritation, as well as smoothes the skin and stimulates cell regeneration.
Delivers important vitamins and minerals: Snail mucin is loaded with a list of good-for-your skin nutrients, including anti-inflammatory zinc and healing manganese. It contains copper peptides, also lauded for their collagen-increasing and wrinkle-decreasing effect, as well as vitamins A and E, both of which are great antioxidants.
Side Effects of Snail Mucin
“There aren’t any well-documented side effects of snail mucin,” says Desai-Solomon, though both dermatologists point out that, as with any ingredient, people can be allergic to it. Avoid allergic reactions by testing a small amount of any new product on the inside of your forearm before slathering it all over your face. And if you're using any type of prescription-strength treatments, Desai-Solomon recommends speaking with your derm before adding any new product into your line-up.
How to Use It
This largely depends on your particular complexion concerns and what you hope to get from the ingredient. According to Desai-Solomon, many people like using snail mucin for moisturizing purposes, in which case she suggests opting for a night cream that contains it. (Bedtime is a prime opportunity for your skin to reap not only the hydration benefits, but also the other restorative and regenerative properties of the ingredient as well.) Apply it every evening on clean skin, as the final step in your routine, layered over any other treatment products, such as toners or serums.
If you're looking to use snail mucin as a multi-purpose anti-ager, seek it out in a serum, as these will have a higher concentration of the ingredient. Apply it morning and night, right after cleansing and before any other product.
The Best Products With Snail Mucin
Curious about snail slime but don't want to break the bank? Desai-Solomon likes this wallet-friendly option, not only for its price tag, but also for the fact that it touts a high concentration of the ingredient (92%, to be exact). Not an especially heavy moisturizer, she recommends it for normal to combination skin types.
We've written about this product before; it's a favorite among K-beauty experts. True to its name, it's made with an impressive 96% snail mucin meant to help hydrate and repair your skin.
Snail secretion filtrate is the first ingredient on the list of this derm-approved treatment, used for its high concentration of those youth-boosting growth factors. Lain calls the 10, pre-dosed ampoules, "a skin boot camp, ideal for when you want to see results quickly, or to help your skin heal after a procedure."
While the ampoules are great for a quick and intense hit, Lain recommends this serum for daily use; apply it morning and/or evening to reap the hydration and anti-aging benefits. It delivers snail mucin, along with other tried-and-true skincare superstars, such as niacinamide, squalene, and glycerin.
A team Byrdie fan favorite, we love this cushiony formula for the antioxidant and hydration benefits it delivers, though it doesn't stop there. It also contains licorice root, choice for helping to fade pesky dark spots and brighten your complexion.
Another one of Desai-Solomon's picks, she recommends using this in lieu of night cream twice a week. Snail mucin is paired with baobab tree extract meant to help hydrate and relieve stressed skin; the scent is also really calming and fresh, she adds. Also nice: The quick-absorbing gel sinks into your complexion, rather than rubbing off on your pillowcase.
Up next: Here are some other skincare trends that are still popular...and some that aren't.
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Sarkar R, Arora P, Garg KV. Cosmeceuticals for hyperpigmentation: what is available?. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2013;6(1):4-11. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.110089