Fun fact: People around the world have been using snail mucus for centuries to help treat a variety of skin conditions, from fighting acne to wound healing. More recently, though, snail mucus (AKA snail mucin, AKA snail slime) has become a popular K-beauty ingredient that’s infused into beauty products and skincare, like eye cream and serum. In the United States, thanks in part to beauty bloggers and TikTok hype, snail mucin is becoming a more mainstream ingredient in products like masks and serums as an effective moisturizer and anti-aging treatment.
To start to understand snail mucin and why it’s showing up in everything from moisturizer to serum, we need to learn a little bit about the smooth and slimy creatures it comes from: snails. Yep, the soft-bodied gastropod mollusks with a coiled shell! 🐌
If you’ve ever spotted a snail in the wild, you’ve likely noticed the ”slime trail” they leave behind as they slide across their environment, which is what we call mucin. One type of mucin secretion is used as a lubricant that helps them move, but also a glue to help the snail stay on a surface without falling (even a vertical surface!). Another type of mucin helps the snail stay moist and comfortable even when the dry or hot weather threatens to dry them out.¹ Snail mucin is made up of components like hyaluronic acid (a humectant), allantoin (which can calm and hydrate the skin) and glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid), all of which have documented benefits for the skin.
While there hasn’t been much clinical research on the skin benefits of snail mucin, there are preliminary results related to anti-aging² and wound healing³. Before we get to that, there are a few conclusions that can be drawn from the makeup of the mucin itself. Snail mucin is made up of components like allantoin, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, and peptides⁴,⁵, well-studied ingredients that can help moisturize and exfoliate skin, promote collagen production, and aid in skin healing and regeneration.
Next, according to one study⁶, the use of cream containing snail mucin and snail egg extract seems to be an effective anti-aging treatment by helping to:
Improve fine lines and wrinkles
Increase elasticity of the skin
This is where it gets good for people who experience breakouts! While more research is needed, the antimicrobial properties⁷ in snail mucin may theoretically help treat breakouts by fighting the bacteria that contributes to acne. Glycolic acid, an AHA present in snail mucin, has been shown to help unclog pores, improve skin texture, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, boost collagen production, and fade dark spots (aka hyperpigmentation).⁸,⁹ Whew! Talk about a multi-talented ingredient. Is snail mucin really good for your skin?
According to a clinical study conducted in 2015,¹⁰ in which 10 subjects applied snail mucin to their left cheek area for 4 weeks twice per day, people experienced significant improvements to fine lines and wrinkles, skin elasticity, dermal density, and skin tightening after applying snail mucin to their skin. Long term follow up studies to confirm the efficacy of the treatment should be conducted involving a larger number of patients though.
Snail mucin is well-tolerated by most individuals thanks to its gentle makeup. Of course, if you have a known snail allergy you may want to stay away. Right now, there's no known evidence to say that snail mucin may negatively interact with any other skincare ingredients. But everyone’s skin is different!
When trying a new product or active ingredient, it’s never a bad idea to test a small area of your skin before applying full-coverage. If you're a Curology member and want to incorporate snail mucin into your Curology routine, it may be best to apply before your personalized formula. You can also speak to a dermatology provider to see whether the treatment is right for you. (Your Curology provider would love to hear from you!)
Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence. An essence that includes 96 percent snail mucin with sodium hyaluronate (a form of hyaluronic acid) and arginine (an amino acid) to help hydrate the skin and improve texture and tone.
Biopelle Tensage Intensive Serum 40. An anti-aging serum with a high concentration of snail mucin, vitamin C and vitamin E to help improve skin’s elasticity, texture, tone, as well as fine lines and wrinkles.
Mizon All In One Snail Repair Cream. A K-beauty favorite, this multi-tasking cream aims to hydrate the skin, treat hyperpigmentation, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Generally, snail mucin can be used on all skin types. Because of its hydrating properties, it’s a prime candidate for those with dry skin. If you’re considering a snail mucin-based moisturizer, you can start by applying the cream at night to help hydrate your skin barrier while you sleep.
Replying to @saarah_adams Replying to @saarah_adams Replying to @saarah_adams Reply to @saarah_adams 🐌 #snailmucin #snailmucinessence #glowingskin #skincare101 #skincaretips #kbeautyskincare #fypシ #kbeautyskincaretips #fypp♬ Love You So - The King Khan & BBQ Show
How often to use snail mucin depends on why you're using it—since it does have many benefits—and what other ingredients it’s formulated 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, which should make it relatively easy to incorporate into your own routine.
Depending on your skincare routine, you can use snail mucin once or twice per day. Ask your dermatology provider any questions about incorporating the product into your current routine!
Most of the snail mucin used for skincare comes from the Cryptomphalus aspersa species, otherwise known as the common garden snail. Before you head outside to search for snails, the process of developing snail mucin skincare isn’t as easy as letting a snail slowly slug its way across your face. There are thousands of snail harvesters around the world, all of which use different (and sometimes proprietary) methods of extracting the mucin out of snails, which they then hand over to skincare companies to further develop into formulas. One of the most common methods is to harvest mucin from snail farms, which can also sell snails to be eaten as food, a delicacy in some cultures and cuisines. For example, a manufacturer may place the snails in a dark room over a net and allow the snails to roam free, while collecting the leftover mucin snails leave in their trails. While every formulator is different, producers aim to avoid harming the snails during the process of mucin harvesting. Benton, Biopelle, COSRX, and Mizon all tout their snail mucin products as cruelty-free. However, one important thing to note is that, since it is derived from an animal, snail mucin is not vegan.
In general, snail mucin products are suitable for all skin types, although people with dry skin may notice the hydrating properties more than those with oily skin. It is also generally safe for acne-prone or sensitive skin.
No! This lightweight ingredient is non-comedogenic and won't clog up pores. Even better, it has antimicrobial and wound healing properties which may help to speed up the acne healing process (although more research is needed). However, while snail mucin is non-comedogenic, we still recommend you review the full list of ingredients in any given product to check for pore clogging ingredients.
While snail mucin may support wound healing, there is no scientific research to support claims that snail mucin can treat acne scars.
Treating acne and anti-aging concerns is tough—especially when there are so many opinions and trending skincare products out there! If you’re feeling unsure about what your skin needs to beat breakouts, talking to a dermatology provider can help, like the friendly skin experts at Curology.
You can get started when you start your Curology trial*. Just take a quick skin quiz and snap a few selfies and one of our licensed dermatology providers will evaluate your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send you a 30-day supply of your personalized prescription formula with a mix of active ingredients chosen for your unique skin concerns, plus any of our recommended products of your choosing.
McDermott M, et al. Advancing Discovery of Snail Mucins Function and Application. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. (2021).
Lim, V. Z., et al. Efficacy and Safety of a New Cosmeceutical Regimen Based on the Combination of Snail Secretion Filtrate and Snail Egg Extract to Improve Signs of Skin Aging. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. (2020).
Rosanto, Y. B., et al. Effect of snail mucus on angiogenesis during wound healing. F1000Research. (2021).
Trapella, C., et al. HelixComplex snail mucus exhibits pro-survival, proliferative and pro-migration effects on mammalian fibroblasts. Scientific reports. (2018).
Noothuanw, N., et al. Snail mucus from the mantle and foot of two land snails, Lissachatina fulica and Hemiplecta distincta, exhibits different protein profile and biological activity. BMC Research Notes. (2021).
Jessica H. Rabe, et al. Photoaging: mechanisms and repair. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2006)
Andrea L Zaenglein, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2006).
B.J. Kim, Y.A. No. Use of cream containing mucus secreted by snails has an anti-aging effect on skin. Korean Journal of Dermatology. (July, 2015). *Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.
Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C