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Snail mucin for skin: What to know about this buzzy ingredient

This K-beauty skincare favorite has earned a lot of hype. So what can it actually do for your skin?

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Feb 8, 2024 • 11 min read
Medically reviewed by Melissa Hunter, NP-C
Snail Mucin Texture
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Feb 8, 2024 • 11 min read
Medically reviewed by Melissa Hunter, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What is snail mucin?
More

Summary

  • Snail mucin comes from the secretion that snails use to help them move and stay moist in dry weather.

  • It contains beneficial skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid, allantoin, glycolic acid, and peptides.

  • Snail mucin may have anti-aging, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, and it may help treat breakouts and help protect your skin from skin cancer.

  • However, limited research has been conducted on snail mucin, and it may not be the most effective solution if you’re looking to treat acne or dry skin long-term.

  • Unless you have a snail allergy, snail mucin doesn’t have many known side effects.

Here’s what the research says on this Korean beauty skincare favorite.

People around the world have been using snail mucus for centuries for a number of skin concerns, from acne to wounds. More recently, though, sn us—also known as snail mucin or snail slime—has become a popular K-beauty ingredient, 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.

So what exactly does snail mucin do? Here we’ll break down what this ingredient is, how it may affect your skin, and how to incorporate it into your skincare routine if you’re interested in doing so.

What is snail mucin?

To understand snail mucin as a skincare ingredient, we need to learn a little bit about the creatures it comes from: snails! 🐌

If you’ve ever seen a snail in the wild, you’ve likely noticed the “slime trail” it leaves behind as it slides across its environment. We call this slime trail “mucin.” One type of mucin secretion is used as a lubricant that helps them move, but also as a glue to help the snail stay on a surface (even a vertical one!) without falling.¹ Another type of mucin helps the snail stay moist and comfortable even when dry or hot weather threatens to dry them out.²

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.³

How is snail mucin made?

Most of the snail mucin used for skincare comes from the Cryptomphalus aspersa species, otherwise known as the common garden snail. But, 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. To do this, 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, Corsrx, 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.

Is snail mucin good for your skin?

A 2015 clinical study found that participants who applied snail mucin to their facial cheek skin twice a day for 4 weeks experienced significant improvements of fine lines and wrinkles, skin elasticity, dermal density, and skin tightening.⁴ However, long-term follow-up studies to confirm the efficacy of the treatment should be conducted involving a larger number of patients.

What are the benefits of snail mucin?

While there hasn’t been much clinical research on snail mucin’s skin benefits, there are preliminary results related to anti-aging and wound healing.⁵ Before we get to that, there are a few conclusions that can be drawn from the makeup of the mucin itself.

Snail mucin contains beneficial skincare ingredients

Snail mucin is made up of components like:⁶

These are well-studied ingredients that can help moisturize and exfoliate skin, promote collagen production, and aid in skin healing and regeneration.⁸

If you’re not quite ready to give snail mucin a shot, but still want to reap the benefits of hyaluronic acid, try Curology’s Gel Moisturizer first. This lightweight formula attracts water to deeply hydrate and plump the skin.

Snail mucin may help with anti-aging

According to one study, the use of cream containing snail mucin and snail egg extract seems to be an effective anti-aging treatment by helping to:⁹

  • Improve fine lines and wrinkles

  • Enhance firmness

  • Increase elasticity of the skin

Snail mucin may help treat breakouts

The antimicrobial properties in snail mucin may also theoretically help treat breakouts by fighting the bacteria that contributes to acne.¹⁰ Glycolic acid, an AHA present in snail mucin, is known to be a helpful agent in treating acne comedones.¹¹ Talk about a multi-talented ingredient!

However, the science is still murky about how snail mucin could treat acne. If you are looking for an effective, long-term solution, you may want to consider Curology’s Custom Formulaᴿˣ for acne, which uses clinically proven ingredients to tackle everything from breakouts to clogged pores.

Snail mucin may help protect against skin cancer

The potential benefits of snail mucin may go even further, as the ingredient may help protect against skin cancer!¹² Snail mucin may also act as an anti-tumor agent by preventing the growth and survival of melanoma cells, and inhibiting their spread.¹³

Snail mucin has anti-inflammatory properties

Not only can snail mucin potentially treat breakouts, but it may help soothe any inflamed skin that they cause. One study found that snail mucin has anti-inflammatory properties, and may even help new blood vessels form, which is an important part of wound repair.¹⁴

If you’re looking for a dose of deep moisture to round out your routine and help with dry, irritated skin, you may want to try Curology’s Rich Moisturizer. This hydrating product uses 6 different moisturizing ingredients to help restore your skin barrier, without clogging pores.

Our top choices for snail mucin skincare

Are you ready to try snail mucin? Check out our top picks for snail mucin skincare:

How to use snail mucin

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.

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!

What are the possible side effects of snail mucin?

Snail mucin is well-tolerated by most people 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 it before your personalized formula.* You can also speak to a dermatology provider to see whether the treatment is right for you.

How to build an effective skincare routine

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.

While the effects of snail mucin on signs of aging (like fine lines and wrinkles) are somewhat well-documented, more research is needed to tell if it’s truly an effective ingredient for treating acne. But if you’re looking for a long-term solution for your acne, a personalized formula with proven-to-work ingredients* may be a more beneficial option. To get started toward your personalized formula, sign up with Curology,** and our licensed dermatology providers will get to work choosing active ingredients that can help treat your acne.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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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.

FAQs

Who should use snail mucin?

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. Snail mucin is also generally safe for acne-prone or sensitive skin.

Does snail mucin clog pores?

No! This lightweight ingredient is non-comedogenic and won’t clog 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.

Can snail mucin treat acne scars?

While snail mucin may support wound healing, there is no scientific research to support claims that snail mucin can treat acne scars.

Is snail mucin better than hyaluronic acid?

Snail mucin contains hyaluronic acid! However, hyaluronic acid on its own has been proven time and time again to moisturize the skin by binding to water molecules.¹⁵ While snail mucin does contain this hydrating ingredient, more research has ultimately been conducted on the benefits of hyaluronic acid alone for the skin.

Are snails killed for snail mucin?

Snail mucin can be harvested without killing snails, as the process sometimes involves collecting mucin that the snails leave behind. However, after collecting the mucin, some snail farms also sell them to be consumed as food in certain cuisines.

• • •

P.S. We did the research so you don‘t have to:

  1. McDermott, M., et al. Advancing Discovery of Snail Mucins Function and Application. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. (2021, October 11).

  2. McDermott, M., et al. Advancing Discovery of Snail Mucins Function and Application. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. Ibid.

  3. Noothuan, 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, April 15).

  4. Kim, B.J., et al. Use of cream containing mucus secreted by snails has an anti-aging effect on skin. Korean Journal of Dermatology. (July 2015).

  5. 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, March 1). 

  6. Noothuan, 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. Ibid.

  7. Trapella, C., et al. HelixComplex snail mucus exhibits pro-survival, proliferative and pro-migration effects on mammalian fibroblasts. Scientific Reports. (2018, December 5).

  8. McDermott, M., et al. Advancing Discovery of Snail Mucins Function and Application. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. Ibid.

  9. 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. Ibid.

  10. Noothuan, 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. Ibid.

  11. Zaenglein, A.L., et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (May 2016).

  12. McDermott, M., et al. Advancing Discovery of Snail Mucins Function and Application. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. Ibid.

  13. McDermott, M., et al. Advancing Discovery of Snail Mucins Function and Application. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology. Ibid.

  14. Ricci, A., et al. Snail Slime Extracted by a Cruelty Free Method Preserves Viability and Controls Inflammation Occurrence: A Focus on Fibroblasts. Molecules. (2023, January 26).

  15. Papakonstantinou, E., et al. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. (2012, July 1).

Melissa Hunter is a board certified family nurse practitioner at Curology. She received her MSN from George Washington University in Washington, DC.

*Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

**Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Melissa Hunter

Melissa Hunter, NP-C

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