Vajacials. Retinol on your feet. Applying foundation with a makeup spatula. And now, snail mucin. This ingredient, which is enjoying an all-time high in Google Trends and 468.5 million views on TikTok, is proving that its hype is anything but sluggish. So what is snail mucin and what is it good for? Here, a cosmetic chemist breaks down the slimy substance and talks about what it is, why it’s so popular, if it’s safe and how to add it to your skincare routine.
What Is Snail Mucin? A Cosmetic Chemist Breaks Down Everything You Need to Know
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Meet the Expert
Alex Padgett is a cosmetic chemist and co-founder of Educated Mess, a skincare brand that focuses on bringing consumers scientific information about the ingredients in their products that empowers them to make better informed decisions. Padgett, who also runs a popular skincare TikTok account, holds a Master of Science in cosmetic science from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
What Is Snail Mucin?
“Snail mucin is basically a liquid that snails secrete under stressful conditions,” Padgett explains. Supposedly, no snails are harmed in the collection of slime and many products containing the ingredient proclaim to be cruelty free. (This does not, though, make the product vegan.) According to Racked, snails are set on mesh or glass and left in a dark room. Alternatively, steam baths or salt water may be employed to harvest the mucus. After the mucin has been collected, it is then filtered to remove impurities before being added to skincare products.
Why Is Snail Mucin Trending Right Now?
“The liquid that the snails secrete is rich in hydrating humectants and polysaccharides that can help improve hydration and help skin hold onto water better,” Padgett says. While she wouldn’t deem it a hero ingredient or “holy grail” item, there are several reasons why it could be surging in popularity.
“It's pretty good for hydration, and ‘glass skin’ or a ‘glazed donut’ look are trending heavily right now.” Padgett notes that products with humectants (snail mucin, glycerin, hyaluronic acid) can help improve the skin’s water retention abilities, which is key if you’re going for that look.
“Because snail mucin is rich in polysaccharides, it has a slimy texture, but it also can serve to form somewhat of a film to trap water into skin that will help give an instantly more hydrated appearance,” Padgett elaborates. “I think that ingredients that give some instant gratification tend to gain a lot of attention, which could be another reason snail mucin is so popular despite it not necessarily being the best humectant.”
It also boils down to the shock factor. As Padgett bluntly points out, saying that your dewy skin was the work of snails instead of, say, a 30 percent glycerin serum sounds way cooler. Marketing for the win.
Is Snail Mucin Really a Safe Skincare Ingredient?
According to Padgett, yes, snail mucin is safe to use, even if your skin is sensitive. However, as with any new ingredient, you should patch test before slathering it on to verify that there are no allergic reactions.
“To do your own patch testing, just apply a small amount to an area of skin and wait a few days to see if you notice any redness and irritation. It's not a dangerous allergy but it could cause some [inflammation],” she notes.
Padgett shares that in the past, snail mucin has typically been applied to wounds, because it was believed that it could help speed up the recovery. In terms of skincare, people can simply expect an instant burst of hydration.
What Are the Benefits of Snail Mucin?
Various studies have explored the potential benefits of snail mucin, notably those listed below. However, it’s important to note that while it has become a popular ingredient, research on the different species remains sparse, often due to inaccessible habitats. The most researched snail is the A. fulica, or giant African snail.
- Drug Delivery: In this study from 2021, the authors noted the efficacy of snail mucin in delivering medications, as the mucus was able to diffuse it across membranes. They also reported that the mucin interacted well with gastrointestinal membranes, which is where many medications are absorbed into the body.
- Hydration: “The bulk of what [snail mucin] does is provide skin with vital hydration, which is super important,” Padgett says. As Everyday Health reports, the mucus is a mix of hyaluronic acid, iron, zinc and peptides.
- Wound Healing: According to the British Microbiology Research Journal, snail mucin from certain species had antibacterial properties and antimicrobial proteins that could fill the need for alternatives to traditional antibiotics that treat bacterial infections in wounds.
- Anti-Aging: Snail mucin was shown to be effective in treating fine lines, per this 2013 study. Participants saw improved skin texture after 12 weeks of application.
- Cancer-Fighting: This 2018 study reported that snail mucin had been effective in treating melanoma. It was shown to prevent the production of melanin pigments in the skin, as well as the ability to fight against human melanoma cells. It is important to note, however, that snail mucin is not FDA approved to treat cancer nor any other condition. (The FDA does not regulate cosmetics.) “I'm never going to promote anything other than SPF as having that benefit until the FDA runs rigorous testing to prove it,” Pagett says.
How to Add Snail Mucin to Your Skincare Routine
Should you want to incorporate snail mucin into your skincare routine, Padgett says it’s easy to do so, given that the ingredient won’t negatively react with other products, like vitamin C and retinol.
“When looking for a product, I’d consider texture preferences first because a product won’t benefit your skin if you despise using it so much that you avoid it,” she advises. For instant hydration, Padgett recommends a high-concentration serum like COSRX. Or you can choose an essence, like Peach Slices Snail Rescue Toner.
“I prefer the texture of the Peach Slices watery essence because it’s not sticky, but the one from COSRX does give more of that visibly plump and hydrated look,” she notes.
Snail mucin is also available in primers, moisturizers and cleansers, and Padgett says that it’s good in all forms and provides hydrating benefits. One last thing to note: concentration matters.
“As a rule of thumb, you can expect more hydration with higher percentages of mucin, but you can also expect more of a tacky, gooey texture with those products,” Padgett says. “It really just depends on what you like.”