When my seventh-grade social-studies teacher taught us about Hippocrates, he buried the lead. Sure, the ancient Grecian was the Father of Modern Medicine. But he also happened upon an early cure for skin inflammation by mixing crushed snails with sour milk—something modern-day beauty brands are drawing on, touting refined snail secretions as the latest balm to a luminous complexion.
Turns out the mucus secreted by snails that helps protect their slippery bottoms is full of elastins, proteins and glycolic acids, which together have significant anti-aging and healing properties—snail-based masks and creams are said to do everything from plump skin (ReVive’s Intensité Line Erasing Serum) to fade dark spots and scars (Biopelle’s Tensage Serum) and battle acne (Mizon Black Snail All in One Cream). Beauty
line Touch In Sol even makes a mascara with a little snail mucus thrown in to keep lashes from drooping. At the office of New York plastic surgeon Dr. Matthew Schulman, the cleverly named $375 Escarglow Facial employs a super-penetrative microneedling technique to apply snail-secretion extracts called “fibroblast growth factors,” which Schulman describes as “multifunctional proteins that aid healing.” If you think having a device punch minute holes in your skin is uncomfortable, be glad you’re not in Asia, where the most in-demand facials feature the live critters crawling across your face.
The question, of course, is whether snails are the real deal or just another snake oil, so to speak. Schulman points to studies of Chilean snail farmers whose hands looked young and smooth after time spent handling the creatures; small cuts on their hands healed more quickly, too. Consumers would seem to believe the hype. ReVive founder Dr. Gregory Bays Brown says that his line’s face and eye creams featuring snail extracts (meant to act as mini muscle relaxants) are among the company’s best-selling items, regardless of the slime factor. “The public is used to unusual products—after all, we’ve been using Botox for almost 20 years,” he says. “If it works, people use it.”