No, you don’t eat it. Neither is it meant to limber up the arthritic joints of snails. You massage it into your face to improve complexion, reduce wrinkles and improve scar lines. At least that’s the claim. Aren’t the marketers of cosmetics truly talented? They can squeeze a truckload of hope into a tiny jar. The industry tends to produce new products at a frantic pace, but in one special case, it happens at a snail's pace. Literally. Face creams that contain snail slime are a hot item in South America and Korea and are slowly slithering their way to North America. Sounds...well...like another slimy marketing effort. But don't quite roll your eyes yet. There is some history here. It seems Hippocrates favoured a mix of sour milk and crushed snails for inflamed skin. Of course that doesn’t mean it worked. After all the man who gave us the Hippocratic oath also thought that pigeon droppings cured baldness. But there may be something to the snail bit. Apparently Chilean farmers who were raising snails for the food market noted that their skin became smoother after handling the creatures. Not exactly scientific evidence, but enough for the cosmetic industry to pick up some speed in marketing snail slime.
Snail slime is a complex chemical mixture that contains proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, and a variety of glycoprotein enzymes. There’s also hyaluronic acid, some copper peptides, antimicrobial compounds and trace elements including copper, zinc, and iron. All these combine to protect the snail from cuts, abrasions and bacteria. But what can they do for people? There is actually evidence that at least some of slime components can stimulate the proliferation of fibroblasts, the cells that produce collagen and elastin, the proteins that form the basic matrix of skin structure. The problem, though, is that these effects have only been seen in cell culture. There's no study that has documented a benefit from snail slime cream in people. Even without such evidence, some producers claim to have a superior product because their snails are raised on ginseng!
And how does one get snail slime? It seems the snails have to be stressed to secrete the sticky stuff. I'm not sure how one stresses a snail, perhaps by signing it up for a race, or by frightening it with one of those dishes with the six little wells ready to be loaded with “escargots.” Eventually we may actually see some scientific evidence for the benefits of snail slime face cream, but while the hype races ahead at breakneck speed, the research seems to progress at...well..I can't resist... a snail's pace. The cream is expensive, but if you want to give snail slime a try, I think you can find some in the garden that will crawl over your face for free. And if snail cream isn’t exotic enough, there’s always shampoo with bull semen which apparently leaves hair with a brilliant sheen that no other substance can match. Very pricey, but I suppose collecting the needed ingredient presents some occupational hazards.