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Snail mucin | Is snail mucin good for your skin?

Updated: Jan 24

One of the ways I can gauge how far down the rabbit hole of skincare my patients have gone is when they tell me they have added snail mucin to their skincare routine.  Although there are some small studies on specific types of snail mucin used in medical studies, the reality is that not all snails are the same, not all mucin derived from snails is the same. There are over 40,000 snail species and each can create several different types of mucin to serve different purposes for snail survival. Which one is in your product? Who knows. Read more...



snail mucin

Image: Wix

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Why is snail mucin such a popular skincare ingredient? 

Snail mucin is one of the ingredients made popular by K beauty trends. Korean skincare is known for introducing unconventional ingredients that have an appeal to those seeking more natural options while also paying special attention to the sensorineural experience of using a skincare product.  K Beauty tends to have products that apply with a cosmetic elegance or a unique experience. Snail mucin is an ingredient that is in line with both of these criteria - a product that has a natural source with a slick feel on application. It is a product that conveys a glistening effect on social media videos that makes it simple for influencers to market to their following.

Video: Techei

Are there benefits to using snail mucin in skincare?

Before getting into the potential effectiveness of snail mucin, let’s review what snail mucin is, where it is derived from, and whether what is in your skincare products is the same thing. 

First off, not all snails are the same, not all mucin derived from snails is the same.  There are over 40,000 species of snails. Snails do not all produce the same type of mucin and the mucin they produce varies based on the part of the snail it is found since the mucin serves different functions.  For example, snails produce mucin along their feet to lubricate the surface and allow their bodies to adhere to the ground.  The mucin produced along a snail’s back plays an antimicrobial role and protects the snail from dehydration.  And, snails can produce mucin to serve varying functions such as protecting their eggs and as a barrier.

There are some limited studies on the mucin produced by specific species of snails to serve roles such as protecting the skin to manage radiation dermatitis, wound healing, antimicrobial effects, and barrier functions.  Some small studies have only recently started to explore the potential benefits of very particular types of mucin produced by the Helix aspersa snail in managing skin cancer and very particular types of mucin produced by Cryptommphalus aspersa snail in managing photoaging of the skin. 

Most of my patients who purchase snail mucin purchase on Amazon. Most snail mucin products I have come across make no specification of which snails the product derives its mucin from. Many products specify that the mucin is obtained by allowing snails to migrate across a surface and then retrieving the mucin left behind.  This implies the mucin obtained is from the feet or bottom of the snail.  The purpose of this particular type of mucin is to serve as an adherent and barrier property for the snail.  This mucin is less likely to have direct antimicrobial or antioxidant properties as it tends to be thicker and designed to protect by creating a barrier.

The question as to whether snail mucin is effective boils down to which snail was used, where on the snail the mucin was retrieved, and the purpose the mucin is intended to serve the snail. 

Does snail mucin clog pores? (i.e., is snail mucin comedogenic?)

I have not come across any medical studies evaluating if snail mucin is comedogenic or pore-clogging. In practice, the patients I have seen using this product tend to be teens and many have come in with almost every single pore clogged necessitating the use of stronger acne medications to clear and reduce the risk of scarring. In practice the lack of refined data on where the mucin is derived from implies that many snail mucin products on the market either used alone or in combination with other products have the potential to clog pores and trigger acne. Unless the snail mucin product you are using has gone through third-party testing to evaluate its comedogenic properties, it is safer to assume it has the potential to clog your pores until proven otherwise.

Who should or should not use snail mucin in their skincare routine? 

I do not recommend any patients use snail mucin in their skincare routine that has not clearly stated the source of the mucin with clinical studies evaluating the effectiveness of the particular product promoted and third-party testing to verify claims of comedogenicity.

If a tween is interested in getting into skincare, what steps are most important to them and why?

Tweens have always had an intrigue with skincare, this is nothing new. I’m almost 50 and I remember playing with my mom’s products and wanting (not necessarily getting:)  various products at that age as well.  The key is to remember that the structure and composition of our skin varies at different ages.  

Beauty and skincare products are roughly divided into two categories:

  • Pigmented products (cosmetics)

  • Skincare products (designed to manage or treat the skin)

Pigmented products are the traditional cosmetic products I refer to as feature enhancers. For example, these include a concealer to cover up pigment, an eyeliner to accentuate the eyes, a lipstick to define the lips, etc.  The age to start pigmented products varies based on personal, cultural, and family preferences.  Although parents often ask me to offer advice in this regard, the age to start is very personal. There are plenty of brands available that are well-tolerated by most skin types. From a dermatologic perspective, these products pose little risk to tween skin if best practices are followed. 

Best practices for pigmented products are to:

(1) Only use cosmetics because you want to (and your parents/guardians agree) and not because you feel that you have to for a perceived imperfection (i.e., if there is something you are covering up, talk to your dermatologist because we can likely treat it).

(2) Follow freshness recommendations and toss your products if they are not used in the recommended time frame to avoid microbial overgrowth in the product.

(3) Do not share products for sensitive locations such as eyes and lips. 

Skincare products, on the other hand, from a dermatologic perspective, can run a risk to tween skin.  Skincare products are designed to manage or treat the skin.  Basic skincare products to cleanse, moisturize, and protect the skin from UV exposure are reasonable at all ages - the focus is to cleanse & protect. I prefer that tweens use established brands with research and development that have reviewed and considered the safety and efficacy of their products.  The standard drugstore brands such as Oil of Olay, CeraVe, Cetaphil, Neutrogena, Aveeno, La Roche Posay, etc are best. 

Skincare products with added ingredients designed to address a particular skin challenge, however, can have risks.  Products designed for older skin generally have a lightweight serum base to intercalate between the dead skin cells and keratin on the surface of the skin to make it appear plumper and more hydrated.  Tweens that use serums may run a higher risk of clogging their pores. The composition of tween skin at the surface varies from that of an adult- especially before puberty.  Remember that not every company tests products for comedogenicity (pore-clogging) and that the testing when performed is likely performed on adults as opposed to children given that 3rd party labs are performing it.

What should tweens avoid when it comes to skincare? 

Skincare products that offer claims - anti-acne, anti-aging, anti-oxidant, anti-scarring, etc - should be avoided unless under the guidance of your Dermatologist.

Are there any ingredients that are not safe for tween skin?

I have been in practice for almost 2 decades and have started more tweens and young teens in recent months on aggressive anti-acne regimens than ever before.  They routinely come in with bags of skin care products - not makeup products, they have skincare products - that are not made for their age group.  Most of their products have marketing claims focused on one ingredient in the product with marketing buzz.  It is clear that these patients have not read the rest of the labels to see what is in their products since many have redundant ingredients.  

If the goal is to care for your skin, then care for it by not aggravating it or causing trouble.  If you are looking to address a particular concern about your skin, talk to your dermatologist.  If you are seeking to accentuate a feature or an aspect of your skin, makeup/cosmetic products may be a safer more affordable choice from a skin perspective. As the mom of an 18-year-old daughter, I recognize that for some parents choosing “dewy moisturizers” feels like a better choice over an illuminating powder to avoid makeup products at a younger age.  The reality is that if you are faced with this choice then recognizing that the skincare product - the dewy moisturizer -  runs a much higher risk of damaging the skin, triggering acne, and the potential for scarring it may make more sense to understand the risks these products pose. (Take a look at the Drunk Elephant products - I have not found non-comedogenic claims on these but there are plenty of noncomedogenic illuminating powders that are a lot cheaper with the same effect …) 

Ideally, it is best to discuss the why - what bothers you about your skin and what can we do to build your confidence and feel comfortable in your skin.

What are your thoughts on Snail Mucin Essence by Cosrx?

One of the most searched brands for snail mucin is the Snail Mucin Essence by Cosrx. When reviewing a product with snail mucin the questions to answer are:

  • Which snail species was the mucin derived?

  • Which portion of the snail was it derived?

  • How was the snail mucin extracted from the snail?

  • What claims are made by the snail mucin product? Are these possible?

  • Has the product been tested to see if it clogs pores?

For the Snail Mucin Essence by Cosrx the answers to these questions based on information on their website as of the date this post was published are:

  • Which snail species was the mucin derived?

  • Which portion of the snail was it derived?

  • How was the snail mucin extracted from the snail?

  • What claims are made by the snail mucin product? Are these possible?

  • Has the product been tested to see if it clogs pores?

>Not specified

snail mucin


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