Snail Slime

snail-slime

Some things just don’t sound right any way you dress them up.  One idea that pops up every couple of years and usually fades away pretty quickly is the idea of using snail slime as an active ingredient in skin care.  There is a reasonable case for the idea, though I imagine most readers of this post have already cleared off to another less distressing part of the Internet.

So why would you want to put snail slime on your skin?  Snail slime is composed of a mixture of proteins and polysaccharides.  Both proteins and polysaccharides are water soluble polymers.  This means that they are long thin molecules that can disperse easily in water.   If you dissolve them in water they tend to swell out to fill the space.  If you then dry them they shrink back again.  If you look at my post on the Roman use of egg white as an anti-wrinkle agent you’ll see that this is quite a long and well established idea.   As the polymers shrink they pull the skin to which they have been applied you feel a tightening of the skin in the area applied.  If you are lucky it might get rid of or at least reduce some fine dryness lines as well.

So in principle it could be quite effective.  If there were some reason to believe that snail slime was more effective than other polymers at giving the kind of tightening of the skin that people want, it might make a lot of sense.  But to be honest there isn’t really.  You could make just as good a case for wallpaper paste.  (Don’t try this at home – the preservatives used in wallpaper paste might not be suitable for use on the skin.)

It is easy to get publicity for snail slime because it is such a wacky idea, but it is much less easy to get people to actually buy it.  And when they do they won’t find it does anything that can’t be achieved by nicer sounding materials.

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6 thoughts on “Snail Slime

  1. Sabine

    ewww – snail slime!!

    Hmmm – one thing I don’t understand though is that you say that snail slime should be water soluble? If I touch a snail (I sometimes get slugs that come into my house and have to pick them off the floor – yuck!), I can’t seem to be able to wash the slime off my hands. It refuses to budge. How come?

  2. Colin

    Proteins can easily go from being relatively water soluble to water insoluble. That is probably one of the reasons evolution has found them so handy over the millenia. A good example is egg white. You can dissolve it in water easily when its fresh but a bit of cooking turns it into something that is not at all water soluble. Renaissance painters used to use egg whites to fix the paints in their frescos to take advantage of this tendency of proteins to cross link and become hard and insoluble.

    I have never tried this, but I wouldn’t mind betting that if you could clean up directly behind the snail while the trail is still fresh you’d be able to clean it up with just a damp sponge.

    It is precisely the change in structure of the proteins in the snail slime that is giving the effect on the skin.

  3. Maddy

    There was a South American company selling this some time ago. If you examined the ingredients list it contained beef gelatine. They said it was formulated to be similar to snail mucous, ie. did not contain any!

  4. Colin Post author

    Really? That is very interesting. I don’t think matching the properties of snail mucous would be very difficult. But it sort of shows that there isn’t anything that out of the ordinary in snail slime.

  5. Charles

    Fascinating stuff this snail slime. Logical that it works from the way you described it. It would take some getting used to for me, but then I suppose the product is packaged in a “user friendly “ way, not like letting snails slime over our faces.

  6. Anh

    I am now interested in getting snail lime from snails. Could anyone share with me the method how to get snail slime? Thank you very much.

    (Edited to remove e-mail address – I think Anh would be risking a lot of spam if it were to be published)

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