Snail slime

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A crawling individual of the small land snail Cochlicella barbara leaves a slime trail behind it.

Snail slime is a kind of mucus, an external bodily secretion, which is produced by snails, which are gastropod mollusks. Land snails and slugs both produce mucus, as does every other kind of gastropod, from marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats. The reproductive system of gastropods also produces mucus internally from special glands.

Externally, one kind of mucus is produced by the foot of the gastropod and is usually used for crawling. The other kind of external mucus has evolved to coat the external parts of the gastropod's body; in land species, this coating helps prevent desiccation of the exposed soft tissues. The foot mucus of a gastropod has some of the qualities of glue and some of the qualities of a lubricant, allowing land snails to crawl up vertical surfaces without falling off.[1]

The slime trail that a land gastropod leaves behind is often visible as a silvery track on surfaces such as stone or concrete.


Mucus is a gel consisting of a polymer network that functions as a protective layer for the integument and mucosal surfaces of both elementary animals and mammals.[2]

The mucus of gastropods is not only used as a coating to cover the surfaces on which the snail crawls and a coating to cover the exposed soft parts of the body but also sometimes to allow a resting snail to adhere passively to surfaces, such as rock, making a temporary sealing structure called the epiphragm.[3] Mucus is produced by a large gland located below the snail's mouth.[4]

The foot of gastropods is covered with a thin layer of this mucus, which is used for a variety of functions, including adherence, lubrication, repulsing predators, recognizing other snails, following a trail to a known destination and during reproduction. The discharge looks like a gel and it contains approximately 91 to 98% water by weight, depending on the species, combined with a small amount of high molecular weight glycoproteins (Denny, 1984). In Cornu aspersum, these glycoproteins reach weights of 82, 97 and 175 kDa.

The common garden snail Cornu aspersa

When inactive, many mollusks of both marine and terrestrial species, use the secretion to stick to various surfaces. However, although it is so diluted that it can commonly act as a lubricant, it can also have strong adhesive properties.[5] In Cornu aspersum, there are two types of secretion. One type is translucent and not adhesive, the kind that the snail leaves behind as it moves (the slime trail), and the other is similar but thicker, condensed, more viscous and elastic, which is used to adhere to various surfaces. Both are clearly differentiated by the type of proteins present in them.[6]

A snail releases different kinds of mucus depending on the way it is stimulated. When the stimulation is normal, the slime is viscous (sticky) but if the snail is disturbed continuously or even violently, it releases clear foamy secretions. In the case of Cornu aspersum, the discharge is composed of synthesized products from various types of secretory glands. These are all single-cell glands found in connective tissue and they secrete their products via pores that pass between the epidermal cells. They are of various shapes and usually have a long excretory duct. There are eight different types of secreting glands. Four of these different types secrete protein, calcium, pigments and lipids.[7]

Use in cosmetics[edit]

The benefits of snail slime in skincare were officially discovered by Dr. Rafael Abad Iglesias, a Spanish oncologist in the 1960s. He applied radiation therapy used for killing cancer cells on common snails. It caused the snails to secrete mucus due to agitation. He noticed that injured areas on the snail’s skin were healed quickly. Dr. Rafael Abad Iglesias tested the snail secretion on humans and concluded that it could help expedite the restoration of human skin.[8]

In the 1980s, a Chilean family owned a snail gardening business to sell escargots to French wholesalers. Through many days of handling these snails, they recognized that their skin became softer and clearer, with scars and cuts by metal cages noticeably reduced. The eldest son of the family, Dr. Fernando Bascunan, attempted to study the snail secretion. Fifteen years later, the family established Elicina, the first skincare brand with snail slime-based creams.[9]

The slimy, thick excretion elicited by the snails' agitation, also known as Cornu aspersum glycoconjugates, is mostly used in the production of cosmetics. It boasts hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, glycoprotein enzymes, proteoglycans, antimicrobials, and copper peptides.[10] This provides hydrating, anti-oxidizing, and recovering properties when topically applied to give a glowing, youthful complexion. The snail mucin has been famed for wound healing and the improvement of wrinkles and fine lines.[11]

Cosmetic companies around the world noticed snail filtrate as an ingredient in skincare. K-beauty was one of the first to pick up the trend. South Korean snail creams, essences and masks have been used in the United States since 2011.[12] Another use is therapeutic snail facials, micro-needling the snail secretion filtrate and hyaluronic acid into the skin.[10] In other snail facials in Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, and Thailand, customers lie down and have garden snails crawling and excreting trails across their faces.[13]

In contrast, there are debates about the anti-aging effects of the snail mucus. Some experts claim that it is hard to manage the consistent concentration of nutrients in snail mucin. This depends on the type of gastropod and the formulating process. The potency of snail slime on human skin remains uncertain since most of the studies on its rejuvenating activities are conducted in cell or lab cultures.[10]

Snail slime is commercially obtained from the common garden snail species Cornu aspersum, which produces a secretion rich in proteins of high and low molecular weights, hyaluronic acid and antioxidants. The secretion of the snail supposedly has a double function when applied to human skin: first, it is claimed to stimulate the formation of collagen, elastin and dermal components that repair the signs of photoaging and, second, it is claimed to minimize the damage generated by free radicals that are responsible for premature skin aging.[14]

Snail slime has also been used by the Bamiléké people of Cameroon to treat burns[citation needed].

Snail slime varies in appearance and quality according to the environmental conditions, season, and food sources that the snails experience. These factors supposedly determine the quality of the slime and therefore the properties of the products made with it.[15]

Use in medicine[edit]

From Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages, people utilized snail mucus for medical purposes. It helped alleviate inflamed skin and gastrointestinal ulcers and treat coughs when used in a syrup.[16] Moreover, decades ago, in Southern Italy, people collected the trails to treat different skin lesions, such as dermatitis, light acne, warts and calluses.[17]

Snail mucus was medicinally renowned for repairing damaged tissues and balancing tissue hydration. According to a study in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment (2009), it was used for burn treatments in 43 burn patients. Twenty-seven patients who topically applied snail creams twice per day witnessed remarkable improvements to their skin.[18]

At the present time, many researchers are inventing a new type of medical adhesive inspired by the snail slime. It is an innovative version of the current surgical glue, which is vulnerable to body fluids. The existing surgical glue is suited for fairly straight, clean, and shallow cuts. In contrast, the mollusk’s glue can attach to wet surfaces with its flexible consistency, which enables better healing and its usage in a broader variety of wounds.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ RSC Publishing - Substitutes_for_snail_slime.asp
  2. ^ Verdugo, P., Deyrup-Olsen, I., Aitken, M., Villalon, M. and Johnson, D. (1987). Molecular mechanism of Mucin Secretion: The role of intragranular charge shielding. J Dent Res. 66 (2): 506-508
  3. ^ Hickman, C., Roberts, L. and Larson, A. (2002). Principios integrales de Zoología. 11°. Ed. McGraw- Hill Interamericana. España. Pp 328, 329, 330, 333. 98 (Spanish translation)
  4. ^ Ruppert E. E; Fox R.S. & Barnes R.D. 2004. Invertebrate zoology: a functional evolutionary approach. Belmont, CA: Thomas-Brooks/Cole.
  5. ^ Pawlicki, J.M., Pease, L.B., Pierce, C.M., Startz, T.P., Zhang. Y. and Smith, M. (2003). The effect of molluscan glue proteins on gel mechanics. The Journal of Experimental Biology. 207: 1127-1135
  6. ^ Ibid.
  7. ^ Campion, M. (1961). The structure and function of the cutaneous glands in Helix aspersa. Journal of Microscopical Science. 102(2): 195-216
  8. ^ Abad, R. (1991). U.S. Patent No. 5,538,740. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  9. ^ "Elicina Announces Expansion in the United States Market". PRWeb. Cision Ltd. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Landman, Beth (16 July 2015). "Does Slimy Snail Cream Do Anything for Your Face?". The Cut. New York Media LLC. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  11. ^ Strutner, Suzy (13 June 2017). "So THAT'S Why People Are Putting Snail Essence On Their Faces". HuffPost. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  12. ^ Tutton, Mark (13 November 2017). "Americans are putting snail slime on their faces". CNN. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  13. ^ Nguyen, Alice (26 July 2018). "5 Interesting Facts About Snail Slime Skincare". Punica Makeup. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  14. ^ Maria José Tribó-Bixareu et al, Resultados preliminares de la eficacia del tratamiento intensivo con la secreción de Crypthophalus aspersa en la terapéutica del envejecimiento cutáneo Med. cutan. iber. Lat. Am. 2004; 32 (6) 265 270
  15. ^ Paulina del Pilar Mediavilla (2008)
  16. ^ Clay, Phil (28 June 2018). What have animals ever done for us?. UK: Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 65-66. ISBN 9781789013733.
  17. ^ Thomas, Steve (July 2013). "Medicinal use of terrestrial molluscs (slugs and snails) with particular reference to their role in the treatment of wounds and other skin lesions". World Wide Wounds. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  18. ^ Tsoutsos, Dimosthenis; Kakagia, Despoina; Tamparopoulos, Konstantinos (2009). "The efficacy of Helix aspersa Müller extract in the healing of partial-thickness burns: A novel treatment for open burn management protocols". Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 20 (4): 219-222. doi:10.1080/09546630802582037.
  19. ^ Shoemaker, Stephen (13 August 2013). "Slug Glue: A Future with no Sutures?". IC News. Ithaca College. Retrieved 11 October 2018.

Further reading[edit]