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, gastropod mollusks. Land snails and slugs produce mucus, but so 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 on. 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 a 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 glands of the snail’s foot, specifically a large gland located below the 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, recognising other snails, following a trail to a known destination, and also during reproduction. The discharge looks like gel, and it contains approximately 91 to 98% weight of water, depending on the species, combined with a small amount of high molecular weight glycoproteins (Denny, 1984). In Helix aspersa these glycoproteins reach weights of 82, 97 and 175 kDa.

The common garden snail Cornu aspersa

Many mollusks, both marine and terrestrial species, when inactive, use the secretion to stick to various surfaces. However, it is unexpected that a gel so diluted that it can commonly act as a lubricant, can also have such strong adhesive properties.[5] In Helix aspersa 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 a similar but thicker, condensed, more viscous and elastic kind, 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 Helix aspersa, the discharge is composed of synthesized products from various types of secretory glands. These are all single-cell glands found in connective tissue and 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 of mucus secreted protein, calcium, pigments, and lipids.[7]

Use in cosmetics[edit]

The benefits of snail slime in skincare was officially discovered by Dr. Rafael Abad Iglesias, a Spanish oncologist in the 1960s. He applied the Radiation Therapy for killing cancer cells on common snails. It aroused the snails to secrete goo, which stems from their agitation. He accidentally noticed that injured areas on the snail’s skin were healed quickly. Then, Dr. Rafael Abad Iglesias tested the snail secretion on humans and concluded that it could help expedite the restorability of the human skin.[8]

In the 1980s, a Chilean family owned a snail gardening business to tout escargots to French wholesalers. Through many days of handling these snails, they recognized that their skin became softer and clearer, scars and cuts by metal cages noticeably reduced. The eldest son of the family, Dr. Fernando Bascunan, attempted to rigorously do a study about the snail secretion. 15 years later, the family established Elicina, the first skincare brand with snail slime based creams.[9]

The slimy, thick excretion by the snail’s anxiety, also known as Helix Aspersa Müller Glycoconjugates is mostly used in cosmetic production. 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]

Myriad cosmetic companies beyond the world soon took serious about snail filtrate as a potent ingredient in skincare. K-beauty was one of the very firsts picking up the trend. The U.S. has been flooded by a lot of snail creams, essences and masks from South Korea since 2011.[12] In addition, people can even undergo therapeutic snail facials. For example, Dr. Matthew Schulman in New York imparts a treatment by micro-needling the snail secretion filtrate and hyaluronic acid into skin.[10] Otherwise, for some other snail facials in Japan, Korea, the U.K. and especially, Thailand, customers lie down and experience the garden snails crawling and excreting gooey trails across their faces. The snails from those facials are inhabited in good environments with clean water and organic foods for the high quality of the secretion.[13]

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

Snail slime is commercially obtained from the common garden snail species Helix aspersa, which produces a secretion rich in proteins of high and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid and antioxidants. The secretion of the snail supposedly has a double function when applied to human skin: on one hand it is claimed to stimulate the formation of collagen, elastin and dermal components that repair the signs of photoaging and, second, 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 used by the snails. These factors supposedly determine the quality of the slime and therefore the properties of a product made with it.[15]

Use in medicine[edit]

From Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages, ancestors utilized snail mucus for medical purposes. It helped alleviate inflamed skin and gastrointestinal ulcers as well as in form of syrup, calm a cough.[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]

The snail mucus was medicinally renowned for its repairing damaged tissues and balancing hydration. According to a study in The Journal of Dermatological Treatment (2009), it was used for burn treatment in 43 burn patients. 27 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’s going to be more innovative than the current surgical glue, which is vulnerable to body fluids. The existing surgical glue is suited for fairly straight, clean and slightly deep cuts. Otherwise, the mollusk’s glue can attach to wet surfaces with its flexible consistency, which enables better healing and its usage for 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]