Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Techie Tuesday: Beauty Slime

I'm sure we are all familiar with snails and the slimy little trail they leave behind. I once had an intimate relationship with a few snails in middle school. They were unwilling participants in a science project I developed regarding second hand smoke. FYI-- I no longer use animal testing. The slime was gross to say the least, but snails were the lesser of evils. I worked with mealworms first--extra gross!-- and I can't even bear the sight of slugs. Much to my surprise, snail trails have a profound application in cosmetics and skin care treatments.

The use of snail extract in beauty treatments was discovered accidentally by snail farmers in Chile. They noticed that cuts healed rather quickly and that all of the workers on the snail farm had unusually soft, supple hands. Typically, hard work with your hands equals hard, calloused hands, but that certainly was not the case. After taking the time to really think about it, it should be no surprise that snail slime has these properties. Critically thinking, snail's soft bellies travel over some very rough surfaces, yet they keep going and never appear to get injured. Scientists discovered that the snail extract--Helix Aspersa Muller Glycoconjugates-- contains collagen, allantoin, glycolic acid, elastin and antibiotics. Allantoin is responsible for skin regeneration. It is the anti-oxidant that allows a snail to repair/rebuild its shell if necessary. Glycolic acid is useful in hydrating and exfoliating the skin as well as assisting natural collagen production. The antibiotics in snail extract are a combination of peptides and Vitamins A, C and EA which work together to fight bacteria.

This is not 'new' science. The first snail cream was patented in 1995. It was used to fight wrinkles, acne, and age spots and to treat minor burns, cuts, stretch marks, warts, ingrown hairs, etc. The snails used to make various snail trail cosmetics are raised in a controlled environment to ensure they produce optimal extract. But how is the slime extracted?

One patented method is to agitate the snails in warm water. The water is then filtered to collect only the snail extract. I've read of other methods that were much more harsh than this. One involved removing the shell and cutting the fatty parts of the snail. Now is that really necessary? There is also concern about how effective the extract is after being stolen from the snail. Son of the Chilean farmer who originally discovered this miracle slime has developed a process to extract the slime and preserve its qualities. He claims his method does not harm the snails but that is definitely under suspicion since the method is top secret.

While it is a known fact that the snail trail has all these magnificent properties, there is no guarantee that they actually make it into your jar of cream or vial of serum. Additionally, the synthetic ingredients typically found in our beauty products may greatly alter the effectiveness of such a concoction.


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