How Snail Extract Protects Against UV Light and Free Radicals

Snail slime for skin is something that is growing in popularity, in part due to the growth of korean skin care techniques in the West. 

While the more modest snail secretion benefits for skincare are becoming well known (softer, more moisturised skin and reduced lines for example), our understanding of snail gel benefits is still relatively premature.

One thing that isn’t often discussed is snail extract UV protection and the role it can play in reducing free radicals. A study by a San Diego dermatology lab found that snail mucin could counter the effects of sun damage within 12 weeks, and specifically had a significant effect at reducing the fine lines caused by sun damage.

This perhaps isn’t surprising when you consider that snail mucus is created for this exact purpose - protecting the snail from sharp environmental hazards, from drying out in the sun, and from other potential external risk factors.

However, one of the lesser known snail gel benefits is that the substance can also benefit the body and skin by acting as an antioxidant and scavenging free radicals while simultaneously increasing the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme which disables some free radicals.

If you’re not aware why this is so significant, Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and aging - and are linked to cancer and many other deadly diseases.

The fact that snail mucin can reduce the presence of free radicals and protect from UV light combines with the more standard skincare benefits of snail serum such as increased moisture and tighter pores, to make snail based serums the topical equivalent of a superfood.

But when did people discover these benefits, and how exactly do they work?

History of the Topical Use of Snail Secretion

You might be surprised to hear that the first use of snail mucus for skincare purposes was in ancient Greece. Hippocrates, famous for discovering many medicines still in use today, often prescribed crushed snails as a treatment for inflammation. It wasn’t until literally millennia later that we had solid scientific evidence for it’s anti-inflammatory properties.

In the 20th Century. Chilean snail farmers who were farming snails for the French food market discovered that their hands became smoother and more moisturised after every shift.

Even more recently, Thai spas have offered snail spa treatments that involve allowing live snails to wander around the face!

Despite all of this historical use, it is only in the last few years that snail serum has begun to commonly be used in skincare products and serums.

Why is Snail Mucus Good For Skin?

Beyond the aforementioned protection against UV rays and free radicals, benefits also include:

  • Removal of sunspots
  • Increased moisture retention
  • Tighter skin due to water-based ingredients that absorb into the skin and shrink
  • Removal of acne
  • Increased elastin and collagen production

Snail mucus includes a wide range of beneficial compounds including elastin, natural antimicrobials, peptides, natural antioxidants and glycol acid (a substance that helps to remove dead skin and is commonly used in skincare products).

In regards to protection against free radicals, the results are quite astounding. A 2013 paper in the Journal of Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology found the following results:

“According to the results of antioxidant activity, the biggest radical clearance rate of DPPH· was 20.56%. Clearance rate of ABTS·+ free radicals were increased with increasing concentration. Thermal stability of antioxidant activity was determined when temperature was 20 to 100°C. Results show that the antioxidant activity changed little in the range of 20~80°C , while 90°C for 20 min, it decreased due to protein denaturation. When temperature went to 100°C, clearance rate fell to 56.8% that of room temperature. The study shows that snail mucus antioxidants may be composed of two parts, the unstable protein substances in hot temperature and non-protein substances stable in high temperature while both the components constitute the antioxidant part of the mucus.”

Another reason snail mucin protects against free radicals is vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect against free radicals and reduce signs of aging. Snail mucus contains a significant amount of vitamin C which is likely to support the already existing antioxidant benefits of the mucin and help the skin to continue supporting itself after application.