1. Headline
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Labcconte USA; Reuters file
Sticky trend? Slug mucus, as found in Labcconte USA products, is now a hot new beauty ingredient.
By
TODAY.com
updated 7/27/2011 12:18:43 PM ET 2011-07-27T16:18:43

Are nature’s slimiest creatures slithering onto store shelves?

Snails – or more accurately, their guts and slime – have become the latest fad in skin care. Hailed for its active ingredients, snail extract is popping up in beauty lines across South America and skin care mecca South Korea. Both low- and high-end companies have taken to the sticky ingredients, which debuted on the market in the mid ’90s and range from seemingly tame to slightly bizarre (BB Cream features “mucus from red ginseng-fed snails”).

“I spotted it while on holiday in Korea and noticed it was flying off the shelves,” said Paris B, 35, a beauty blogger for Mywomenstuff.com. “Although gross-sounding, the [Tony Moly Intense Repair Live Snail] cream seemed to be beneficial … and it did seem to make my skin feel softer and finer.”

What’s so appetizing about slime? In 2006, Chilean farmers reportedly noticed visibly smoother skin after handling snails they were breeding for the French food market. Packed with glycolic acid and elastin, a snail’s secretion protects its own skin from cuts, bacteria, and powerful UV rays, making mother nature’s gooeyness a prime source for proteins that eliminate dead cells and regenerate skin.

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It’s a treatment that that has been used as far back as ancient Greece: Hippocrates reportedly prescribed a mixture of sour milk and crushed snails for skin inflammations. These days, it’s marketed as an acne treatment, spot and scar remover, and burn healer.

“It’s a 100 percent pure and natural product that allows them to replace the typical chemical skin creams,” said spokesman Christian Plaut of Andes Nature, which sells a popular snail cream in South America. “Consumers must usually buy several creams separately to get the same benefits.”

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To produce their coveted slime, snails are exposed to “safe mechanical stress,” in which they’re stimulated repeatedly during a life cycle. The obtained slime is then filtered numerous times until it’s finally packaged for human consumption. Companies such as Labcconte USA use their own snail farms to guarantee secretion purity, and return the slowpokes to their hatcheries after the extraction process.

Not that slime is the only way to ensure a smooth face. “Lots of species, including humans, secrete mucus rich in hyaluronic acids ... but that doesn't mean you'd put phlegm on your face,” said dermatologist Dr. Bobby Buka, who instead recommends non-mollusk products such as First Aid Beauty's 5-in-1 face cream for similar results.

Buka says there are no placebo-controlled trials demonstrating the efficacy of snail slime or mucus in skin rejuvenation, but sees no harm in slathering on some slime. “I generally don't dissuade patients who swear by snail-derivative products, but it's definitely not my first choice if you've got $20 to spend on your skin.”

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As for the “ick” factor, snail cream is only the latest addition to a long line of recent gag-inducing beauty ingredients: Chicken bone marrow (moisturizers), bull semen (shampoo), bird feces (spa treatments), beetles (lipstick) and even whale vomit (perfume). Buka has had his share of strange requests: “Someone came into the office last week asking us to purchase a line of pre-packaged human placentas from France.”

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Others, however, think that applying chemicals to one’s body is far less appealing. “The consumer is intelligent, and once you provide them the information, they absolutely understand that the only really disgusting factor is to keep feeding the skin with synthetic or chemical products, instead of natural products,” said Plaut.

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Andes’ website takes the case further, asking,Why would we consider snails as OK to eat but not to use as a natural skin care product? The obstacle is that the notion is new to many people.”

Yet some, including TODAY style editor Bobbie Thomas, are still skeptical. “Without any solid data or science behind its cosmetic benefits for the skin, I would caution spending a lot of money or testing if your skin is sensitive,” Thomas said. “If those aren’t factors for you – then this may be just the new bird-poop facial for you.”

In other words, before putting snail slime on your face, you may want to think about it… slowly.

Vote: Would you try snail slime cream?

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Photos: The secrets behind Hollywood's best complexions

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  1. The secrets behind Hollywood's best complexions

    How do they get that glow? Find out how celebrities like Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson and more get soft, supple skin.

    Lauren Conrad's natural glow
    The Laguna Beach native is known for her sun-kissed California look. For a smooth and safe glow, opt for a paraben-free self-tanning formula, advises celebrity skincare expert Kate Somerville, who has worked with the star.

    We like St. Tropez Gradual Tan lotion for Face ($25, sttropeztan.com), which smells good -- seriously -- and is nearly impossible to screw up. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Kate Hudson's lit-from-within skin

    The ever-fresh Kate Hudson sees nutrition expert and dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, who prescribes an anti-inflammatory diet of high-quality protein, low-glycemic carbs like broccoli and yogurt, healthy fats, and antioxidant-rich drinks like green tea.

    "These foods help maintain normal levels of insulin and blood sugar," he says. Even better? The benefits are visible in just three days." Check out Perricone's latest book, "Forever Young," ($26, amazon.com) for more information.

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    (Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage for Glamour Magazine via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Debra Messing's consistent radiance

    Messing recently signed on to star in NBC's new musical comedy "Smash," but the 42-year-old star still looks as radiant as she did on "Will & Grace." According to Somerville, that's partially due to peptide treatments.
    "Long-term use of peptides softens and strengthens the skin and encourages cellular repair," she says. Squeeze a few drops from Philosophy's When Hope Is Not Enough capsules ($50, ulta.com) into your daily moisturizer to work peptides into your routine. (Lester Cohen/WireImage via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Jessica Alba's blemish-free face

    To achieve Jessica Alba-level epidermis perfection, Somerville recommends an oxygen therapy facial.

    "We exfoliate with enzymes and gentle acids," says Somerville, who has worked with the star. "Follow with vitamins and a moisturizer to lock in hydration." If you can't make it to the spa, Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing mask ($52, blissworld.com) will work at home.

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    (Erik Pendzich / Rex USA via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Charlize Theron's sunspot-free skin

    Theron may have grown up in sunny South Africa, but you wouldn't know it from her damage-free face.
    "Charlize loves our microdermabrasion treatments for their polishing, refining and cleansing qualities," says celebrity facialist Ole Henriksen, who works with the star. Try the Ole Henriksen At Home Mini peel system ($95, olehenriksen.com) for a similar tightening, repairing and renewing experience. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Dior via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Kate Walsh's quenched skin

    The "Private Practice" star's complexion has a natural dewy finish. To keep aging skin from drying out, Somerville recommends her own Quench Hydrating Serum with HSC Complex ($65, katesomerville.com). "It's the one product my clients can't live without," says Somerville, who has worked with Walsh.

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    (Rob Kim/FilmMagic via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Kerry Washington's even skintone

    Washington knows how to maintain clear skin – a gift that no doubt helped her nab a L'Oreal Paris contract back in 2007. To accentuate the star's supple sheen, Somerville turns to ultrasound treatments.

    "They detoxify and are good for acne," she says. "When used in combination with lightening agents, ultrasound can improve and brighten pigmentation." Ask your facialist or dermatologist if you're interested in trying a similar approach. (Lisa Lake/WireImage for Niche Media via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Eva Mendes' taut skin

    Mendes has an incandescence that seems to come from within. Perricone, who has treated the actress, says you can get a similar luminosity by following his Three-Day Nutritional Face-Lift. What, exactly, does that entail? "Eating salmon twice a day," he says. You can supplement with fruits and vegetables; the dermatologist swears you'll see results almost immediately.

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    (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rashida Jones' pore-free complexion

    The "Parks and Recreation" star looks perfectly polished when she's not wearing a trace of makeup. Jones' facialist, Kate Somerville, advises using laser treatments to achieve even texture and minimize fine lines. "This is a noninvasive laser technology that uses near-infrared light to get down into the dermis," she explains.

    Again, speak with a skincare consultant if this treatment interests you; at-home lasers aren't available for these purposes just yet. (Noel Vasquez/Getty Images via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Sofia Vergara's supple skin

    The "Modern Family" bombshell has excellent skin elasticity. Maintain healthy hydration with a serum that contains hyaluronic acid, says Somerville, who has treated Vergara. Cucumber and willow herb extracts help firm skin and soothe irritation. The facialist swears by her own Quench Hydrating mask ($45, katesomerville.com).

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    (Gilbert Flores/CelebrityPhoto.com via InStyle.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: Best beauty products at an affordable price

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