Skincare ingredients take a turn to the strange
From South Korea’s besotted and booming beauty industry to highborn nods from the UK’s royal family, skincare is taking a turn towards nature’s less than conventional phenomena in an effort to advance anti-aging products beyond the here and now. Snail mucus, fish eggs, and bee venom are all making the leap from witchy shopping list to cosmetics must-haves, so let’s look past the gross and try to see the good in these less than glamorous ingredients poised to shake up your skincare regimen.
And let’s start with the grossest. Mucus. Specifically snail slime.
A 2008 study in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology confirmed that mollusk secretions do indeed have “skin-regenerative properties,” found to both stimulate fibroblast proliferation and to have antioxidant benefits. In fact, all mucus consists of collagen-style proteins, but we’ll stick with snails. There is a line, people.
For the excessively squeamish, let’s explain using the fine art of personification. Imagine the good Monsieur Snail, attempting a trip from A to B, his tiny underside scraping over rough, gravely terrain. Ouch, right? It’s that same slimy goo being included in your face cream that helps his tender belly heal. The thought—particularly popular South Korea—is that the inclusion of snail slime in your face cream could have the same effect.
You might remember tabloid rumors of the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Cornwall’s passion for bee-venom facials? Oft touted as “a natural alternative to injectables,” bee venom is garnering plenty of interest from cosmetics companies, who are taking to farming this substance for its secret ingredient, a peptide called melittin. Thought to increase blood circulation, gently plump the skin, and make wrinkles less visible, melittin is chock full of antibacterial properties and has even been shown to help treat and prevent acne. Since honeybee venom actually signals your brain to heal the skin, it doesn’t seem so farfetched that the beauty industry might take an interest in including it in your facial serum.
And what about fish eggs? Slathering some on a cracker? Sure. But how many of us are really committed enough to slap some caviar on our faces? There are plenty of pros in the cosmetics industry that seek out a specific enzyme in salmon roe that is released while baby salmon are hatching. The enzyme is thought to act as an ultra-gentle exfoliant, similar to glycolic acid, but without the drying or irritating side effects—making it a promising inclusion in the world of anti-aging and skincare.
Considering that, not so long ago, the thought of injecting botulinum toxin into one’s face would have been considered a crime, is it really so farfetched to explore some of nature’s less than savory substances in regards to advancing the cosmeceuticals industry? Probably not.
“This has been going on a long time,” ethnobotanist and natural pharmaceuticals enthusiast Paul Cox, Ph.D. recently told Vogue magazine, “Cleopatra wore beetle lipstick.” Beetle lipstick, folks. Beetles.
And if it’s good enough for Cleo…