Aloe vera and shea butter are well known for skin care. But how about snail slime?
Cleopatra may have used snail mucus to moisten her earlobes. The species Sphincterochila boissieri is adapted to very dry conditions and is found in the deserts of Egypt.
The recent rediscovery of the benefits of snail slime dates from the 1980s, when Chilean farmers handling snails bound for the French market observed how soft and well moisturized the skin on their hands had become. They also observed that cuts and scars healed quickly.
Research has confirmed that snail slime is naturally rich in vitamins, proteins, and substances such as glycolic acid, a nitrogenous compound called allantoin, collagen, and elastin – all of which are widely used in cosmetics.
According to the Istituto Internazionale di Elicicoltura, based in Cherasco, Piedmont, Italy, chemical analysis has identified the many active elements in snail slime that allow tissue regeneration in wounds and around bruises. Pure snail slime possesses antioxidant proprieties that rejuvenate human skin, improving its tone and elasticity.
The ensuing increase in demand for slime has inevitably led to a boom for snail farmers. Over the last 20 years, snail breeding has taken off (but at a snail’s pace, no doubt) and the number of farms has trebled.
In the past, salt or vinegar was thrown on snails, stimulating them to produce slime but killing them at the same time. Today, slime farmers spray the snails with ozone to relax and cleanse them of bacteria and mould. They are then coated with another natural spray that encourages them to produce slime.
Speaking of snails, the naturalist Sir David Attenborough has the unusual honour of having one named after him. Attenborougharion rubicundus, which is red and green, was discovered in 2016 in Tasmania. It inhabits only closed wet forests and is not found in dry forests or damp forests, making it extremely vulnerable to habitat loss through changed land usage and the impact of climate change.
Attenborougharion rubicundus is a protected species and cannot be used for slime production. But once an unknown genus, it has been named after a known genius, which hopefully will help it survive.