288: Snail Mucus

288: Snail Mucus

Brain Junk
288: Snail Mucus

We’ve got a vocab “argument” when it comes to the beauty industry. They say that super hydrating lotion has snail mucins. Scientists say mucins are in a protein family secreted by animals for a whole host of reasons. Come clean beauty industry🤣🤣🤣! It’s snail mucus.

Show Notes:

NIH National Library of Medicine: Super cool snail slime paper

NPR scientist interview

Snail Facial with REAL SNAILS!


[00:00:03] Speaker A: Welcome to Brain Junk. I’m Amy Barton.

[00:00:05] Speaker B: And I’m Trace Kerr. And today is everything you never knew you wanted to know about Snail mucus.

[00:00:13] Speaker A: Oh, I am delighted already.

[00:00:18] Speaker B: It’s not just for sidewalks anymore.

[00:00:20] Speaker A: Really? I hope there’s some practical use, like this is a part of our perfume or, you know, that chapstick you just used. Okay, dazzle me with grossness, please.

[00:00:30] Speaker B: You’re going to love this. Okay, so let’s get into mucus first. Such a great word. What do you think of when I say mucus?

[00:00:38] Speaker A: Well, I have asthma, so I immediately think of I have to cough, so mucus is alarming to me It hits that first, not gross.

[00:00:51] Speaker B: Okay. I always think of the frog in princess and the frog when somebody’s like, it’s slimy. The frog is slimy. And he’s like, it’s not slime, it’s mucus.

[00:01:03] Speaker A: Oh, that’s entirely different. Fine. Wonderful.

[00:01:08] Speaker B: Well, snails use mucus as a lot of things. They use it as a glue. They use it to make a slick non stick surface to glide on. And apparently it takes a lot of work to make a snail trail biologically.

[00:01:22] Speaker A: Really? So mucus for snails is like the duct tape of the snail world.

[00:01:27] Speaker B: Yeah! Well, and I was reading this one paper, and they were saying like 10% of their energy goes into creating.

[00:01:33] Speaker A: That’s a lot.

[00:01:35] Speaker B: Yeah. So slime scientist Antonio Cerullo from University of New York, comparative mucomic analysis of three functionally distinct cornu aspersum species. Say that three times fast.

[00:01:49] Speaker A: I would like to meet this person.

[00:01:51] Speaker B: Well, you know what? There’s an NPR four minute long thing where he’s interviewed, so I’ll have that in the show notes. He is delightful to listen to. So he is digging into the importance of snail secretions.

And so, fun fact, they gathered snail slime in a lot of different ways. So they went to a snail grower who grows them for, like, escargot, that kind of stuff. And they were like, would you mind if we scraped your snails?

[00:02:20] Speaker A: I really hope you’re going to tell me that snail mucus is like sweat. And if they’re nervous, you can tell from their mucus.

[00:02:29] Speaker B: Oh, no. But they scrape them in different places. So you scrape the back of the snail, the top of that foot, and you get a protective mucus that does all sorts of interesting things. And then snail trail like that, they leave on the ground that has that slick slidy stuff that’s going on. And then for the adhesive mucus, they take a petri dish, they stick the snail on it, and they flip it upside down. And then the snail is like, oh, I have to stick. And so it does its sticky stuff. And then the snail moves around on the upside down petri dish, and then they scrape that off, and that gets that third kind of mucus.

[00:03:07] Speaker A: Wow.

[00:03:08] Speaker B: I know! I’m imagining this whole warehouse of little upside down dishes, and these snails are like, I’m so tired of hanging upside down.

[00:03:15] Speaker A: Seriously. Okay, now I’m curious whether regular scooch along foot mucus is inherently a little sticky or if they are really fast at responding to the flip. And they’re like, oh, you didn’t catch me. I’m still here.

[00:03:35] Speaker B: I’m sure some of them do fall off. Yeah, I imagine it’s not a quick flip. Here you go, buddy.

[00:03:40] Speaker A: And we’re tipping.

[00:03:41] Speaker B: Rotating.

[00:03:43] Speaker A: Yeah.

[00:03:43] Speaker B: Now you’re going to want to stick. It turns out this is mucus. It’s super complex. It’s filled with all sorts of proteins, sugars, and lots of yummies. They had this giant diagram in the paper, which you can take a look at, and it’s all these different proteins. I mean, it was, like, hundreds of items, ingredients that are in these different mucuses.

[00:04:01] Speaker A: So they’re very complex, and they’re also.

[00:04:04] Speaker B: Really good for your.

[00:04:06] Speaker A: Oh, is somebody doing snail facials?

[00:04:09] Speaker B: I imagine they are probably somewhere in a very fancy spa in Korea.

[00:04:13] Speaker A: But there’s a lot of snails in the lake at my aunt’s place.

[00:04:17] Speaker B: Well, boutique summer industry. I’m not saying don’t.

So the reason why I started looking into this is I was on instagram, and they had this facial cream for elderly ladies because they’re like, oh, are you 50? You need this now?

And it said it had snail mucins. Mu C-I-N-S. Is that snail mucus? Are they just using a fancy word? And it is. It is snail mucus.

[00:04:45] Speaker A: Come on, Don’t sidle up to it.

[00:04:46] Speaker B: Let’s just throw it out there. No, it’s snail mucins, they say. But the mucus is a hydrating agent. It’s a moisturizer. It has antimicrobial properties. It’s a wound healing agent. Depending on where you’re getting this mucus from, it’s a multibillion dollar market in skin.

[00:05:04] Speaker A: So if you’re a little ew. About letting larvae and maggots eat at your wound in the wild, you could go find a snail and possibly have some good effects, too.

[00:05:14] Speaker B: Quite possibly, yeah. So the snail mucins are super huge in K beauty, the Korean skincare circles.

[00:05:21] Speaker A: Wow.

[00:05:22] Speaker B: I was looking at New York magazine. They had a May 2023 article with the twelve best snail mucin products. And I love how they say that mucin. Just say mucus. Okay, we’re going to say mucus from now on.

[00:05:33] Speaker A: That’s right.

[00:05:34] Speaker B: Face creams, purifying masks, supposedly reduce inflammation. They work on hyperpigmentation, works on aging skin, starting at about $17 per container, going all the way up to $140 for snail slime on your face.

[00:05:49] Speaker A: And that’s probably like an ounce for the small one. I know, probably not a lot.

[00:05:55] Speaker B: I went and looked at Amazon reviews on these products, and this one gal was like, five stars. My skin is super hydrated and glass-like.

[00:06:03] Speaker A: No, thank you.

[00:06:05] Speaker B: And that glass-like thing came up a lot. You’re just plump and very. I don’t know. To me, glass-like. Sounds like a weird doll.

[00:06:13] Speaker A: Yes. So maybe there’s a fad there.

[00:06:16] Speaker B: That’s probably that. I want to look glossy, interesting, and very shiny.

The fellow. Let me go back up here, Antonio Cerullo. He was saying that, yes, it does have lots of properties and it can do things. I did read an article where a woman had used it every day for a month, and she’s like, my face looked the best it ever looked for the first two weeks. But then I wasn’t exfoliating or anything, and so I started to look a little gray and slimy.

[00:06:44] Speaker A: Ooh. Well, you can’t abandon your routine, people. You must have a little bit of balance. She was like, I will live the Life of the snail. And that was it. Yeah.

Speaker B: You can even get micro needled. You can get it micro needled into your skin by this New York plastic surgeon for $375. So everybody line up for that.

[00:07:04] Speaker A: I think that I’m going to embrace my wrinkles as a link to my heritage. Okay.

[00:07:10] Speaker B: I mean, I’m down with the hyaluronic acid. That’s it. I’m down with the retinol. I’m down with washing and doing that kind of stuff. Snail stuff.

[00:07:19] Speaker A: Americans can be kind of squeamish about things that the entire rest of the world does not care about.

[00:07:26] Speaker B: Yes. And I was thinking, we did talk about back in the day, women were using what, like larks when they weren’t using arsenic. Yeah. Or lead. So in the scheme of things, this actually does work. So snail facial.

[00:07:41] Speaker A: That’s interesting. And it’s not harmful.

[00:07:43] Speaker B: No. Yeah. And the vegans love it because, well, actually, that’s not true. PETA is like. It’s cruel because you’re keeping them in captivity, but you don’t kill them. You’re not, like, crushing them.

You’re just wiping them off a little bit. Hey, buddy, can I just scrape a little this off you?

[00:08:00] Speaker A: They’re living a good, productive life. Yeah.


[00:08:05] Speaker B: So, snail mucus. There you go.

[00:08:07] Speaker A: Wow.

[00:08:08] Speaker B: The question you didn’t know you had is now answered.

[00:08:13] Speaker A: Brainjunkpodcast.com for links because there’s probably pictures. Oh, and there’s the video. There’s a guy, the PhD. He’s not just the guy.

[00:08:22] Speaker B: No, he’s a scientist.

[00:08:24] Speaker A: That’s right.

If you’d like to chat with us about this, the best way to do it is pop us up on Facebook or Instagram, because we are there. What are we? We’re brain junk podcast there.

[00:08:36] Speaker B: Yeah.

[00:08:37] Speaker A: You think I’d know by now? How many years is this closing in on 300 episodes?

[00:08:42] Speaker B: We’re professionals.

[00:08:48] Speaker A: We professionals will catch you next time when we share more of this expertise. All of these things you never knew you wanted to know, and I guarantee you will not be bored.

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