Several years ago I got a PR pitch from a well-known Korean skincare brand that was establishing a stronger hold of the US market. They wanted me to try their range of snail mucous products, which was praised to high heaven. The year was 2010 or so, and while I've heard something about snails in cosmetics it seemed more of a weird gimmicky thing, kind of like the fish pedicure. Also mucous. One of the most revolting words in the English language. I politely declined, and ended up testing some other creams and serums by the company that did diddly squat for me, so I had nothing to say about them and never got around to reviewing.
Fast forward to 2014-2015. I've learned quite a bit about Asian cosmetics and have replaced many of my old staples with basic Japanese and Korean products. I've also done as much research as I could about snails and was happy to discover that the little creatures are not harmed. It makes sense if you think of it: they're needed to keep producing their precious slime (slime-- only marginally better than mucous). I also discovered that it matters a great deal what percentage of the product is actually snail secretion (another bad word). Not all gastropod-based products are created equal, and they differ in texture, absorbency, finish, and performance. Here are the ones I've been testing and using lately:
Missha Super Aqua Snail Sleeping Mask ($23, misshaus.com, made in Korea)
Missha is one of the better-known Korean brands thanks to their groundbreaking BB Cream (which I dislike, but that's a discussion for another post). This snail sleeping mask seems to be everywhere, perhaps because of its very attractive price. However, at only 15% snail extract this is the least concentrated product of this bunch. It also contains 2% baobab tree extract, which makes me think of this:
|"Children, watch out for the baobabs" --Antoine de Saint-Exupéry|
TonyMoly Intense Care Snail Hydro-Gel Mask ($19.30 for a pack of 5 on Amazon, made in Korea)
I'm down to my last two of those, so it's time to reorder. I've tried a variety of snail sheet masks (a sheet mask post is in the works), but TonyMoly's is my favorite because it's extremely hydrating and calming, and the construction of the mask itself is high quality and easy to handle (nothing worse than flimsy masks that disintegrate before they're even fully unfolded). It contains fragrance and mineral oil, so beware, but personally I find these masks very effective, especially before a night out when I'm questioning my sanity for leaving the house. 20-30 minutes of relaxation and I feel like new.
Mizon All-in-One Snail Repair Cream ($16 on Amazon, made in Korea)
This is an odd one. At 92% filtered snail secretion I'd expect it to pack some serious punch, but after weeks of using it I couldn't tell much difference. It's supposed to replace your serum (meaning goes under moisturizer), but the matte feel and finish of the cream gives me a pause every time. It, indeed, requires a good moisturizer, but even so I can't tell if it's doing much for me. Maybe I should use it as a primer. Who knows?
Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream ($9.99 on Amazon, made in Korea)
This is my favorite snail product bar none. NONE. At 74% filtered snail extract I never expected this level of performance. But when Mizon say "recovery" they truly mean it. Scrapes, cat scratches, breakouts, scars, sun damage--- everything looks and feels better after one or two days of use. The most shocking part was how the gel cream eliminated a milia I had next to my right eye (a result of an eye cream sample I was testing months ago). Within a week of snailing it (and everything else), the pesky little thing opened up and disintegrated without leaving a trace. The tube is 45 ml, and I've been going through them quickly, so I always have backups. On humid summer days I didn't need extra moisturizing. Now that the weather has changed I use LRP Tolerian Riche on top and all is well. I haven't been this crazy about a product in a very long time.
Mizon Black Snail All-in-One Cream ($18.33 on Amazon, made in Korea)
Are black snails the gastropod equivalent of black cats, hence more magical? No idea. At 90% snail extract this cream is visibly different than the other Mizon All-in-1 above. The texture is... slimy. Really. It's quite runny, But also a lot more hydrating and nourishing. I use it as an extra treatment and another layer under my SPF, and so far it's kept seasonal effects at bay. I also massage it into my hands, as no residue is ever left and I can resume typing while admiring the plumped up appearance of my skin. I think it has helped lighten the scars on my right hand (cats ran through it).
Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule ($13 on Amazon, made in Korea)
A clear serum (80% snail) in a bottle with a dropper, this caters to the Western concept of serum under a cream. It absorbs quickly, feels good on skin, and have been a good companion after vigorous cleansing. I think you can alternate between this and one of the creams, or simply choose a preferred texture. I don't find it any less or more effective than the Black Snail, but it's good to have options. one advantage of the Ampoule formula and texture is that you can mix it into your base makeup (foundation, BB cream, Cover FX drops) and get a smooth and radiant skin.
How do you feel about snail products? Have you tried any?
(An outtake photo of Miss Olivia inspecting the products can be seen on The Non-Blonde Facebook group. Have you joined us yet?)