If you follow skincare trends at all, you've probably heard of CosRx Snail Mucin Essence, or, as it is sometimes known, CosRx Advanced Snail 96 Power Essence, or maybe just: "that snail cream stuff everyone's talking about." A longtime K-beauty sensation, CosRx entered the U.S. skin-care scene in 2017. Since then, its slick snail serum has amassed more than 40,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, consistently topped "best of" beauty lists and repeatedly gone viral on social media, where it has more than 75 million (and counting!) TikTok views. Today, it's an in-the-know skin-care staple with staying power — makeup artists, dermatologists and even actresses like Emily Ratajkowski have been singing its dermis-healing praises for years.
"Snail mucin can be effective for all skin types," says Philadelphia-based Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Nazanin Saedi. "Mucin has many protective properties and contains ingredients that help repair the skin. Small studies have shown that it helps hydrate dry skin, strengthen the skin barrier, stimulate collagen production and heal wounds." In addition, CosRx's snail mucin is hypoallergenic, scent-free and free from parabens, sulfates and phthalates. And you really can't beat the price, which is $25 but, with special deals, most often much less. Enthusiasts call the gloopy emollient a "miracle elixir." We wanted to know: Does it actually work?
OK, first, what is snail mucin anyway?
Snail mucin is, most simply, the substance snails secrete when they move. A mucus-like protein, it contains multiple compounds — including collagen, elastin and glycolic acid — that experts have long considered beneficial for human skin. Mucin has a slimy/viscous texture which is a essential for snail functioning: the mollusks secrete it when they're stressed and it also helps them hydrate and better adhere to surfaces as they crawl along.
Wait, does collecting snail mucin hurt the snails?
Snail mucin is harvested through a number of methods by different companies, none of which kill the snails, most of which are touted as "non-harmful." Of these, the CosRx method may be the most humane. Its snail slime is harvested in labs by allowing the animals to crawl along mesh in dark, quiet rooms and then collecting whatever they leave behind. A 2018 investigation about the ethics of snail mucin in The Outline reported that this method does not interfere with the snails' natural process and the animals are not forced into overproduction.
What is the history of snail mucin? How did we come to find such a thing?
While it may sound like a buzzy-dumb fad, the use of snails in skin care is far from new. According to a 2004 article on the healing properties of snails published by Oxford University Press, the practice of treating skin disorders with snail slime goes back at least to the Ancient Greeks, when Hippocrates touted the benefits of using the animal's mucus to soothe burns and other surface wounds. Centuries later, the slippery extract returned to the skin-care spotlight when the popular South American snail mucin-based brand Elicina launched in 1995. Elicina's products — which can still be bought today — were developed after local Chilean farmers reported their minor cuts and scrapes healed quicker and more thoroughly after they'd handled snails. Note: The big difference between Elicina's snail cream and CosRx Snail Mucin Essence is Elicina's version contains 80% snail mucin, while CosRx's is a more concentrated formula, ringing in at a whopping 96%.
Elicina Crema de Caracol Snail Cream
Are there actual benefits to using snail mucin? What will snail mucin do to my skin?
Reviewers and brand representatives alike purport that snail slime is an effective exfoliant, that it erases sun damage, heals wounds, softens wrinkles and acne scars, prevents and treats skin cancer and leaves the user with TikTok-coveted "glass skin." Tall claims, for sure, though real, scientific research suggests that — when used consistently, over time — snail slime may aid in reducing inflammation and delivering moisture to the skin, and, potentially, help smooth skin texture as well. "Snail secretions contain a mix of growth factors, antioxidants, hyaluronic acids — all ingredients that are all known for their hydration and protection," says Dr. Saedi.
In a clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology in 2020, researchers studied the effect of snail secretions in the skin of women aged 45 to 65 over three months. At the end of the trial, the subjects reported "significant improvements in skin roughness, firmness and elasticity" and concluded that snail extract "appeared to be effective in improving signs of skin aging in women 45 to 65 years old."
Can you give us an honest, first-person, CosRx Snail Mucin Essence review?
I came to the snail slime party late by years with more than a little skepticism. The first thing I noticed is that the CosRx snail mucin product — unlike the buzz surrounding it — is completely low-key. There's nothing fancy here, no over-the-top brand designer showing off. The packaging is simple, with a minimal label affixed to a pump bottle that's efficient and works well.
This snail mucin is most similar to an unscented, lightweight serum. When applied, it quickly absorbs into the skin — a big selling point, at least for me. I never had pilling nor that kind of tacky skincare residue that makes putting on makeup afterwards a total drag.
The texture of CosRx Snail Mucin is slimy for sure, but not in a way I found offensive or gross (though note: those with texture sensitivities or slime-aversions may not love the sensation of putting snail mucus on one's face).
The first night I used the CosRx Snail Mucin, I patted it on after washing my face before bed. When I woke up the next morning, my face was noticeably dewier, my skin felt softer than it usually does.
I'm 50 with combination skin, sometimes new products cause me to break out. But this snail mucin was ultra-gentle, making it easy to rotate into my skincare routine. It literally felt like I had nothing on. Over the course of my two-week trial, I layered it under sunscreen during the day and under moisturizer at night. By the end, it had already improved the texture of my skin, particularly my crow's feet and the fine lines on my cheeks. My complexion looked more even. While I was working on this review, two friends my age told me they use snail mucin in combination with their retinol creams — it makes, according to these 50-plus women, the retinol less harsh.
Bottom line: Does CosRx Snail Mucin work?
I'd honestly expected to find CosRx Snail Mucin disappointing. It's been so over-promoted, the claims so far-fetched, it seemed impossible that it could live up to all the hype. But my most honest review is I saw a noticeable improvement in my skin's texture within the first day and even more so after two weeks. My skin was more supple, my fine lines appeared less deep and my face appeared generally more even and had a sort of glow. I'm going to keep trying it, especially since the real results are meant to come after 90 days.
Is there any downside to snail mucin/who should not try snail mucin?
According to Dr. Saedi: "Snail mucin is great for all skin types, and I especially recommend it after a laser procedure since it has shown to not only hydrate the skin, but can also help boost wound healing. However, for anyone with sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to test it first to ensure it doesn’t cause irritation."
What if I don't like CosRx Snail Mucin? Is there an alternative product?
Though CosRx's version is the current star of the snail mucin show, there are dozens of products like it on the market, some with the slime as a hero ingredient, some adding it to the mix of other skin-healing favorites, many from the K-beauty world. If you're looking for a luxurious, dermatologist-recommended splurge, Dr. Saedi swears by Biopelle's popular (but pricey) Tensage Growth Factor 50, "It contains a highly-concentrated growth factor, antioxidants, brightening agents and peptides that help improve visible signs of aging and can brighten pigmentation caused by sun damage," she says. "I recommend adding it to your nightly skincare routine to help hydrate and repair your skin as you sleep."
Lesser-known brands like SeoulCeuticals, MIZON and Peach Slices offer nighttime treatments, creams and even jelly-like masks. Whatever you buy, make sure to look for a high concentration of the main ingredient — above 90 percent is ideal. And for first-time snail-slime novices, I'd recommend trying the CosRx version, which worked for me and is most-loved by true mucin heads.
Biopelle Tensage Growth Factor Intensive Serum 50
anti-aging, doctor recommended
SeoulCeuticals Snail Mucin Night Serum
A high-concentrate nighttime treatment
MIZON Black Snail Repair Cream
Thicker, less slimy texture
Peach Slices Snail Rescue Wash-Off Face Mask
A mask made of snail jelly