Thanks to an intrepid reporter from the UK’s Daily Telegraph, I have been introduced to the world’s first snail facial. Pioneered by a salon in Tokyo, Japan, the procedure involves an esthetician placing live snails on the face of the client, whereby they distribute their mucus to remove dead skin cells and, somehow, improve the skin’s ability to hydrate.

The Telegraph reporter looked decidedly unhappy as the mollusks moved (almost imperceptibly – well, I guess it’s snail’s pace) across her face. Hanging in there with the grim determination of her profession, she had her eyes closed so tightly that she was creating crow’s feet before my very eyes.

So is there anything to treatment by snail? Claims that snail slime will repair and soften skin seem tenuous, but not out of the question. The science is a bit vague, but fairly supportive. There is one study – seemingly independent – that looked at the mollusk secretions, cryptomphalus aspersa (SCA). The study found that it contained antioxidants and stimulated fibroblast proliferation and rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton.

And there is more to the snail than an excuse to eat garlic butter. In a (nut)shell, the secretions collected from snails contain glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) that tightly bind copper peptides. 

Another company in the snail-secretion-collecting business claims that on acne sufferers snail slime apparently works on scarring by softening and dissolving existing scar lesions and damaged tissues.

Having digested all of this, MIT conducted a study that suggests that the purpose of snail slime is to act as a glue so that snails can climb vertical surfaces and has nothing to do with protecting stressed skin.

Anyway, animal lovers will doubtless be concerned about the welfare of the Japanese facial snails. Fret not, they live in a sizeable (if you are a snail) plastic container and fed an all-organic diet of carrots, Japanese mustard spinach, and Swiss chard and are always kept in a room set to 20 degrees Celsius.