BANGKOK – A cosmetics company in Thailand has built a business out of harvesting snail slime and selling it at a huge markup. The snail slime is supposed to tighten skin and reduce wrinkles, though there is little evidence to support the claim.
Snails used to be the bane of Thai farmers livelihoods, but now they’re milking them for all they’re worth.
The anti-aging and moisturizing properties of snail slime, known as mucin, have become a hot commodity in the global beauty world. So much so that the cosmetic secret is now worth an estimated $411 million.
At least 80 snail farms in central Thailand have sprung up over the past three years in response to the growing trend.
And the discovery is not just benefiting the agriculturally inclined.
Phatinsiri Thangkeaw, a local teacher, purchases snails from rice farmers whose crops are at the mercy of the snails who ruin them.
“Farmers used to throw them on the road or in the rivers,” she explained to the publication. “But now they sell them to me to earn extra money.”
Thankeaw pays local farmers $1.30 for a kilogram of snails and has amassed more than 1,000 of the mollusks.
She sells their secretions after milking them, a relatively humane (albeit seemingly tedious) process.
Only milked every three weeks to maintain the highest quality, slime harvesters drip water over the snails, encouraging them to secrete the liquid.
The raw mucin is then sold to Aden International, a Thai cosmetics company founded by Kitpong Puttarathuvanum, who then distributes it internationally as a serum or dried powder.
But this golden ticket to ageless, dewy skin actually isn’t new to the beauty world.
Thai Snail Slime Cosmetics Scientifically Proven Superior
Snail slime can be used to moisturize human skin and has been used in cosmetics since the time of the Roman Empire and Ancient Egypt.
The slime contains various proteins similar to those in human skin, plus antioxidant compounds such as allantoin, glycolic acid, collagen and hyaluronic acid.
South Korea, Japan and Chile already breed snails specifically for the cosmetics industry.
Since each snail can produce only about 10 cubic centimeters of slime over two to three minutes, large-scale snail farming is necessary to produce enough to supply the cosmetics sector.
A Chulalongkorn University research project has released findings that slime produced by three breeds of land snails found in Thailand has a more powerful cosmetic effect than that taken from snails in cold countries.
Slime from Thai land snails has additional anti-fungal properties that are necessary in tropical countries.
Chulalongkorn University’s findings about the more powerful properties of Thai snail slime could help provide a catalyst for the country’s cosmetics industry.
Source: DW, Bangkok Post