Snail cream: Korea's newest skin-care phenomenon

Snail cream: Korea's newest skin-care phenomenon

Ginseng-fed snails are turned into a sticky cream in the name of beauty

Snail CreamMissha's 'Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream' contains 70 percent snail slime extract. Korean women are known for their willingness to experiment for the sake of beauty, often causing headlines around the world for their extreme cosmetic daring.

The latest beauty trend to hit Korea isn't the most invasive, but it may be the grossest yet. 

Korean cosmetics companies are now touting snail guts as the new heaven-sent ingredient for skin care. Creams containing large amounts of snail extract have been selling fast in Seoul. 

Although Korea is hardly the first market for snail creams -- European cosmetics companies have been selling snail cream for a number of years and a Chilean snail cream hit the market in 1995 -- snail skin-care products have exploded in popularity among Korean women over the past year. 

Rich ingredients

Snail extract “soothes, regenerates and heals skin,” says Jeong Chang-hyun, deputy head of product planning for cosmetics company 'Able C&C.' 

'Able C&C' owns beauty brand 'Missha,' which released a snail cream in June 2010. 

'Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream' contains 70 percent snail extract, and the company says it pays great attention the quality of that 70 percent.

The snails, the same kind that can be found on menus in French restaurants, are fed red ginseng while being raised in Korea in order to ensure quality slime. 

Cream d’escargot 

Nichkhun PRESTIGE CreamAfter 'Cream d’escargot' ads featuring Nichkhun hit television in February, a whopping 70,000 creams were sold in March.Korean brand 'It’s skin' also has a snail cream line -- 'Prestige Cream d’escargot' -- which has seen huge success since it went on the market in 2009. 

The snail cream, made from 21-percent snail extract, is currently the company’s best-selling product. 

“I had severe adult acne,” says fan Mina Oh, 26, who began using snail cream last winter when her boss introduced her to the product. 

Oh says that the snail cream is so sticky she has to slap it onto her face with a spoon. That doesn’t bother her at all. 

“I could feel my skin getting much better,” she says. She plans to continue using snail-based creams. 

“If you say snail cream, some people ask if whole snails go into it,” says 'It’s skin' PR chief Hong Min-jeong ruefully. 

According to Hong, the desire for good skin outweighs potential ick factors. Adding a K-Pop idol advertisement into the mix helps make the case. 

Ads starring boy band 2PM member Nichkun spurred snail cream sales after they started airing in February. In March alone, 70,000 creams were sold. 

“We are still seeing a boom from those ads,” says Hong.

The brand’s snail line features everything from blemish balm to toner to body lotion. 

'Cream d’escargot' ₩60,000 at 'It’s skin' stores nationwide. 'Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream' ₩38,000 at 'Missha' stores nationwide.

Jean Oh is a Seoul-based freelance writer who has been covering food and entertainment for over three years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from UC Berkeley and a master's degree in Korean Studies from the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University.

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