"Wait, are you serious?"
That's usually the first reaction I get from people asking about the latest thing I'm currently slathering on my face. It's almost always followed by the second most common reaction: "Gross."
Although they're out of the ordinary, my current favorite ingredients are wholly natural. You can't get any more earthy than a caterpillar's bachelor pad or a snail's glistening body glow. As squeamish as it makes a lot of people, I feel a lot more comfortable spritzing my skin with yeast ferment and bee venom than PEG-45 and cetearyl alcohol. Not that there's not a time and place for synthetics, but if there's a natural alternative, no matter how out-there it is, I'd much rather take that option.
It doesn't hurt that they've given me incredible results.
Snail Secretion Filtrate
First things first, I'm going to get this out of the way and let you know that, in the products I use featuring snail secretion, this ingredient is not the least bit slimy. Not kinda, not sorta, not nothin'. It's a very refreshing, hydrating, and soothing addition to my skincare.
When I first started researching snail secretion, I found one study particularly encouraging with regard to easing wrinkles caused by sun damage. Offering my own anecdotal evidence, I can say that's also been the case for me. So if you've baked a little too long over the years, this is definitely something worth looking into.
There's not a whole lot of information out there on how the snail secretion is collected. I do know that the snails are not killed in the process. It wouldn't be cost effective or practical to crush up snails and try to collect the precious mucous that way. From what I've been able to gather, the snails are "mechanically stressed" and the mucin is collected that way. I have no idea what mechanically stressed might mean in this case since it's apparently a trade secret with these snail farmers. I've heard several mentions of the snails being made to pass along a serrated surface, and that being the method of collection. I like to imagine a fun playground filled with bumpy slides and turnt up snails going ham.
Speaking of weird collection methods, that brings us to my next favourite ingredient.
If you're allergic to bee stings, sit this one out to be safe. If not, please proceed!
There is lots of information about the collection of this weird ingredient. Bees are a precious commodity, so fear not, bee lovers, they're not harmed in the process. The bees are corralled onto a glass plate where they receive a very mild electrical shock, causing them to sting the glass. From there, the bees fly away annoyed but unharmed, and the venom is collected from the plate.
Unlike the mysterious snail slime collection process, there's actually a video set to hilariously bad dramatic music demonstrating the whole operation.
Bee venom's principal active component is melittin, a peptide consisting of 26 amino acids. It's been touted as an "all-natural alternative to Botox," but I wouldn't go that far. (Besides, Botox is already all natural. Botulism isn't man-made, so feel free to shoot that into your face if you want to keep it real and all natural while still paralyzing your facial muscles.) However, bee venom has been shown to promote wound healing, which is why I think it works so well combating irritation and inflammation in my skin.
Two of my absolute favourite products containing bee venom are Nature Republic Bee Venom Mist Essence, which I use as a refreshing mist after working out, between product applications, and as a way to slightly hydrate my face right before using alcohol-based sunscreens. The other is Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence, which also features a special guest appearance from our old friend snail slime, which makes it a truly magnificent product with a double dose of weird.
Yes, fermented, the fancy term for rotten. OK, that's not entirely correct. As you'll remember from eighth grade science classes, fermentation is the breaking down of sugars into alcohol, gasses, or both. The one I'm particularly focusing on here is yeast ferment, the star ingredient in one of my favourite products, the fermented treatment essence.
It's sometimes referred to as "galactomyces" or "saccharomyces" depending on which brand you're using, but what that boils down to (well, I guess "breaks down to" would be more fitting) is a liquid produced during the fermentation process that contains amino acids, acts as a moisture barrier, has anti-inflammatory properties, and provides antioxidant effects.
I personally can't imagine my routine without this ingredient in the mix in some form or another. It's helped with redness, irritation, and the overall clarity of my skin. I once ran out and due to laziness I went without it for three weeks, and the marked downturn in my skin's condition during its absence was enough to make me never want to be without it again.
One thing I love about this kind of product is that there's an option for almost every budget. There's the super-high end SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, the mid-range Missha First Treatment Essence, all the way down to Tony Moly Intense Care Galactomyces Essence. All three have high concentrations of yeast ferment, but I have to say Missha's First Treatment Essence is my personal favourite due to its inclusion of other fantastic natural ingredients such as liquorice, chamomile and rosemary.
This isn't so much an ingredient as it is the most bizarre nature-centric exfoliator you'll ever use. These are the cocoons of the silkworm, Bombyx mori, so they're made with 100% raw natural silk fibres. That's it -- that's the only ingredient.
They come in their natural little cocoon form with one end snipped off to fit your fingertips. You simply soak them in warm water for three minutes, pop them on the ends of your fingers, and gently massage the areas of your skin you want to exfoliate. They're extremely gentle and end up doing a heck of a job picking up left-over residue and delicately sloughing skin.
Once you're done, the effectiveness will be evident: you skin's gunk will have tarnished the formerly pristine white cocoon. I like to use them on and around the tougher nose skin to help keep blackheads at bay, but some like to use these all over. Which ever way you choose to use it, it's a novel way to get a soft manual exfoliation.
Naturally gross or naturally awesome: that's for you to decide. If you're up for an earthy adventure featuring some skincare superstars from our living universe, definitely give some of these a whirl. You'll walk away with fresher skin and a unique natural secret.