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Snail Facials Unlikely to Have Much Effect, Dermatologists Say

Jul 16, 2013 03:42 PM EDT

In the never-ending quest for the next product able to turn back the clock, owners of a famous spa chain in Japan are adding snail facials to their list of treatments.

The process, which entails live snails crawling across a person's face, distributing their mucus along the way, is said to remove dead skin, soothe any inflammation and help the skin retain moisture.

"Snail slime can help recovery of skin cells on the face, so we expect the snail facial to help heal damaged skin," Yoko Minami, a manager at the salon chain's flagship store, told Japan Daily Press.

The $243 treatment, called "Celebrity Escargot Course," also features a massage, a mask and electrical pulse machines.

Snail mucus contains hyaluronic acid and proteoglycans, both of which are popular ingredients in cosmetics. The former, for example, is known to give tissue flexibility and promote healing. As a result, brands such as Missha, Dr. Jart+ and Labcconte have taken to developing creams such as "Snail Gel" containing extracts of the animal's secretions.

However, not everyone is convinced live snails on one's face is the answer to a clear complexion.

"This clearly is not very scientifically done," dermatologist Stephen Mandy of Miami Beach, Fla. told ABC News, pointing out that, given the variety of facets to the treatment, it would be impossible to tell which one is helping.

Furthermore, it's not clear how well snails' version of hyaluronic acid would affect human skin, Mandy said, explaining that even if it does work as a filler, it wouldn't make it through the outer layer of the skin without some kind of injection.

For this reason, Williams Stebbins, a dermatology professor at Vanderbilt University, expressed similar doubt.

"I'd be surprised if this has any lasting effect on skin health," he told ABC.

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