Discover beauty through professional reviews

NOW READING What Happened the First Time I Tried Snail & Other Unfamiliar K-Beauty Ingredients
July 6, 2018

What Happened the First Time I Tried Snail & Other Unfamiliar K-Beauty Ingredients

For many skinficionados, snail is nothing new. But remember the first time you had sushi? The thought of fish flesh? Raw?! That’s what snail slime may sound like to a K-beauty newbie. Here, one Korean beauty convert recalls when she first tried snail mucin and some other unfamiliar K-beauty ingredients at the time. Did she — and more importantly, her skin— survive?


Snail mucinBee venom? How about a side of goat’s milk with that? Mix it up with bee propolis for good measure, and you’ve got a recipe for success!


Korea really pushes the boundaries when it comes to certain things, and its tenacity and innovation has led it to the forefront of global technology and development. This is equally true in Korean beauty, where boundaries are pushed and limits tested with unique ingredients such as pig-collagen jelly, horse oil, and donkey milk.


It’s been said that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. It may sound cheesy, but we know this isn’t far from the truth. So when I tried out new Korean skincare products with highly unfamiliar ingredients, not only did it push me out of my comfort zone, it definitely kicked some life into my skin.


unfamiliar k-beauty ingredients


As a K-beauty newbie, I decided to dive headfirst into the terrifying yet intriguing world of some unfamiliar K-beauty ingredients and Korean skincare. I knew there were a lot of good reasons to try them, not the least of which is Song Hye Kyo’s glowing skin. Song Hye Kyo won the 2016 KBS Drama Award, along with co-actor Song Joong-ki, for her role in Descendants of the Sun. Rumor has it that he uses milk to wash his face (hello, Cleopatra!), while she prefers honey and egg whites for brightening. If I were going to catch up to them, I needed to get right into it. Here’s where it gets interesting.




First I tried the Snail + EGF Repairing Foam Cleanser from Secret Key. The snail secretion filtrate protects skin from infection, reduces inflammation, and helps with acne and scarring. Betaine, which is a humectant and anti-irritant, provides superior hydration and can temporarily reduce the depth of wrinkles. The EGF stands for Epidermal Growth Factor, and it’s hot on the beauty market by way of modern medicine. Think stimulated skin growth right down to the cellular level and crazy healing abilities. (Scientists even won a Nobel Prize for their breakthrough with this substance.)


I expected something slimy and sticky and was instead treated to a pleasant smelling foam cleanser that left my skin feeling soft and smooth. I like how the Snail Cleanser removes every trace of my makeup and doesn’t leave my skin feeling dry at all. (Mamonde’s Rose Water Toner does a fantastic job of maintaining that suppleness afterwards.) This product lasts 12 months from date of opening, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something cheap, gentle, and effective.


unfamiliar k-beauty ingredients
A highly effective sheet mask that just wouldn’t stay on my face! Photo author’s own


If there’s one skincare section where Korea excels, it’s the sheet mask. I decided that I’d one-up myself with the snail secretion and add some red ginseng. This root is prized for its anti-aging properties, and Nature Republic Red Ginseng Snail Solution Hydro Gel Mask promises that the ginseng will revitalize the skin and prevent dark spots, dullness, and dryness, all the while leaving skin smooth and healthy. The concentrated snail mucus extract, which is listed near the beginning of the ingredient list, helps to firm and restore skin, and after 20 minutes with this mask, my face felt nourished and hydrated. Two downsides are the price (6,000 won, about $5) and the fact that the two pieces the mask consists of were awkward and wouldn’t stay on my face.




With snail secretion out of the way, I thought that a lettuce and cucumber cream would be a walk in the park. Skinfood’s Premium Lettuce and Cucumber Watery Cream consists of 30% cucumber water and 10% lettuce and cucumber extract. Lettuce has a very high water content, and Skinfood extracts their cucumber water using steam distillation. Cucumbers are rich in vitamin C, which helps to restore and stimulate skin’s collagen.


unfamiliar k-beauty ingredients
Definitely better left on the salad plate.


The texture of the cream is gel-like, and it left a sticky after-effect that I didn’t enjoy. Despite its natural ingredients, the fragrance is very strong and smells like alcohol (and we all know how bad alcohol is for skin). I found this cream, which I used before moisturizing, to be absorbed a little too quickly and not quite worth the price (about $15). It also comes as a sheet mask, which I’d recommend before buying the whole tube. The cream lasts 12 months from date of opening.


Lava Seawater


Next I decided to venture to the ocean. Innisfree, one of my favorite Korean brands simply due to their affordability and natural ingredients, created an essence using Jeju lava seawater.


unfamiliar k-beauty ingredients


There is 85.4% Jeju lava seawater in this dreamy essence, and it proved to be a light, fresh, and slightly herbal smelling essence with a list of non-lab-derived ingredients, which I like. Jeju lava seawater is very hydrating and packed with nutrients and minerals from the great depths, like kelp, algae, and marine collagen from fish scales. And because it’s seawater from Jeju Island, it’s known for its unpolluted environment and cleanliness. With citrus peel, orchid, and camellia extracts, this essence helps promote healthy skin barrier function, hydrates superbly, and firms tired skin. In the springtime, I look for something that is lighter and gentler, and this product is perfect.


So I survived my self-induced plunge into this world of strange and unique skincare ingredients, and I have little to regret. For now, I think I’ll leave the cucumbers and lettuce for my salad, but I’m thrilled that I can benefit from the wonders of snail secretion and seawater essences.


What was your first experience like with unfamiliar K-beauty ingredients?




I'm Megan, and I'm obsessed with travel, beauty and LGBTQ rights.
I hail from South Africa, where I cut my teeth as a journalist, writing for the biggest-selling English magazine in the country.
I spent three years in South Korea and discovered a passion for K-beauty and the jjimjilbang.
I'm always on the go, but I make time for my skin.
Follow me on Instagram at @meg______b and at




My first foray was Cosrx Advanced 92 All in one cream and Eunyul’s Horse Oil Sheet masks two winters ago, and I haven’t looked back (yet, lol). Propolis never gave me pause the way the other ingredients did, and yes, I’m a fan. My skin and I are very happy that I pushed beyond my comfort zone in skincare.


Wow, you really jumped in there with the unfamiliar ingredients! That's awesome 😀 — I've only tried horse oil in the Crema Caballo masks, and I have to say, I was seriously impressed.

Propolis/honey and snail are my go to ingredients these days! Bee venom was not my friend (hello itchy face!) and I felt like a terrible person when I tried a horse oil mask but damn the results were amazing!


I love propolis — it\'s a mainstay in my routine for its anti-inflammatory benefits. And me too about horse oil — it sounds weird and gross, but I tried the Crema Caballo horse oil mask and I was surprised that it wasn\'t oily at all and it made my skin glow! Which horse oil mask did you try beautyandthebookn3rd


Have you also tried Claire's Horse Oil Cream? It was my very first intro into K-Beauty and the scent and feel of it still has me swooning.


Ooo, I haven\'t! I\'ve never even heard of it. Where do you get it? kimmy


Well, I used to just get it from ebay. I followed reddit's trusted seller list and ordered from one of their approved ebay shops. But the last time I ordered it I got the wrong kind, the one by "I'm;BEAUTY" instead of Claire's, even though the description said it was by Claire's.
The I'm;BEAUTY one smells and feels different, but is packaged the exact same way, so if you want to try the one I fell for, it might be a guessing game :/

I tried the Skinfood mask! I bought it in Seoul but was excited to see it on the beautytap site to try again. I’ve also tried the guerisson cream and enjoyed it!

Megan Bursey

The Guerisson cream is fantastic!


Always been a fan of honey in products and I always have something around with raw honey or propolis in it for all its benefits!


I remember hearing about snail products years ago (before getting into K-beauty) and thinking "Eww who would put that on their face? I don't care how well it works, I wouldn't use it!" Of course, now I love snail! I started with the Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream. It's a good introduction to snail for squeamish people, because it doesn't feel slimy or gooey.


totally agree. If the COSRX Snail Essence were the first snail product I ever tried, I think the stringy texture would have turned me off. But the Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream turned me onto snail too — lightweight but super hydrating!


Haha yeah, I just started the COSRX essence and I'm still getting used to the texture!


I know people rave about the COSRX snail essence, but I do too many layers for it to play nicely with my other steps. Thank goodness there are other snail products out there (with a high concentration of snail) that have a more typical essence texture.


Yes, I want to try the Purito snail serum next after reading Jude's comments about it in her Purito review. What are the other snail products you like?


mariposa I really like the iunik black snail serum and the Swanicoco snail moisture care essence. The iunik one is a tiny bit stringy, but doesn\'t feel that way at all on the skin. It just melts in really liquid-y and nicely. The Swanicoco one feels like a typical essence and its first ingredients is snail secretion filtrate so I like that!


mariposa lightbulb As soon as I finish my current snail serum (and get to testing Purito\'s snail serum), I\'m gonna give that COSRX snail + Purito centella trick a try.

And lightbulb I\'m gonna give you a run for your money for that Guinness World record! 😂


I'm unfazed by snail at this point, but the COSRX essence I purchased is gathering dust for the same reason annapark stated. It's so concentrated that the texture doesn't layer well. Some nights I wonder if I'd break the record for serum layers. That's an idea! Guinness should include a record for "person who layered most K-beauty products on skin at night without sliding off bed face-first." It's a mouthful but might catch on... 😉 Have you gotten used to the COSRX, mariposa ? Maybe I should dust mine off. 🌹


Yeah, I found it tricky to spread the COSRX snail essence evenly without using too much! I used to just use it at night. But recently tracyannteel wrote about mixing it with the Purito centella serum. So now I do that (1 pump of each, and mix in my palm) and omg it works so much better! I\'m sure it would work with other serums too. And I\'ve seen people on reddit say that they mix the COSRX snail with squalane or other oils -- I haven\'t tried that yet.

Tracy\'s article is here:


Thank you for the information and link, mariposa! Anytime I buy a product - especially one as well regarded as the COSRX essence - that doesn't quite work for me, I like to try to find a way to make it work. The Purito centella serum is one of my HGs, so I'll give it a try! I'll report back. 🌹

annapark, let the layering begin... 😆🌹

It was the first snail product I tried and it took some getting used to but now I could imagine my routine without it! It’s a good hydrating layer for me and the only product I really like mixing my The Ordinary niacinamide in to.