Snail mucin has slowly become one of the industry’s most debated skincare ingredients, and for good reason. Using the mucus of a snail on my face and paying almost half my salary for it was not one of my skincare goals for 2023.
Known for its hydrating and regenerative properties, the traditional collection method of this coveted slime is cruel to the point where it became an unethical pursuit. Continuing that thought, today we’ll be exploring a few popular ingredients and their origin to determine if the ethical and environmental considerations are really worth the glow on your face!
Squalane Or Squalene From Shark Liver
Squalene is an oil that is naturally produced by our sebaceous glands. It helps hydrate and maintain the barrier of our skin but its production declines as we age. For the longest time, squalene was derived from shark liver! In fact, the United Nations released report stating that more than 50 shark species are consistently sought after for their liver oil.
The squalene in your products today is likely sourced from vegan sources like olives, rice bran, and sugarcane since sharks are far and few between. Yet the global demand for shark liver oil in 2012 was estimated at an unbelievable 2,200 tons. For reference, 3,000 sharks are needed to produce 1 ton of squalene!
Collagen From Cows, Fish And Pigs
Collagen is another one of those proteins that your body produces, but the production decreases over time. It’s a very natural decline that leads to signs of ageing like wrinkles, and sagging skin as well as a reduction in bone strength; you tend to experience it in your mid-20s and 30s.
This loss can be supplemented by collagen supplements which usually contain animal by-products. Marine, bovine, and pigs play a big role in their production. Marine animals like fish are another popular source of collagen. As far as my research tells me, these animals are not raised to provide collagen. Instead, collagen is recovered from the skins of animals raised for meat.
While overfishing and unsustainable cattle ranching are some of the greatest sources of environmental distress, there are a few new studies on a more ethical way to produce collagen through cell-based technology.
Keratin From Nails, Feathers And Horns
Keratin is a tough, fibrous protein found in hair, nails, and skin. It plays a key role in providing strength and protection for these tissues. Cosmetically, keratin is used to strengthen and repair. The most popular usage is in hair care products like shampoos and conditioners for smoothing, reducing frizz, and enhancing shine.
Each year, more than a billion tons of keratin waste is neither disposed of properly nor converted into usable products. Since disposing of feathers and nails requires expensive procedures like incineration, they are simply thrown into the environment causing pollution. Surprisingly, using them in cosmetic products helps manage all the waste produced by slaughterhouses, the leather industry as well as the poultry industry.
Mucin From Snails
Snail mucin is essentially a secretion from snails that’s rich in proteins, hyaluronic acid, and glycoproteins. It is a popular skincare ingredient because of its myriad properties, including hydration, healing, and anti-ageing. According to The Telegraph, “To force snails to secrete slime, traditionally they were dunked in pots of water with salt, vinegar or other chemicals. But today, several snail-breeder cooperatives have developed ‘cruelty-free’ methods of snail production and slime extraction.” Mostly to maximise profits, but hey, at least the poor snails aren’t dying for our beauty routines anymore.
The International Heliciculture Association from Italy just patented a new machine called the Muller One, which extracts slime by immersing the snails in a unique steam bath. “It is essentially a spa for snails. We raise them naturally, feed them only vegetable matter and then extract the slime with water that contains ozone, which kills all the bacteria. The snails are not harmed.”
Lanolin From Sheep
Last, we have lanolin. Lanolin is a natural, waxy substance that’s extracted from sheep’s wool; in the cosmetic industry, it is used as an emollient for its ability to lock in moisture – making it ideal for products like lip balms, lotions, and creams. Sheep provide nearly all the world’s lanolin and it is said that the substance is a by-product of the meat industry.
However, the demand for lanolin and other wool products is so high that there is an entire industry dedicated to the mass production of wool. Sheep bred for wool are treated horribly and since their wool production gradually slows, (and so does the lanolin production) they are almost always killed for meat.
While these ingredients offer various benefits for our skin, many of their ethical and environmental impacts cannot be overlooked. From the impact of overfishing for squalene and the inhumane treatment of sheep for lanolin, these practices raise significant concerns. After a point, it becomes crucial to consider whether the quest for beauty is worth compromising the welfare of animals and the health of our planet!
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