Snail Goo & Other Gross Ingredients In Your Beauty Products


Here’s a warning: you may not want to continue reading this if you A) are easily grossed out B) are eating right now or C) don’t want to become obsessed with reading the ingredients label before you purchase any beauty products.

A recent article in the Daily Mail reported the increasing trendiness of using snail goo in skin products. Primarily used as acne, scar and burn healers, snail goo products have caught on in the U.K., Chile and South Korea in recent years. Now it seems the trend is landing stateside, with more than five companies all offering snail goo-containing skincare products online or in the U.S.

At first, the idea of smearing the goo snails secrete when they slither around on your face sounds… well, really gross. But then we did a little research, and it turns out snail goo isn’t the worst of it. Here’s a roundup of the strangest (arguably even grosser) ingredients lurking in our makeup bags and medicine cabinets. They may be gross, but I am someone whose occupation revolves around trying an endless string of beauty products and so far I’ve survived, right?

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1. Whale Vomit (Ambergis)

Ambergis, which is a “byproduct” of Whale digestion (aka vomit), has long been used as a perfume base because of its earthy aroma. While it’s less common in the United States now, many French companies still use it, supposedly including Chanel.

2. Fish Scales

Fish scales are used to give iridescent products like nail polish and lipstick their shimmer. Usually referred to as “Pearl Essence” on ingredient lists, this ingredient actually comes from the Herring.

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3. Algae

Algae is used in skin and hair products becuase of its high nutrient content. Dermalogica’s Skin Hydrating Booster includes Algae on its ingredient list looks like it’s not just for the fish anymore.

4. Feathers (Keratin)

Keratin has become a major buzzword in the beauty industry lately, usually associated with strong, smooth and shiny locks. But a different kind of keratin from bird feathers is used in some shampoos, according to PETA. Because the amino acid chains in bird feathers are supposedly silkier than in human hair, they can make hair appear shinier and healthier.

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5. Fish eggs (More luxuriously referred to as Caviar)

Some hair products contain caviar, which has strengthening and moisturizing properties. Because of its high levels of calcium, protein, selenium, iron, magnesium, vitamins and omega-3s, it’s supposed to soften and smooth hair. Hair care brand Alterna certainly believes in Caviar’s hair rejuvenation powers; they have a whole line of Caviar products.

6. Bird Poop

Paying $180 to have bird poop smeared on your face is a thing.

… Okay, they’re “powdered nightingale droppings,” which are sanitized before they are used in the “Geisha Facial” at Shizuka New York Day Spa. Inspired by Japanese Kabuki masters who were known for glowing skin, the bird poop facial supposedly brightens skin, and has garnered somewhat of a cult following.

7. Snake Venom

Or, if you’re a big spender, you can pay $450 to have snake venom paralyze your face.

Arguably slightly less gross, but definitely scarier sounding is the snake venom facial. At Sonya Dakar’s Beverly Hills Spa, the skincare expert uses synthetic snake venom developed to “mimic the paralyzing effect of a temple viper’s venom.” Considered a substitute for the paralyzing effects of Botox, snake venom is supposed to reduce signs of aging and prevent further development of wrinkles.

8. Lanolin Grease from Animal Fur

For some reason this one grosses me out the most. Lanolin seems to be in everything I’ve definitely seen it on more than a few product labels. Basically, this is the grease animals have in their fur. It is “harvested” (read: scraped off and collected in a bucket) from their coats and used in an array of products, including shaving cream, shampoo and lipstick. (If you’re wondering, yes, I did just get an overwhelming wave of nausea after writing those last two sentences.)

9. Crushed Cochineal Beetles

Have you finally found the perfect red lipstick? Congratulations, you’re probably smearing crushed up beetles on your lips. Cochineal beetles are processed and made into “carmine,” a red dye that’s common in lipstick, blush and food coloring. Who knew mashed up bugs could look so glamorous?