Along with the U.S. K-beauty boom came the introduction of snail slime, or snail mucin, into our skin-care regimens—resulting in glowy, plump skin, faded acne scars, and minimized pores for all. While this slime craze really took off in America over the last two years, these products (which have been huge in Korea and in other parts of the world for years), have been available Stateside as early as 2012.
Being a fan of snail slime myself—not for what it feels like, but the undeniably positive results—and constantly yearning to explore all of the weirdest things the beauty industry has to offer, I found myself on a journey to find the next weird beauty ingredients to trend in the skin care biz.
I turned to the experts to tip me off to the next effective but truly strange—maybe even gross—beauty ingredients to know. Whether newly developed or passed on for generations (or even centuries), beauty industry leaders shared their thoughts on what will be the next snail mucin. Find out their picks, below.
There’s the slime of the snail, and then there’s the milk of a donkey. We’re not really sure which makes us cringe more. We chatted with Jude Chao, director of marketing at Beautytap and the brains behind K-Beauty blog Fifty Shades Of Snail. (Really, is there a better person to talk to for this story?) Her first suggestion? Donkey milk-infused skin care.
As someone who uses prescription tretinoin (an anti-aging ingredient and acne treatment) and chemical exfoliants like AHA and BHA, which can weaken and thin the skin barrier leading to dryness and sensitivity, she relies on hydrating and barrier-strengthening ingredients like donkey milk to improve moisture retention and keep her skin healthy. “Rich in proteins and fats, including ceramides, donkey milk can be wonderful for dry skin and damaged barriers,” says Chao. “It plumps up the skin’s surface and creates a healthy glow. Donkey milk is also rich in antioxidants like vitamins A, C, D, and E, delivering some extra protection against everyday free radical damage.”
Welp, we’ll be stocking up this winter. Curious? Chao suggests trying out K-beauty brand SeaNtree’s donkey milk line, which she describes as lightweight yet hydrating, unlike the heavier, rich products out there. Try the brand’s Donkey Milk Water Drop Cream if you're interested in experimenting with the new ingredient of the moment.
Another one on Chao’s list? Extremophiles, or microorganisms that thrive in some of the earth’s most extreme conditions. Basically, they’re favorable in skin care because they’re highly compatible with cell metabolism, work well with the skin’s natural functions to prevent environmental damage, and have a long shelf life.
“The main player in K-beauty fermented skin care is lactobacillus, but I’m seeing a renewed interested in extremophiles,” says Chao. There are many extremophiles out there, but one, in particular, seems to be rising in popularity. “The ingredient that’s looking really interesting right now is Thermus thermophilus, which lives in extremely hot and high-pressure hydrothermal vents in the ocean.”
What do they do? According to Chao, they provide excellent antioxidant and heat protection for skin and have anti-aging benefits. She recommends checking out K-beauty brand Purgen’s Thermus line, which features Thermus thermophilus. Her favorite? The All Day Vitalizing Cream.
Your own blood
Yep, you read that correctly. One of today’s truly strange beauty ingredients is your own blood, turned into face cream. At Brooklyn-based Shen Beauty, customers can schedule an appointment with Dr. Barbara Sturm to create a custom Blood Cream.
How does it work? Sturm takes a vial of your blood and extracts the MC1 platelet, which she then adds to her formula of face cream and sends back to you—and it’s rumored to be magical. “This platelet has high levels of growth factors, which tell your skin’s cells to act as healthy and young. Because it’s your own blood, your body reacts quicker and is more responsive, helping to aid in aging prevention,” says Jessica Richards, Shen Beauty founder. She swears that it’s “amazing for eczema and psoriasis.”
The only catch? It ain’t cheap. A 50ml jar will cost you a cool $1,400, but what else would you expect to pay for a custom cream made of your very own blood platelets?
Sea-derived ingredients have been on the rise in skin care for some time now, but ingredients derived from our fancy seafood restaurant dinner picks? Maybe not so much.
That’s where astaxanthin comes in. Credo Beauty co-founder Annie Jackson counts this substance as one of the weirder, but more effective, beauty ingredients out there. “It occurs naturally in algae and is responsible for the red/pink coloring in salmon, shrimp, lobster, etc. Used in skin care, it promotes smoothness, helps decrease fine lines and wrinkles, and has awesome UV blocking properties,” she explains. Who knew our shrimp cocktail could protect us from the sun? (Okay, that might be a stretch, but still.)
You can find astaxanthin in products such as Maya Chia’s The Optimist Hydrating and Brightening Essence.
Okay, fine. Dragon’s blood isn’t really the blood of dragons (otherwise, it would be at the top of our list), but we’re still considering it a strange one, if only for its blood-like qualities. Cecilia Wong, celebrity facialist and founder of Cecilia Wong Skincare, considers it one of the weirder ingredients to be trending right now.
So, what is it then? “It’s a bright red resin that is obtained from certain plant species including Croton, Dracaena, Daemonorops, and more,” says Wong. “It was used in ancient times as incense, dye, and medicine, but is now used for healing cuts, bites, burns, stings, rashes, abrasions, sores, and wounds. It’s very healing and helps to reduce redness and swelling.” Used in skin care, you’ll find that it also helps treat loss in elasticity and hydration and soothe sensitive skin.
Curious to try it for yourself? Check out Rodial’s Dragon’s Blood Hyaluronic Moisturizer.