Are Snail Mucin and Bee Venom Products Really Cruelty-Free?
The term cruelty-free gets thrown around quite a bit these days. In a nutshell, a product is only truly cruelty-free if none of its ingredients were tested on animals at any point during the manufacturing process.
Cruelty-free is not synonymous with vegan. A product can indeed be non-vegan, as in it contains animal products, and cruelty-free if it was never tested on animals.
Two popular ingredients often found in Korean skincare products are bee venom and snail mucin. What are the benefits of these ingredients? Bee venom is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It's often added to serums and moisturizers as an antibacterial, to combat inflammation, and to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Snail mucin promotes the production of collagen, hydrates, and aids in skin healing and regeneration.
A number of cruelty-free brands manufacture products with these ingredients, which not surprisingly raises a few eyebrows. Even if the ingredients were never tested on animals, surely it can't be possible to extract bee venom or snail mucin without harming the little creatures? We were also concerned about this, so we decided to do some research.
Snail mucin is the slime-like track that snails leave on the ground, or on whatever surface they happen to be on. Mucin is merely an excretion from a snail and not the snail itself. So what is the extraction process like? Generally, the snails are placed in an environment with conditions that encourage them to excrete their mucin. It's reassuring to know that the quality of the mucin depends very much on the snail's comfort level. If they are not happy, they will not produce high quality mucin. Therefore, it is in a breeder's best interest to maintain conditions that will ensure happy snails with long lives.
But what do these conditions look like? Some farmers place their snails in a steam bath. Other farmers (including those partnered with COSRX) clean the snails, then place them in a dark room for 30 minutes. In this relaxed state, the snails roam over a net or mesh, which stimulates mucin production and excretion.
Just like snail mucin, bee venom is an excretion, which is released from the bee's stinger when it feels threatened. For obvious safety reasons, extracting bee venom requires a bit more creativity. Basically, panes of glass that have a mild electrical current are placed near the bees' hives. This current attracts the bees and causes them to sting the glass. When this happens, the bee venom is released, while the stingers stay intact. This means the bee is not at all harmed and does not die.
To be completely honest, the fact that many Korean skincare brands lack transparency about their particular extraction methods bothers us. We continue to stay abreast on the research, and should we feel that the methods we find border on abuse, we will remove products containing these ingredients from our shop.