Are Snail Mucin and Bee Venom Products Really Cruelty-Free?
"First, do no harm"
Every doctor has uttered the above as part of their rite of passage.
Do no harm is also what we at Sinless Skincare had in mind when we decided to create a skincare shop. Admittedly, 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. 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? We learned that there are snail farms and the methods for mucin extraction vary from farmer to farmer. Generally, snails are placed in an environment with conditions that encourage them to excrete their mucin. You will be happy 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 obtain mucin by means of a steam bath. Other farmers (including those partnered with COSRX) clean the snails, then place them in a dark room for 30 minutes where they are relaxed. Here 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. Manufacturers that are partnered with beauty brands have to get creative in order to safely collect this excretion. Venom is excreted onto panes of glass that are placed near the bees' hives. This pane has a very mild electrical current that both attracts the bees and causes them to sting the glass. When the glass is stung, the bee venom is released, however, their stingers stay intact. This means the bee is not at all harmed and does not die. According to research so far, the bee's lifespan is not affected.
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.