Snails, placenta, and beetles—oh, my! Find out how these and other icky things are being used to make you look younger and prettier
Many over-the-counter gas remedies contain this silicone-based ingredient, which works by breaking apart gas bubbles. But if you read your labels carefully, you’re likely to see it in your moisturizer, hair conditioners, and even some of your color cosmetics too.
The expert says: “Simethicone helps minimize lather and foaming properties so that the products stay in cream form,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City.
Find it in: Eucerin Daily Protection SPF 30 Moisturizing Face Lotion ($10; Ulta.com)
If you want your skin to age at a snail’s pace, follow its trail. Really. The mucus secreted by snails is used in anti-aging products and facials. The active ingredient, Helix Aspersa Muller, is rich in allantoin, proteins, collagen, elastin, and glycolic acid.
The expert says: “This combo may work to hydrate, soothe, smooth, and help heal skin,” says cosmetic chemist and founder of Beautystat.com, Ron Robinson.
Find it in: Organic Doctor Snail Gel ($25; Vitaminworld.com)
RELATED: 8 Exercise-Induced Skin Afflictions
Long before celebrities were ingesting their own placentas for health benefits, placental extracts were used in Chinese folk medicine because of their ability to promote wound healing. So it’s no surprise that they’re also used in topical skin care and hair treatments. While there are some products out there made with bovine, or cow, placenta, many contain a plant-based version.
The expert says: “It’s unclear how it works,” Zeichner says. “However, placenta is rich in hormones that stimulate cells to act like they do when they are young and healthy.” Zeichner points to a recent study in the Indian Journal of Dermatology that found cow placenta can promote healthy hair growth.
Yes, those red, spikey things on the top of a rooster’s head have been used in cosmetic treatments, including some wrinkle-plumping dermal fillers.
The expert says: “Rooster combs are rich in hyaluronic acid (HA), which is a humectant,” says Zeichner. Humectants draw water into the skin, plumping up wrinkles from the inside out. While rooster combs were the main source of HA for early fillers, the humectant is now replicated in a lab. You can find HA in products like Juvéderm Voluma XC.
The waxy substance that coats the fibers of sheep’s wool is called also called lanonlin, an ingredient commonly used to make lotions and lip balms.
The expert says: “It is an excellent moisturizer,” says Zeichner. One misconception: “People think that if they’re allergic to lanolin they can’t wear wool, but that’s a myth,” he says. “Most people are just irritated by wool fibers, but are not at all allergic.”
Find it in: Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm ($3.29; Ulta.com)
“Shark Week” lovers take note: Shark liver oil is rich in squalene, an ingredient you can find in many skin care moisturizers.
The expert says: “Squalene is a fat that protects and hydrates the skin barrier,” says Zeichner. It’s naturally occurring in our own skin, but cosmetic companies typically source it from shark liver oil.
Find it in: Peter Thomas Roth Oiless Oil 100 Percent Purified Squalene ($38; Sephora.com)
Scan the back of some high-end skin treatments and you might see “Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media.” In short: cells from human foreskins. Um, what? Foreskin has been used to create skin grafts for burn patients, but they’re also used in anti-aging creams.
The expert says: These cells function as growth factors that might stimulate an increase in collagen production, explain Robinson. Collagen helps smooth lines and wrinkles and give skin a firmer appearance.
Find it in: Skin Medica TNS Essential Serum ($270; Skinmedica.com)
Ambergris is a waxy material found in the stools or regurgitated matter of sperm whales. Because it has a sweet, musk-like odor, the ingredient can be found in some high-end fragrances. It’s often used as a fixative, making the scent last longer.
The expert says: Fortunately it’s more of a whale tale these days. Because the ingredient is extremely rare and expensive, most perfumers now use a lab-created, synthetic version of ambergris called Ambroxan. Frédéric Malle Gernanium Pour Monsieur ($180 for 50 ml; Fredericmalle.com) contains Ambroxan.
RELATED: 8 Perfect Summer Scents
Also known as dactyloplus coccus, these tiny red bugs feed on the red berries of the prickly pear cactus and are then used in your lipsticks and other color cosmetics.
The expert says: These beetles are the source of the natural dye/colorant carmine, a red tint used in makeup products, says Robinson. It’s not only safe, but also very commonly used (in food too). If this um, bugs you, look for a carmine-free lip product like Aveda Uruku Lip Pigment in Maracuja ($16; aveda.com).
If your nail polish or makeup product contains guanine, you can be sure that means it’s been formulated with tiny fish scales.
The expert says: Nothing fishy here. The scales are commonly used to create a shimmery effect, says Robinson. If you’re not a seafood lover, seek out a vegan polish or makeup brand like SpaRitual Nail Lacquers ($12; ulta.com).