Foams of slime bubbled on French snail grower Damien Desrocher’s hand as he lightly caressed one of thousands of snails he keeps in an enclosure in his backyard.
In December, the 28-year-old artisan began using the gastropod fluid to make soap bars, which he sells in local markets.
He’s one of only three artisans making the rare hygiene product in France, he told Reuters.
“It’s all in the dexterity of how you tickle,” Desrocher said as he extracted snail slime, noting that the process doesn’t kill the animals. “I only touch it with my finger, you see it’s not violent, it’s simple.”
Once a computer technician in the French air force, Desrocher decided to start growing snails as form of “returning to nature”.
“Snails are quite an uncommon animal that is not very well known, so I really want to learn more about them,” he said.
“And it’s true that once we observe and we see how they behave, they’re actually very endearing, they’re very cute. It’s really an animal that I love.”
Now, he raises a total of 60,000 snails near Lille. As the critters enter their reproductive season by mid-May, most of the snails are transferred in a larger growing site, while around 4,000 are kept in an enclosure at his home to harvest the slime.
To make around 15 100g soap bars, Desrocher uses around 80g of snail slime.
Since 2g of slime can be extracted from one snail, he needs at least 40 snails to produce this amount.
“It’s quite precious, it’s true that we need quite a lot of snails,” he said.
Although quite uncommon in Western cosmetics, snail mucus has become a common ingredient especially in Korean beauty products, and is noted for its supposed anti-aging properties.
Desrocher said snail slime contains molecules collagen and elastin, which have anti-aging and skin-healing properties.
Snails also naturally use their slime to repair their shells if damaged, Desrocher said.
Desrocher said he aims to produce 3,000 snail slime soap bars in his first year of production.