The idea that anything branded ‘skincare’ can be described as ‘unusual’ (complex chemical compounds aside) is a minefield, running up against cultural contexts and personal preferences. Caviar-infused, charcoal-spiked, caffeine-boosted… the list can be endless. Sure, some of these may seem slightly familiar today, but over the years, creatures like snails, snakes and bees have inched their way from the outdoors to skincare concoctions. But are these bizarre additives actual glow givers or simply advertising gimmicks? To find out, we caught up with two experts, New York-based dermatologist Dr Joshua Zeichner and Ginger King, a cosmetic chemist from New Jersey, who uncover nine weird (yet seemingly wonderful) ingredients and the beauty payoff they offer. Plus, some lotions and potions worth checking out that feature them.

Red algae
A distinctive type of algae species, red algae are mostly found in freshwater lakes. Besides being a natural food source for fish and other aquatic animals, this protein-rich, vitamin-laced algae is considered a delicacy in Japan and the North Atlantic. The University of California, Berkeley claims phycoerythrin (the pigment found in red algae) “reflects red light and absorbs blue light”. We already have enough research that prove millions of tiny particles of blue light travel from your smart devices down to the deepest level of your skin to decompose the collagen and elastin necessary to ward off wrinkles. “Red algae contains high levels of carotenoid antioxidants, which not only gives the algae its red colour, but also protects the skin from free radical damage,” explains Dr Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.YeastTalk about an overachiever: this humble, single-celled fungi commonly used for baking breads and cinnamon rolls is also “a potent anti-inflammatory ingredient,” reveals King, who, with her innovative concepts and product formulations, has  innovacje developed over hundreds of skin and haircare products. “Yeast actually helps in healing burns too. Aveeno, for example, is based on beta glucan [sugars found in the cell walls of yeasts].” Yeast owes its anti-ageing attributes to peptide, which increases sirtuin—a type of protein that regulates collagen and elastin. Another major plus? Pitera, the liquid derived from the yeast fermentation process, is super-rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that can strengthens skin’s moisture barrier.


 Snail mucin
While there’s a bevy of snail-slime skincare products by K-beauty brands that claims to be the quickest route to glass skin, Dr Zeichner, too, is bullish on the protein-rich, antioxidant-filled secretion “cryptomphalus aspersa species” aka the garden variety snail leave behind on sidewalks. “Snail’s mucous has been shown to have antioxidant properties, stimulate collagen production, and enhance wound healing. It is also very rich, so it can help hydrate the skin. Clinical studies have shown that snail mucin containing skincare products gave sophistical improvements in facial lines and wrinkles,” he goes on to reveal.Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence SqualaneSqualene is found in high concentrations in shark liver. “It is also present in our own sebum, so it is the most natural way to moisturise the skin,” adds King. Squalene is a lipid or fat, naturally made by our oil glands to hydrate and maintain the barrier of our skin. It has also been known to fight free-radical damage as an antioxidant. Unfortunately, the squalene production significantly slows down after the age of 30, which is why it makes sense to slather it on the face. In its crude state, “it is not a stable compound” and that’s why it goes through a saturation process to become squalane to be added to skincare products. Due to the obvious ethical reasons, it is now derived from plants like sugarcane, shares King. Squalane’s emollient properties can be especially advantageous to people with dry and/or mature skin.


 Bone marrow cells/glucosamine
No, this is not human bone marrow. Chicken bones is invariably the marrow of choice to derive glucosamine (the natural compound found in the tough tissue that cushions joints) for creams and moisturisers, or it is bioengineered from shells of shellfish. Stem cells, when applied on the skin, take cues from the surrounding tissue to generate new skin cells, and in turn, a younger-looking skin. “Glucosamine has been shown to enhance collagen production and stimulate hyaluronic acid. This can help strengthen and plump the skin,” says Dr Zeichner, reinstating the efficacy of glucosamine on skin ageing.

Find it in: Perfectionist Pro Rapid Firm + Lift Treatment with Acetyl Hexapeptide-8 by Estée Lauder; Dermalogica AGE Smart Power Rich. Dynamite/diatomaceous earthOnce upon a time, a Swedish chemist used diatomaceous earth (a type of a sedimentary rock) to patent a mixture called dynamite. A century and few decades later, this component used to make explosives was infused in skincare products, thanks to its inherent benefits to absorb oils, exfoliate the skin, reduce shine and trap bacteria. “Diatomaceous earth is often used as a filler in powder masks as it helps to detoxify and draw out excess skin sebum,” reveals King.


 Bee venom
While we associate a bee sting with the opposite-of-magic (read: teeth-gnashing pain), the colourless, liquid poison a bee deposits from its stinger when it stings, in contrast, “is thought to increase collagen production to thicken the skin and improve the appearance of wrinkles,” shares Dr Zeichner. Turns out that the venom also boosts of powerful anti-inflammatory benefits to diminish those pesky pimples, including cystic and body acne, that go a bit beneath the surface.Find it in: Nip + Fab Bee Sting Deluxe Body Soufflé; Rodial’s entire Bee Venom skincare line; Miss Spa Bee Venom Plumping Sheet Mask; Heaven Skincare Bee Venom Mask

 Goat’s milk
Meet the natural wonder that has been generating quite a buzz and transforming complexions—goat’s milk. Milk has been used for centuries to infuse the skin and hair with proteins, calcium and vitamins. “It is a natural source of lactic acid. This mean it can slough off dead skin cells,” says King, but also warns of skin sensitivity issues that can be caused by milk and recommends patch test first. Goat’s milk is known for its moisture-boosting, skin-softening and gentle-exfoliating properties that’s perfect for dry, tight or chapped skin.

The placenta is a large sac-like organ that develops during pregnancy to provide the developing baby with food and oxygen. It eventually expelled from a mammal’s body after the birth. “Ovine serum derived from sheep placenta is used in some facials and beauty products too,” says Dr Zeichner. While there’s not much research behind its efficacy, “it is thought to be rich in proteins and other ingredients that stimulate collagen to brighten and tighten the skin. It may be useful in people who have sun damage.”


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