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Snail Facials: Japan's Slimy New Beauty Trend

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By Chris Gayomali

Our eyeball-licking friends from Japan are usually known for being ahead of the curve, which is why we might as well point out this slow-moving beauty trend now. Snail facials, which are being sold as a "Celebrity Escargot Course" at a high-end Tokyo spa, are exactly what they sound like: A beautician places three slimy, live snails on your face and lets them crawl all over your cheeks, nose, and forehead. For beauty!

The process, according to Nature World News, distributes the mollusks' mucus over your visage and is said to "remove dead skin, soothe any inflammation and help the skin retain moisture." Whether the process actually does anything is a matter of debate among dermatologists, although snail mucus contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid and proteoglycans, which are used in cosmetics and are known to promote tissue flexibility and skin healing.

Also, these aren't your typical garden-variety snails. According to Miho Inada at the Wall Street Journal, these shelled celebrities are given the A-list treatment within the spa:

These little celeb snails are fed an all-organic diet — carrots, Japanese mustard spinach, and Swiss chard — and are always kept in a room set to 20 degrees Celsius. Of the five in-house snails, there are three "regulars" that are more frequently chosen for their superior mucus-emitting ability, the spa attendant said. [WSJ]

And even if you wanted to take the $243 treatment for a test drive, you'd have to wait in line. The beautifying powers of the snails are in high demand, and they're said to be fully booked for the next few weeks.

While it might sound weird to let slimy creatures leave a trail of goop all over your face, they're hardly the first living things to be enlisted for beauty purposes. Despite their potential to spread infectious diseases, pedicures using flesh-eating Garra rufa fish, which nibble off dead skin, are still as popular as ever:

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What to Know About Shark Attacks Before You Hit the Beach
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iStock

A few hours spent watching shark attack reenactments on TV is enough to convince you it's not safe to go back in the water. But sharks aren't exactly the mindless manhunters pop culture makes them out to be. According to these statistics compiled by the home security company SafeWise, shark attacks look a lot different in the real world than they do in movies and TV shows.

Between 2007 and 2016, 443 non-fatal shark attacks and seven fatal attacks were reported in the U.S. That suggests most sharks aren't looking to make a meal out of swimmers—when they do "attack" people, they usually take a bite because they're curious and swim away as soon as they realize they're not dealing with a fish.

Dangerous shark encounters are also incredibly rare. Your risk of being attacked by a shark is about 11.5 million to one. That means you're more likely to be struck by lightning or die from the flu than fall victim to a shark attack.

Your risk of encountering a shark also depends on where you choose to go for your beach vacation. Florida is the shark attack capital of America, accounting for 244 shark attacks over the span of a decade. Hawaii was the runner-up with 65.

If you still have a love-hate relationship with sharks, no one would blame you for skipping the beach this summer and binge-watching Shark Week instead. Here are some facts to brush up on before the Discovery Channel event launches July 22.

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Whale Sharks Can Live for More Than a Century, Study Finds
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Some whale sharks alive today have been swimming around since the Gilded Age. The animals—the largest fish in the ocean—can live as long as 130 years, according to a new study in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research. To give you an idea of how long that is, in 1888, Grover Cleveland was finishing up his first presidential term, Thomas Edison had just started selling his first light bulbs, and the U.S. only had 38 states.

To determine whale sharks' longevity, researchers from the Nova Southeastern University in Florida and the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program tracked male sharks around South Ari Atoll in the Maldives over the course of 10 years, calculating their sizes as they came back to the area over and over again. The scientists identified sharks that returned to the atoll every few years by their distinctive spot patterns, estimating their body lengths with lasers, tape, and visually to try to get the most accurate idea of their sizes.

Using these measurements and data on whale shark growth patterns, the researchers were able to determine that male whale sharks tend to reach maturity around 25 years old and live until they’re about 130 years old. During those decades, they reach an average length of 61.7 feet—about as long as a bowling lane.

While whale sharks are known as gentle giants, they’re difficult to study, and scientists still don’t know a ton about them. They’re considered endangered, making any information we can gather about them important. And this is the first time scientists have been able to accurately measure live, swimming whale sharks.

“Up to now, such aging and growth research has required obtaining vertebrae from dead whale sharks and counting growth rings, analogous to counting tree rings, to determine age,” first author Cameron Perry said in a press statement. ”Our work shows that we can obtain age and growth information without relying on dead sharks captured in fisheries. That is a big deal.”

Though whale sharks appear to be quite long-lived, their lifespan is short compared to the Greenland shark's—in 2016, researchers reported they may live for 400 years. 

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