Kiwi women are turning to a humble garden pest in the search for eternal beauty.
Snail slime is being sought as a miracle face-fixer to make skin appear softer and younger.
Snail Soap, imported from Europe, has customers in a lather at La Cigale French market in the Auckland suburb of Parnell.
And a new craze of snail facials — which involves shelled slugs being placed on the face — is expected to arrive at New Zealand beauty parlours soon.
The trendy Snail Soap costs $25 a bar. Made in Portugal, it contains snail slime, virgin olive oil, honey and extracts from medicinal plants.
"Some people have a chuckle when they see it has snail slime in it, others go, 'Oh, God' and need a bit of convincing," Dianne Perillo, La Cigale Shop manager, said. "But it is proving popular with women who can afford it."
It is claimed snail mucus helps reduce pigmentation and scarring, as well as beating wrinkles.
"Young to middle-aged women who are well-versed in organic products and looking for something different have been buying the Snail Soap," Perillo said.
"No one has come back and said it is rubbish or doesn't work."
The healing and repairing powers of the slime was discovered when snail farmers in Chile, harvesting for the French food market, noticed their hands were extremely soft and smooth, and minor cuts healed quickly.
Laboratory analysis showed a substance called Helix Aspersia Muller produced by the snail to quickly regenerate its shell and skin contains beneficial glycolic acid, collagen, elastin, allantoin, vitamins and minerals.
Actor Katie Holmes, former wife of Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, is said to have taken to the product.
Snail facials are popular in Thailand, Japan and the US. Beauty salons in New Zealand are now eyeing the craze.
Stacey Power, cosmetic nurse and co-director of Ever Young in Auckland, said the idea would take getting used to.
"Some Kiwis will probably think it is all a bit weird and might consider using their own snails from the garden," she said.
"But snail facials are believed to be very good, particularly for treating scarring,"
Dani Revell, founder of the We Are Anthology blogging site representing a number of beauty bloggers, tested a snail facial for the Herald on Sunday.
It was "a bit weird" but said she'd be willing to try again.
"I didn't mind the snails being on my face but it was a bit creepy when they came into my vision because their heads and shells appeared huge," she said. "But my skin felt clean and tight afterwards."
But Christchurch-based dermatologist David Nicholls said he hadn't seen any scientific proof to back up the claims for snail slime.
"There is no evidence using snail slime on your skin, either raw or in products, provides any benefit, and I believe it would be a waste of money," he said.