Snail Growth Factor Allergy with Microneedling? May not be such a tiny problem. |

Snail Growth Factor Allergy with Microneedling? May not be such a tiny problem.

Microneedling, whether done at home, by an esthetician, or a medical professional, results in thousands of microscopic perforations in the stratum corneum, the uppermost layer of the epidermis. The result is the barrier function of the skin is greatly diminished making the skin rendered much more permeable to substances that are applied to it. This, in fact, is one of the purposes of microneedling with short needles – to enhance penetration of actives so that they enter the skin in higher concentration, and into deeper layers.

That is all well and good if the substances being applied are physiologic and something that is native to skin. Examples are hyaluronic acid, and growth factors or cytokines produced by laboratory culture of human cells. In the past few months, BFT has received photos of women who have developed significant allergic reactions following application of snail “growth factors” in conjunction with microneedling. It turns out there is scientific reason to believe this problem may be larger than what we previously thought. We may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg. The number of people allergic to snails is significant, and not for the reason you might expect.


Allergy to snails can come about in more than one way. The most common, and one might assume the predominant way (among the French, for sure) is eating snails in the diet. Among the squeamish and less adventurous epicureans, one would therefore assume the incidence of snail allergy would be very low.  Not necessarily. It has to do with cross reactivity.

Allergies to anything have to do with small molecules acting as “sensitizers” to cell membranes, setting the stage for release of biologically active substances whenever the offending substance is again encountered. That is why hay fever is so predominant during the time plants are in flower and pollen is wafting invisibly in the air.

What if there was a sensitizer that was not a snail, but whose makeup contained substances that essentially mimicked those of the snail, so that the immune system reacted to them, but also set the stage for cross reactivity with snails. That is precisely the mechanism that makes BFT anticipate more of those nasty allergic reaction photos following microneedling combined with topical application of products with snail derived “active” ingredients.


Dust mites are one of the most common allergens encountered, particularly in people with asthma. They are tiny little things, no bigger than a grain of salt, and present in just about every home. Dust mites may be the most common cause of year-round allergy and asthma. About 20 million Americans have dust mite allergy. Dust mites are well adapted to most areas of the world—they are found on every continent except Antarctica. It may not be possible to rid your home entirely of these creatures, but there are ways in which you can lessen your allergic reactions to them.

Too small to be seen with the naked eye, a dust mite measures only about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter. Under a microscope, they can be seen as whitish bugs. Having eight rather than six legs, mites are technically not insects but arthropods, like spiders. Mites are primitive creatures that have no developed respiratory system and no eyes. They spend their lives moving about, eating, reproducing and eliminating waste products. A mite’s life cycle consists of several stages, from egg to adult.

A female may lay as many as 100 eggs in her lifetime. Depending on the species, it takes anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks for an adult mite to develop from an egg. Adults may live for 2 to 4 months. Dust mites thrive in temperatures of 68 to 77 degrees Faranheight and relative humidity levels of 70 percent to 80 percent. There are at least 13 species of mites, all of which are well adapted to the environment inside your home. They feed chiefly on the tiny flakes of human skin that people normally shed each day. These flakes work their way deep into the inner layers of furniture, carpets, bedding and even stuffed toys. These are the places where mites thrive. An average adult person may shed up to 1.5 grams of skin in a day, this is enough to feed 1 million dust mites!

Household dust is not a single substance but rather a mixture of many materials. Dust may contain tiny fibers shed from different kinds of fabric, as well as tiny particles of feathers, dander from pet dogs or cats, bacteria, food, plant and insect parts, and mold and fungus spores. It also contains many microscopic mites and their waste products. These waste products, not the mites themselves, are what cause allergic reactions. Dust mite waste contains a protein that is an allergen—a substance that provokes an allergic immune reaction—for many people. Throughout its life a single dust mite may produce as much as 200 times its body weight in waste.


Once the immune system is primed to respond to exposure to dust mite waste, it will respond whether or not dust mite waste is present IF something similar to dust mite waste is present. That something similar is a particular protein found in the snail. The body is primed already, the IgE immunoglobulins just need the corresponding antigen to get them to cause the release of histamine and other mediators.

Because of the large number of people with allergies to dust mites, and the very common and significant cross reactivity of these same people with snails, it is more than probable that microneedling in conjunction with the use of topical skin product containing snail derived ingredients is going to be a growing problem. BFT anticipates more nasty photos headed its way and urges its readers who are contemplating having microneedling treatments to think long and hard before permitting their skin to be slathered with snail based topicals. Our recommendation: When in doubt, don’t.



  1. SkinCarer says:

    hi very informative stuff. Was wondering how you think of the role of retin-a and derivatives like retinaldhyde, vitamin a, retinol in collagen building and repair of damaged skin. Because it seems that is one of the few things derms seem to universally herald. Was wondering how you compare that to the utility of bone marrow stem cells? Is retin a more inflammatory healing/building? Also can you touch upon bone marrow stem cells ability to differentiate between good cells and damaged cells — wasn’t sure if it enables both skin cells to proliferate? Also do you feel anything can repair fat cell volume loss from a deep burn or is that not really capable of regeneration whereas the collagen layer is? Thanks for your help – sorry so compounded qs – there is a lot of buzz driven skin care solutions out there and it has been helpful to understand your assessment of the scientific merits.

    • drjohn says:

      Retinoids like retinol help increase skin turnover. They loosen the glue between the top layer of cells, so they fall off more easily. They also have metabolic effects, and induce collagenesis by stimulating growth factors. It’s been around a long time, well studies, so well respected. The direct application of cytokines and growth factors from stem cells is new, so fewer studies. But most experts agree that the effect is more powerful, and gaining momentum as we learn how to alter the cocktail to achieve regenerative goals. Retin A is not anti-inflammatory’ in fact it is a bit the opposite. As skin cells slough off, the barrier function is compromised, leading to irritation and sensitivity. The skin adapts though over time, so the good effects persist with fewer side effects. Stem cells from bone marrow are naturally highly anti-inflammatory. They are what we call immune privileged. The cytokines they naturally secrete turn off inflammation better than steroids, without the side effects. Makes sense when you realize this is natures endogenous mechanism for fighting inflammation. And makes sense that as we age (and have fewer of these cells available) we tend to undergo a slow death from inflammation. Heart disease, arthritis, most skin conditions, and in fact aging itself is all about inflammation.

      Fat cell volume loss is best address with fat transfer. Whether from burns or aging. The fat can be enriched with stem cell medium (growth factors) to help insure its viability in engraftment.

  2. LP says:


    What are you thoughts on AQ skin solutions?

    Thank you,

    • drgeorge says:

      LP, I hope you have had a chance to poke around BFT so that some of the following rings a bell. For starters, AQ skin solutions, according to their listed ingredients, are based on fibroblast conditioned media, the same as TNS serum. These are first generation products. The science has come a long way since these earliest attempts to improve skin appearance by applying topical cytokines and growth factors.

      There is abundant published evidence that topical bio-signals are effective (more than 500 articles in the world’s literature). There is also abundant evidence that there are huge differences in the secretome (the blend of pattern of secreted biosignals) depending on what type of cell is cultured. We are huge fans of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells because they act as command and control of healing of all injuries in all tissues, not just the skin. In fact, the migratory bone marrow stem cells (yes, they actually migrate from the bone marrow into the blood stream where they gain access to all parts of the body) actually “instruct” our bodies fibroblasts when and how to participate in healing. Bone marrow stem cells are the generals and admirals; fibroblasts are the privates and corporals taking the orders bone marrow stem cells give them. The “orders” come in the form of bio-signals (cytokines and growth factors) secreted by the stem cells. The fibroblasts “follow the orders.”

      If you compare the amounts of important bio-signals produced by bone marrow stem cells in culture and compare them to fibroblasts, the bone marrow cells product 15 to 50 times as many of these important molecules. So, A.Q. is not impressive to us in the least. It’s old science that doesn’t follow the well-understood physiology of healing. If you want to read some advanced science articles we like that are precisely on target, they are listed at the bottom of this reply.

      When I visit the A.Q. website, I am very underwhelmed by the science and the messaging. There’s lots of big words used like “proteoglycans and glycosaminoglycans”, perhaps impressive to some people, certainly not to BFT. There are also purported results of scientific testing of topical creams that produced “significant increases in production of collagen, hyaluronic acid, elastin, fibroblasts, and epidermal thickness” that “produced better results than Botox!” Do these people even understand the mechanism of action of Botox? Apparently not. Botox has NOTHING to do with turning cells “on” and everything to do with permanently poisoning the mechanism by which pre-synaptic neuronal endings release acetyl choline, the chemical released into the neuromuscular synaptic junction. No acetyl choline means no muscle contraction. No muscle contraction means smoothed out wrinkles…for a while. A.Q. shows amazing ignorance of physiology, if you ask us.

      Mesenchymal stem cells induce dermal fibroblast responses to injury
      Experimental Cell Research Volume 316, Issue 1, 1 January 2010, Pages 48–54

      Paracrine Factors of Mesenchymal Stem Cells Recruit Macrophages and Endothelial Lineage Cells and Enhance Wound Healing PLOS ONE, April 2, 2008

  3. KellyP says:

    My understanding is that inflammation is not important for skin to recover after micro-needling. In that case, would it make sense to use a 1%hydrocortisone cream after the micro-holes have closed, to keep decrease inflammation? And possibly PIH? Thank you.

    • drjohn says:

      Steroid creams would tend to diminish inflammation, but at a cost. Healing of the microwounds would be slower. Steroids cause skin to become thinner, and over time cause discolorations. You would be better off using anti-inflammatory cytokines – these reduce inflammation while also promoting healing.

  4. Kim says:


    I regret not finding your website before testing out my derma roller. I purchased a Dr. Roller 0.5 mm roller, which I tested on my hand 5 days ago. The first day after treatment my hand was a bit pink, the second day I was some small red dots in the skin, but not raised. On the second night I decided to try all the products I normally use for my facial skin routine, which includes: DIY vitamin C serum, Mison snail serum, and cacay oil. The morning of the third day I had small bumps all over my hand, the fourth day the bumps became extremely itchy and more pronounced, and the itchiness has increased on the 5th day. I’m currently applying DIY HMW-HA and coconut oil.
    Should I be applying cortisone cream? Can you please recommend anything else I can use topically to resolve the allergic reaction.
    Also, I’m wondering if this could be a possible metal allergy. I believe I have a nickel allergy (I get an allergic reaction from metal jewelry). I could not find any information on your website about this and so was hoping you could provide me with some information.

    Thank you

    • drjohn says:

      Metal allergy unlikely. Most of these are stainless steel or titanium, and the exposure to the metal is too brief. Did you use any products on your hand at the time of needling, or within 6 hours afterward? The snail serum of course include xeno (animal, non-human) proteins, and snail secretions cross react with house dust mites allergvy, so very high likelihood of problems resulting from that.

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