Natural cosmetics for export

A global trend vindicating the natural has led Chilean entrepreneurs to develop innovative cosmetic products using snail slime, wine, and emu oil.


Historians have uncovered tales of the extravagant care taken by Cleopatra, the queen of ancient Egypt, who to increase her beauty and stay young would take baths in goat’s milk. Today that eccentricity is a global trend: women want to return to their roots and are looking for natural cosmetic products.

In Europe, for example, many models are using creams based on yoghurt and honey to care for their faces and avoid aggressive compounds that might harm their skin. In addition to the skin benefits of natural cosmetics, they also protect the environment.

This green trend has led many entrepreneurs to seek ways to turn the extracts of plants, flowers, and fruits into beauty products. In this way, soaps and creams based on milk, snail slime, fruits or oils have appeared, becoming much sought-after cosmetics on a global level.

According to ProChile, the program in charge of promoting Chilean exports, the Chilean export cosmetics market ranks fifth in terms of size in Latin America, after Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia, with 5% annual growth in sales. The national products that are in highest demand on the international market are skincare creams, perfumes and eau de toilettes, and deodorants.

Elicina and its snail cream
Though he began with a snail farm that failed, Fernando Bascuñán’s story is an example of innovation and entrepreneurship. After realizing that skin injuries tended to heal better after coming into contact with snail slime, the businessman and his doctor son undertook a long study on the substance’s properties. They eventually managed to prove that it contains alantoin, a powerful cell regenerator, in addition to collagen and elastin, which smooth out wrinkles and make skin more flexible.

Since then he has only met with success. In 1993 he received acknowledgement from the World Intellectual Property Organization, certifying the cream as unique in the world. They launched their first lot of cream in 1995 and it was sold out in a few months.

With over 14 years of trajectory in the field of natural cosmetics, Elicina, the brand that the company patented, currently has a farm with over 13,000 snails. According to General Manager Fernando Bascuñán, they manufacture over 70,000 creams per month, which they export to countries like Bolivia, Canada, Guatemala, the United States Mexico and Costa Rica, among others.

Emu oil and wine cream
If cream based on snail slime was a great example of innovation in the 1990s, now it is emu oil and wine cream, two products that promise major benefits for skin that go beyond regeneration.

Patricio Labrín, general manager of Cremacol, one of the small companies making these products, says that there is major interest in the use of natural raw materials in cosmetics. “More and more people are worried about finding alternative beauty treatments with high nutrient contents and natural active ingredients that not only allow the skin to regenerate, but also protect it,” affirms the businessman, who also started out in the business of exporting live snails without obtaining significant economic results.

Today, after over five years operating in the sector, Cremacol offers products like cream and solid soap with snail slime, solid soap with emu oil, and pure emu oil. But the product that is currently in highest demand is cream with wine polifenols. And for those who want double effectiveness in their skin, snail slime cream and emu oil is also available.

Products made with emu oil add moisture to the skin and prevent and mitigate expression marks and lines, thanks to their high contents of essential fatty acids, palmitic acid, and linoleic acid.

For its part, wine cream is a complete energizing compound that can be regularly applied during the day and at night. It is perfect for treating expression lines and premature skin aging, as its composition prevents the actions by free radicals as well as increasing cellular energy with one of its components, which has antioxidant and regenerative powers that are up to 40 times greater than Vitamin C and E.

And more products are coming. The company will soon begin developing a murtilla cream using a wild shrub that grows in the coastal mountains and forests of southern Chile, which Labrin says has twice the effect of Hydrocotyle asiatica, a plant that benefits the skin by fighting stretch marks and cellulite thanks to the high levels of collagen that it contains.

“We have made an effort to innovate, both in cosmetics as well as in the creation of gourmet products,” Labrín affirms regarding Chilean entrepreneurial inventiveness. “We cannot continue to do more of the same, especially since the raw materials are available in the country,” he concludes.