They have long been regarded as a nuisance in the garden but it seems that snails could be more friend than foe when it comes to anti-ageing.

A revolutionary new facial that involves allowing live snails to slither across the face has been hailed the next big thing in beauty thanks to the glow-boosting properties of snail mucus.

The mucus, which contains a mix of powerful proteins, antioxidants and hyularonic acid, is said to help skin retain moisture, soothe inflammation and remove dead skin.

During the 60-minute treatment, which is offered at the Clinical Salon in Tokyo, the face is cleansed before snails are placed on the cheeks and forehead and allowed to move around as they please.

The facial, named the Celebrity Escargot Course, costs NZ$245 and also includes a series of facial massages, masks and the use of an electrical pulse machine.

"Snail slime can help the recovery of skin cells on the face, so we expect the snail facial to help heal damaged skin," Yoko Miniami, sales manager at Tokyo's Clinical Salon which offers the treatment, told the Sunday Telegraph.

The substance is also believed to help tackle sun damage, according to Ms Miniami.

"We are interested in the fact that snails have a function that can help heal skin damaged by ultraviolet rays."

According to Ms Miniami, the salon also uses creams infused with snail slime provided by the salon's five resident snails which are fed on organic vegetables, including carrots, spinach, Swiss chard and Japanese komatsuna greens.

Disgusting though it might sound, snail slime isn't a recent addition to the anti-ageing arsenal and was first used more than 2000 years ago.

According to records left by early doctor Hippocrates, crushed snails mixed with sour milk were used to treat skin inflammation, while more recently, products infused with mollusc slime have proved popular in Japan and South Korea.

Despite the long history of snail slime as a beauty treatment, the Clinical Salon's effort was apparently inspired by Mount Fuji's recent elevation to UNESCO World Heritage status.

Climbers are likely to suffer skin damage as they climb the peak, thanks to the thinner air and intense sunshine, and it is this the treatment is intended to fix.

Check out the snail slime facial in the video below: