The thought of seaweed for skin may conjure ideas of slapping a slimy green plant on your face but the reality is very different. Over 80 per cent of the seaweed plant is made up of essential minerals, vitamins, and other bioactive compounds that can be extracted to support the health of your skin.
Below, experts further explain the benefits of this botanical ingredient and how seaweed is turned into the beauty products you know and love.
What does seaweed do for the skin?
Seaweed contains a broad range of vital nutrients that are high in antioxidants and skin healing properties. For this reason, it can be used in skin care to address a multitude of concerns, from dryness to dullness and fine lines and wrinkles.
“Cellular molecules extracted from seaweed provide a source of amino acids, phenolics and polysaccharides,” says Katie Matten, Head of RATIONALE Education. “These powerful compounds support radiance and encourage collagen synthesis by providing antioxidant, anti-pollution, anti-inflammatory, and protective properties.”
Orla O'Reilly, Head of Marketing for Voya Beauty adds that seaweed is one of the few plant sources of vitamin B12. “In addition, seaweed contains several key vitamins including folate, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, and C.”
Benefits of seaweed
The bioactive compounds found in seaweed have the ability to produce an effect on the skin, which both Matten and O’Reilly agree can be beneficial for all skin types. Some of its notable advantages include…
Protection from premature skin ageing: Seaweed helps to protect the skin against environmental damage, including infrared rays and the blue light present in sunlight. “Just like UV radiation, these rays can cause oxidative stress, damage cells, and accelerate the natural ageing process,” says O’Reilly.
Cell renewal: O’Reilly explains that “seaweed supports cellular energy production to increase the oxygen supply to the skin; this process has a positive effect on cell renewal and thus on the overall appearance of the skin.”
Soothing hydration: Seaweed has the ability to replenish moisture and contains valuable minerals and trace elements rich in soothing properties.
Skin brightening: Certain kinds of seaweed can also be used to reduce hyperpigmentation and prevent the appearance of age spots.
What type of seaweed is best for the skin?
There are a few different species of seaweed that provide benefits to the skin. “At VOYA we work primarily with brown seaweed,” says O’Reilly. “[It] plays a significant role in fighting premature skin ageing.” Pair it with other much-loved ingredients like rosehip and evening primrose oil and you’re onto a winner with the VOYA Angelicus Serratus Nourishing Body Oil ($56 at voyabeauty.com.au),
Meanwhile, Matten shares that native seaweed Tasmanian kelp extract is what’s featured in RATIONALE formulations, notably the new #2 The Mask ($224 at rationale.com). “It assists in protective processes to prevent environmental and solar damage, replenish hydration, and accelerate healing responses in the skin.”
According to O’Reilly, sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca), spirolina (Spirulina maxima) and Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) can also host skin care benefits. You’ll find the latter in the Elemis Superfood Cica Hydration Juice ($64 at Amazon).
Can seaweed help to clear acne?
For those with acne-prone, combination, or oily skin, Himanthalia Elongata is one species of seaweed to look for. Used predominantly in VOYA’s facial range for such purpose, it “has a natural ability to restore balance to your skin’s moisture levels, along with providing antioxidant protection, calming, and repairing the skin with its anti-inflammatory properties,” says O’Reilly.
Does seaweed contain retinol?
You may have spotted that seaweed contains vitamin A — so does that mean it's retinol? Not exactly. “The concentration of vitamins in seaweed can vary from one to another and depends on the type of algae,” says Matten. “A common form of vitamin A found in seaweed can include carotenoids. Carotenoids are the pigment found in algae responsible for photosynthesis, converting light into energy, and photoprotection, preventing damage caused by light. Carotenoids convert to vitamin A in the body but aren’t retinol specifically.”
Are there any side effects of using seaweed in skin care?
Seaweed is beneficial for all skin types, even sensitive. “The only people who might have to avoid using seaweed products would be anyone with a hyperthyroid due to the presence of iodine,” says O’Reilly. So if in doubt, check in with your health practitioner.
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Samantha McMeekin was BEAUTYcrew's Editor from January 2020 to June 2023. She has worked as a journalist in the beauty and lifestyle industry for over 10 years. In 2019, she was nominated for Best Digital Writer at the BSME Awards for her work on GLAMOUR UK. If you ever meet her in person, she'll probably try to guess which fragrance you're wearing (she's got a humble 60% strike rate).