We think of seaweed as the kelp that washes up on shores and wraps our spicy tuna roll. But “seaweed” is actually a blanket term for the tens of thousands of species of marine plants and algae that grow in oceans, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. Some species are tiny algae invisible to the human eye, while others are 100-foot-long plants. And all serve an essential purpose in our marine ecosystems.
Seaweed serves plenty of purpose out of the water, too. It’s been a core element in beauty rituals around the world since long before it became the key ingredient in a certain cult face cream named after the sea. Seaweed bathing is a centuries-long practice in Ireland to soothe and nourish the skin, while the ancient Greeks and Japanese are said to have applied seaweed pastes and powders to their skin and hair for its beautifying benefits.
These days, seaweed is in everything from bath soaks to lip colors (you'll find algin, an algae extract, in our Wonder Blading Peel & Reveal Lip Color Masque), with good reason: seaweed is chock full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and amino acids and has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Depending on where it’s sourced from, seaweed offers different concentrations of these key ingredients, making it particularly versatile and incredibly healing, so it’s ideal on skin that’s dry, sensitive, or acne prone. Here’s what this aquatic all-star can do for you.
1. Calms and controls irritation and inflammation
Seaweed is a superhero at combating dryness, redness, and irritation. Its powerful anti-inflammatory properties include minerals like zinc and magnesium that help relieve flare ups from skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and eczema. Kim Kardashian even claims that seaweed-based body products helped clear up her psoriasis.
Seaweed is also rich in the essential fatty acids that help maintain the skin barrier, the outer layer of skin responsible for keeping irritants out and moisture in. When your barrier is out of whack, skin gets dry, itchy, flaky, and vulnerable to breakouts, so it’s essential to keep the barrier in balance. A study published in the academic journal Dermatopathology found that fucoidan, a bioactive compound in brown seaweed, supports the genes associated with healthy skin barrier function and helps control inflammation caused by skin allergies.
2. Helps reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles
Seaweed boasts a bevy of wrinkle fighters. For starters, it’s loaded with A+ antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamins A, C, and E that help guard against the damage that contributes to skin aging. It also contains polysaccharides which, along with their antioxidant benefits, help the skin maintain water (and when skin is plump with moisture, lines are less noticeable) and aid in skin repair and renewal.
The plant compounds in seaweed, like flavonoids and carotenoids, amp up protection even more. The main carotenoid in brown seaweed, fucoxanthin, has over 13 times the antioxidant capacity of vitamin E. And seaweed’s high concentration of amino acids helps strengthen skin’s own defense system to better protect itself from harm, repair visible damage, and diminish the look of lines and wrinkles.
When shopping for sunscreen, look for formulas that contain red algae, a type of seaweed that research shows enhances the performance of SPF ingredients so they’re even stronger at fighting UV damage and inflammation.
3. Firms and tightens skin
Seaweed has everything your skin loves, including minerals that the skin uses to build collagen and elastin to keep it smooth and firm. Which, according to a cosmetic chemist, means seaweed can help support these vital functions so they’re working at full capacity.
Data also suggests that fucoxanthin, the primary ingredient in brown seaweed, can stimulate fat burning by initiating lipolysis, the natural process of releasing fat from fat cells and turning it into fuel energy. While lab studies on fucoxanthin have been only in relation to weight loss, the findings inspired the skincare industry to research how else this seaweed-specific benefit might be utilized.
Professional lipolysis laser treatments have been used by dermatologists for years to reduce the volume of fatty tissue, which in turn tightens and smooths skin. Our Liquid Gym Face Serum contains a purified seaweed extract that in-vitro studies show helps stimulate lipolysis, resulting in a tighter, more contoured look.
4. Brightens the complexion
The niacin and vitamin C in seaweed deliver a double dose of brightening power. Both ingredients work to decrease hyperpigmentation to even out tone and boost skin’s overall radiance. The two vitamins also stimulate collagen production, which helps prevent new spots from forming and improves skin clarity and texture.
Our PUREVOC All Day Glow Serum contains chlorellagen DP, which is made with chlorella vulgaris. This algae extract triggers new collagen and slows the breakdown of existing collagen and elastin, helping skin appear more even-toned, firm, and glowing.
5. Exfoliates and purifies
Those seaweed wraps offered at spas are more than just luxurious pampering. Seaweed helps draw impurities out of the skin and exfoliate it for a clean, silky-soft finish.
The botanical is a true team player, too, as seaweed works well with other ingredients and doesn’t have any known side effects when used topically (though always be sure to test a new product on a small patch of skin first for a few days). You really can’t go wrong with this marine powerhouse, so why not dive right in and add a seaweed-infused product to your regimen to start reaping all the healthy, glowing skin rewards.