Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and brightening benefits, seaweed is about to become a staple in your skin-care routine.

By Erin Reimel
December 18, 2019
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The last time you came anywhere near seaweed, you were probably either A) swimming in the ocean when its silky fibers grazed up against your leg, or B) eating a delicious spicy tuna roll. But it's time to start getting up close and personal with seaweed a bit more often—the algae and its extracts have powerful properties that do amazing things for your skin.

The Benefits of Seaweed for Skin

As seaweed floats through the ocean, it absorbs the vitamins and minerals in the water. “As a result, seaweed becomes a dense concentration of those vitamins and minerals, as well as phytohormones and amino acids,” says Lydia Sarfati, the founder and CEO of seaweed-based skin-care brand Repêchage. All these attributes make it an incredibly promising and potent skin-care ingredient. It’s also worth noting that human plasma and seawater are chemically alike. “Because of this, seaweed has a great bioaffinity to the skin, perhaps greater than any other natural ingredient,” Sarfati says.

There are tens of thousands of seaweed varieties, each with its own unique qualities that can benefit your skin in different ways. Depending where they grow and what minerals are in the water, the extracts can be rich in everything from antioxidants like skin-brightening vitamin C to a slew of anti-inflammatories. “Seaweed’s anti-inflammatory properties are probably the most notable because they help with a range of skin conditions, like acne, psoriasis, and rosacea,” says Shape Brain Trust member Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D., a New York City dermatologist. “The plant also has detoxifying abilities, which is why it’s in so many body and bath products.”

When you add sea salt and seaweed to a bath, the warm salt water draws the detoxifying nutrients out of the seaweed. “These nutrients include chlorophyll, magnesium, and iodine,” Ayla founder Dara Kennedy says. They can help regulate nutrient levels in the body to prevent or ease muscle pain, making it an ideal pre- or post-workout treatment. Seaweed also contains polysaccharides, which pull water into the skin to boost hydration. (BTW, there is a difference between moisturizing and hydrating skin-care products.)

And if you're looking to build an eco-conscious skin-care routine, you're in luck. “Seaweed is a fully renewable source, but only if it’s handled properly,” says Emma Roberts, a Voya skin-care expert. Ethical brands harvest seaweed by hand, cutting off sections rather than pulling it from its roots and striving to leave marine life undisturbed. “Once it’s brought to shore, the seaweed is hung to dry,” Sarfati says. Its mineral-rich filtrate is then extracted and formulated into skin care. So how exactly do you use the green product?

The Best Seaweed Products for Your Skin Type

The benefits of each species of seaweed vary depending on the nutrients it absorbs. Here’s how to find the right extract for you.

Voya

For Oily Skin: Sea Spaghetti (Himanthalia elongata)

High levels of vitamins and amino acids let the algae regulate skin’s moisture levels and naturally balance the skin’s pH. Try the Voya Get Glowing Illuminating Clay Mask (Buy It, $70, voya.ie) for a soothing and brightening skin-care experience.

OSEA

For Acne-Prone Skin: Bladder Wrack (Fucus vesiculosus)

When harvested in the summer, this seaweed is high in vitamin A, which helps skin fight blemishes while improving cell turnover. Use the peppermint-infused OSEA Ocean Cleansing Mudd (Buy It, $70, amazon.com) to gently exfoliate and energize your skin.

Biossance

For Redness: Red Algae (Chrondrus crispus)

Fatty acids in the algae are anti-inflammatory, calming stressed skin and reducing damage caused by pollution. Slather on the Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer (Buy It, $52, sephora.com) to minimize your redness and hydrate your parched pores.

Repechage

For Aging: Oarweed (Laminaria digitata)

This plant has potent antioxidants to help reduce wrinkles and vitamin B3 to fade dark spots. Harness the anti-aging powers of the Repêchage Vita Cura B3 Serum Complex (Buy It, $130, repechage.com) to lift and firm your skin and reduce the appearance of your pores.

Ayla Beauty

For Sensitive Skin: Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera)

The kelp contains a polysaccharide called fucoidan, which has anti-inflammatory benefits that help eczema and psoriasis. Draw yourself a bath and steep the Ayla Sea Soak (Buy It, $59, aylabeauty.com), which contains a cotton bag full of Giant Kelp, to give yourself a restorative full-body treatment.

Shape Magazine, December 2019 issue
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