Sea moss | Benefits for skincare
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What is sea moss?
The term “sea moss” can be applied to a variety of different species of algae or seaweed. In skincare, sea moss is often known as Irish moss or Carrageenan Moss. Chondrus crispus is the species of red algae most commonly used in skincare. It is technically not a moss and more specifically red algae.
There is a distinction between algae and seaweed although when skincare brands reference sea moss they often used the terms interchangeably. Seaweed is plantlike attaching itself to rocks and hard-surfaced founds in aquatic environments and is mostly seen in shallow water. Algae contain chlorophyll and can grow in different types of aquatic environments as well as deep or shallow water. Seaweed could be considered a type of algae.
It is known as a “superfood” in the wellness world due to the presence of sulfated polysaccharides.
What is sea moss good for?
The benefit of sea moss gel for skincare does not have many medical studies to back its specific use. There are some small studies that have demonstrated an immune boost from extracts of this sea moss. The boost in immunity has been studied for the possible use as a chemopreventative measure for cancer and potentially chemotherapeutic.
Sea moss is a source of Carrageenan. Carrageenan is a food additive often used as a stabilizer or emulsifier. It can be used to thicken foods and formulas.
Is there any research into this skincare ingredient?
I have not come across any published medical studies that isolate sea moss benefits or specific varieties of sea moss as a skincare ingredient and its specific potential for skincare benefits. However, carrageenan has been used in products as a stabilizer. The polysaccharide base can work as a thickening agent in products to stabilize them in gel form.
That being said, it is rich in sulfur. Varieties of sea moss contain vitamin B12, magnesium, and zinc amongst other vitamins. The real challenge in determining skincare benefits is the generic term ‘sea moss’ or ‘algae’ without recognizing that there are numerous species and varieties with varying concentrations of vitamins and nutrients.
What are sea moss gel benefits in a skincare routine?
Sea moss is considered a sulfated polysaccharide. The sulfur content gives it antimicrobial properties which can assist with balancing the skin’s bio flora. This has the potential to help acne, seborrhea, and rosacea-related changes to the skin.
It may also assist in the hydration of the skin given its gel-like consistency which is why it can be found in under eye gels or products for address hydration and turgor of the skin. The polysaccharide content tends to contribute to its potential ability to promote hydration for many species of sea moss.
How can sea moss be introduced into a skincare routine?
I would NOT suggest grabbing sea moss from the ocean and rubbing it on your face:)
The real challenge in finding a skincare product to use is that there is not a great chance of finding a product with “sea moss” on the ingredient label. Most often there will be marketing terms suggestive of moss, algae, or seaweed as a component of the product with vague claims.
Also, many sea moss products are marketed as additives for food and drink, not necessarily skincare use.
For products containing sea moss, algae, or seaweed, simply use as directed. For Sea moss gel, this may be too thick to add to a product. Using as a face mask may potentially be reasonable after a forearm patch test to verify no reactions.
What forms does sea moss come in for skincare?
Sea moss is most often available as a gel.
I tend to recommend also considering algae in a face mask. This can benefit the skin if there are sulfur sensitivities, in people with a tendency towards acne, rosacea, and/or seborrhea.
Can, and should, you make your own sea moss products? If so, how?
I do not suggest making your own sea moss product due to the wide variability in the types of products available, quality, and purpose of products available. Given the high sulfur content, it is also important to verify that you do not have sensitivities or allergies to sulfur before use.
When buying a sea moss skincare product, are there any specific things to look for?
There are a wide array of names for sea moss, extracts, and seaweed or algae in products. The ingredient label may simply have the name of an extract and reference algae or seaweed parenthetically after the name. Since there are no percentages or specific extracts that are consistently linked to specific benefits, simply seeking products that reference moss, algae or seaweed is reasonable.
Are there any potential risks of using sea moss on the skin?
The main concern with sea moss would be the high sulfur content. Verifying that there is no sulfur allergy is important before use.
A note on sunscreen chemicals affecting algae...
It is important to note that according to NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US Department of Commerce, sunscreen chemicals found in waterways and the oceans have been noted to have a negative impact on algae. In particular, sunscreen chemicals that wash off our skin into shower water, pool water, or the oceans while swimming can "impair growth and photosynthesis" in algae.
The following sunscreen ingredients are noted on NOAA's website as potential culprits in hurting aquatic life:
- 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor
- 3-Benzylidene camphor
- nano-Titanium dioxide
- nano-Zinc oxide
Always shop for sunscreen based on the ingredient label. Avoid the ingredients above to do your part for the environment.
Remember, algae and coral depend on each other for survival. They have a relationship defied as "mutualistic". This is a type of symbiotic relationship where algae depend on coral for the building blocks for photosynthesis while also providing protection for algae. Algae provide the oxygen that coral needs to survive and can help clear waste. In other words, if there is a chemical that can harm coral, it is indirectly also potentially causing harm to algae.
Is Carrageenan safe in foods?
According to reviews, Carrageenan added to food is considered safe and often not absorbed given the size of the molecule. It tends to be excreted and in high concentrations may contribute to loose stools. There have been reports in the media questioning if it may be linked to inflammation in the gut. However, reviews in the literature do not seem to suggest this although more studies are likely warranted. I often come across it as an ingredient to add to weight loss smoothies likely owing to its tendency to trigger looser stools.
Instead of simply adding a sea moss gel to your skincare routine without recognizing that you may already have hydrating products or other sulfur containing products to review, I find it best to consider finding a product with a specific use that includes algae as the ingredient. The algae and squalane in this Biossance products contribute to its hydrating properties.
Notice how many algae-containing products focus on hydration. This is another hydrating eye balm to help soothe the delicate skin around your eyes.