Seaweed wraps have long been popular spa treatments for their ability to detoxify the body and tone the skin. Seaweed is also considered part of a healthy and diverse diet due to its large concentration of vitamins and minerals. While seaweed, which is considered a macro algae, has received a great deal of acclaim in the beauty and wellness space, its lesser known "cousin," micro algae, has begun gaining attention in the form of algae oil.
Algae oil is produced from certain species of micro algae, which are usually raised in a laboratory for their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA and EPA. In fact, some species of micro algae produce a level of omega-3 fatty acids that is similar to that of fish oil, potentially making it a more sustainable source of omega-3 than fishing. It is thought that the omega-3 within fish oil is a result of fish feeding off micro algae to obtain their omega-3's. The omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants found in algae oil have a history of providing anti-inflammatory benefits, and inflammation is one of the leading culprits of hair loss.
While it's easy to see why so many beauty products have begun using algae oil in formulations designed to calm the skin, we wanted to understand what benefits algae oil can bring specifically to your hair and scalp. Read ahead to hear two dermatologists' takes on the benefits of algae oil for hair.
Algae Oil for Hair
Type of ingredient: Hydrator, revitalizer, and anti-inflammatory
Main benefits: Soothes the scalp, reduces inflammation, regulates oil production, and rebalances the microbiome of the scalp
Who should use it: In general, anyone can benefit from algae oil for their hair, but especially those with dandruff, inflammation, or oily scalps. It may also have the potential to increase hair thickness, so it may provide additional benefits to those with thinning hair.
How often can you use it: If applying topically, algae oil can be used up to twice daily. Oral supplements are typically taken daily, but a doctor should be consulted before beginning any new supplements.
Works well with: Moringa and mint oils to stimulate growth. Algae oil helps to reduce irritation and inflammation, and it can partner easily with many other ingredients.
Don’t use with: There are no known ingredients that negatively interfere with algae oil.
Benefits of Algae Oil for Hair
The benefits of algae oil are due largely to its strong concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to the function of the cells in the human body. Additionally, algae oil is believed to contain many antioxidants and nutrients, including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, B1, B6, B2, C, and niacin. It is believed that algae oil can have a positive effect on the hair and scalp through both topical application and oral supplements.
The health of your hair starts at its roots, and healthy roots grow from a healthy scalp. Algae oil is considered beneficial to the hair because of its perceived benefits to the scalp. Marisa Garshick, MD, explains that algae oil benefits hair by calming the scalp and helping to reduce inflammation. Macrene Alexiades, MD, Ph.D., FAAD, agrees, adding that there is also some suggestion that it works by rebalancing the microbiome, a topic commonly discussed when referring to facial skin, but is equally as important when it comes to scalp health.
- Reduces scalp inflammation: Garshick explains that because algae oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA and EPA, it has the ability to calm the scalp and helps reduce inflammation. Scalp inflammation can ultimately lead to hair loss and many other hair issues, so algae oil may be a preventive treatment for more serious issues.
- Regulates oil production: Despite being an oil itself, algae oil may actually reduce oil production on the scalp. Alexiades says paradoxically, algae oil supposedly helps with oily scalps by rebalancing the microbiome. An overproduction of oil in the scalp may be indicative of other issues, so a dermatologist visit is always recommended to establish a cause.
- Rebalances the microbiome of the scalp: Probiotic skincare has been rising in popularity, and the microbiome of your scalp is equally important. Alexiades shares that "there is also some suggestion that it works by rebalancing the microbiome, thereby decreasing scalp seborrheic dermatitis, which is due to the overgrowth of fungal organisms."
- May increase hair thickness and growth: The effect of algae oil on hair growth has not been sufficiently researched, but both experts say there is science to suggest further exploration. "In my research, I have seen several published reports indicating and suggesting that algae oil boosts hair thickness and growth. The mechanism of action is being debated, but the evidence seems to point to omega oils playing a critical role," shares Alexiades. Garshick points to a study that showed that a supplement rich in omega-3 and -6 fatty acids as well as antioxidants, while not specific to algae oil, did improve hair density and reduced the amount of hairs in the resting state while increasing the amount in the growing state.
- Adds shine: As with other oils, algae oil does provide hydration to the hair and scalp. Garshick says that it may leave the hair silky and smooth, while also providing necessary nutrients.
Hair Type Considerations
Our experts agree that algae oil is safe for all hair types, but likely stands to benefit those with scalp conditions the most. Specifically, those with fungal issues like dandruff and those with inflammation and irritation of the scalp may find algae oil nourishing for their conditions. Due to its ability to balance oil production, it may also be helpful to those with oily scalps or hair. Those with sensitive skin should always be cautious when trying new ingredients and perform a patch text before applying liberally.
While the verdict on its ability to promote hair growth is still uncertain, Alexiades is optimistic. "As a dermatologist, I recommend that for those of you who have noted a slight thinning or decrease in the length of your hair, the application of algae oil may improve and boost hair abundance. However, those with more progressed hair loss should seek professional care," she says.
How to Use Algae Oil for Hair
Algae oil offers a host of benefits not only to the hair but also to the entire body. While most of the scalp-improving benefits would come from a topical application, an oral supplement has benefits as well. It's rich concentration of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids makes an oral algae oil supplement a great complement to a well-balanced diet, especially for those who are unable to take fish-source omega-3 supplements.
Topically, there are many products already on the market that boast algae oil or algae extract as an ingredient. Neither expert recommended applying pure algae oil to the hair and scalp, but instead recommended finding formulations that included them. Alexiades says she is already including them in her line: "Micro algae and algae extract are also known to be beneficial when applied to the skin," she says. "A few of the products in my skincare line, MACRENE actives, contain these ingredients to help restore and revitalize the skin, while reversing signs of skin damage and aging resulting from environmental stressors and UV exposure."
Garshick says this algae-extract containing shampoo is particularly good for those with an oily or irritated scalp, as it uses algae extract and licorice to soothe the skin and reduce oil, while also incorporating collagen, olive oil, and eucalyptus to hydrate and condition.
Garshick also recommends this daily conditioner, which she says provides lightweight moisture. In addition to algae extract, it also contains seaweed extract and spirulina extract.