Sea moss, also known as Irish moss, is trending. According to the Pinterest 100, its annual rundown of the trends worth knowing, sea moss has been growing in popularity—up 380 percent, to be precise. And the proof is in the skincare, with sea moss showing up on ingredient lists in every beauty product from moisturizer to body wash.
But trends aside, is sea moss really worth adding to your skincare routine? Ahead, dermatologists explain everything you need to know about the benefits, how it works, and who should use it.
TYPE OF INGREDIENT: Hydrator and antioxidant
MAIN BENEFITS: Hydrates skin, may reduce severity of acne and inflammation
WHO SHOULD USE IT: Any skin type, especially those with acne and dry skin.
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU USE IT: Seaweed extract is gentle enough to be used every day, but most products recommend using it two to four times a week.
WORKS WELL WITH: "Since most of the benefits are attributed to the seaweed's ability to form a film on the skin, I would recommend using this in a moisturizer or serum or any leave on-application," says Krupa Koestline, a clean cosmetic chemist and founder of KKT Consultants.
DON'T USE WITH: Sea moss would not be as potent when used with a wash-off product, according to Koestline.
What Is Sea Moss?
Sea moss is an Irish red seaweed that grows abundantly on the Atlantic shoreline of Ireland. A type of algae, it also goes by the name of Chondrus Crispus.
According to Koestline, "Sea moss or Irish moss (Chondrus Crispus Extract) is a type of algae—a red seaweed that is found in deep water and is subjected to extreme conditions." The reason Chondrus Crispus can survive in extreme conditions is by accumulating several metabolites. This is important—and exciting—for skincare because the unique composition of the seaweed extract "reinforces and stimulates keratinization of the epidermis," explains Koestline.
So why all of the different names? "The ingredient decks on your skincare products always use the INCI name on ingredient listings, whereas in both marketing of products and editorial coverage we use the more common names," says Ciraldo. "Suffice it to say that sea moss and Irish moss are the 'common' names for these ingredients. Whether they represent one or two distinct entities is somewhat unclear."
Essentially, all you need to know is that even though sea moss and Irish moss may or may not technically be the same thing, they both have the same INCI name: Chondrus Crispus. If you see that on the label, you can be guaranteed the product contains the seaweed extract.
Benefits of Sea Moss
"Sea moss is a bit of a skincare powerhouse," notes David Jack, MD. "Being rich in sulfur, it has antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial functions, so it is believed to help with balancing the skin microbiome." He explains that the high sulfur content also can decrease the excessive production of sebum (oil) in the skin. Together with the antibacterial effect on P.acne bacteria, it may help reduce the severity of acne in people who suffer from this condition.
Irish moss also contains 15 of the 18 essential elements that make up the human body. This includes, but is not limited to, calcium, sulfur, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin K—all ingredients that help reduce wrinkles, hydrate the skin, and protect from environmental elements.
"Non-comedogenic and richly hydrating, Irish moss also helps impart moisture to dry and irritated skin, while aiding healthy skin to remain supple and hydrated," Jack explains.
The minerals found in sea moss that benefit the skin are also great for our health and for tackling our complexion concerns from the inside out. "Irish moss supplies many nutrients that are often missing from the average diet, such as vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, which are both essential to healthy skin and inflammation control," says Lisa Borg, a nutritionist at the Pulse Light Clinic. "Since most adverse skin reactions are inflammatory, this may explain the hype on using Irish moss for skin health."
Side Effects of Sea Moss
As with any new skincare ingredient, sea moss may cause mild irritation if you're a first time user, so it's best to perform a patch test on the inside of your wrist before applying sea moss-containing products to the rest of your face.
How to Use Sea Moss Skincare
Sea moss can be found in all different types of skincare products, from moisturizers to serums. "I like sea moss in products for acneic skin, like green tea since it hydrates without clogging pores due to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids," says Ciraldo. Sea moss is gentle so it can be used in your everyday skincare routine, but refer to what the product suggests for usage first. And as always, with any specific concerns, you should pay a visit to your dermatologist.