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. The Pinterest team notes that "sea moss is the latest ingredient to try in your next smoothie or juice recipe."
But it's not just in the kitchen where sea moss is set to shine—beauty brands are incorporating it into skincare, too. Sea moss has a myriad of benefits that work on the inside and outside, thanks to its high vitamin and mineral content and ability to help the skin retain moisture.
Below we called on skin doctors, brand founders and nutrition experts to reveal what exactly sea moss is, because—spoiler alert—it's not actually moss. The natural ingredient is trending and for good reason—find out below why you need it on your beauty and wellness radar.
- Type of ingredient (antioxidant, hydrator, acid/exfoliator, etc.): This descriptor only needs to be one term, i.e. salicylic acid is an exfoliator, so you would just write “exfoliator.”
- Main benefits: Include a list of at least three benefits laid out in short, concise phrases i.e. Reduces inflammation, minimizes pore size, and regulates oil production.
- Who should use it: Which skin type is the ingredient best for and who should proceed with caution? No ingredient is applicable to every type of concern, so start this descriptor with “In general… “. For example, benzoyl peroxide is great for acne-prone skin, so you can say something like, “In general, anyone with acne-prone skin or blackheads. Benzoyl peroxide is not recommended for sensitive skin.”
- How often can you use it: How often is typical use? How much is dangerous? What time of day should it be applied? For example: “Don’t use benzoyl peroxide more than once a week,” or “It’s is safe to use up to two times a day, morning and night.”
- Works well with: Discuss which other ingredients the ingredient-in-question performs especially well with, i.e. if the ingredient is vitamin C, you can say “Ferulic acid and vitamin E.” There is no need to list everything the ingredient works well with, just those elements that help it perform its best/better.
- Don’t use with: Some ingredients will deactivate others or irritate the skin if used in conjunction with something else, so note that here. For example, if the ingredient is retinol, the user will want to stay away from other harsh exfoliators. Example: “Other exfoliators like benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, and astringents, as doing so may irritate the skin.”
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.
"Sea moss is a bit of a skincare powerhouse," notes Dr. David Jack. "Being rich in sulfur, it has antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial functions, so is believed to help with balancing the skin microbiome (another major topic of discussion in the world of skin health this year!)." 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.
Beauty brand Cocokind use the seaweed in its Sea Moss Exfoliator ($17) and notes that Irish moss 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.
Dr. Jack agrees that sea moss is a great source of vitamins and minerals, which means that it can also help certain skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.
Sea moss is also a hero ingredient used by skincare brand Previse. "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," he explains.
Sea Moss vs. Irish Moss
The minerals found in sea moss that benefit to 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, nutritionist at pulselightclinic.co.uk. "Since most adverse skin reactions are of an inflammatory nature, this may explain the hype on using Irish moss for skin health."
Dietitian Sophie Medlin explains that Irish moss is a good source of iodine, which can be lacking in our diets. "Iodine has an impact on thyroid function, so it’s important that you check with your doctor before taking it if you have any thyroid issues," she advises. "It is a good source of fiber too, which is why it can have a laxative effect."
Since fiber is a prebiotic, Dr. Jack adds that sea moss "may increase ‘good’ bacteria and decrease ‘bad’ gut bacteria to improve gut health."
For vegans, sea moss could be a good addition. Yalda Alaoui, founder of Eat. Burn. Sleep., notes that it contains "absorbable calcium; dairy has been shown to deplete the body of calcium rather than nourish it."
But it's important to buy good quality sea moss, according to Borg. "Seaweeds accumulate toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic," she warns. "The shorelines where Irish moss grows are not certified clean of these toxic metals, or petrol products, or pesticides and herbicides for that matter, and for this reason, I would only suggest using certified organic Irish moss."
But how exactly can you incorporate sea moss into your diet? There are a couple of ways. "I would suggest adding to a high protein smoothie; it is a carbohydrate with a negligible supply of protein and fat and therefore needs to be balanced with these other macronutrients," suggests Borg. Medlin says that it can be used to boost the mineral content of any food, but it can have a salty taste so it may be best enjoyed dried as a seasoning on salads or in stocks.
The Best Products With Sea Moss
Leandro A, Pereira L, Gonçalves AMM. Diverse Applications of Marine Macroalgae. Mar Drugs. 2019;18(1). doi:10.3390/md18010017