TikTokers Say This Natural Ingredient Gives Them Their Best Skin Ever

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Dear Daniela,

I keep seeing seaweed skincare everywhere, especially on TikTok. I've heard it's good for hydrating and moisturising dry skin. What does seaweed actually do for your skin and is it worth it, or are other hydrating skincare ingredients better?

Anastasia, 31
Much like Sebastian the crab said, it’s time to go under the sea. You’re absolutely right that seaweed has become the hot new skincare darling. In my early days as a writer, seaweed and marine extracts were very much a niche only really used by a handful of brands but they have since exploded in popularity. My guess is that beyond an increased push for ‘natural’ ingredients, the craze for seaweed skincare is probably to do with it being granted superfood status. Nori, seaweed crackers, seaweed flakes... You know, the kind of stuff that’s £13.99 for a handful at Whole Foods.

What are the benefits of seaweed in skincare?

I put your questions to Nausheen Qureshi, a cosmetic chemist and formulator. "Seaweed is a macroalgae found in salt waters and is touted as being able to help with congestion (clogged pores), pigmentation and the quest to obtain overall healthy skin," said Nausheen. "Looking at macroalgae, they have a high amino acid content (the building blocks of protein, which is important for skin's collagen and elastin) and a vast array of essential vitamins and minerals," which promote healthy skin cells. "It’s no wonder that they are considered a great ingredient for skincare products," she added.
As it is high in vitamins and minerals, seaweed does seem to have some impressive skin accolades. "There have been many studies over marine ingredients over the past few years and, since 2018, more specifically into seaweed and its benefits on skin function and processes," said Nausheen. "Studies have shown that marine ingredients are beneficial for the skin and they are more sustainable and grow and replenish quicker than their land-based equivalents. This is a win-win for modern skincare in an industry where being both highly efficacious and sustainable is now essential."
While Nausheen mentions that initial research shows promising results, more studies and techniques are needed. Essentially, like many things in beauty, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Sure, seaweed has some great properties but we need to use the right compounds to get the full benefits. For example, we all know vitamin C is great for the skin but you don’t simply rub orange juice on your face and hope for the best. You have to identify, isolate and stabilise the right ingredients to get great skincare. However, it’s not up to you to do this research – brands are doing it constantly to try and make their products more efficacious. 

How do you use seaweed in skincare?

Haeckels is one of the best known champions of seaweed, harvesting theirs sustainably off the Kentish coast and channelling its power for bath, body and skincare. Their Traditional Seaweed Bath and Bio Restore Membrane Eye Masks are especially popular, as is their Eco Hand Balm, which nourishes dry hands with seaweed, shea and glycerin. One Ocean Beauty also use marine extracts, except they use biotechnology to regrow and reproduce seaweed and kelp in their lab rather than harvesting it regularly. The product range includes a serum, face mask and moisturisers.
The TikTok favourite, which you’ve no doubt spotted, is Mario Badescu Seaweed Night Cream. The folks at Mario Badescu know how to crank out a cult classic: in 2016, you couldn’t walk through a magazine’s HQ without getting hit with several clouds of the Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs & Rosewater or spotting the Drying Lotion on desks. The cream has hyaluronic acid and collagen to hydrate, as well as seaweed. That combination no doubt makes this a lovely night cream for those without any particular skin concerns who just want some moisture.
Another brand is Modern Botany, which was cofounded by Dr Simon Jackson. He told me of their seaweed scavenging process. "We’re lucky as we live in a remote area of Ireland, down in West Cork, so when we collect our species they are not harvested but foraged from the beaches. After storms, we collect the naturally washed up seaweed. We really do have the freshest and most unpolluted seaweed right on our doorstep." Seaweed is one of the brand's ‘big five’ ingredients which they’ll be featuring in their skincare selection, coming later this year. For now, they make a number of fragrance products.

I’m sure seaweed – and indeed all marine extracts – will only continue to rise in popularity. I can’t find any head-to-head trials of seaweed against other hydrating ingredients but, as with all extracts, you should use seaweed as one of many tools in your arsenal. There is no holy grail in beauty but there are lots of fabulous options.

Good luck,

Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to 'Dear Daniela' become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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