The buzzy, unexpected ingredient you might not be implementing into your skincare routine yet (but should) can actually be found, well, under the sea.
Two of my favorite things about a day at the beach are the natural glow I get from being in the sun, and when my stick-straight blonde hair transforms into perfect natural waves thanks to the salt water. Things I don’t necessarily love about the ocean? Sunburns, jellyfish, and having slimy seaweed brush against my leg in the murky water (*panics and swims to shore*). Well, I’ve recently discovered that we just might want to embrace (metaphorically speaking) that rogue seaweed in the water, since marine-sourced ingredients are actually miracle workers for skin.
Seaweed, algae, and kelp are rich in antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamin C, meaning they hydrate, minimize fine lines, promote collagen production, boost radiance, and help treat hyperpigmentation in skin, Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Health. Studies show that marine algae can even relieve inflammation and aging in skin due to environmental aggressors like pollution, points out Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.
On top of being ultra-hydrating and an anti-aging holy grail, seaweed is safe for all skin types. Prone to breakouts? This little plant is ideal for those with acne and rosacea, since it possesses antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, explains. If you do have sensitive skin or acne, look for products with seaweed that are light and oil-free, adds Dr. Nazarian.
While you probably don’t want to scoop seaweed from the ocean and rub it on your face (although we’re not stopping you), there are skincare products you can purchase to reap the benefits of seaweed that won’t leave you with a sticky residue. Cult-favorite La Mer is certainly one of them, although the steep price tag is enough to make us want to cry. Fortunately, there are other affordable seaweed-infused products (La Mer dupes, yay!) that can give you similar results. Here, dermatologists share their top picks–from serums to moisturizers to masks—for luminous skin.
Bobbi Brown Skin Relief No. 80 Calming Algae Complex
Packed with red algae and kelp, this calming serum is safe for sensitive skin and helps reduce skin irritation and the appearance of redness, says Dr. Nazarian. It’s moderately priced and you can cover your entire face with just 2 to 3 drops, so a bottle will last forever.
While there aren’t really any La Mer dupes out there that mimic the exact ingredients, Dr. Nazarian suggests creating this DIY version at home. Take a few drops of this Bobbi Brown serum and mix them into Nivea Crème ($8, amazon.com), which is extremely moisturizing, like La Mer, but is missing the active ingredients that are marine derived—and voila!
The Seaweed Bath Co. Unscented Hydrating Body Wash
This affordable body wash is formulated with ultra-moisturizing coconut oil and castor seed oil and organic, sustainably-harvested bladderwrack seaweed, which is loaded with skin-benefiting vitamins and minerals, Dr. Jaliman points out. It also has spirulina—a blue-green algae rich in antioxidants, including beta carotene—that helps smooth and firm skin, she adds.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion
Seaweed-derived amino acids and B vitamins in this moisturizer help to improve skin elasticity and maintain hydration, says Dr. Zeichner. Plus, the face cream boasts a team of potent ingredients, including soothing aloe vera, anti-aging antioxidants (read: buh bye, wrinkles), exfoliating glycolic acid, and hydrating hyaluronic acid.
Mario Badescu Seaweed Night Cream
Skinceuticals Daily Moisture
Along with seaweed (algae extract), this moisturizer contains witch hazel to minimize oiliness, inflammation, and pore size, plus hyaluronic acid to seal in moisture to plump skin, shares Dr. Jaliman. The lightweight formula also features essential oils which generally do not clog pores, making this a safe option even for those with acne-prone skin.
Peter Thomas Roth Blue Marine Algae Intense Hydrating Mask
The seaweed in this mask contains a unique protein that acts like a sponge to pull in water to the skin to plump and hydrate, Dr. Zeichner tells us. Chock full of vital nutrients and moisture, the Glacial Lake blue marine algae defends against dehydration, while tea sourced from Korea’s Jeju Island provides extra nourishment to skin.
Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer
Our experts are fans of this hard-working moisturizer. It uses red seaweed (chondrus crispus extract) and squalane to decrease inflammation and improve the skin’s lipid barrier (locking in hydration), explains Dr. Nazarian. Bonus: Its molecular makeup is very similar to our own skin’s cell membrane, allowing it to absorb rapidly once applied, adds Dr. Jaliman.
True Botanicals Clear Pure Radiance Oil
La Mer The Moisturizing Soft Cream
While it’s certainly a splurge, this coveted cream features “Miracle Broth,” the legendary healing elixir that flows through all of La Mer. Not only is it deeply hydrating, but it also improves skin firmness, and diminishes fine lines, wrinkles, and pores. “If you’re looking for a high concentration of seaweed extract, this is the one because it’s listed first on the ingredients list,” points out Dr. Jaliman.