Remember when “me time” was a late-night movie marathon, sleeping in the next day and – most importantly – sitting in silence for as long as you want to? Yeah, me too.
Though I wouldn’t trade these days with my littles for anything, I do love to sneak in some good old-fashioned pampering as often as I can.
Sometimes it’s one of these methods for rebooting my body’s stress response, and sometimes it’s a luxurious at-home facial.
This seaweed mask recipe is similar to the $175 signature service offered at my local spa, but I can get one every week for about $0.25 – $0.35, depending on what I use as a base for the mask.
Seaweed = Skin Superfood
It’s no secret that I love to use sea-derived ingredients in my recipes – this sea mud soap, for example. They’re deeply nourishing and very affordable if you make your own.
If you’ve never incorporated seaweed into your skincare routine, you’re in for a treat. It nourishes skin with vitamins, macro minerals, trace minerals, polysaccharides and antioxidants that support collagen production.
That’s the short version, of course. For the geeky science details, check out the section below. If you’re in a rush and just want the recipe, skip to the bottom.
Benefits of Seaweed for Skin
If you’ve ever poured water over dried seaweed and watched it plump up, you’ve already it’s incredible ability to retain moisture. Here’s an overview of some of it’s other benefits.
L-Fucose for Collagen Support
In this study, researchers found that a 1% extract of Fucus vesiculosus – a type of brown algae/seaweed – supported collagen production when applied to skin. This is huge, because not all nutrients are well absorbed by the skin.
Collagen is the perfect example of this – it’s molecules are too large to penetrate the skin, so it just sits on the surface until it is rinsed away. Dietary collagen is actually more helpful for improving skin hydration and elasticity, sleep quality, gut health, bone health and more.
Back to seaweed though: Some researchers believe the benefits of Fucus vesiculosus are due in part to substantial amounts of L-fucose, a polysaccharide that is also found in other types of brown algae/seaweed. (1)
The kelp I use in this recipe – Ascophyllum nodosum – is confirmed to also contain a significant amount of L-fucose. (2)
Clinical research has also shown that a cream containing 1% chlorella – the other algae used in this recipe – had a beneficial effect on firmness and tone. (3)
As you’ll notice in the recipe below, I sometimes rotate kelp with chlorella.
Seaweed offers “one of the broadest ranges of minerals of any food,” including macro-minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium and copper plus over 70 trace minerals including selenium, iron, zinc, manganese and molybdenum. (4)
Minerals such as copper, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese are essential to the synthesis of collagen. Fortunately, unlike actual collagen, many of them can be directly absorbed.
For example, magnesium is well-absorbed by the skin, which is why it’s so commonly used in bath salts to help relax muscles. Or as Oregon State University put is:
Unlike many organs, skin nutrition may be enhanced directly through topical applications. Topical application of micronutrients can complement dietary consumption, leading to a stronger, healthier protective barrier for the body.” (5)
Kelp and seaweed contain carotenes (a precursor to vitamin A), vitamins B-1 (thiamin), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 (niacin), B-9 (folate), C, E and K1- all of which support skin health. (6)
In many (if not most) cases, these vitamins are thought to work synergistically with minerals to facilitate absorption – for example, vitamin C increases the body’s absorption of iron. (7)
These vitamins also often have an antioxidant effect – several water and alcohol extracts of seaweed have demonstrated antioxidant properties, including an extract made from the kelp used in this recipe (Ascophyllum nodosum). (8) (9)
Blending With Water Vs. Oil
Some of the nutrients found in seaweed are fat soluble, meaning that they need fat of some kind to be present in order to be absorbed. However, based on the research I’ve done many of the minerals in seaweed are probably better absorbed with a water base.
For that reason, I tend to alternate which type of base I use between aloe vera gel (which is water-based), yogurt (which contains both water and fat), and oil.
Video: Seaweed Mask Recipe
Oh, and there’s one last thing you need to know . . .
Like my beloved valerian root tincture that supports deep sleep, this seaweed powder has a not-so-appealing scent.
It’s not very strong, but you may want to incorporate an essential oil to improve the fragrance while also imparting additional skin benefits.
DIY Seaweed Mask Recipe With Kelp & Chlorella
- ½ tsp kelp powder*
- ½ tsp chlorella powder (Spirulina can also be used but be aware that it can impart a temporary light yellow tint to skin)
- 1 tbsp full fat yogurt OR aloe vera gel OR 2 teaspoons skin nourishing oil
- 1 drop skin nourishing essential oil (Optional. I love this anti-age blend – it’s affordable, it smells like honeysuckle and it's wonderful for skin.)
- If using an essential oil, add it to the kelp/chlorella powder and stir until it is thoroughly blended in.
- Add in yogurt/aloe vera gel/oil and blend again. If needed, add more liquid until the mixture creates a smooth, spreadable consistency. (If using yogurt or aloe vera, I typically add water. If using oil, I add more oil.)
- Scoop out the seaweed mask with a spoon, then use your fingertips to apply it to your face and neck (if desired). I use a circular, rubbing motion to gently exfoliate as I apply.
- Allow it to sit for 15-30 minutes, then rinse. Follow with moisturizer.
- *I use this kind and it’s amazing, but it’s a little coarse. I usually sift mine with a flour sifter and use the coarse stuff to make body scrub, but when I made it with kelp granules at Thrive Market I like of liked the texture it added, too. Just use what you have. 🙂
Shelf LifeThis recipe is intended to be used right away, but it will also stay fresh if stored in a clean airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days.
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- Miller, Tamara (2015) Seaweed Therapies
- Foley, Sara et. al. (2011) An unfractionated fucoidan from Ascophyllum nodosum: extraction, characterization, and apoptotic effects in vitro
- Personal Care Magazine (2017) Effects of Chlorella Extract On Skin
- Pereira, Leonel (2011) A review of the nutrient composition of selected edible seaweeds
- Oregon State University. Skin Health
- Rajapakse , Niranjan and Kim, Se-Kwon (2011) Nutritional and digestive health benefits of seaweed
- Magee, Elaine (2004) Food Synergy: Nutrients That Work Better Together
- Gore Allen, Vivien et. al. (2000) Tasco: Influence of a brown seaweed on antioxidants in forages and livestock—A review1
- Ismail, Amin and Hong, Tan Siew (2002) Antioxidant Activity of Selected Commercial Seaweeds