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Sea moss, formally known as Chondrus crispus, is a spiny sea plant that people living in Ireland and Jamaica have used for decades.

It comes in a variety of colors, but the most common is red. This red algae is also known as Irish moss.

People commonly add a gel form of the plant to food and drink, citing its healing and health-boosting potential. Some even use it to boost libido, though to date no scientific evidence backs this up.

And thanks to its thickening abilities, you can find it in the likes of ice cream and cottage cheese as the extract carrageenan.

If you’ve come across some of the potential skin care benefits of sea moss, you might wonder whether there’s any truth to them.

Read on to learn more about the possible benefits and risks of using sea moss, plus tips on incorporating it into your routine.

“Sea moss has been gaining popularity online as an ingredient to add to smoothies and juice, but many are starting to incorporate it into their skin care routine,” notes Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, a cosmetic dermatologist based in New York City.

The ingredient has a long list of potential skin care benefits, thanks to its high vitamin and mineral content.

“It is suspected to help maintain and lock in moisture,” says Frank.

According to Dr. Erum Ilyas, a board certified dermatologist outside of Philadelphia, its “sulfur content gives it antimicrobial properties which can assist with balancing the skin’s bioflora. This has the potential to help acne, seborrhea, and rosacea-related changes to the skin.”

Sea moss even contains vitamins A and K, along with potassium, which could help combat environmental stressors.

However, Frank states, “research is still quite limited.”

Essentially, that means very few scientific studies have considered sea moss as a standalone skin care ingredient, and most of the purported benefits have come from those who’ve used it.

Experts might also have a difficult time studying the skin effects of sea moss since the nutrient levels can vary between different types and harvest locations.

Still, some research does support a few possible benefits of sea moss.

For example, sulfur is known to help reduce the excess oil that can lead to acne.

And vitamin A has notable anti-aging effects.

Sea moss could also have some benefits for other parts of the body.

“There are some small studies that have demonstrated an immune boost from extracts,” explains Ilyas.

Many studies focus on the broader seaweed and algae category, rather than sea moss specifically. Still, sea moss could offer the following health advantages:

However, much more research is needed before experts can come to any definitive conclusions about these benefits.

Sea moss tends to come in a gel form, but you’ll find it in skin care products ranging from lightweight serums and mists to thicker masks and moisturizers.

If you’re hoping for hydration and anti-aging benefits, creams and serums are often a good choice.

Exfoliators and masks, on the other hand, tend to target specific issues such as acne breakouts and inflammation.

Ilyas advises simply using sea moss formulas as directed.

“I would not suggest grabbing this from the ocean and rubbing [it] on your face,” she adds.

Keep in mind it can take several weeks to notice a difference with any skin care product, particularly when treating conditions like acne.

While you may love a bit of creativity in your everyday routine, sea moss is one DIY area you should steer clear of.

“I don’t recommend making any beauty products at home that could potentially have side effects,” Frank says.

“Sea moss can contain high levels of toxic metals such as mercury and, like all beauty products, should be tested and regulated before ingesting or applying it onto the skin.”

Plus, Ilyas adds, “given the high sulfur content, it’s also important to verify you do not have sensitivities or allergies to sulfur before use.”

In other words, it’s best to stick to existing products rather than trying to conjure up your own.

Due to the risk of chemicals, pesticides, and metals that can accumulate on shorelines where sea moss grows, Frank recommends looking for products containing organic sea moss or organic Irish moss.

As overharvesting can have a detrimental effect on the algae population, it’s also worth reviewing information about whether the moss was harvested with sustainability in mind.

But, as Ilyas explains, “the real challenge in finding a skin care product to use is that there’s not a great chance of finding a product with ‘sea moss’ on the ingredient label.”

Instead, you’ll often notice vague claims that mention moss, algae, or seaweed.

“Since there are no percentages or specific extracts that are consistently linked to specific benefits, simply seeking products that reference moss, algae, or seaweed is reasonable,” she says.

Most products include sea moss as part of a long list of ingredients.

The high levels of iodine and sulfur found in sea moss could pose a problem for people with sensitive skin or those who have allergies to shellfish or sulfur.

If you fall into either of those categories, you may want to proceed with caution. Speaking to a dermatologist and carrying out a patch test are both good ideas before trying any new skin care product.

Signs of an adverse reaction to topical sea moss can include a burning or stinging sensation along with redness.

If you have any concerns about severe or long-lasting skin issues, it’s generally wise to book an appointment with a specialist.

More research is needed before sea moss can really be touted as a new skin care wonder, but it could well have a number of benefits.

If you do want to try it safely, skip the DIY route and opt for premade products instead.

Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.