Over the last few years, sea moss has been greeted with increasing enthusiasm as an eczema treatment. It has been heralded by many as a natural alternative to corticosteroids. This makes it attractive to eczema sufferers who understandably worry about topical steroid withdrawal (TSW).
Makers of sea moss creams and supplements are careful to stress that sea moss is a supportive therapy for eczema, not a cure or a substitute for medical treatments.
Does sea moss offer any real benefits to eczema sufferers? Let’s investigate sea moss’ possible benefits, as well as its risks.
What is sea moss?
You’ve probably used Chondrus crispus (the scientific name for sea moss) for years without knowing it. Often called “Irish sea moss,” it is a species of Rhodophyta, or red algae, that grows the tidal pools and inlets of the British Isles and the Caribbean..
It is a source of carrageenan, a commonly-used thickener in commercially-prepared foods and medications. It’s also used in cosmetics. Phycoerythrin, the pigment that gives sea moss its characteristic red color, is often used as a food coloring agent.
Potential health benefits
Humans have used different algae medicinally, including sea moss, for millennia.
Scientific research into algae suggests that this use is well-warranted. Sea moss specifically has been found to have a number of different properties of interest to people with eczema.
Several antimicrobial compounds have been extracted from sea moss. These include floridoside, isethionic acid, taurine and L.Citrulline. In the lab, these compounds successfully targeted bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus (staph), which is associated with eczema flares.
Inflammation is a major factor in the development of eczema flares. It causes redness, itching, and swelling of the skin. It is the result of an immune system response to antigens.
Both carrageenan and phycoerythrins found in sea moss inhibit cytokine signaling, which interrupts the inflammatory process.
Other components of sea moss inhibit histamine production and white cell proliferation, as well as vascular permeability (the ability of large molecules to cross through the walls of blood vessels). These properties could make sea moss useful in preventing itching and swelling.
Carrageenan from sea moss also has powerful antiviral properties. It successfully prevented viruses such as herpes and HIV from attaching to host cells in scientific studies.
While viruses themselves are not strongly associated with eczema flares, they can penetrate damaged skin during flares and lead to infected eczema–a complication no one needs.
Also, viruses are associated with disorders of the immune system. Sea moss’ antiviral properties could possibly prevent viruses from triggering the overactive immune response we see with eczema flares.
Overall skin health
Sea moss is full of good stuff for the skin. It’s rich in sterols, naturally-occurring steroids that stimulate the production of collagen and fatty acids. In theory, this should translate to better skin barrier function and moisture retention–both important in preventing eczema flares!
Sea Moss also appears to act as a humectant, drawing water to the skin. Eczema flares are less likely to develop in well-hydrated skin, and greater hydration helps reduce healing time after a flare.
Sea moss metabolites appear to plumpen and brighten the skin. They also seem to reduce redness.
With so much to offer, why wouldn’t you use sea moss? Well, first of all, there’s a lot we don’t know about how sea moss works in the human body. Furthermore, while sea moss has a long history of use with few adverse effects, it has its risks. If you’re thinking of using sea moss, either as an oral supplement or a cream, there are some things you should consider:
It does not cure eczema. It’s important to remember that eczema is a chronic condition. It has no cure. While sea moss may be beneficial in treating eczema symptoms, it is not a cure.
Most of sea moss’ benefits have been demonstrated by non-human studies. These studies do not always translate to similar effects when used by consumers. If using sea moss, it’s important to understand this and gear your expectations accordingly.
Allergy. Some people are allergic to sea moss. Consistent use can sensitize the immune system, leading to future allergy. Any signs of allergy–redness, swelling, hives, or itching–should be taken seriously. In the presence of those symptoms, sea moss should be discontinued until you can safely confirm that it is not the culprit. Use sea moss cautiously if you have allergies to seafood.
Iodine sensitivity. Some studies indicate that sea moss increases sensitivity to iodine.
Toxins and heavy metal poisoning. Not all sea moss is equal. Its quality depends upon where it is harvested, as it can absorb pollutants such as heavy metals. These toxins can have serious, long-term repercussions on your health.
These are concerns for those considering using sea moss creams. There are other risk factors that are more pertinent to people taking sea moss orally; if you’re considering supplementation, you should research this further. Understand that using sea moss both orally and topically can increase adverse effects.
Are there people who shouldn't use sea moss?
While most people seem to tolerate sea moss well, there are some who should avoid it–or at the very least, approach it cautiously.
- Pregnant or nursing mothers.
- Those on blood-thinning medications.
- People with thyroid function disorders.
- Anyone allergic to shellfish
- Anyone who has been treated for heavy metal poisoning.
On the balance
Sea moss shows a lot of promise as an eczema treatment. However, no scientific study to date has proven that it is useful in either preventing or treating eczema flares. Additionally, there are people who are advised to use extra caution when using sea moss.
All in all, though, it seems that sea moss is probably safe for most people and may offer some benefits to eczema sufferers. You should always discuss any new medicines, including supplements or natural remedies, with your dermatology provider.
Self-care for eczema
If you have eczema, you deserve proven solutions. HarlanMD now delivers two products that literally put healing in your hands.
Regular moisturization remains the single-most important part of your eczema management and plan. HarlanMD’s Perfect Repair™ moisturizing cream is loaded with natural ceramides to bolster the skin barrier.
Perfect Repair™ contains coconut oil, well-known for its powerful healing properties. Its prebiotic formula helps reduce harmful bacteria and yeast in the skin. It is fragrance-free and safe for sensitive skin.
For taming inflammation during flares, SmartLotionⓇ eczema cream is a safe and proven treatment. It uses a much lower dose of hydrocortisone (0.75%) than most other corticosteroid creams, so it does not cause topical steroid withdrawal or skin atrophy–even if used long-term. SmartLotionⓇ has a documented 95% success rate with very few adverse effects–a claim that is documented in peer-reviewed scientific studies.
Like Perfect Repair™, SmartLotionⓇ is made with prebiotic ingredients that help balance the skin’s microbiome and promote healing. Together, they’re a powerful part of any eczema treatment strategy.