Monday, December 11, 2023

Seaweed Hair Products: Why the Experts Love Them


Seaweed for your hair? Experts say absolutely — for healthier hair and the planet.

If you’ve ever swam in the ocean, you’ll likely be familiar with that icky feeling you get when seaweed touches your skin. But while it feels a little slimy out there in the wild, in the world of hair care, this marine plant has some serious benefits — that’s why more brands than ever are starting to use it in their products. Plus, it’s sustainable, too. To be honest, it’s a total win-win. Here’s what you need to know.

What are the benefits of seaweed in hair?

New York haircare brand Bumble & Bumble isn’t a newcomer to the benefits of seaweed. Its first-ever products featured the ingredient, but its new range, the vegan Bb. Seaweed collection, takes things a step further, as it contains three different types: Pacific sea kelp, green microalgae, and royal sugar kelp.

Photo courtesy Shane Stagner

The range — which offers a scrub, an air-dry cream, shampoo, and conditioner — has been specifically formulated to nourish hair, but also to help promote scalp health, too.
Seaweed is particularly good for the scalp, and that’s because it’s packed with nutrients, like vitamin A and vitamin C, for example, both of which help to support sebum production. 

“Just the way green juice is good for the body, marine botanicals are good for the hair,” Bumble and Bumble’s executive director of education, Bronwen Robinson, told Mane Addicts. “Seaweed is naturally hydrating to the scalp (which is especially good for seasonally dry scalp) and gives shine to strands, while its fatty and amino acids help keep hair strong.”

As well as vitamins, sea kelp is also a source of 46 minerals, like iodine and iron, and microalgae contains a plethora of nutrients, too, like calcium, vitamin C1, and potassium. All of these are beneficial to your hair. Potassium and calcium, for example, may help to prevent hair loss, while iron may help to support hair growth.

Is seaweed a sustainable hair care ingredient?

On top of all of its hair benefits, seaweed is also great for the planet. And that’s because, when it grows, it helps to pull potentially harmful elements out of the ocean.

For example, according to the Global Seafood Alliance, if global production of seaweed grows to 500 million tons by 2050, this will help to absorb around 10 million tons of nitrogen. And while nitrogen can be good for marine life, when there is too much, it can lead to harmful algal blooms, which can be toxic to ecosystems and people (find out more about these here). Too much phosphorous is another problem that can lead to algal blooms, but again, seaweed can deal with this, too. 

healthy hair
Photo courtesy Icons8 Team

But seaweed has more benefits than nitrogen and phosphorus management. It’s also an example of blue carbon, which means it helps to remove carbon dioxide from the oceans. In fact, kelp forests are already helping to sequester almost 200 million tons of carbon every year.

“If we used the infrastructure we have in the ocean and created seaweed islands, we would actually eliminate a lot of the climate change issues we have today,” marine ecologist Pia Winberg told the BBC in 2021. 

The benefits of seaweed seem to be never-ending

Planet, check. Hair, check. But how else can seaweed do to help us? The truth is, the benefits really do seem to be endless.

Seaweed is also a popular skincare ingredient, due to the fact it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Take this nourishing face mask by Kypris, for example, which features wakame (wild seaweed) extract and ingredients like chaga and cherry blossom, which combine to create a softening, hydrating formula. In fact, there’s a whole movement in the cosmetics industry called “blue beauty,” which is entirely devoted to harnessing the benefits of seaweed, while making products that protect the ocean at the same time. 

Photo courtesy Alexandros Giannakakis

The marine plant is also incredibly nutritious. It has been eaten by people across Asia for centuries, and now, it’s popular in the West, too. But while it can be enjoyed in dishes like sushi and salad, some brands are also using it to make a sustainable alternative to meat, too. Umaro Foods’ “crispy, fatty” vegan bacon, for example, is made with ocean-farmed seaweed.

It might seem odd that the same ingredient you can slather on your hair can be used to make a convincing meat alternative, but that just about sums seaweed up. It’s as versatile as it is sustainable, and it’s about time it got the spotlight it deserves. 

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