Proceed with Caution: This Popular Ingredient Isn't Right for Some Skin

Most clients will appreciate algae’s wide-ranging abilities, but for a sliver of the population, they’re not a good choice. “While a reaction is rare, individuals allergic to sea algae, shellfish, or spirulina are generally recommended to avoid algae-containing products,” says CelleClé Skincare’s Ashley Stowers. Depending on their habitat, algae may contain any number of vitamins and minerals like copper, iodine, or iron, so anyone with known allergies should steer clear, says VB Cosmetics’s Vivian B. Valenty. The iodine content can be particularly problematic. Bioline-Jatò’s Clara Macchiella Corradini points out that algae rich in iodine are contraindicated for those suffering from hyperthyroidism, while CBI Laboratories’s Melanie Timms notes that they can also be problematic for clients with acne.

“Most natural forms of algae contain iodine, which has been known to exacerbate acne, so caution should be exercised when providing an algae-focused facial treatment on clients presenting with active p. acnes bacterium,” she says. Though most forms of algae can be comedogenic and inappropriate for treating severe acne, some can, in fact, provide anti-acne properties without drying out skin, says Janel Luu of Le Mieux Cosmetics and PurErb. “One exception would be algae in a wash-off powder mask, but leave-on products can clog pores and aggravate excessively oily skin,” she notes. As always, Stowers says, a patch test to rule out negative reactions is a must, and it’s also important to obtain any warnings or contraindications from the ingredient supplier or product manufacturer.

To learn about the three most common types of algae found in skincare products, visit here.