What Is Chlorophyll — and Can It Help Fight Acne?
Everything you need to know about the trendy botanical skincare ingredient.
If you're up on your skincare trends, you've probably heard a thing or two about chlorophyll — both the kind you drink and the kind you apply topically to your face.
Reese Witherspoon said in an interview that she likes to add a few drops of chlorophyll in her water when she feels a pimple coming on because it’s “really good for clearing up spots.” (And plenty of other celebs, like Mandy Moore and Kourtney Kardashian, swear by the green stuff too for a host of health issues.)
It's also been popping up in new skin-care products from derm-backed brands like Dr. Brandt and Perricone MD, touting both acne and anti-aging benefits.
So can adding chlorophyll to your daily skincare routine help you get clear, glowing skin? Here’s what experts have to say.
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What Is Chlorophyll and How Can It Help My Skin?
You know the rich, green pigment that gives plants and algae their color? Yeah, that’s chlorophyll. As you may remember from science class, it's essential to photosynthesis, which is the process where plants get energy from light and turn it into oxygen. This is not only necessary for plant life to survive, but all life on Earth — so yeah, this stuff is pretty powerful.
A few studies point to its effectiveness when applied topically. For example, one 2008 study found that ointments containing papain-urea-chlorophyllin (a derivative of chlorophyll) were more effective than standard OTC ointments at healing skin and reducing pain when applied to wounds. And in a 2015 study, participants with mild to moderate acne and large pores saw improvement in their skin’s overall appearance after using a topical chlorophyllin cream for three weeks.
While more research is needed to confirm the skin benefits of chlorophyll, derms are certainly enthusiastic about its potential. "Chlorophyll is a powerful antioxidant with both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties providing excellent health benefits both internally and when used in topical applications," says Nicholas Perricone, M.D., a dermatologist and creator of skincare brand Perricone MD.
What About Ingesting Chlorophyll?
When it comes to ingesting chlorophyll, there are plenty of pre-bottled options, like Chlorophyll Water, a favorite of Kourtney Kardashian. You can also try chlorophyll capsules or go the Reese route and opt for liquid chlorophyll drops that you simply add to your own water.
It's also worth noting that you can reap the benefits of chlorophyll without buying a special water or supplement; it occurs naturally in certain foods, including spinach, asparagus, green cabbage, green beans, broccoli, marine algae (like seaweed) and matcha tea.
Loading up on these foods (and opting for more of a plant-based diet in general) can help "the body heal more efficiently and ward off inflammation, irritation, and signs of aging," says Gretchen Frieling, M.D., a Boston-based dermatopathologist — meaning you may also see the quality of your skin improve and your breakouts lessen.
Chlorophyll Skincare Products to Try
Curious to see what the chlorophyll hype is all about? Here, some of the most popular skincare products to try featuring the ingredient front and center.
Designed to rid the skin of age-accelerating toxins, this Chlorophyll Detox Mask from Dr. Perricone has scored top reviews. One reviewer said the mask leaves her skin "like porcelain," adding: "At 49 years old (and never having any cosmetic procedures or even a facial), my skin looks flawless."
Yes, this cleanser packs chlorophyll, but it also boasts yogurt, a probiotic that can help squash underlying skin issues, like eczema.
This mask packs the green stuff times four: In addition to chlorophyll-rich chlorella, you'll find spirulina and matcha green tea, as well as purifying green sea clay. One reviewer said the mask doesn't irritate her sensitive, acne-prone skin and even helps keep it "smooth and moisturized."
Chlorophyll and green tea (a top-notch skin soother) team up in this hydrating spray to pack a one-two punch. Sub it in for your moisturizer or use as an instant refresher.
Just add water (or milk) to turn this powder into a redness-reducing and brightening chlorophyll paste. One reviewer called the mask her "savior" and said her blackhead-prone skin completely changed after using this mask.
Chlorophyll is the hero ingredient in this BioClarity skincare regimen, which also contains oat kernels, salicylic acid, green tea, licorice root, cucumbers, and chamomile. It's designed to clear acne-causing bacteria and soothe irritation. One reviewer said the products were the "best purchase I’ve ever made for my skin," noting that regular use helped her to knock out redness and uneven texture.
The Bottom Line
“Chlorophyll is a trendy ingredient right now and some data showing skin-renewing and antioxidant benefits, but the jury is out on whether its any more effective than traditional antioxidant treatments, like vitamin C and retinol," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
While some derms believe chlorophyll is an all-star botanical ingredient worth adding to your routine, Dr. Frieling cautions that it's unlikely chlorophyll — or any single ingredient — can solve your skincare woes. That's because acne and aging are influenced by a range of factors including your genetics, environment, hormones, and your lifestyle — including the foods you eat and your sun exposure, she says.
The good news, according to Dr. Zeichner: "For people looking for all-natural green solutions, there's certainly no harm."