What Is Chlorophyll — And How Can It Help My Skin?

Here's everything you need to know about the botanical skincare ingredient.

Glass of Chlorophyll Water
Photo: Getty Images/InStyle

If you're up on your skincare and wellness trends, you've likely heard a few things about chlorophyll — both the kind you drink and the type you apply topically to your face.

It's been everywhere on TikTok, and celebrities such as Mandy Moore, Reese Witherspoon, and Kourtney Kardashian all swear by the natural ingredient for clear, glowy skin.

"Some data shows skin-renewing and antioxidant benefits," explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D, the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

When wellness and beauty trends coincide, we listen. So, we tapped four experts to understand what chlorophyll is and how it benefits the skin — if at all.

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.

"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 founder of Perricone MD.

How Does Topical Chlorophyll Benefit the Skin?

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.

Colleen Coffey is a licensed dietician and the nutrition and education manager for Sakara Life, an organic, plant-rich meal delivery company. She says that when using chlorophyll topically, there are two main advantages. First, it has antimicrobial ability, which can reduce swelling. Then, since chlorophyll is green in color, it can mask the redness from acne-prone skin, neutralizing its appearance.

While more research is needed to confirm the skin benefits of chlorophyll, dermatologists are certainly enthusiastic about its potential. As such, it's a star ingredient in some of our favorite skincare products, such as Perricone MD's Chlorophyll Detox Mask and Naturopathica's Chlorophyll & Salicylic Acid Spot Treatment.

How Does Ingesting Chlorophyll Benefit the Skin?

Coffey explains that chlorophyll is also incredibly rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, which all play an equally important role in your skin appearing radiant, rejuvenated, and youthful. Loading up on chlorophyll-rich foods, such as spinach and green beans, 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.

To get your daily dose of chlorophyll, there are several options. First, you can have a greens-heavy diet, but you can also take supplements in lieu of a big salad. We recommend Sakara's Detox Water Drops, which has water-soluble chlorophyllin and contain copper instead of magnesium, making it more absorbable by the body.

From non-toxic makeup and skincare to sustainability practices, Clean Slate is an exploration of all things in the green beauty space.

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