Skin benefits of fucoidan when applied topically


Skin benefits of fucoidan when applied topically - diving for wakame

You need to dive to harvest wakame!

Last time I said that I’ll go through only those benefits of fucoidan that were confirmed by clinical trials. So, after actually ingesting this stuff. However, I came across this Australian study that examined the effects of fucoidan when it is applied externally on the skin. The results of the study are worth digging into. So, before writing about its internal effects I decided to make a separate post on how fucoidan might be a useful topical agent.

As you know, there are only a few studies on fucoidan where it is tested on humans. There is even less of those that deal with its impact when applied directly on human skin. According to my search, out of the few that exist, this study seems to be the most recent one.

It was published about two years ago in scientific Cosmetics journal. Seaweed extracts containing fucoidan were used. The extracts were made from two brown seaweed species:  bladderwrack and wakame. Many undesirable components were removed, so the extracts were fairly concentrated. The bladderwrack extract contained 85% of fucoidan. While the wakame one contained 60% of fucoidan.

Volunteers participating in the study applied extracts on their facial skin. All volunteers were of Caucasian descent. Caucasian only because on lighter skin it is easier to see changes that take place.



First test. Fighting ultraviolet radiation.


One of the tests was performed on 25 volunteers. To see how fucoidan might protect skin from sun damage. Ultraviolet (UV) light, that is.

Each individual was asked to apply gel containing bladderwrack or wakame extract at various times before and after UV exposure. No, the real sun was not employed. A solar simulator emitting UV light was used. Also, the gel was 0.3% w/v which means that there was 0.3 grams of seaweed extract per 100 ml of gel – not a lot. The experiment was supervised by a dermatologist.

  • both extracts effectively reduced the amount of skin redness and water loss. (You may have noticed that your face is much drier after basking in the sun)
  • as a result, when compared to control, those that applied the gel before exposure had less redness, dryness and inflammation on their skin. Also, those that applied fucoidan only after exposure felt that the gel really soothed and calmed their skin, again, compared to placebo and control
  • the maximum effect was observed when the gel was applied just before exposure and 24 hours after exposure. Not right after exposure as you might expect


To conclude, fucoidan is good at defending your face against too much of intense sunlight. As well as it takes care of a sunburn once it is already there.



Second test. Fighting for youth.


A second test was performed on another 20 volunteers. To evaluate how fucodain may improve the overall appearance of skin. Volunteers  applied 0.3% w/v cream containing bladderwrack extract for two months.  The cream was applied on clean face, in the morning and at night. This time the skin condition was evaluated by a dermatologist.

After 60 days of using the bladderwrack extract:

  • 65% of volunteers had a reduction in the amount of their brown spots
  • 50%  had an improvement in brightness of their skin. Brightness is that gloss of the skin that you see on certain people. It’s hard to re-create with make-up
  • 45% showed an improvement in the depth of their wrinkles


Satisfying results, I think. They prove that fucoidan can combat age spots, dull skin and crevices in the skin.



How fucoidan does it


Judging by the above fucoidan promises a lot. Everything I just discussed has been known already, from animal and in-vitro studies. Thus these tests just confirmed non-human studies, making them pretty accurate. Some of the non-human tests give out the mechanisms of how fucoidan works. So, I will outline a couple of these mechanisms. Okay, fucoidan:

  • speeds up skin healing, as in case of a sunburn, by increasing the expression of wound-healing genes. For example, one in-vitro assay in this same study showed the following. After 4 hours of applying wakame extract the expression of wound-healing genes doubled compared to control
  • slows down skin aging by inhibiting  collagenase and elastase. These are enzymes that are involved in skin aging processes
  • also slows down skin aging by blocking a process of glycation. This is when sugars – like glucose and fructose – react abnormally with proteins and lipids in your skin. This gives rise to harmful compounds making skin look tired
  • contributes to youthfulness of the skin by doing the following. It reconstructs (!) epidermis by stimulating cell proliferation. Essentially, fucoidan helps to create new skin, which is impressive!
  • removes excess skin pigmentation by inhibiting enzyme tyrosinase. This enzyme is responsible for catalyzing production of melanin, a pigment that gives skin its color. If the enzyme is too active it gives you brown spots and patches. This happens in young people too. Meaning that brown spots are not necessarily age-related as usually assumed. Fucoidan from bladderwrack is especially effective at inhibiting this particular enzyme



Concluding thoughts


Seems like fucoidan has a potential to make skin more youthful. And more findings are on the way. By and large, being able to prolong youth is the main reason behind all skincare. It’s wanted by all. Fucoidan is also another hope for women trying desperately to stop the dreaded wrinkles from conquering their faces. After all, wrinkles is really what makes faces look old. In my opinion, it is the right stuff to hope for. You know why? In Japan, one thing has been noticed a long time ago. Women virtually of all ages who process and prepare food from brown seaweed have remarkably young skin on their hands! (a Russian source). Here you go. Without any lab work you know fucoidan should be working.

There is even a chance that soon fucoidan might be the next go-to ingredient for cosmetic chemists. That is, they will try to put it in every cream. Like they do grape seed or green tea extract today. But as of now, there is barely anything with fucoidan in it. Algal extracts, in general, are not widely used in skincare products. Not because they are worthless, but because of lack of in-depth knowledge on them. In Japan and other Asian regions, this industry is a little more advanced. Try to surf through Internet. You’ll see that fucoidan-based skincare is already offered by Japanese companies. Obviously, you’ll see only those sites that have some English in them.


Maybe in a week, along with everything else, I’ll talk about what fucoidan can do with skin from inside out. Should be exciting as well.

Before you go, check out this bladderwrack! It looks just as intense as it sounds (not the bright green stuff).



Skin benefits of fucoidan when applied topically - bladderwrack




Main references: (image) (image)


  1. very well researched, well written, and informative – thank you!

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