Can You Have A Seaweed Allergy?

Consumers are more aware these days about what we are putting into our bodies and realizing the many benefits of naturally based skincare and plant-based diets. That means it is important to know which natural options will work best for us – every person is unique, after all! Seaweed is an absolute power house of nutrition for both skincare and diet, so many people want to know: can you have a seaweed allergy?

But, with allergies also on the rise, there is a lot of information out there surrounding allergic reactions… How much of it is based on fact and how much is simply a click-baity myth?

In this blog post, we will discuss what an allergy is and whether or not a person can be allergic to seaweed – a powerhouse of nutrition for diet and skincare! Let’s get started!

What’s An Allergen?

Allergens are proteins, and they’re what the immune system reacts to when it goes haywire. This misfire causes an inappropriately large immune response. Allergens can be found in foods, plants, and insects (like those pesky mosquitos). They can also be inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin.

Some of the most common allergy symptoms are hay fever, rashes, stomach upset, and in the case of a severe allergic reaction, even difficulty breathing.

Seaweed swaying in the ocean

Allergic Reactions – What Causes Them?

An allergy reaction happens when the body thinks that a substance if harmful. Common allergies can wreak havoc on our skin, lungs, and digestive system.

Food sensitivities have less severe symptoms than allergies do: they usually result in headaches, fatigue, stomach pain, or vomiting after eating certain foods and don’t involve antibodies as allergies do.

Photo of Allergy Reaction and Coughing Man's Hand

Allergic Reactions To Skincare and Cosmetics

It’s important to remember, that not all allergies and sensitivities are reactions to food. Skincare and cosmetics are a hot spot for bad skin reactions!

One of the most common culprits is artificial fragrance, but with the rise of globalization and online shopping, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know exactly what chemicals are in the products we are using. This means another very common concern is direct contact with chemicals topically.

A particularly troubling trend in the beauty and wellness industry is counterfeit and/or low-quality beauty products being produced overseas and sold cheaply on sites like eBay or Amazon. Often these products will claim to be safe and natural, and many will even have falsified MSDS sheets. In reality, many are chock full of harmful and downright toxic chemicals that can cause skin rash, skin sores, allergy symptoms, and even worse!

photo of woman's face reflection

Give Me The Cliffs Notes

To sum it up, an allergy is a hypersensitive immune response to a substance that is either ingested (from food or drink, for example) or that came in contact with the body (like your leg brushing against poison ivy when you’re out in the woods, or applying a skin care product on your skin.)

So, Can You Be Allergic To Seaweed?

You can breathe easy, a seaweed allergy is very rare! As well, seaweed protein is not a cause of skin irritation. It is not only safe to use on the face and body, but most people with sensitive skin find it soothing and nourishing!

There are so many beneficial compounds found in seaweed, it can even help boost your immune system response. Seaweed even contains anti-allergy compounds, anti-oxidants, and minerals that can help to soothe an allergic reaction.

Of course, it is always best to seek out organic, local sources due to a possible build up of heavy metals in seaweed in some areas (read more about heavy metals in seaweed here).

Woman Sitting on Sofa and Blowing her Nose into a Tissue

Seaweed has long been a part of the diet of many Asian cultures and recently has become an increasingly popular ingredient in both cuisine and skincare all over the world. It is the best dietary source of iodine, which helps support your thyroid gland. In fact, you can pretty much take everything healthy about land vegetables and multiply!

What About A Seaweed Skin Allergy?

You can breathe easy. Seaweed is not a skin irritant and doesn’t cause allergy symptoms. It is safe to use on the face, and most people with sensitive skin find it soothing and nourishing.

Like we said earlier, the top of the list for this one is perfumes and artificial fragrances. Some popular essential oils are also known to have high allergenic potential, too. Especially, if not used appropriately and prepared with the proper carrier oils.

According to the University of Toronto Medical Journal, allergic contact reactions to Tea Tree oil are exceedingly common. Another bunch of common skin allergens include poisonous plants (like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac). Sometimes it can be a good idea to get tested for skin allergies if you’re not sure. Many naturopaths offer this service.

What If I Have a Seafood Allergy?

If you have a seafood allergy, it’s important to know that seaweed is not the same thing. Seafood allergies are reactions to proteins in seafood and can be serious, even life-threatening in severe cases. Seaweed allergies are typically not as severe or dangerous, even though they may seem similar at first glance.,

First of all, as stated by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, it’s the protein in seafood and shellfish that triggers food allergies. What does this mean? It means seaweed is totally safe for those with a seafood allergy because seaweed protein is different from the protein found in seafood. The same goes for iodine and carrageenan, two beneficial compounds found in seaweed – these two are fully safe for those with a seafood/shellfish allergy.

Another concern is whether seaweed compounds can enter the skin and create an allergic reaction like anaphylaxis. Dr. Scott Sicherer, Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, wrote this in Allergic Living:

Our team and others have applied peanut butter to the intact skin of children with significant peanut allergies, and none had reactions beyond the site of application, and most had no reaction at all.”

Here’s the scoop: seaweeds are actually anti-allergenic. Wait, what? Yep, you read that right: according to recent research published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, certain seaweeds (like the ones we use at Seaflora) contain polysaccharides with anti-asthmatic and anti-allergy effects. Now that’s pretty cool!

Dried seaweed in sushi

Healing Properties In Seaweed

The good news is that seaweed can be a great addition to your diet, especially if you’re looking for ways to improve your health. Here are some of the many benefits of this sea vegetable:

  • Iodine and vitamins A, B and E
  • Calcium
  • Antioxidants for fighting aging and disease
  • Fiber for digestive health
Natural woman holding a leaf to cover herself

Repairing and protecting the skin and hair, it reduces oiliness and sebum over-production and strengthens cells against damage caused by free radicals. There are also several studies being conducted around the world concerning the beneficial factors of seaweed for Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, weight loss and gut health. But, what about being allergic to seaweed?

Find out all about the many ways seaweed is amazing for your skin!

Let’s Sum It Up

Seaweed is highly unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. In fact, they are rich in nutrients and contain many minerals that are good for your health. When they do happen, seaweed allergies usually occur in those who have a seafood allergy or an intolerance to iodine (which some seaweeds are rich in).

So, are seaweed-based treatments safe for the skin? Absolutely! What’s more, if you happen to suffer from an allergic reaction to common skin allergens like poison ivy or artificial fragrance, seaweed is your go-to remedy — thanks to its healing and anti-allergy compounds!