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Can chlorophyll water help your skin? Experts weigh in

Chlorophyll water is popular online as an acne treatment, but dermatologists say there's little research on the topic.
Chlorophyll water is trending on TikTok, but does it actually work?
Chlorophyll water is trending on TikTok, but does it actually work?TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

A new skin care trend is picking up steam on social media: chlorophyll water.

Dr. Rajani Katta, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, said that chlorophyll water is "just water that's had a supplement" added in. Chlorophyll water doesn't include actual chlorophyll, which is a plant pigment, but instead uses a chemical derivative called chlorophyllin.

On TikTok, the hashtag #chlorophyllwater has been viewed over 67 million times, and several companies sell chlorophyll water or other supplements. Proponents of the products say that chlorophyll water can help with things like acne or aging, but dermatologists noted that research into the use of chlorophyll water for skin care is limited.

Does chlorophyll water help skin?

Right now, there isn't much research to suggest that chlorophyll water can make a difference in skin. Some small studies have found that a topical gel using chlorophyllin improved acne or aging, but all of those studies were extremely small, with some having just 10 participants. The largest study had just 24 participants.

"There's basically no research," said Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, a dermatologist in Miami, Florida. "I'm pretty active on TikTok ... So I've been seeing all of these videos, and there are really no studies for drinking chlorophyll water and its impact on the skin. There's no studies, actually ... There are studies using it topically (in a gel) but there are no studies orally."

Katta said that since the studies are small and only look at the gel, she wouldn't "generalize those very few, small studies to just putting chlorophyll water on your skin."

However, chlorophyll itself is an antioxidant, which can help with aging, is anti-inflammatory and has some antimicrobial activity, according to Dr. Patricia Farris, a dermatologist and clinical associate professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Farris noted that while there isn't much data, chlorophyll "is one of those ingredients that ought to be of benefit, and ought to be explored and studied."

"I don't see anything in our literature just yet that would make me tell people to run out and start drinking or using chlorophyll water," Farris said. "... But it's an interesting molecule. It's got antioxidants and antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity. So might it be helpful for acne? Sure. It should be a good anti-aging agent as well. But we just don't really have good studies on it."

Are there any risks associated with using chlorophyll water?

Katta and Woolery-Lloyd said they were both worried about the possibility that consuming too much chlorophyll could make your skin more sensitive to the sun, noting that the small studies of chlorophyllin gel had mentioned such outcomes. While Katta said she "doubts that just washing your face and rinsing it off would be a problem," there might be more risk if you put chlorophyll water on your skin and left it on "depending on the concentration of the chlorophyll in the water."

"Chlorophyll is photosensitizing, which means that it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun," said Woolery-Lloyd. "There are multiple case reports in the literature of people getting a photosensitive rash with blisters from overconsumption of chlorophyll."

Woolery-Lloyd also highlighted a small study in pregnant mice that found that chlorophyll water was not healthy for the mice tested. While she doesn't want to be "alarmist," she said that women should consult with their doctors before consuming chlorophyll water or any other supplement. It's always recommended that people consult with their doctor before adding a supplement to their diet.

Woolery-Lloyd also said that too much chlorophyll can stain teeth, so that might be something to look out for. Farris noted that some people had reported gastrointestinal upset, but that's common with many supplements. Katta also pointed out that supplements do not require approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so people should be careful about using the products.

Farris said that while the research is slim, the "user experience" also matters.

"This is widely available on the market; if people were getting sick from it, we would probably know at this point," she said. "There's user experience as well, and I always say long-term use of something is a pretty good judge of safety, but the efficacy part and the benefit part is still really lacking (in studies)."

What are other ways to consume chlorophyll?

Alix Turoff, a registered dietitian in New York, said that she likely wouldn't "waste (her) time" drinking chlorophyll, since "most of the purported benefits" of the product are "more of less the same that you'd get if you were to increase your water intake in general and add more green produce to your diet." Like the dermatologists interviewed for this piece, Turoff said that she found the evidence for chlorophyll water "very weak."

"For the most part, green produce will be your best source of dietary chlorophyll," said Turoff. "Some of the more potent sources of chlorophyll are wheatgrass, parsley, spinach, arugula and peas. ... At the end of the day, eating more greens is pretty much always going to be a good idea."

Katta said that eating green leafy vegetables can "absolutely be beneficial for your skin."

"We don't know that it's definitely due to the chlorophyll (in those foods), it's probably because when you eat those foods you're getting a large variety and a large dose of antioxidants," Katta said. "Those antioxidants, we know, fight off free radicals that age the skin, and they also calm down inflammation in the skin."

Farris pointed out that "we know a lot more about functional foods than we know about supplements," and said that she would almost always recommend people try to get their vitamins and nutrients through diet instead of supplements.

"When it comes to chlorophyll, that's just one thing that's in a plant," she said. "Think of everything else that's in there: All the vitamins, minerals, the phytonutrients and the polyphenols, all the different antioxidants."