Does winter have you missing the hot lazy days of summer, visiting the beach, and soaking in the salty air? You can encapsulate that feeling with this seaweed infused cream that is moisturizing and healing for skin year-round!
During the holiday season, I love gifting this seaweed cream to loved ones because it feels like I’m giving them a little glint of summer in a jar. And the more I give this seaweed cream as a gift, the more I find people asking me for the recipe. For me, herbalism is always about trading recipes with others, so I am delighted to share this simple but decadent seaweed cream recipe here just in time for the holidays…
How I Fell in Love with Seaweed
I grew up on the coast and was always fascinated by seaweeds. I’d put them on my hair, and wrap tendrils around my neck and shoulders like briney jewelry. Fast-forward many years to living far from the ocean, learning about herbs and natural skin care preparations, and being enamored with the idea of infusing seaweed into creams.
The carrageenan that is in most seaweeds is silky smooth on your skin and helps keep moisture close to your skin cells. Carrageenan is used in many commercially produced cosmetics and skin products, but you can blend it into a cream in your own kitchen! The first time I made this cream was with wild Iridaea seaweed that I harvested off the coast of northern California. Since then, I’ve experimented making it with Irish moss and kombu kelp, and both work wonderfully.
Seaweed Cream Recipe
Creams are both wonderfully simple and require a little finesse. Unlike a salve, creams have a water component in addition to the oil and beeswax. As you probably know from making a salad dressing, oil and water don’t mix. So we use the help of heat, a blender, and the right proportions of ingredients to end up with a fully emulsified, silky cream that’s delicious on your skin.
This recipe is adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Perfect Cream Recipe, passed to me by Karen Aguiar at the California School of Herbal Studies, and further modified for the inclusion of seaweed. Whenever making a cream, sterilizing your blender/utensils and the containers for the cream is important because the water in the cream makes it more important to prevent mold growth.
- ¼ cup Irish moss seaweed
- ¼ cup butterfly pea flowers (can be found in the tea section of many Asian groceries, or purchased online on Etsy)
- 2 cups water
- 240 ml (1 cup) infused oil (this can be any oil that you enjoy infused with plants — I particularly like using sunflower oil infused with calendula, violet, and marshmallow)
- 1 oz beeswax (you can use candelilla wax if you do not use bee products)
- 90 ml (approx ⅓ cup) hydrosol of your choice (optional)
- Liquid measuring cup
- Dry measuring cup
- Small saucepan
- Muslin fabric for straining
- Double boiler saucepan
- Silicone spatula
- Container(s) for finished cream
- Add ¼ cup Irish Moss seaweed and ¼ cup dried butterfly pea flowers to a small saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer.
- Simmer gently for 15 mins, then remove from heat, and let cool for another 15–20 mins. At this point, the water should have a nice slimy texture from the seaweed and gorgeous blue color from the butterfly pea flowers.
- Strain seaweed and flowers out of water using a muslin bag/cloth so that you can squeeze as much gooey liquid back into the pot as you can. This is your beautiful carrageenan extraction!
- At this point, you can either measure out 180 mL of your carrageenan/butterfly pea extraction, or do 90 mL seaweed/butterfly pea and 90 ml hydrosol of your choice. Set to the side.
- Add oil and beeswax to the double boiler and heat gently until beeswax is fully melted. Set aside to cool for 15 mins.
- Pour the seaweed/butterfly pea (plus hydrosol, if using) extraction into the blender and turn on med-high.
- SLOWLY pour a thin stream of your oil mixture into the top of the blender. Adjust blender speed higher as needed, as the amount of oil/wax going into the mixture increases. Once all the oil mixture is added, scrape the sides with a spatula, and continue blending on high until cream is fully emulsified.
- Pour cream into containers while it’s still warm, and wait until fully cooled to add lids.
- Store cream in the fridge for up to 3 months.
Yield: 15 oz
Benefits of Herbal Seaweed Cream
All of the ingredients in this silky seaweed cream are beneficial for skin health. Below I describe the benefits of each of the ingredients that I chose for this recipe…
Benefits of Irish moss (Chondrus crispus)
This seaweed is particularly high in carrageenan, a polysaccharide that is demulcent and soothing on the skin. It’s also cooling and anti-inflammatory. Irish moss is also a perfect natural thickener and emulsifier for herbal creams! If you’d like to learn more about Irish Moss, I wrote a monograph on this plant for HerbMentor, you can become a member and read it here.
Benefits of Butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea)
Native to tropical and subtropical regions of southeast Asia, butterfly pea is a bright blue flower full of flavonols and antioxidants, and has a long history of traditional use as a cognitive tonic, anti-inflammatory, and blood sugar modulant.1 Topically, it is protective and healing for skin cells. It also brings a gorgeous blueish-purple color to preparations.
Benefits of Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
Marshmallow is a fabulous moisturizer, soothing, and cooling for all kinds of skin ailments.
Benefits of Violet Leaf (Viola spp)
Violet leaves are also moisturizing and tissue-repairing, and a wonderful anti-inflammatory for sensitive skin.
Benefits of Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
A beloved skin care herb, calendula repairs tissue and is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.
How Do I Use Seaweed Cream?
Apply a small amount on your face/neck or hands. Apply liberally across your entire body or anywhere that your skin needs some moisture and love. Unlike salves, creams contain the ingredient of water, so they will easily absorb into your skin and maintain a moisturized topical layer even when your skin is dry.
What is Seaweed Cream Good For?
I love using this cream as after-sun care, when you need some juicy skin hydration. It’s also great for windburn throughout the year. I use this cream all over my body when I want to remember the feeling of being at the beach.
How Long Does Seaweed Cream Last?
In the fridge, this cream will last about 3 months. At room temp, use within 1 month. Adding a few drops of essential oils will prolong the shelf life.
What Do I Do If My Seaweed Cream is Not Emulsifying?
Creams can be tricky! First try increasing blender speed. Make sure you have scraped the sides down with a spatula so there is no extra water on the blender sides that drips down. If this doesn’t work, you can take the whole mixture and gently reheat it so that the remaining water and oils are about the same temperature. Transfer back to the blender and try again!
And if you need a little extra help with emulsification, here’s a video of Kimberly making her Love Your Body Lotion.
What is a Hydrosol?
A hydrosol is created from distilling plant material. Hydrosols are aromatic waters that contain low concentrations of essential oils, which makes them much more gentle than essential oils but still effective. Some of the most popular hydrosols include rose water and orange blossom water. I like to include hydrosols in my seaweed cream because they bring in more healing qualities of the plants, add subtle but lasting fragrance, and also help the cream preserve for longer.
There are not always easy ways to merge my two loves — the ocean and the plants — but this seaweed cream brings them together. As the weather turns cooler where I live, my skin that grew up in the tropics craves the memory of fresh salt air and cooling tidepools, and this cream brings me right to those places and keeps my skin moisturized and smooth too.
I’ve just finished bottling up my annual batch of seaweed cream to share it with my community, and I’m excited for this recipe to inspire you to make your own seaweed cream gifts!