Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
Jul 30, 2021 · 5 min read
Welcome to Ask Curology, penned by one of our in-house medical providers in response to your questions about all things skincare. This week: liquid chlorophyll. It’s going viral as a cure for acne, but does it really have such health benefits? One of our dermatology providers has the scoop.
Lots of people on TikTok say that adding a spoonful of liquid chlorophyll to my water will get rid of my acne—and if the videos are accurate, then I totally believe them! It seems like everyone is posting about chlorophyll right now… but what’s the tea? Will this stuff really cure my breakouts?
Another day, another TikTok trend, am I right? A lot of my patients have been hitting me up about this liquid chlorophyll trend, so I’m excited to share with you what I know.
You may remember chlorophyll from your science classes. It’s the pigment that gives plants their green color. Chlorophyll also plays an important role in photosynthesis, the process in which plants turn sunlight into nutrients.
Liquid chlorophyll is a dietary supplement derived from the pigment that gives plants their green color. Fun fact: the nutrient found in most liquid chlorophyll and chlorophyll tablets is actually chlorophyllin, a semi-synthetic, water-soluble derivative of chlorophyll. Chlorophyllin is thought to be easier for the body to absorb than chlorophyll because it contains copper instead of magnesium. That means that chlorophyll supplements are a little different than what you’d find in any given houseplant.
While those viral TikTok videos of people getting clear skin from just 6 sips of dark green water may be convincing, the truth is that we need more medical research before we can definitively say that chlorophyll has skin benefits (according to science). Search for #liquidchlorophyll on TikTok, and you’ll see videos claiming an impressive list of chlorophyll’s benefits, including weight loss, reduced body odor, clear skin, and boosted energy. While there are some studies that show chlorophyll has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s difficult to say what effect drinking liquid chlorophyll will have on your overall health.
While we’re waiting on the scientific facts, here's what the research says. There are small studies that indicate chlorophyll may be helpful in the treatment of acne. In one study involving 10 people with acne and large pores, participants applied a topical chlorophyllin gel for 3 weeks. At the end of the 3 weeks, participants had improved acne. Plus, the product was well-tolerated.
In another study involving 24 people with acne, participants treated one side of the face with LED phototherapy alone while the other side was treated with a topical chlorophyll product along with LED phototherapy. There was more improvement in acne when chlorophyll was used in combination with phototherapy. It’s hard to say what would have happened if the topical chlorophyll product was used on its own, though.
So there is some preliminary research that applying chlorophyll directly to your skin may help improve acne, but when it comes to the drinkable stuff, all we have are those Tiktoks. In my opinion, it’s better to stick to proven acne treatments that have been well-studied over the course of decades. Prescription-strength ingredients like tretinoin—or even over-the-counter ones like salicylic acid—have more studied results.
Like many “get clear quick” solutions, there are some potential downsides to chugging liquid chlorophyll for your acne—especially when it comes out the other end. Liquid chlorophyll may cause discoloration of your stool and urine, and it’s also known to cause diarrhea. So let’s just say the tradeoffs are real.
Another potential side effect: sensitivity to the sun. Remember how chlorophyll helps plants absorb sunlight? That's because it's a photosensitizer—aka a molecule that loves to absorb sunlight. It can similarly cause photosensitivity in some people.
So definitely make sure you’re practicing sun protection if you decide to give chlorophyll a shot!
More research is needed before we can say whether or not liquid chlorophyll is beneficial for acne! Like most supplements, chlorophyll isn’t regulated by the FDA, and doses can vary. We suggest speaking with your in-person medical provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
For now, you’re probably better off getting chlorophyll in whole food form (like a spinach salad or fresh parsley). You’ll also reap the benefits of all the other nutrients included in green fibrous veggies—what a plus!
So that’s what I know as your friendly local expert. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to your Curology provider. If you’re not already a Curology member, you can get your first month of custom prescription skincare for free* (just pay $4.95 to cover shipping and handling). Until next time…!
All my best,
Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
We did our research so you don’t have to.
Beth Czerwony. Are There Health Benefits to Using Liquid Chlorophyll?. Cleveland Clinic.
Linus Pauling Institute. Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin. Oregon State University.
Ursula M.Lanfer-Marquez, et. al. Antioxidant activity of chlorophylls and their derivatives. Food research international. (2005).
A. Subramoniam, et. al. Chlorophyll revisited: anti-inflammatory activities of chlorophyll a and inhibition of expression of TNF-α gene by the same. Inflammation. (2012).
Stephens, T. J., et. al. Pilot Study of Topical Copper Chlorophyllin Complex in Subjects With Facial Acne and Large Pores. Journal of drugs in dermatology. (2015).
Byong Han Song, MD, et. al. Photodynamic therapy using chlorophyll-a in the treatment of acne vulgaris: A randomized, single-blind, split-face study. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2014).
Linus Pauling Institute. Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin. Ibid.
Byong Han Song, MD, et. al. Photodynamic therapy using chlorophyll-a in the treatment of acne vulgaris: A randomized, single-blind, split-face study. Ibid.
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Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C