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Make a Splash With Seaweed

Contact Author Cathy Christensen June 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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Back in the early 1990s, McDonald’s released its answer to health-concious alternatives with the McLean Deluxe hamburger, and almost as quickly as it was released, it was scorned, primarily because of its main ingredient—carrageenan, a seaweed extract that worked to bind water to lean beef for a more moist patty. Boy oh boy, did that shake things up. I remember riding in the backseat of my family’s bright blue Chevy Astro van with my brother making loud and obnoxious fun of our mom when she decided to sample the new sandwich at the drive-thru one day. I also remember the dismay when she declared that it was “not too bad.”

How could that be? How could that slimy stuff that got caught in your bathing suit when swimming in the ocean be not only edible, but also tasty? Thankfully, unlike the McLean, which was discontinued, my sensibilities have evolved, and I have come to enjoy seaweed, whether it is the splash of color in my miso soup, the structure that embraces my tuna roll or the ingredient that makes my skin cream work like a charm.

In the kitchen

There are many varieties of seaweed, as it is a term encompassing numerous types of marine algae and plants. It can be red, green or brown, and it generally is anchored at the bottom of the sea or to solid structures by rootlike holdfasts.1

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Seaweed is also an important food source in many Asian cultures. Japanese cuisine uses multiple types, including kombu in soup stock; wakame in miso soup and sunomono salads; and nori, which are seaweed sheets most often used in sushi.2, 3 Carrageen, or Irish moss, is used commercially due to its high gelatin content, and agar is obtained from a red algae and is a vegetable gelatin.2, 4 Many seaweeds also provide agininc acid, which is used as a stabilizer and thickener in a wide variety of commercially processed foods, such as ice creams, puddings, pie fillings and syrups,2 and they also provide strong antioxidants, vitamins A, C, D, E, K and folic acid.

As one of the foods commonly attached to spa cuisine, seaweed’s use is widespread in entrees and soups. At Chuan Spa in Hong Kong, China, one of the chef’s specialties is the Poached Lobster on Three-bean Salad with Shredded Seaweed; and The Maya Ubud Resort and Spa in Indonesia offers Chilled Tofu on Seaweed and Spring Onions, Fiery Tomato and Avocado Potage with Balsamic Soya. The Moreton Rock Oysters Natural at The Thai Foot Spa in Brisbane, Australia, can be enjoyed with a Wakame Seaweed Salad, Wasabi Roe and Ginger Soy; and at the distinguished Plaza Athénée Paris in Paris, home of the Dior Institut, guests can enjoy the Scallop and Caviar Salad with Seaweed and Tart Mango Marinade. Also, try the recipe for the Ahi Bento Box from Chef John Cox of El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa in Taos, New Mexico.

In the spa

Seaweed draws a wealth of mineral, macro and trace elements from the sea, as well as amino and fatty acids. For skin, it soothes, moisturizes, helps fight aging, offers anticellulite properties, improves suppleness and elasticity, cleanses and tones.5 It also can serve as an effective treatment for conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, dermatits and acne.6

At the Bella Pelle Beautiful Skin Medical Spa in Encinitas, California, clients can choose the Seaweed Detoxification Treatment, which stimulates and detoxifies, allowing for deep penetration of the trace elements, vitamins and amino acids in the seaweed and sea water components. The Age Defying Seaweed Wrap at Viva Day Spa in Austin, Texas, hydrates, tones and reduces fine lines while helping diminish cellulite; and the Seaweed Body Wrap is a component of The Fountain Journey from The Fountain European Spa in Hackensack, New Jersey. The Desert Heat Body Wrap from Buhl Mansion Guesthouse & Spa in Sharon, Pennsylvania, combines red seaweed and desert mud to help reduce fatigue and stress; and check out the step-by-step how-to recipe for the Seaweed Rejuvenation Facial from Spa Shiki at the Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Missouri, to help renew your client’s complexion.

Skin care products contain a variety of different seaweed as well, subscribing to its multitude of benefits. Thalgo La Beauté Marine’s Ocea Skin Moisturising Supplements combine omega-3 and -6, vitamin E and Odontella aurita algae to help skin lacking in vitality and moisture; and most of Repêchage’s product line includes seaweed, such as its Perfecting Concealer, which conceals imperfections while helping to reduce puffiness under the eyes. Esente’s Red Volcanic Seaweed Complex for traumatized skin helps provide cellular energy and combats oxidation and free radical damage, and SeaFlora Wild Organic Seaweed Skincare from Outer Coast Seaweeds is created from 12 different types of seaweed.

Just the right time

Even if McDonald’s was before its time with the McLean, it did take a small step in introducing the American public to this little-respected algae. This plant powerhouse is a must-have for your spa treatments and cuisine, and if you feel unsure, go ahead and try something new. Perhaps it is just the right time to make a splash.



2. ST Herbst and R Herbst, The New Food Lover’s Companion, Barron Education Series, Hauppauge, NY (August 2007)





(All accessed March 31, 2009)

Related Content



Quick Facts: Seaweed

  • Seaweed is the oldest form of life on the planet.6
  • In ancient Polynesia, people used seaweed’s curative properties to treat wounds, bruises and swellings.6
  • Seaweed alginates are now used as dressings for severe burns and wounds.6
  • Seaweed was known
    as “Sailor’s Cure” in
    ancient times.6
  • A pronounced moisturizing effect occurs through the use of seaweed on hair.6
  • Certain seaweed species have been used in China in the treatment of cancer, and some forms of the disease may be inhibited by the long-chained polysaccharides found
    in seaweed.6

Treatment How-To: Seaweed Rejuvenation Facial

From Spa Shiki at the Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, MissouriSpa Shiki Seaweed Rejuvenation Facial

Tucked along the tree-lined shore of Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, the Japanese-themed Spa Shiki at the Lodge of Four Seasons strives to go beyond the ordinary spa experience by educating clients about how to incorporate spa philosophy and ritual into their daily lives. The Seaweed Rejuvenation Facial is a multifaceted treatment that provides immediate, uplifting benefits to the skin. Acupressure point stimulation and the use of essential oils and seaweed lifts, tones and balances the delicate facial skin. The result is a complexion that looks youthful and feels toned.

Duration: 80 minutes

Cost: $135

Products needed:

Gentle daily cleanser

Seaweed cleanser with essential oils


Laminaria oil

Green food-grade algae


Eye cream

Equipment needed:



Cloth headband


Plastic bags for hands

Warming mittens

Eye pads

Cotton pads


Step 1. Welcome the client to the spa and lead to the treatment room. Ask the client about any allergies, current skin regimen, and if there are any health concerns of which you need to be aware. Inquire whether she has ever had a facial before, then discuss the treatment steps so she knows what to expect. Ask whether she would like extractions performed if the skin appears congested after steaming. Inform the client the seaweed does carry a strong ocean smell so she isn’t surprised by it. Invite her to communicate if any discomfort arises during the treatment so it may be addressed to ensure the treatment is fully relaxing. Finally, ask the client to disrobe and lay face up on the treatment table, comfortably covered by the sheet and blanket. Leave room to allow for privacy.

Step 2. After an appropriate amount of time, return to the room and dim the lights. Ask if the client is comfortable and begin the treatment, turning on the steamer.

Step 3. Apply a headband to keep the client’s hair out of the way. Cleanse the face using an appropriate daily cleanser, gently massaging into the face for five minutes.

Step 4. Exfoliate the skin using a seaweed cleanser with essential oils.

Step 5. Steam with the seaweed cleanser on the skin for 6–10 minutes, depending upon the client’s skin type. While steaming, apply moisturizing lotion by administering a soothing massage to the client’s arms and hands, promoting relaxation. Put a plastic bag on each hand, followed by warming mittens.

Step 6. Apply eye pads and perform extractions if requested.

Step 7. Apply toner using cotton pads.

Step 8. Perform a 15-minute facial massage with Laminaria oil—a pure brown seaweed derivative—to stimulate collagen, tone skin and prepare it for deeper penetration of the seaweed mask that follows.

Step 9. Apply food-grade green algae mask. Mask consistency should not be too runny or too thick. When applied to the skin, the mask should be just thick enough to not be transparent.

Step 10. Perform neck, shoulder and scalp massage while seaweed mask penetrates the skin. This should take 15 minutes.

Step 11. Leave seaweed on and perform acupressure at key points on the face. Conduct three passes of the acupressure routine.

Step 12. Rinse mask off with water. Two towels and two rinses are generally required.

Step 13. Apply appropriate moisturizer and eye cream.

Step 14. Inform the client you have completed the facial, and provide hand mirror for the client to use to inspect her face. Invite the client to take her time getting into a robe, and tell her you will leave to get a glass of water for her, allowing the client privacy so she can put on her robe.

Step 15. Upon your return, knock before entering to ensure the client is clothed. Escort the client into one of the spa’s meditation areas to sit and relax as the treatment concludes.

Recipe: Ahi Bento Box

From Chef John Cox of El Monte Sagrado Living Resort & Spa in Taos, New MexicoAhi Bento Box

Makes 4 servings, 275 calories, 7 grams of fat

Tartare ingredients:

2 cups small diced #1+ ahi tuna (no sinew or bloodline; use the upper portion of a large loin)

1 teaspoon orange zest

4 tablespoons finely diced sweet yellow onion

2 tablespoons sirache chile

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

1 tablespoon sea salt


1. Combine all ingredients and season to taste.

Furikake rice cracker ingredients:

1 cup short-grain sushi rice

5 cups water

1 sheet nori seaweed

1 cup furikake spice mix

4 cups grape seed oil

1. Intentionally overcook rice with water on low heat so grains become soft, and allow rice to cool to just above room temperature.

2. Place the nori shiny side down on a dry table and spread the rice across the seaweed to form a pasty layer that is approximately 1/4-inch thick.

3. Sprinkle the top of the rice with furikake.

4. Place a sheet of plastic over the layers and gently press it with a rolling pin to compress the layers together.

5. Remove the plastic and, with a sharp knife, cut the seaweed lengthwise into eight thin strips.

6. Wrap each of these strips around a metal ring and quickly drop into 350°F grape seed oil. You may also drop the strips directly into the oil and forgo the molding process if you do not desire a perfectly round shape.

7. Dry all crackers on paper towels.

8. Plate with the tartare on the bottom, topped with the cracker, and serve.

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