Chlorophyll water is a booming trend on TikTok, with influencers lifting a green glass to the camera while showing off their acne-free skin. But there’s no science to back up the claims that it’s uniquely good for skin.
What is chlorophyll?
Chlorophyll is the molecule in plants that absorbs red or blue light, setting off a series of chemical reactions that result in photosynthesis. It reflects green light, which is why so many plants appear green. This much you can read about in any biology textbook.
The chlorophyll waters and extracts that you can buy as supplements contain chlorophyllin, a form of the molecule that has been chemically altered so that it can dissolve in water.
What does it do?
Not much, according to the science. A few studies have found that it reduces urine odor in people with urinary incontinence. It has also been combined with other ingredients in an ointment for slow-healing wounds. The Linus Pauling Institute reports that it is being investigated for a possible role in preventing cancers that are associated with exposure to aflatoxin, a carcinogen found in some types of mould that can be present in trace amounts in food.
There’s no evidence that it will do anything for acne. Dermatologist Hadley King told Refinery29 that studies show chlorophyll may have anti-inflammatory effects when applied topically. In one of the studies, chlorophyll from fresh leaves (not the chlorophyll tinctures you can purchase) seemed to help paw swelling (not acne) in mice and rats (not people).
So why do people think it will help with acne?
So, there is a reach-y game of connect-the-dots going on here. The chlorophyllin in “chlorophyll water” is similar to chlorophyll. Chlorophyll has been shown in the lab to act as an antioxidant (meaning it can neutralise certain chemical reactions.) Antioxidants that occur naturally in our bodies are important in regulating and reducing inflammation. Some types of acne involve inflammation. So by making several leaps of logic, we can construct a plausible-sounding claim that maybe chlorophyll water can reduce acne, or at least make it look less inflamed.
How to test that hypothesis? Well, there’s no need to test it–just to go on TikTok and pose with some green juice and shoot a video with before-and-after photos. Scrolling through some of the recent TikToks tagged #chlorophyllwater, I found a bunch of clips that gave the impression the influencer had improved their skin by drinking the stuff.
But the recent posts included one person whose acne got worse after she started documenting her chlorophyll water habit; one doctor who endorses the idea of using chlorophyll water for inflammation but says that smoothies and salads would be better choices; and a person with convincing before-and-after shots, but whose other videos show her dealing with her acne with various other products and also covering it up with makeup.
Appearances can be deceiving. If you want to try drinking chlorophyll water, it probably won’t hurt in small doses. (Large doses, according to some of the influencers, may cause gastrointestinal distress.) But if you’re looking for a way to reduce your acne, check out our evidence-based skincare primer and consider seeing a dermatologist.