No, chlorophyll water isn't a 'miracle cure' for acne and body odor

·5 min read
Chlorophyll water is taking off on TikTok, but is the bright green beverage everything it promises to be? Experts weigh in. (Photo: Getty Images)
Chlorophyll water is taking off on TikTok, but is the bright green beverage everything it promises to be? Experts are dubious. (Photo: Getty Images)

It's not difficult to grasp the allure of "chlorophyll water," the internet's newest wellness obsession. On top of the Instagram-worthy swirl of green that chlorophyll drops — which can retail for up to $40 per 2-ounce bottle — create, they've been touted as a cure for everything from acne and obesity to cancer and body odor. Intended to be mixed into water and consumed once a day, the drops are primarily made up of chlorophyllin, a synthetic version of chlorophyll, which is the green pigment that gives vegetables their rich color.

The spike in fandom is far from the first time chlorophyll has been propped up as a silver bullet. In the 1950s, It gained popularity from a noncontrolled study that suggested it reduced both body odor and infection in an Army hospital, according to the New York Times. Other studies, which have not been replicated since, suggested that it may cure cancer. The "lore of chlorophyll" quickly grew and companies began inserting it into a variety of products, including "toothpaste, mouthwash, dog food and ... cigarettes."

Today, the claims aren't much different. On TikTok, the hashtag #chlorophyllwater has earned more than 115 million views, with videos of influencers recording the miraculous disappearance of stubborn acne, a stomach that's flattened in a matter of days, or boasting about an improvement in mood and energy. As humans, our desire for a simple, universal remedy is nothing new, but experts tell Yahoo Life that this trend, like the many before it, is mostly wishful thinking. 

Claudia Del Vecchio, nutrition educator with Keck Medicine of USC, says that while it's true that a diet with lots of vegetables can help with many health conditions, there's no clinical research showing that isolating chlorophyll achieves these same results. "It's kind of taken out of context," she says. "We do know that plant foods have antioxidants and all kinds of nutrients that support healing and health and prevention, so we want everyone to include more plants in their diet." 

But the bright green beverage, she says, isn't necessarily a substitute for a well-balanced diet. "To just sit there and say that we're going to just extract the chlorophyll and make it this miracle cure ... they're just focusing on one aspect of it and making it the cure-all," Del Vecchio tells Yahoo Life. "[Chlorophyll] does help in a lot of areas, but that's because it's part of a plant." 

Video: Debunking the chlorophyll water fad

Dr. Uma Naidoo, a Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, nutrition specialist and author of the bestselling book This is Your Brain on Food, agrees. "In nutritional psychiatry, I feel strongly that eating healthy, whole foods is the key to your mental fitness and physical well-being," says Naidoo. "I feel that food fads and diet wars confuse people even more about nutrition."

She says that chlorophyll has been tested for certain medical conditions, but importantly, not on humans. "The scientific evidence that we have so far tells us that chlorophylls do have incredible antioxidant properties. ... These effects are all associated with improved overall health, which can include the symptoms that we see in these claims; however, such properties were found through in vitro studies, meaning that they were performed in a lab with microorganisms, cells or molecules outside their normal biological context," says Naidoo. "Clinical trials, or those performed in humans, from which we draw the strongest scientific evidence, have not been performed to test these claims."

And what about the dermatological claims? Probably too good to be true, says Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. "There’s no real evidence to suggest drinking [chlorophyll] can make any difference [with acne]," Nazarian tells Yahoo Life. She adds that topicals containing chlorophyll "have been shown to be useful" in treating acne caused by inflammation (versus acne caused by bacteria), through brands like Bio Clarity, but those require actually putting the topical on the skin.

Similarly, she's not sold on the idea that the drops can reduce or even eliminate body odor. "There’s little to no evidence that suggests this would be true," Nazarian says. "Technically our gut flora is related to our skin surface flora of bacteria, which is ultimately what determines our body odor (skin bacteria mixing with sweat), but the evidence is lacking in this area."

While she's not worried about safety for the many disciples of #chlorophyllwater, she also says there's an easier option. "I don’t have any real concerns with this trend, other than wasting people's time and money," she says. "[But] remember, chlorophyll is found ubiquitously in most things green, so if people want to eat a leaf-heavy diet, more power to them."

All three experts stressed that those still interested in incorporating the drops into their diet should first consult a medical professional. "A good rule of thumb is that anyone interested in trying new nutrition or medical trends promoted through social media influencers ought to always consult their own doctor first to ensure its safety," says Naidoo.

So before you start turning your water green or subbing out vegetables for a $40 tincture of green liquid, try checking in with your doctor. Or, better yet, just each some spinach. 

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