‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ goes the famous saying, but when you’re on the go and can’t keep up with your five a day, most of us turn to supplements to see us through. But is the newest craze around fulvic acid just a hype or here to stay? It’s easy to see why supplements like this one are on our radar, since they’re handy-dandy and conveniently compact compared to carrying a whole bag of fruits with you everyday—which, by the way, you should still try to eat daily.
We’ve already questioned meal replacements like Huel and how they might not be all they’re cracked out to be. However, many of us can’t imagine a world without multivitamins and dietary supplements—in the form of gummies if you’re like me and still have a fear of swallowing large tablets—to achieve that high-flying healthy lifestyle we all aspire to reach.
Which is probably why, as with all things nowadays, wellness TikTok has been serving us with yet another magic cure to all our immune system needs in the form of fulvic acid. On the video-sharing app, content creators are seen smearing the substance on their faces to get that dreamy glow. It’s even said to have the added benefit of evening out your skin tone—and any promise of that can surely rope me into trying just about anything, be it drinking lab-grown coffee for a contaminant-free cuppa joe, and DIY CBD salve as a natural alternative to chemically-infused products.
The interesting thing about fulvic acid is, you can also ingest it. Not only does it work on the outside, but inside, it boosts your immunity. And I know what you’re thinking, this is way too good to be true—you might be right this time, dear sceptic. Skin isn’t one (product) and done. Experts don’t believe it’s that simple and the “bacteria absorbing” process described by TikTok skinfluencers and proud fulvic acid enthusiasts can’t only be seen (and therefore proved) by the naked eye, according to an article by Mic. Here’s what you need to know about the mysterious dark liquid and its most popular claims. Most importantly, should people be so quick to start piping it into their bodies? Well, don’t switch out your dilute juice just yet, allow us to explain before you reach for your pipette.
We all know that clear skin stars from within, and while there may not be a perfect means to cheat your way into unclogged pores and pimple-free cheeks, fulvic acid may be able to help get you started. In Melissa Pandika’s article for Mic, she had Camila Martin—a pediatric registered dietitian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) Health—talk to her about what fulvic acid really is. The acid is a component of humic substances—naturally occurring organic substances that come from the decomposition of plants, animals, and microbial residues. It’s found in soil, compost, and even sewage. It can be extracted from such things and turned into a supplement, like the one people are currently swigging down online.
The activity of oxifulvic—the antimicrobial, antioxidant subtype of fulvic—makes it sought after in the world of skincare, as well as its low weight and water solubility. Since we’re pretty much made out of water, anything water-soluble is greedily sucked up by our skin, making it a must-have in any product.
However, fulvic acid is nothing new. Per Healthline, people have been using a form of fulvic acid found in the Himalayas for centuries. Shilajit—also commonly known as mineral pitch, mumie, mumijo, and vegetable asphalt—is local to the Himalayas and other mountainous regions and has been used to treat a range of ailments from altitude sickness to asthma. Difficulty strikes with this particular health substance as rarely do these natural and traditional methods come with verified benefits or recommendations of dosage or efficacy. So people are really just winging it when it comes to trying out fulvic—a dangerous way to go when it comes down to our precious skin.
In a TikTok video, a creator by the name of Mayabess Brown (@mayabessbrown87) explained in layman’s terms for all of us who can’t keep up with the science talk. “It is attaching itself to the microorganisms, and it is absorbing all of the bacteria,” said the voiceover set to a video of the TikToker adding black-brown droplets of fulvic acid to a carafe of water. “Video doesn’t lie. Just imagine what this could do for your body, you guys.”
If you search through the over 1 million videos listed under #fulvicacid, you will surely find people rubbing Inkey List’s brightening cleanser into their skin which includes fulvic acid, giving it glowing praise for evening out their complexions. But sponsored hype aside, is this ingredient the real deal?
Long story short, probably not. Though it has been involved in deworming on TikTok—a very deep rabbit hole I’ll have to fall down another day—Mic reported that studies in lab-grown cells with a small test group provide “some evidence” that fulvic acid’s anti-inflammatory properties can alleviate eczema. That being said, there’s a scarce amount of research to prove its most boasted quality of helping to reduce hyperpigmentation—aka dark spots—or brighten skin. Under the heavily controlled testing ground of microscopes and lab settings, it might work, but in the busyness of our day-to-day with all the elements and the stressors of the real world, the scientific jury is still out.
As for improving immunity, a more reliable source is probably vitamin C in the eyes of experts, though some peg fulvic acid to be more gentle. Most research is still in its early stages with animal test studies and test tube trials. And actually, a Phase 1 clinical study conducted by the Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria in South Africa on 30 men showed that higher doses of fulvic acid could lead to diarrhoea, headaches, and sore throat. Are you really willing to risk it?
In other words, there’s very little evidence to back up claims made by influencers that it helps your immune system’s ability to stave off infectious diseases. Maybe one day fulvic acid will kick vitamin C out of its proud placement as the tried, trusted and true immune defender—but I don’t think that day is anytime soon.
Scientists have conducted most of the research surrounding fulvic acid on animals and in test tubes, Martin has noted, which have yielded mixed results. The few human studies that exist consisted of only a few dozen participants and tended not to represent the population at large.
Although dangerous might be too strong of a word as of now, the pros of fulvic acid in research are few, especially with studies starting to show its symptoms may outweigh its purported benefits.
Contrary to the rest of skintok, you might need to manage your expectations before you dive into dousing your skin and drinking your body weight with the stuff—remember folks, the research is still scant, we still don’t have any guidance on the maximum amount considered safe, or really anything else about it either. If you still want to make it part of your skincare routine, experts have suggested to start by dabbing a small amount on a discreet spot—like a strand test when you make the well-thought-out decision to dye your hair spontaneously—behind your ear, for a week or so.
All in all, fulvic acid still has a long way to go before it can be touted as a rejuvenating revitalising double whammy. Though skinfluencers are of course swayed by the benefits, we like to wait for the all clear scientifically speaking first. We suggest a ‘buyer beware’ attitude to hold off on the hype, with product promises on TikTok coming from the very people pushing them to you probably having a stake in profits if you decide to believe them.