How to Spot Fake Sea Moss 4 Tips to Buy The Real Deal

Spotting fake sea moss is really quite easy once you know how. Here I’ll walk you through how to spot fake sea moss with four simple tips. The main things I look for on the surface is the presence of large grains of processed salt, a lack of imperfections that occur naturally, and signs of chemical interference.

I have been around the seaweed space for quite some time now, and often visit seaweed farms and engage with people in the industry. With a trained eye it is easier to spot these things quickly. So I’m going to share with you what I have learned over the years. But before that, we need to look at some popular beliefs around fake, or pool grown, sea moss.

Where did the Fake Sea Moss story get it’s momentum?

Going back to 2011, Dr. Sebi took the stage and addressed an audience in the Bahamas which was waiting with bated breath. He spoke of the challenges of fake sea moss, and how to spot what he referred to as fake sea moss. This was quite some time ago, and I want you to keep in mind that the world of marine biology doesn’t sleep.

For years now I have been immersed in the world of seaweed, and seaweed cultivation. Here, I’ll break down some of the things I know that you need to look for so you know you’re getting real sea moss.

One of the first things is knowing what real sea moss is. There is a lot of conjecture and mislabeling of products in the market.

What is sold as Chondrus Crispus on some packages is actually closer to Gracilaria or Kappaphycus Alvarezii. The sea moss that is well known and has it’s metaphorical roots in the Caribbean is not Chondrus Crispus.

Note: the below is a snapshot of a handful of listings that are using the incorrect botanical name. Identifying features on these listing have been blurred out to protect the identity of the Sellers.

How-to-Spot-Fake-Sea-Moss-with-4-Tips-on-Buying-Real-Sea-Moss---www.detoxandcure.com - sea moss shown on various online listings that are using the incorrect botanical name - top left 5 images of golden sea moss using incorrect botanical name - bottom right purple image of chondrus crispus using correct name
Examples of incorrectly labeled items online with the wrong botanical name

Sebi spoke about sea moss at length, and in the video below, her refers to it as being scientifically known as Chondrus Crispus. Pay particular attention to what you see at about 4:09 in on the video, and make your own judgement call.

In a previous article where we looked at what sea moss is good for I wrote about the differences between these seaweeds, which is also worth researching for yourself.

A word of advice though, as great as a resource as Wikipedia is, anyone without appropriate credentials can create an entry or edit an entry. Look to the university studies and marine biology websites and resources for a true reference point.

How Much Sea Moss is Grown in Pools?

There is some truth about the quality of pool grown sea moss. When it is grown in pools it is not able to get the benefits of the natural ebb and flow of the ocean.

This means that the exposure to naturally occurring minerals is more or less eliminated. The sea moss is restricted to whatever happens to be added to the tank or pool. These tend to be manufactured fertilizers in some cases. In other cases, a mineral dense substrate is added to the bottom of the pool.

You may have read about sea moss farms replicating the motion of the ocean with machinery. Sebi spoke of them being able to grow crops of sea moss faster in tanks in Boston than in the ocean.

Growing sea moss this way is possible to do, and it is applied in some areas. But when compared to traditional sea moss farming that takes place in the open ocean, it is a comparatively unsustainable and expensive process.

The cost of running a system like is typically not profitable when compared to what Mother Nature can do. Pool growing of sea moss that is intended for human consumption is not as widely applied as many of us would be led to believe. Most is for animal consumption.

Increasing challenges related to land area, quality and suitability are seeing this practice lose considerable ground when compared to sustainable ocean farming practices.

At the end of the day, the people in the seaweed industry are subject to the same principles of business as the rest of us. Low or no profit means the flow of dollars (or pesos, rupiah, dong, or yen, whatever the currency may be) is acutely felt by the business, and the doors soon close.

Where does most of the Sea Moss come from?

The vast majority of sea moss commercially available on the market nowadays is grown in the open ocean. You can see this in some areas if you use Google Earth. Sea moss farms are quite easy to spot.

aerial shot of coastal seaweed farms in shallow tidal waters that are protected by a reef roughly 100 meters off the shore line. To the far right of this image you can see the waves breaking and then the water settling to a still and calm ebb and flow. It is in this calmer water that the symmetrical farm plots can be seen under the water. Staked out in sand, the lines of seaweed are dense and dark. The beach is narrow and runs along a steep coastal area with a winding road that cuts inland through the dense foliage and trees
Aerial view of seaweed farms. Find this image on Instagram.

Seaweed farming techniques in the past 20 years have improved dramatically. The application of more advanced engineering has allowed for the development of floating farms that are equipped with features that allow for the reduction in crop loss, while still getting the full benefit of being ocean harvested.

This has resulted in a natural attrition in the percentage of tank or pool grown sea moss. But it is still out there, which is why it’s important to know how to spot fake sea moss.

How do I Identify Fake Sea Moss?

Here are some easy ways to spot fake sea moss that we’ve used over the years. These are based on what we have learned from visiting and working with Seaweed Farmers in many countries.

Tip 1 – The Perfect Look

Does your sea moss have that perfect look? Meaning, is it all roughly the same size and thickness?

Sea moss grows in a distinct way. You’ll know pool grown compared to ocean harvested based on the look.

It’s a bit like being able to tell the difference between home grown or organic vegetables and the commercially grown vegetables you buy at the store.

Real sea moss that is grown in the open ocean will be thicker in some parts than others. It will also have some variations on the length and density of the thallus.

These variations can come about as a result of many different things. Keep in mind that the sea moss is not just a food source for you. It’s primarily a food source for marine animals.

You may see little nobbly bits on your sea moss, particularly at the ends. This is a sign that crustaceans, fish, and possibly even sea turtles have been nibbling the tender young shoots while it has been growing.

purple sea moss that is of a lower grade which has been eaten by small fish during the earlier stages of growing. This is a closeup of small sea moss thalus, or branches, which have been turned into nobbly ends based on the tender shoots having been eaten by fish
Close up of signs of fish eating the young shoots of the seaweed while growing. Find this image on Instagram.

Tip 2 – The Salt Grains

There will be surface salt that naturally occurs, but it’s the size of the salt grains, and the taste that really gives this away.

Sea moss soaks up the salt water it grows in. And as a result, when it dries, this shows up on the surface.

Is your sea moss lightly dusted with salt that is as fine as icing sugar? If it is packaged with grains of salt that look more like rock salt, or table salt, chances are it’s fake.

There’s also a very distinct difference in the taste of natural sea salt and processed salt. Try them and see for yourself.

Tip 3 – Other Seaweed with it

Real sea moss that is grown in the ocean will occasionally have a stray piece of another type of seaweed with it. Our Quality Control Team work very hard to make sure that this is kept to the lowest possible level.

After harvesting, any other seaweed that has been caught up in the sea moss crop are picked out. Sometimes a few little whispy bits can still be found on the sea moss, but this is rare.

In pools and tanks there are no other species of seaweed, just sea moss. Pools also lack sand and the occasional, what we call ‘sea dirt’, which can be found on sea moss.

Think of sea dirt as the very light silt that can be kicked up in the ocean during rough waves, storms or surface activity. This can settle on the sea moss, and during the growing stages, the Seaweed Farmers tend to the crops by washing as much of this off as they can.

A heavy build up of this sea dirt sediment can cause the plant to suffer. Think of it this way, it blocks the sun and inhibits photosynthesis, which can be thought of as like a type of suffocation. This can then lead to other complications and the introduction of disease to the crop.

Example: Ice Ice

close up image of a piece of seaweed that has been affected by the disease ice-ice. This is a dark olive green piece of seaweed that looks like a tight shrub with no leaves, the firm cylindrical structure of the seaweed could be described as looking like a spider's legs. This piece of seaweed is sitting on a timber board with deeply weathered grain that is strongly pronounced showing darker lines breaking up the fawn timber
Close up of a specimen of sea moss that has been affected by Ice-Ice. Find this image on Instagram.

Example: Mold

close up of purple sea moss that has been degraded by mold in the drying process. This photo is taken at night with the hand of the person holding this piece of seaweed up close visible. The caption overlaid on this image reads "When sea moss cultivation goes bad"
Sea Moss gone bad with mold. Find this image on Instagram.

Again, after harvesting, our Team diligently check for sea moss that has too much sand or sea dirt on it. This is set aside and used to give back to the environment. More about that later…

Other than these tips, most consumers won’t be able really spot fake sea moss from the real thing. Not unless they have the sea moss assessed in a laboratory for things like vitamins, minerals and other things.

Tip 4 – Differences in color or tone

Authentic sea moss which has been allowed to grow naturally in the ocean may have some color variations, or slight differences in tones. Knowing how to spot fake sea moss is really easy with this tip.

close up image of rehydrated seaweed that is golden yellow with ripples of red and brown running through it. Sitting on a white plate, this is a moist piece of seaweed that looks like a collection of small shrub branches without any leaves
Tonal differences are a sign of naturally grown seaweed. Find this image on Instagram.

If you’ve got a batch of sea moss that is all the same color, it may be fake, or worse still, bleached. Sea moss naturally comes in a few different colors. This is a result of where it is grown, and some slight species variations in the seaweed family. This means that for it to be golden white it has required some processing.

This processing is typically a simple application of exposure to sunlight. Depending on the color of the sea moss, it can often have some tonal variations after the sun drying stage.

But how is the color changed? It’s a simple process to take sea moss from being olive green, purple, brown, red, yellow or a warm orange to the golden white color you’re familiar with. This requires no chemicals when done properly, just controlled exposure to the direct sunlight to sweat out the color.

Where bleaching has been applied there’s a consistent white look to the sea moss. No little darker patches, no pieces that are more fawn than golden white. It looks very processed.

These color variations after sun drying come from the sea moss growing in natural conditions where it is exposed to slight variations in light, temperature and water movements.

Tank farmed sea moss will typically not have these variables as it is grown in an extremely controlled conditions. There’s no room for nature to create such noticeable differences.

How Common is Fake Sea Moss?

As touched upon before, fake sea moss isn’t as common as you might be led to believe. Globally, the rise of seaweed farming in the ocean is on the increase. Pool grown sea moss in the laboratory like conditions that Sebi cautioned us about is not able to compete with the awesome power of Mother Nature and the Ocean.

What is more common is the lower grade quality of sea moss that is intended for animal consumption or industrial application being sold as food grade for human consumption. This is the present threat that if faced today in by companies sourcing high quality sea moss.

This lower grade sea moss is grown in the ocean, but not the quality of waters that you would be happy to have your sea moss grown in. Often, it is in areas that are close to commercial ports send harbors, or waters that are polluted by various types of run off, or in the line of currents from ocean dead zones.

Knowing more about the conditions of the waters is vital so that you know you are getting a clean, and mineral dense supply of sea moss.

There is almost heated debate about the merits of various types of sea moss, with a strong cohort beating the drum for wildcrafted sea moss; but at what cost?

Where does the Confusion Come From?

With people moving around the planet for generations there have been multiple cases of terminologies being transported with them. Languages have constantly been in a state of flux, and we tend to have slightly different names for the same thing.

For example, cilantro is the same thing as coriander, garbanzo beans are the same thing as chick peas, and amaranth is the same thing as callaloo.

As mentioned in the opening, the name sea moss has been applied to different types of seaweed. Through marketing and advertising we have lost a dimension of the truth in this matter. What is known as sea moss is actually a completely different thing to Chondrus Crispus.

Being a generic term, what Sebi was originally talking about as a species was not Chondrus Crispus. Did you take a look at the video above? What were your conclusions when you compared this to what you see in the phycology journals?

Why is most Sea Moss Golden or White?

Due to a range of factors (too many to go into here), Seaweed Farmers and companies involved in the harvesting and processing of sea moss opted to treat their crops before putting them on the market. The golden or whiteish color of the commercially available sea moss is what people have come to know and expect.

This is able to be achieved in most cases during the drying process without the need for any bleaches or  other harmful chemicals. it’s typically a simple process of sweating the color out of the sea moss with the aid of the sun.

This can be done through a number of methods, but typically the use of plastic sheeting is applied. The sea moss is left to sit in the full heat of the sun while covered by clear plastic and what takes place is it changes from the original color to a translucent white.

Sun Bleaching Sea Moss

seaweed being sun bleached in a clear plastic bag. Having changed from a dark olive green to a milky white, this has taken on a translucent appearance and left a pool of water in the bottom of the bag that is milky white.
Dropping the color out without using chemicals – just the sun. Find this image on Instagram.

Take a look at this on our Instagram before it was exposed to the sun and the color had dropped out.

Once the cover is removed, it then dries further, which locks in any tonal or color variations. A solid color that runs through your sea moss isn’t a bad thing. It may have been a consistently sun-bleached plant. If it is very white, like paper, then it’s probably been bleached. Even though this isn’t necessarily key to knowing how to spot fake sea moss, it will help you.

www.detoxandcure.com - Matthew Carpenter

About the Author

Matthew has been on an active journey towards living a healthy life from a young age. Influenced by his Grandmother, a practicing Naturopath in the 1940's, his views on living holistically were shaped from a young age. Growing up in different parts of Australia, his connection with the Ocean and a passion for sustainability comes through in everything he does and shares.

34 thoughts on “How to Spot Fake Sea Moss 4 Tips to Buy The Real Deal”

  1. By far the most comprehensive and honest article and overall site on consuming, identifying, preparing, using and selecting sea moss correctly. Love it all! Thank you!

  2. Thank you for your kind feedback Sovery!

    Your comment really made us all smile here, and we feel like we’re doing something good for our audience when we have the pleasure of reading messages like this.

    Thank you!

  3. Detox & Cure you are a God send!! I was going crazy with everyone selling “fake” sea moss in the internet and how to identify the difference with the real. Thanks a million for this wealth of information. You are doing a great service to the people in internet (like myself) who need guidance with sea mossing. May God repay and bless you all!

  4. Awwww, thank you so much Toni for your lovely message.

    We’re happy to be able to share value that others can apply. If you have any questions or topics that you think would be helpful to you, or others to know about in the sea moss space, we would be glad to consider them to see if we can step up.

    Fake sea moss is an issue. Hearing about people getting ‘plastic sea moss’ instead of real sea moss is really troubling.

    Happy ‘seamossing’ (that’s such a cool word – I’m going to use that more now because of you) Toni! Stay amazing!

  5. Hello Shawn,

    Thank you for your question. Depending upon the species of seaweed that is being sold as Sea Moss, it may be purple. Typically, Sea Moss is going to be dark olive green, yellow, red, or even purple. It goes through a process of sun drying which strips the color out of it.

    So, your purple Sea Moss should be ok. Given that we don’t currently sell purple Sea Moss, and you didn’t buy through us, I can’t speak to the authenticity of the product itself. If the tips on how to spot fake sea moss from this article are causing other red flags to pop up for you, then you may have valid grounds for concern.

  6. Would you say the ****** (name removed by Admin to protect the identity of the company) Irish sea moss is real? I got it at a Caribbean store

  7. Thank you for your question, Cassandre.

    Our Admin has advised that it is best to not state the name of the company you are asking about so there is no potential negative impact on their business.

    As they don’t have that much detail that I could find on their product, I can’t say if it is or isn’t fake. Spotting fake sea moss is more effective when you have it in your hands, and you can evaluate it for yourself.

    I would suggest that you contact them (you know who they are), and ask them about their product.

    They do carry a few lines that seem to be the same, but are packaged very differently. This causes me to quirk a brow as to where they are getting their sea moss from. They don’t have much information on their site, and the images are quite blurry, so I can’t really say.

    One point that I would suggest you consider is the truth behind their label saying the product is ‘wildcrafted’. We have some articles about our values with regards to wildcrafting here. We’re not fans of it as a methodology for certain reasons.

    Most sea moss that is sold as wildcrafted actually isn’t, so, you’ve got to wonder about what else they aren’t being truthful about. I get that it’s a hot buzz word, and an attractive branding angle, but does wildcrafting sea moss actually help our Planet? I’ll leave that for you to consider in line with your values system.

    I hope that this has been helpful.

  8. Thank you so much for your kind feedback, Altanya.

    It’s a good feeling to know that we’ve been able to bring value to the community.

  9. Can you tell me where to purchase authentic wholesale seamoss? I know so many ppl who want it, I would like to sell it.

  10. Good Morning! Thanks so much! Recently there has been an influx in the use of moss & making of gel. Many are goin after the moss from st Lucia bringing to light that it doesn’t have any salt or sand. From my research, it appears that they may be using pool farms not brine but lines in the ocean vs moss off the rocks. Finger like tips is also something i noticed it lacked. Gracilaria seems to be the kind that was referenced by Dr Sebi. I went the length to reach out to Jamal for clarity yesterday.

    Thanks in advance!

  11. Thank you for sharing this with us Kee.

    It’s been a while sine I was last in the Caribbean. As you can appreciate, things change from one season to the next in the business world, more so in smaller businesses from my experience.

    The last Seaweed Farmer I met in that part of the world was using lines to grow his Sea Moss, but this was in the open ocean (about waist deep water at high tide), not in pools.

  12. Hello. I have a question please. When soaking my sea moss, after a couple of days, I notice the tips on some it turn a brown color? What is this? Is it normal?

  13. Hi Deanna,

    I suspect that the Sea Moss was not completely submerged when you were soaking it. In this instance, yes this would be normal because the sections of the Seaweed that are exposed to the air are drying out while the rest of the submerged Seaweed is under water.

    Coming Soon: We are currently crafting an article to explain more about how to prepare Sea Moss for use. We will include more information about how to avoid the tips of your Sea Moss from turning brown.

  14. Thank you for your feedback Jeremy. I’m glad that you found this information helpful. :)

  15. I just got wild crafted sea moss from Kingston, Jamaica. It says wild crafted but when I got it, it was dusted full of powdery salt. When I soaked it for an hour in room temperature water, the water turned to jelly. The sea moss expanded so much. I washed all the slimy water off. Soaked it overnight and this morning, the whole bowl of water turned to thick jelly. It reminds me of my kids toys where you put in water and they expanded and all the water turned to jelly. I don’t think what I got was real at all? I don’t think it’s even farmed sea moss? Help?

  16. Hello Vikki,

    That does sound strange. Do you happen to have any left over that you haven’t soaked? If so, I would be happy to take a look at a few photos if you can get close up shots. It would be worth sharing some images of what you have experienced with how it went to jelly the way it did.

    I’m hoping that you haven’t been sold an inferior product. Spotting fake sea moss is much easier to do when you have it in your hands, but I’ll see what I can do to help you if you’ve got some photos you can share. The best way would be to tag us on Instagram with these.

  17. Hi there! I was wondering if you could check this sea moss please and let me know whether you think it’s the farmed type as opposed to wild crafted…it was bought online but I have no clue. There wasn’t too much salt on it but instead spots of white which I’ve tried to capture in the pictures.

    There also seemed to be a mix in its colour so not really just gold but different shades of brown/purple/gold.

    Would really appreciate your opinion!

    (P.s how can I send/uploaded photos?)

    Thanks 😊

  18. Hello Sabrina,

    Apologies for the delay in replying to your comment. I have sent you an email asking if you can send me the photos and I’ll take a look for you.

    Alternatively, if you have an account with any of the below platforms you’re welcome to tag us / send us the image there:
    Reddit
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Instagram
    Pinterest

    I’ll take a look at what you’ve got and see if anything stands out. The good thing about the social option is that it could also help others with similar challenges too.

  19. Hi
    Iv recently bought some seamoss, and not sure whether this is the real deal or not. I am used to seeing it this way, until I saw a yellow batch that looked coated in salt. It also tastes different (more like the sea and has a brown color when made into gel) compared to the golden type you usually see. Can you please have a look at it and advise me?

  20. Hello Anita,

    I would be happy to take a look at this for you. Could you send us some photos on Instagram (@DetoxAndCure) and I’ll take a look for you?

  21. Hi
    I appreciate your guide.
    I’d like to send a photo of the seamoss I purchased. It also became super gelatinous within an hr.

  22. Thank you for this guide. It is a great piece. I was wondering, is the (REDACTED) brand Irish Moss real? They sell it for $(REDACTED) for a (REDACTED)oz bag. Thanks four your assistance.

  23. Hello Jerry,

    Thank you for your question. I have redacted the name of the company and the price point that you were asking about as it is not our intention to harm anyone’s business or brand. I think there is more to consider than just the authenticity of the product here. It may well be the real deal, but then again, it may not be either.

    Given the price point you mentioned, which is very cheap, I would be questioning a few things like how low are they driving the price from their Supplier to be able to sell to you at this price point. If they are metaphorically screwing their Supplier down so low that the Supplier is only just making a little money, then that’s not fair on the people doing the original hard work.

    We firmly believe that everyone has to win in order for a business to be sustainable and to support it’s underlying mission. It’s not all about making fat stacks for all of us in the retail market, quite the opposite for many of us.

    That’s a lengthy conversation, and one that I recently had with a Sea Moss Seller based out of Canada who I encouraged to think about how he could use what he was doing to drive more value back to the Supplier (Farmer) so they could improve their situation. As you might be able to tell, once you get me going on fair dealings in business, I’ve got a soap box, that’s for sure.

    Another thing to consider when you’re looking at such a low price point is the cost of various essential business functions like quality control, Worker safety and wellbeing, product testing and evaluation to make sure it is safe to consume, logistics, packaging, compliance requirements, taxes and a whole lot more. Sometimes cheap doesn’t equal nasty, but sometimes it does.

    I’m not saying that is the case here as I don’t know first hand. What I am sharing with you here is that there are costs in getting a product like this to a Customer, like you, and ensuring that the spectrum of obligations and fair market dealings are met. If you’re really interested in finding out more about their values and ethics, ask them. Seek out proof that backs up your perceptions and aligns with your values. I can’t help but wonder what’s behind that curtain.

    One thing I would like to be clear on is that I would ask that you don’t come at them like they have done something wrong; it’s entirely possible that they haven’t. But, your questions about their product should be directed to them. I hope this helps.

  24. Hi Gloria,

    Thank you for your feedback.

    You could collect your own Sea Moss for personal use. Wildcrafted Sea Moss is a romantic ideal, but realistically it is not commercially viable. Unfortunately, it is difficult to buy Sea Moss that has not been farmed. But as far as providing Sea Moss to the world in commercial quantities, this would need to be farmed. So, I guess another question might be, where can I buy sustainably farmed Sea Moss from?

    Our Sea Moss is sustainably farmed in the open ocean. You can Buy Sea Moss online from us. We strive to make content which helps people make better informed decisions about buying Sea Moss.

  25. I submitted a comment to you months ago for this article and you’ve completely ignored me answering other people’s comments who’ve submitted their queries after I did – do you know how upsetting this is to see?

  26. Hello Sabrina,

    Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. The original comment you made was flagged as spam, but I’ve addressed that now. I’ve also sent you an email a couple of days ago in response to your comment above where I’ll be happy to take a look at what you’ve got if you could email me a few photos.

    I can appreciate that it is disappointing that your message seemed to be overlooked. We do get a lot of messages through different streams, and those that are blocked by various systems sometimes take longer to get back to. Sometimes we have so many that it takes days for us to get through the responses.

    Also, please keep in mind that we are a small Team and the only means of covering the costs of what we do is through the sale of our Sea Moss, we don’t charge for our time and we keep our content freely open without injecting advertisements that take away from your experience here. The only ads we do have are for the products on our website that are congruent with why you are here. You’re looking for info about Sea Moss, we sell Sea Moss so we have those ads up. You won’t find ads on our site that are based on retargeting through pixels.

    We get a lot of people asking about Sea Moss they have purchased through other Sellers and we help out where we can. This is done in a tactful manner to not harm the business interests of other Sellers.

    Also, please note that like with all of our replies to comments, we amend the date and time of the reply to sit below the original question to help other readers get the flow of the conversation rather than replies seeming disconnected and confusing.

    I look forward to your reply and appreciate your understanding.

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