Algae is a term for a large and diverse group of aquatic organisms that have the ability to conduct photosynthesis. Certain algae are familiar to most people including kelp, spirulina and seaweed however in reality there are more than 70k different species of algae. Some of these called macro algae can be seen by the human eye, others like the microalgae can only be seen with a microscope. Both types of algae can provide major benefits for your skin.
Algae are rich in carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, amino acids and minerals and when applied topically to the skin can dramatically improve the appearance of your complexion.
They are known for their hydrating properties, help to even skin colour and lighten dark spots. Due to high levels of antioxidants they lower levels of inflammation and protect against UV radiation and environmental damage. Let’s take a look at the science behind each of the algae types used in our skincare.
Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) is a type of algae or seaweed that is red and found in the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America. It’s predominantly made of polysaccharide carrageenan, protein, mineral matter and is rich in iodine and sulphur. Carrageenan has been linked to many skin health benefits, specifically increasing the skin’s ability to retain hydration, softness and therefore is a great option for anti-aging skincare according to Savannah Research. It also has antibacterial properties due to sulphur and iodine content that prevent breakouts and help in managing acne.
Astaxanthin (microalga Haematococcus pluvialis extract) is a keto-carotenoid, compound. The NIH study found that Astaxanthin reduces inflammation and in another study published in 2001, was proven to show significant decreases in wrinkles, fine lines and puffiness after just 2 weeks of using a cream containing the ingredient. Overall, it is deemed as a profoundly beneficial ingredient in anti-wrinkle and anti-aging skincare. Another study has found Astaxanthin to be 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C, 800 times stronger than CoQ10, and 550 times stronger than green tea catechins. Astaxanthin is also a powerful antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals, protects skin from environmental damage and pollution and also has natural UV blocking properties that help protect the skin from sun-related damage such as dark spots. Astaxanthin has been shown to increase blood flow within the skin layer which has several benefits, such as increased cell turnover, increased elasticity and water retention.
Marine algae (Cylindrotheca Fusiformis extract) is the overarching term for seaweed or macroalgae and refers to thousands of species of macroscopic, multicellular, marine algae. They tend to be nutrient-dense and have been studied for their ability to help with skin anti-aging. The National Institute of Medicine in 2013 study has found that certain properties of marine algae can reduce the damage caused by UV-rays, inflammation and may be a great solution for those suffering from dermatitis. It’s highly concentrated in carotenoids, sterols and essential fatty acids which have proven anti-aging effects. It stimulates cellular proliferation in the dermis. Decreases the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, improves elasticity, hydration and plumpness of the skin.
What are the benefits?
Marine algae and their derivatives like Irish Moss and Astaxanthin are considered to be very nutrient-rich and are high in minerals as well as vitamins. They also are super anti-inflammatory, making them a great ingredient to include in products geared towards sensitive and acne-prone skin.
Here are a host of other benefits from using these ingredients in skincare products:
- Tightens and softens skin
- Soothes skin, especially if sunburned
- Helps with certain skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis
- Gives the appearance of increased collagen
- Plump and hydrated skin
- Smoothes out wrinkles
- Reduce the appearance of dark bags and circles under eyes
Depending on concertation of the algae ingredients, generally these show results rather quickly. After the first use, you should be able to feel a difference in your skin and after several weeks, you should notice a big difference in your skin’s appearance and youthfulness. As with all skincare products, make sure to spot-test it before using it all over your face. As unlikely as it is that you’ll have an allergic reaction, it’s always best to be safe.
Those with sensitive skin or inflamed skin could greatly benefit from skincare products that contain marine ingredients. Based on various scientific studies, it seems that they are also beneficial in preventing the skin from getting damaged by the environment, reduces inflammation, and helps it stay youthful. If it is your goal to have healthy and youthful-looking skin, marine ingredients are the way to go!