From the sea to your skin, one ingredient that is rapidly gaining recognition for its numerous benefits in skincare is algae. Yes, you read that right– algae! While this may seem like an unconventional choice to some, this powerhouse ingredient is one I’ve been formulating with for many years. I even like to take advantage of any algae I find while I’m at the beach and rub it on my skin. While I’m not exactly sure how beneficial this is, sometimes I like to put the real deal on my body in hopes that I can receive just some of the algae’s many benefits.
Whether you’re looking for hydration, antioxidant protection, relief from inflammation, or minimized appearance of fine lines, incorporating algae into your beauty regimen may be the thing that takes your skincare routine to the next level! Keep reading to find out how exactly this natural ingredient works its magic.
What Are Algae?
“Algae” is a broad categorization of plant organisms that range from microscopic single-celled organisms to large seaweeds. They are found in freshwater and saltwater environments, meaning they thrive in various ecosystems worldwide. Algae come in different colors, including green, red, brown, and even blue-green, giving them properties and skincare benefits that are specific to their species.
While algae have been around for centuries in traditional medicine, it wasn’t until more recently that the skincare industry discovered their potent properties.
Where Are They Sourced From?
Algae are sourced through various methods, including wild harvesting from natural waters, controlled collections that encourage algae growth, and even lab cultivation. Some biotech companies have even taken a high-tech approach, training algae to produce specific valuable compounds by exposing them to different light frequencies, resulting in customized extracts. One company even trained algae to produce triglycerides, or algae oil– something impossible to create outside of the lab!
What Are The Benefits Of Using Algae?
Algae are as plentiful as they are useful, with one of their key benefits being that almost all algae species offer the ability to hydrate and protect the skin. This is largely due to their high polysaccharide content, which acts as a moisture magnet, attracting water to the skin. Additionally, the film-forming properties of certain algae create a protective barrier on the skin, preventing moisture loss. Some algae have also been proven to soothe inflammation, provide antioxidant protection, fight cellulite, boost collagen production, and improve cellular turnover.
Algae also play a functional role in cosmetics, helping to thicken or stabilize a formulation, or even to create a novel texture. For example, carrageenan is a popular component of algae (specifically red seaweed) that is often used to create clear, thick gels that can help stabilize formulations.
What Types Of Algae Are In Skincare?
Skincare formulators often incorporate macroalgae, such as kelp and seaweed, into products, while microalgae (like plankton) are less common. When it comes to products that I’ve created, the following are some specific algae species that I choose to formulate with:
Hawaiian Marine Algae
Found in AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser, this algae is popular for its ability to provide comforting hydration to sensitive, irritated skin.
This is a popular brown seaweed that’s found in both Advanced Resurfacing Serum and Phytolipid Comfort Creme. The main benefit of Laminaria digitata, which is very rich in polysaccharides, is its deeply hydrating qualities. It’s also great for minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Chlorella, a microalgae invisible to the naked eye, is an essential ingredient for helping with collagen synthesis in Firm and Repair Overnight Serum. This microalgae is notably dense in chlorophyll, a green pigment often used in cosmetics for its antioxidant properties. Formulators also harness chlorella for its high nutrient content, making it a powerful addition to enhance cell metabolism. When your skin cells have optimal metabolism, the overall function of the cells improve. This translates to better combatting free radicals, addressing general signs of aging, and optimal collagen production.
You also may have heard of it if you’re into powdered micro-greens! I love to use chlorella in my smoothies ever since I learned of its benefits both topically and orally.
Carrageenan And More
As I mentioned previously, carrageenan is an algae extract that cosmetic chemists use as a formulation aid in skincare. Products like Pure Radiance Creme Masque benefit from its thickening and hydrating properties.
Chondrus Crispus Extract
An extract of red seaweed, Chondrus crispus is extremely rich in minerals. Chondrus crispus benefits the skin with overall anti-aging, skin-firming, and hydrating properties, even helping with serum texture, like in Redness Care Firming Serum. This algae is truly remarkable when it comes to making skin soft to the touch.
While not algae or an extract itself, you may notice Methylsilanol Carboxymethyl Theophylline Alginate listed skincare packaging, such as Intensive Firming Neck Cream. This is an algae derivative that forms when we extract alginic acid from algae and chemically react it with other molecules. This specific algae derivative helps with body contouring, body and face firming, under-eye bags, and depuffing.
Again, while this is not necessarily algae, it is a component of algae and it serves as the compound engaged in photosynthesis (remember high school biology?). The role of chlorophyll is to take ultraviolet light and react with sugars to create energy for plants. Chlorophyll is great for skincare formulation because it’s an amazing antioxidant, meaning it will protect the skin from free radicals and environmental aggressors, as well as reduce visible signs of aging. Moisturizers like Daily Mattifying Solution use chlorophyll to hydrate the skin and calm irritation.
Which Skin Types Will Benefit From Algae
The greatest part about algae is that it’s suitable for all of the 9 skin types. After all, everyone can benefit from algae’s ability to hydrate the skin, act as an antioxidant, and provide nutrients. Throughout my 30+ years as an esthetician, I’ve never come across someone whose skin reacts poorly to algae. With little to no drawbacks to using this ingredient, algae are truly deserving of their recent popularity. Just remember, not all “algae extract” labels offer the same benefits– they all have different functions!
Incorporating algae into your skincare routine can bring about a range of benefits for your skin. From hydration and antioxidant protection to collagen-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties, algae offer a natural and effective solution for various skin concerns. Whether you have dry, aging, or sensitive skin, there is an algae-infused product out there to suit your needs. So why not dive into the world of algae and experience the healing power of the sea?
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”