If you’ve ever been to a department store, chances are you’ve considered sampling the skincare brand La Mer while strolling down the beauty aisles. The legendary brand is best known for its focus on various kinds of algae and marine ingredients to promote beautiful skin. But if they’re doing it, should everybody else be, too?
While La Mer’s products feature their famous Miracle Broth, which refers to the trademarked method in which algae and other marine ingredients are fermented, along with minerals and vitamins like calcium and vitamin C, today we’ll be focusing on algae itself—and how it can potentially benefit your complexion. Different types of algae have been proven to have incredible effects on skin, helping to diminish signs of aging while also replenishing hydration to plump up skin for a more youthful look. Let’s dive in (pun intended) for a more thorough look into the many aspects of algae.
First, What Is Algae?
The term algae encompasses both giant types of sea kelp easily identifiable by the eye to more microscopic, tiny versions. Algae are basically chlorophyll-filled organisms abundant in the ocean. It’s estimated that there are around 70,000 species of algae, but skincare companies tend to focus on the most common types. Algae have also been used as thickening agents in skin care and other industries, but in recent years, a few specific types of algae have emerged that are believed to have incredible skincare benefits. Macroalgae, or seaweed, spirulina, a type of blue-green microalgae and chlorella, a type of green microalgae, are currently becoming more and more popular in use in the skin care industry. Consequently, more and more studies are being done to determine exactly how helpful these algae can be for skin.
Different Types of Algae
Macroalgae – Also known more popularly as seaweed, macroalgae include brown (sea kelp), red and green versions. The best example of macroalgae used in skin care is the kind used in La Mer products. However, in La Mer, it’s not just the ingredients used but the fermentation technique itself that matters. Still, there is evidence that sea kelp and other types of seaweed can be helpful for certain skin issues.
One study included an amino acid-enriched giant kelp extract that was used on skin explants and shown to be beneficial in preserving a “healthy epidermis and dermis” and “possibly to prevent the visible signs of skin aging.” Another study evaluated the water retention factors of three types of algae as compared to hyaluronic acid (a substance that can retain 1,000 times its weight in water and helps plump up skin and moisturize it). The brown algae extract from the study was found to have the lowest molecular weight and retain the most amount of water, making it a potentially great ingredient for hydration. Further studies will be helpful in discovering exactly how seaweed can further help improve the appearance of skin to make it look more youthful and prevent or treat signs of aging.
Spirulina is technically cyanobacteria (single-celled microbes) that grow in fresh and salt water. They are more commonly referred to as blue-green algae, however. Spirulina has a lot of nutrients, including protein, copper, iron and vitamins B1, B2 and B3. It also has smaller amounts of pretty much every nutrient, making it one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. It was eaten by ancient Aztecs and, more recently, has been proposed as a food source for astronauts.
As far as topical application and use in skin care products, spirulina has shown promise. It has shown a positive impact on wound healing and is powerful as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are incredibly important in skin care because they scavenge free radicals, which are unstable atoms that can be extremely damaging to cells throughout the body, including skin cells. Free radicals can cause collagen degradation, leading to the appearance of wrinkles and sagging. You can imagine why it’s crucial to stop free radicals to help prevent the manifestation of signs of aging.
Chlorella is the other type of algae that is often mentioned alongside spirulina. It is also a single-celled organism, but it is green and found in fresh water. The nutrients in chlorella include protein, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin C, omega-3s, fiber, calcium, potassium and folic acid. Like spirulina, many people take chlorella as a supplement.
Topically, it can be found in certain skincare ingredients as well. In studies, it has shown to be helpful in wound healing and skin inflammation. This is significant because inflammation can lead to all sorts of problems, including skin concerns like acne. Meanwhile, wound healing action is beneficial in keeping skin firm, healthy and looking its best. "Chlorella was originally used to supplement foods, but it's increasingly being used in skin-care products for its antioxidant benefits," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, tells Fashionista.com. “Topical application of vitamins can provide the skin with benefits that you cannot obtain even by consuming high concentrations by mouth. Chlorella is loaded with B vitamins, magnesium and zinc, which help calm skin inflammation and promote healthy functioning."
Protect Skin Health
Skincare products that contain algae will be able to protect your skin to keep it looking and feeling its best. As previously noted, algae contain antioxidants that will fight off free radical damage to promote healthy skin and a beautiful appearance. Antioxidants protect skin from further damage in addition to helping treat existing signs of aging. They are imperative to have in your skincare arsenal if you want skin to not succumb to further damage from environmental factors, sun exposure, pollution and any lifestyle vices you may have, like smoking.
More and more people want products that have skin-brightening abilities because as people age, they are more likely to develop dark spots from prolonged sun exposure throughout their lifetimes. These dark spots can also be a result of acne scarring, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. “Red, green, blue, and brown algae generally have notable skin brightening properties,” Jennifer Vickers, MD, tells TheZoeReport.com. Brown and green algae, in particular, are loaded with vitamin C, which is known for its tyrosinase-inhibiting abilities. Tyrosinase is an enzyme that promotes melanin production in the skin, thereby leading to discoloration and dark spots.
Prevention of Skin-Related Protozoan Diseases
Thanks to strong antibiotic tendencies, certain types of algae can help prevent skin-related protozoan diseases. Protozoa are infectious agents that can negatively impact skin, leading to various infections. For example, red algae species, laurencia rigida, were studied and showed both antibacterial and antifungal activity. Marine resources show a lot of potential in this area, and further research is needed, but there is promise that different types of algae can be beneficial thanks to their strong antibacterial powers. You never know, but this can even provide potential benefits when it comes to acne treatment, since inflammatory acne is also caused by bacteria.
Spirulina, for one, has excellent moisture retaining abilities. By helping skin retain moisture, this algae can keep skin looking smooth and supple. The drier skin is, the more likely it is to develop fine lines. Over time, if skin is not properly hydrated regularly, it will begin to develop even deeper wrinkles that won’t be easily plumped up. This is one reason why skin care experts recommend regular, daily hydration even if your skin is oily. Although natural oiliness in skin will keep wrinkles at bay for a time, it won’t last forever. As we age, skin just naturally becomes drier as well. With algae products, you can help maintain this moisturizer and prevent wrinkling for longer.
Dr. Jennifer Vickers, a board certified dermatologist, says that algae can be anti-aging because of its ability to inhibit “enzymes that break down collagen in the skin. Some algae can also reduce the break down of hyaluronic acid within the skin, thus improving hydration and suppleness.” Both collagen and hyaluronic acid are naturally found in skin, but they gradually diminish with age. This is why we begin to develop wrinkles, fine lines and overall sagging the older we get. Helping to prevent the break down of both collagen and hyaluronic acid can go a very long way in preventing telltale signs of aging even as the birthdays pile up year after year.
It’s really no wonder, then, that we continue to see more and more skin care products pop up listing algae as a main, key ingredient. Besides La Mer, there are quite a few other brands with algae and algae extracts in their ingredients’ list, and algae is also a popular feature in many Korean skin care brands and products as well. Here are a few products you can try if you’re interested in reaping the benefits of algae.
Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum
Sunday Riley is one of the most popular and beloved skin care lines currently on the market, with cult favorite hits like Good Genes among its offerings. This particular retinoid serum includes blue-green algae because of its ability to fight signs of aging and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps to promote skin renewal for a more radiant complexion.
Nannette de Gaspe Bio-Stumulant Techstile Infusing Dry Masque Neck
This neck mask contains spirulina to help improve skin elasticity and firmness while also reducing the appearance of lines. Our necks often go neglected as we focus so much attention on our faces, but with this mask you can ensure that you are providing some love and care to this area, which can show age quite badly.
Zelens Marine Complex Deep Restorative Cream
A good moisturizer is so important to have in every skin care routine, obviously. This one is full of marine ingredients that will soften skin, minimize wrinkle appearance and promote a youthful look with regular use. Skin is fully hydrated as firmness and elasticity are also given a boost.
It’s not all about algae though as we look to the ocean for skin-enhancing ingredients. One popular, tested and tried-and-true sea ingredient that can also work wonders on your complexion is marine collagen. Marine collagen is sourced from fish. It is ingested orally to promote gorgeous skin from within. Several studies show that when drinkable collagen supplements are taken orally they can have enormous benefits for skin, including improving firmness and elasticity and improve moisture retention so that wrinkles are plumped up and less visible.
Even if you don’t yet have wrinkles or other signs of aging, taking collagen supplements daily can help prevent the appearance of fine lines in the future. Marine collagen ingestion also helps boost collagen production in your skin by triggering fibroblasts, which are specialized cells crucial to collagen formation.
More evidence continues to amass showing the amazing benefits of marine collagen. If you’re interested in giving it a try to see exactly what marine-sourced ingredients can do, you can try Taut’s Premium Collagen Intense Transformation, which contains high concentration 13,000mg marine collagen per serving, as well as elastin peptides, hyaluronic acid, grape seed extract and vitamin C. Together, they team up like the Avengers to fight off signs of aging and keep your skin looking and feeling youthful for a long time. Elastin peptides also promote elasticity to keep skin firm, while hyaluronic acid is essential for helping skin retain moisture so that less wrinkles form over time. Grape seed extract is a powerful antioxidant and vitamin C further boosts the formation of collagen in the body. All in all, you really can’t go wrong to give this remarkable product a try—whether or not you choose to slather algae-based skin care on your face.
If you’re now interested in harnessing the healing powers of the sea to visibly revitalize the appearance of your skin, consider consuming marine collagen daily (it’s backed by science!) and round it out with topical skincare treatments that are also proven by research—the the ultimate double-whammy for gorgeous, firm skin!