Every vegan must eat her vegetables. Why? Because of the delightful array of vitamins and minerals they contain. But in addition to those veggies that bloom from the earth are those that float in the ocean. How often do you give those a piece of your mind?
There are thought to be over 10,000 species of seaweed in our oceans. Many of these have been used in traditional cuisine from Japanese nori to Irish dulse for hundreds of years. There’s good reason for it, too. In addition to all the good seaweed does on the inside, it is also a skin savior. Packed with antioxidants that prevent aging, seaweed is a humectant that combats dehydration with decongestant powers that give an ethereal glow. Are you using marine products in your routine? Here’s why you might want to start.
I have a soft spot for algae in my heart. I really do. I spent a good couple years in the lab studying it in college and was blown away by its ability to do all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Namely, the particular strain of brown algae I was working with was able to evolve over just a few generations to be able to absorb heavy metals from its environment without any detrimental effects on growth and reproduction. This has huge potential for a process known as phytoremediation, whereby algae can be used as a kind of “biological vacuum cleaner” to clean up contaminated waterways and coastlines. If species can evolve to do this, I can’t help but ask what else they might absorb. Our skin comes into contact with all sorts of environmental contaminants on a daily basis–particularly for the billions of us living in urban environments. Is algae able to clean up our skin? The answer is yes.
The biggest concern so many of us have is the aging of our skin. After all, a youthful glow is highly desirable. Most aging is caused by UV irradiation. This causes oxidative stress, which, through a series of processes, goes on to break down the collagen levels in our skin and lead to wrinkling. Less collagen leads to less elasticity, which leads to less plump and youthful skin. You might have heard a lot about “antioxidants” and how we all need to get our hands on more of them. When it comes to skincare, this is why. Antioxidants combat oxidative stress. If oxidative stress equals skin damage, antioxidants equal healthy skin.
If there’s one ingredient that packs a punch when it comes to antioxidants, it is our friend, marine algae. One red algae species, Corallina pilulifera was found to be able to stop UV-induced oxidative stress in its tracks. Another brown algae was found to show strong evidence for protecting against skin cancer.
But there are a whole host of other skin concerns, such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and acne. Can these be aleviated with algal treatments? The evidence indicates yes. Algal-derived phlorotannins are excellent anti-inflammatory agents. This means they help to aleviate the angry, red skin typical of many skin disorders.
If hydration is your concern (which, let’s be honest, we could all do with a little more of) then algae is the place to look once more. At a cellular level, seaweeds consist of long chains of cells that coil around each other. These retain pockets of moisture that can be released when disturbed. Seaweed also creates a kind of barrier over the outermost layer of skin, retaining moisture underneath and protecting the skin from dehydrating. It can also hold many times its own weight in water and so will do its best to keep hold of whatever moisture it can get its, well, cells on and keep it in place for you.
The last main benefit of using algae in your skincare routine that I want to discuss (though there are many more!) is its ability to decongest angry, clogged pores. As we’ve covered above, algae is great at absorbing toxins. But in addition to this, spirulina, for example, helps your skin to help itself by providing many B-vitamins and beta-carotene, which are great at combating acne-causing bacteria.
If clear skin is what you’re aiming for, combine an acid toner with an algae treatment or moisturizer, and you’ve got every angle covered. There are some beautiful cruelty-free and vegan options on the market, so let’s take a look, shall we?
This mask combines detoxifying red clay with nourishing red algae for a multi-action treatment to decongest skin and restore clarity.
If your concern isn’t acne and redness, but rather dull skin and dryness, give the White Algae option a go. White tea, white algae, and hylauronic acid plump and restore that oh-so-desirable glow.
Pacifica Sea Foam Complete Face Wash
For an excellent budget-friendly cleanser, try Pacifica’s answer to non-SLS foam cleansing. Clarifying and supported by marine extracts, this is a refreshing way to start the day.
If collagen-loss is your concern, this serum uses seaweed extracts as some of its key ingredients to strengthen and moisturise the skin for a more youthful complexion.
An alternative to retinoid treatments, Kypris’s formula encourages skin renewal without any risk of irritation. The algal blend boosts hydration and helps to plump and calm.
Ren Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist
With brown algae superstar, Undaria pinnatifida on board, this is a great one for combating signs of aging and preventing further damage caused by UV.
Whether it’s one of the above or an array of other options out there, be sure to look out for algae when you next peruse an ingredients list. Trust me, your skin will thank you for it.
Have you tried seaweed skin care?
Also by Kat: Why You Should Rethink Your Choice of Toothpaste
Related: My Journey To Glowing Skin
This Unusual Skincare Ingredient Will Make Your Skin Positively Radiant
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Photo: Unsplash, Unsplash, Osea, Pacifica, Oskia, Kypris, Sephora