Dubai: We’ve heard about hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, collagen, retinol and countless other top-notch ingredients flooding the market. But algae is the new coveted ingredient to add to your skincare shelf or cabinet.
Algae has existed for billions of years, but its presence in skincare is new. It is currently trending because of astaxanthin, a natural source that occurs in microalgae that is reported to be 6,000 times stronger than Vitamin C.
If you’re looking to plump up your skin and add moisture, algae is apparently the answer. There are at least 73,000 species of algae and they all carry different and unique benefits. Algae is packed with vitamins, amino acids, and minerals and can be taken as a supplement or be bottled up in serum, moisturiser or mask.
Algae is the new ingredient on the block and is making some serious claims about reducing fine lines, detoxifying your pores and diminishing the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
What is algae?
Slimy seaweed is probably the last thing you want to put on your skin and it doesn’t sound glamourous or enticing like 24k gold skincare. But what can be clammy and slippery is actually a miraculous topical product. Beauty brands are launching products made from this marine plant. Algae is estimated to have anywhere between 30,000 to a whopping one million species.
Dr Akreti Sobti, a dermatologist and aesthetic physician at Minal Medical Centre in Dubai, says that algae has a diverse range of species and each of them have distinct benefits and features. She said: “There are various types of algae but what is essential to skincare are the Macro algae (kelp and seaweed) and Micro algae (single-cell microscopic organisms), but to simplify this, what is used in skincare are brown algae, red algae, green algae. Each of them has their unique properties and help skin hydration, rejuvenation and anti-ageing properties.”
• Red algae (Rhodophyceae)
• Blue algae (Cyanophyceae)
• Green algae (Chlorophyceae)
Algae, in general, has a high concentration of copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and Vitamins A, B, C, D and E. Algae is filled with minerals and vitamins that aid in collagen production and protect the skin from pollution and sun damage.
What makes algae an all-star ingredient is that it's harmless and has low irritation levels, making it suitable for people with sensitive skin. Algae species such as Spirulina and Chlorella have an active role in the cosmetic industry. The pigments produced by these species possess the natural moisturising ability and prevents the drying of the skin cells. Astaxanthin, a source of algae contains pigments that contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities.
Astaxanthin: The ingredient is supposedly 6,000 times stronger than Vitamin C
“It’s (astaxanthin) 6,000 times more powerful than vitamin C. It’s better than vitamin C because it's more stable and potent,” said Dr Nishit Asokbahi Bodiwala a dermatologist at Prime Hospital’s Burjuman and Sheikh Zayed Road branches.
Astaxanthin is derived from red algae and is a carotenoid. A carotenoid is a pigment present in plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria. These pigments produce red, pink and orange colours in plants, vegetables and fruits.
It naturally occurs in seafood and algae. It is the reason why marine life such as salmon, crustaceans, shrimp, lobster and algae have a pinkish and reddish colour. But what makes astaxanthin a stand-out ingredient is its bright red pigment.
It’s (astaxanthin) 6,000 times more powerful than vitamin C. It’s better than vitamin C because it's more stable and potent.
In 1938, Austrian-German scientist Richard Kuhn discovered that the carotenoid pigment prevents damage from oxidative stress in aquatic animals and shields microalgae from environmental stress.
Later studies found that the same characteristics could be mimicked in humans and has therefore gained popularity in protecting humans from free radical damage. Astaxanthin is 550 times stronger than vitamin E, and 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C.
Both Vitamin C and Astaxanthin are abundant in anti-oxidants, both are neck to neck when it comes to benefits. A study published in 2018 concluded that astaxanthin is a promising compound in the field of dermatology because it inhibits collagenases (the enzymes that break down collagen), and prevents UV-induced immunosuppression. Oxidative stress (pollution, tobacco, alcohol, radiation, high blood sugar and toxins) is the main cause of rapid skin ageing and damage.
Say goodbye to hyperpigmentation
If you’ve tried your luck with acids, retinol and Vitamin C and still didn’t see the results you wished for, it might be time to pick up an algae-based product. Algae is the right option because of its natural skin brightening properties and is ideal for hypersensitive skin.
“Algae can help to diminish hyperpigmentation and better for sensitive skin people because skincare acids may not be suitable. Algae is full of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that can help people suffering from hyperpigmentation,” said Dr Bodiwala.
A 2017 study conducted by Korean researchers published in PubMed Central, an American based scientific journal database, found that anti-melanogenic compounds from marine brown algae have a high potential to cure hyperpigmentation.
An Indian microbiology study published in the International Journal of Innovative Research in Science, Engineering and Technology in 2018 concluded that pigments from brown algae fucoxanthin help to reduce the activity of melanogenesis, which is the production of melanin pigments.
“Brown algae is excellent at fighting free-radical damage, incredibly rich in antioxidants, making it great to use if you live in a city and your skin is exposed to pollution, or if you’ve had sun damage to your skin. It is great to use if one has visible signs of ageing like fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots or more mature skin type,” said Dr Sobti.
The key to hydrated and plump skin
Dry and cracked skin? Is it dull and rough? You’re probably suffering from dehydrated skin. Algae species such as alginate, agar, carrageenan, and fucoidans regulate the distribution of water in the skin. Algae species are in demand in the cosmetic industry because they can be used as an alternative for lightweight oils and silicone derived ingredients.
Algae help in the absorption of water or moisture, which creates a soothing effect and aids in water circulation. When topically used, algae is found to be a better humectant than the cult favourite ingredient, hyaluronic acid.
Red Algae is a strong hydrator and acts as a biological sponge in retaining the hyaluronic acid in the skin, which we all know works best for keeping our skin well hydrated and youthful.
Dr Sobti: “Red Algae is a strong hydrator and acts as a biological sponge in retaining the hyaluronic acid in the skin, which we all know works best for keeping our skin well hydrated and youthful.”
A shield against sun damage
Sunscreen is the most important item in your routine, and it’s practically a sin to skip it. Although nothing will ever replace it, algae species are reported to possess the ability to provide natural UV protection.
Dr Bodiwala: “Astaxanthin is a strong carotenoid found in algal food that has antioxidant activities like scavenging for free radicals so it can block UVB ray skin damage. It's beneficial in improving UV induced skin deterioration.”
Algae produce mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs), a water-soluble molecule. It’s created by organisms that live in marine environments with high sunlight and are also known as ‘microbial sunscreens.’ Their natural ability, and stable compounds provide a new range of broad-spectrum protection in sunscreen formulas against UV rays. It can be used in the development of artificial human sunscreens.
“Red algae is an all-around skincare hero that helps the skin against the harmful UVA rays, shielding your skin against environmental aggressors, and making it an essential part of your summer skincare routine,” said Dr Sobti.
An anti-ageing miracle
Algae has natural UV protection and is loaded with antioxidants, which helps to reduce the appearance of age spots, fine lines and wrinkles. Algae breaks down collagen by inhibiting enzymes. This aquatic plant is a powerhouse ingredient for anti-ageing. The anti-oxidant properties found in green and red algae helps against skin ageing and pigmentation.
Dr Sobti: “Red algae is an anti-ageing product, it’s excellent at helping to redefine the contours of your skin and green algae also hydrate the skin and improve the skin texture. They offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can protect against cell damage, in addition to an excellent smoothing effect.”
It improves hydration and suppleness in the skin, out of all the thousands of algae species, astaxanthin is the most promising candidate to fight off fine lines and wrinkles because it’s more potent and stronger than Vitamin C and E.
Astaxanthin, can either be taken orally or topically but needs to be used over a long period to see the effects. “Long term consumption of astaxanthin can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr Bodiwala.
Algae is making waves in the cosmetic industry but ingredients like Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid are staples in skincare. Algae will need a little more time before it becomes a widely loved product.