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They say nature is the best medicine, and it’s no secret that it plays a vital role in various skincare formulas; think Aloe Vera, Argan Oil, and Bentonite Clay, all well-known skincare ingredients.  Algae has an established reputation as a superfood, but can it also benefit your skin? 

What is algae, actually?

The word algae brings to mind slimy green or brown plants washing up on the beach. Slimy they may be, but they’re also a good example of why we should never judge a book by its cover. LiveScience describes algae as a diverse group of aquatic organisms that can conduct photosynthesis. Certain algae are familiar to most people; for instance, seaweeds (such as kelp or phytoplankton), pond scum, or the algal blooms in damns. Yet, there are anything from 30,000 to over 1 million species. 

Studies have indicated that algae, which is often used as an ingredient in Asian cuisine, may boost your immunity, lower blood pressure, and promote heart health. It is seen as a superfood in wellness circles, and this has led skincare brands to take a closer look. 

What does algae do for the skin? 

Algae isn’t a new beauty ingredient, as it has been featured in skincare products since the 1960s. More studies have been conducted on individual algae species to explore their capabilities further and Astaxanthin is a great example of this. 

Astaxanthin, which is extracted from red microalgae found in Iceland, is thought to be 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C. This makes it one of the most potent antioxidants in the world. 

What makes algae a great addition to your skincare routine is that all algae types are considered humectants. These are substances that attract water, making them extremely good at keeping skin moisturized and plump. 

Most algae also contain a range of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, B, C, and E, fatty acids, and lipids, and proteins. All these compounds contribute to moisturizing and protecting the skin barrier.

Know your algae  

The most common algae used in skincare is macroalgae. These are multicellular organisms which are commonly known as seaweed. 

I think often we forget that algae survive in harsh environments and are often forced to adapt. For example, during low tide, seaweed is exposed to the sun, which has forced the algae to produce UV screening abilities such as antioxidants. It makes sense to try incorporating some of those capabilities into skincare products.

There are four color groups of algae, each with different properties and skincare applications: 

  • Brown algae (for example, kelp) tends to be the most used type of algae in cosmetic applications. This is due to their high levels of antioxidants, which provide the best skin hydration and have been shown to increase skin elasticity. 
  • Red algae contain the highest number of carotenoids, which help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Red algae have also been shown to improve the skin’s UV protection.  
  • Blue algae, also known as spirulina, are rich in antioxidants and are an effective neutralizer of free radical environmental damage. This makes it an excellent morning application choice. 
  • Green algae have been shown to promote firm, smooth skin. Interestingly, it is often used as a thickening agent in skin care applications.

What skin types benefit most from using algae? 

The good news is that algae is beneficial to all skin types. 

Due to the wide range of biological benefits, skincare infused with algae is safe for even the most sensitive skin. I would suggest you check the formula for each product to see if anything within would react with your skin type. The best application would combine the different colors to maximize the benefits.   

Five products I recommend: 

  • REN Everhydrate Marine Moisture-Replenish Cream: suitable for dry, dehydrated, dull skin types. This water-locking algae-activated cream is clinically proven to deliver up to 48-hour defense from dehydration. 
  • DERMALOGICA Circular Hydration Serum: for lasting hydration. This full-circle hydrating serum utilizes an enhanced form of Hyaluronic Acid to penetrate the skin’s surface for deep hydration and more supple, radiant skin over time. An algae extract-infused moisturising matrix delivers quick and long-lasting hydration. 
  • IMAGE CLEAR CELL clarifying salicylic blemish: It’s good for spot treatment on oily, problematic skin types. This powerful spot solution targets existing blemishes, helping to reduce their appearance through exfoliation. Natural extracts and a marine algae complex help to soothe treated areas and minimize the appearance of redness. 
  • REN Everhydrate Marine Moisture-Restore Serum: for long-lasting moisturization.   This ultra-hydrating algae-activated serum has been clinically proven to increase deep skin hydration for up to 72 hours. 
  • LELIVE Seatox: an excellent mask for acne, uneven skin tone and texture. This marine algae and aloe detoxifying mask doesn’t strip your skin but gives you that at-home spa experience we all need at the end of a long week. Seatox includes algae, sea spaghetti, and chlorophyll. This gives your skin the reset it requires, treating acne in a flash while improving uneven skin tone and texture.

You can visit Skin Miles and sign up for a free Face2Face Assessment. You will receive personal recommendations from me for your skin type or skin concern.   

MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Dr Alek Nikolic

Dr Alek Nikolic

Dr Alek Nikolic is a renowned specialist in aesthetic medicine and is at the forefront of the latest developments in his field. With a focus on skin care, skin ingredients and cosmetic dermatology treatments such as lasers, chemical peels, Botox, and Dermal Fillers, he has performed over 20 000 procedures to date and is responsible for training many medical practitioners both locally and internationally. After receiving his MBBCh from the University of the Witwatersrand (1992) he went on to do an MBA at University of Cape Town (2000). With over 24 year in private practice, he has lectured and performed live demonstrations across the globe, including Bangkok, Rome, Paris, Monte Carlo, Prague, and Warsaw.  Some of his achievements include: Owner of Aesthetic Facial Enhancement Owner of online skincare store, com. Founding member of the South African Allergan Medical Aesthetic Academy Advisor to Allergan Local Country Mentor in Facial Aesthetics   Vice President of the Aesthetic and Anti-Aging Medicine Society of South Africa(AAMSSA) Associate Member of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery(ASLMS).


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