Algae skincare: what is it and what are the benefits of this marine plant?

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Natural actives in skincare are gaining more popularity year on year and algae is a key ingredient to have on your radar. Stylist investigates the skincare benefits of this marine plant.

In recent years there’s been a push towards natural, clean and organic beauty, all with varying definitions of their own. In fact, proving the increased desire for sustainable, eco-friendly beauty, The Soil Association’s Organic Beauty and Wellbeing Market Report from 2019 found that our search for organic beauty grows 23% year on year. And with this in mind, the hunt for natural actives are increasing. We’ve seen ingredients from mushrooms to orange blossom and CBD rising up through the ranks as the main actives. 

There are so many plant derivatives we’re yet to discover, but one in particular stands out. While it may seem out of the ordinary, algae has actually been in skincare for a while, but there’s more of a focus on this ingredient more than ever before.

Stylist quizzed Harley Street Dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, Dr Emma Wedgeworth to find out what exactly algae is and what it offers to the skincare market.

What is algae?

They’re marine plants usually found in coastal areas and are used in the cosmetics industry for a specific reason. “Their bioactive properties make them appealing to the cosmeceutical industry,” says Dr Emma Wedgeworth. “Dermatologists have used algae-continuing (alginate) dressings for decades to help wound healing.”

What are the benefits of algae in skincare?

They’re useful in in multiple ways, typically as a gelling and thickening agent, and or for their water-binding properties in moisturisers.

“Algae (particularly some brown algae) have antioxidant properties and can help fight damage to the skin from highly active environmental molecules known as free radicals,” says Dr Wedgeworth. 

They also help with mature skin. “Algae  contains suppressing enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases which break down collagen and elastin (key structural skin proteins), which helps to reduce wrinkling and skin thinning. They are also thought to reduce melanin synthesis and help with hyperpigmentation.” 

Which skin types suit algae skincare?

“Algae skincare should be suitable for most skin types, although I advise caution for those with highly sensitive skin,” she explains.

Think you could wrap your head around the idea of having an algae-based skincare routine? We’ve rounded up the best products to try that help with skincare hangups from hyperpigmentation to uneven texture.

The best algae skincare products

  • The algae cleanser

    Estee Lauder Algae Jelly Cleanser

    Estée Lauder Nutritious Micro-Algae Pore Purifying Cleansing Jelly, £22

    Jelly cleansers are a great option if you’re after a lightweight feeling in the summer months, and Estée Lauder’s cleanser is no exception. Utilising the hydrating properties of algae, this cleanser locks in moisture whilst removing build up and debris.

    £22, Look Fantastic

  • The algae face mask

    Algenist prebiotic face mask

    Algenist Alive Prebiotic Balancing Mask, £38

    Dealing with dull, dry skin and favour a face mask one a week? Algenist’s prebiotic mask uses algae to balance out oil levels while smoothing skin in the process.

    £38, Cult Beauty

  • The algae night moisturiser

    Ren Glow Dark Spot Moisturiser

    REN Clean Skincare Overnight Glow Dark Spot Sleeping Cream, £49

    Enriched with a unique algae complex, Ren’s night moisturiser works to brighten dark spots and abnormal pigmentation overnight.

    £49, Look Fantastic

  • The algae eye cream

    Biossance algae eye cream

    Biossance Squalane + Marine Algae Eye Cream, £46

    Coupled with hydrating hero, squalene, Biossance’s eye cream provides a much needed moisture surge to your under eyes that melts into skin readily.

    £46, Cult Beauty

  • The algae SPF

    The Body Shop SPF 50

    The Body Shop Skin Defense Multi-Protection Lotion SPF 50, £18

    Streak-free and easily blendable, The Body Shop’s SPF combines vitamin C with algae to hydrate and brighten skin while protecting from UVA and UVB rays.

    £18, The Body Shop

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Images: Getty and courtesy of brands.

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