Algae the Ancient Remedy
Algae have been used as a healing balm or what we might term in modern vernacular, "cosmetic", for thousands of years. Many algae species have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties and have been used to treat various skin disorders. The ancient Romans used them to treat wounds, burns and rashes, and the Ancient Egyptians used algae as a skin tonic for the Pharos. With over 25,000 different species identified the uses in the cosmetic industry are almost unlimited.
Algae Market Potential
The skin is the largest organ in the human body; we all have skin, and lots of it, and we need to care for our skin if we wish it to remain soft, supple and youthful. Accordingly, the cosmetic industry is a billion dollar industry, which has an annual turnover estimated in excess of US$170 billion. However, consumers are becoming more aware of environmental sustainability as well as the negative health implications of products that contain chemical ingredients. Consequently, there is a swing to organically produced natural products that are environmentally sustainable, and microalgal extracts are proving to be a significantly valuable resource in this regard — both in terms of what they offer, and as a contributor to this market share.
Hydrate, Condition, and Tighten Skin
One of the most notable properties of algae is its ability to instantly hydrate, condition and tighten the skin. Marine algae are packed with proteins, vitamin A, starch, vitamin B1, iron, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and calcium. Most of these are beneficial for skin, as emollients and soothing agents. Algae promote blood circulation, provide the skin with moisture and regulate the sebaceous gland function. They activate the cell renewal and the metabolism, increase the skin’s resistance, have an anti-inflammatory effect and drain the tissues. This is why algae has a positive effect on areas which accumulate fat and it is used to firm skin and reduce the appearance of cellulite.
The proteins of algae supply the skin cells with energy. Their mucus substances protect the skin from drying out. Their vitamins activate the skin, protect it against environmental influences, fight free radicals and act as a natural anti-aging complex. Chlorophyll significantly contributes to the oxygen supply of the skin because it is similar to the red blood pigment (hemoglobin). These extensive properties are used in skin care products for dry skin or with reduced elasticity. Algae also helps to reduce puffiness and protects against radiation and other agents that cause harm to the skin.
Exposure to UV can cause damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) to increase, which can cause free radical cellular damage, and degradation of skin elastin. This becomes noticeable as dry skin and wrinkles, and is thought to be responsible for other sun-induced aging complications such as melanoma and skin cancer. An increase in ROS can activate matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) which degrade skin elastin and collagen. As a result, the skin loses its elasticity, wrinkles form and skin aging is accelerated further.
Algal extracts have powerful antioxidant properties which have applications in combatting the oxidative stress that causes skin aging. In addition, certain algal extracts have been shown to inhibit MMPs and thus prevent damage to collagen. Furthermore, some algal extracts are able to absorb UV light, and offer great potential for the formulation of natural sunscreens.