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The thought of algae brings a few things to mind: green pools in need of cleaning, kelp forests in the ocean, scummy green stuff in ponds and lakes…but what about skincare? Unless you’re on top of the curve regarding the latest developments in the skin care industry, you probably don’t associate algae with smooth, flawless skin, but as it turns out, maybe you should.
What is Algae?
Algae is an aquatic life form very similar to plants (fun fact: it’s not actually in the plant family, but instead, the protist family; use that little piece of trivia to blow some people’s minds next time you’re at a party) that can be found in both saltwater and freshwater. A lot of algae is unicellular and microscopic, but kelp—which can grow several inches a day and sometimes reaches heights of 175 feet—is also a type of algae, so there is a lot of variety. Like plants, algae cells have chloroplasts and photosynthesize to use sunlight energy to make their own food.
Why Is it a Big Deal?
At this point, you may be saying, “that’s interesting and all, but why should I care?” Well, Vine Vera has the answer.
Remember when Vine Vera explained how ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage the very DNA in your skin cells, which is why you need sunscreen? Well, it turns out that algae—most of which lives near the surface of open water and is exposed to lots of harsh sunlight—can be damaged by UV rays just like your skin cells can. Consequently, having had to deal with the sun’s ceaseless onslaught of radiation for thousands of years of evolution, algae has adapted phenomenally to the need of protecting its cells from damage.
Further, many species of algae have amazing regenerative abilities. As mentioned earlier, kelp can grow several inches a day. Further, many algae species are unicellular, meaning that each organism is only made up of a single cell. Because of this, if that cell is damaged irreparably, it doesn’t have the luxury of shedding a dead cell and growing new ones, like multicellular organisms, and so—as a method of dealing with this—many algae are able to repair damaged cell structures and actually fix cells that are almost dead.
But why does any of this matter to us humans? Well, as it turns out, a lot of the compounds that algae species have developed to stay alive under the harsh gaze of the sun near the surface of their watery home can also work in human cells. In fact, skincare products that contain extracts of certain algae species, once absorbed into the skin, will have the same effects they do in algae cells.
This means that certain algae extracts can work together with sunscreen to keep your skin’s DNA from being damaged, further lessening the risk of skin cancer. You should still wear SPF 30 or higher sunscreen, even when using algae extract, but the combination of the two could work wonders for protecting you from UV damage.
Further, algae extracts that help with cell regeneration could potentially lessen your need to exfoliate, because damaged cells can be repaired instead of needing to be removed through exfoliation. Don’t throw away your exfoliants yet, though; this theory is unproven, and regardless, there will always be some cells that are outright dead and need to come off, but aiding cell regeneration could certainly make things easier and keep your skin glowing healthily all the time.
Finally, as if all that wasn’t enough, microalgae can boost collagen production, keeping your skin tough and resilient. In short, algae is a big deal for skincare because it does so much so well, boasting both high versatility and high efficacy. So the next time you restock on skin care supplies, pay special attention to anything that contains algae extracts of any kind.