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June 13, 2023
Algae is a diverse group of aquatic plants that have been consumed for centuries for their health benefits. In recent years, these superfoods have gained popularity in the skincare and health industries due to their numerous benefits.
Today, let's discuss the most common types of algae for skin, including red algae, chlorella, spirulina, Nannochloropsis oculata microalgae, and sea kelp, used both topically and internally.
Red algae, also known as Rhodophyta, is a type of red seaweed that is rich in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Here are some of the key benefits of red algae for skin:
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Red algae, just like anything that originates from the ocean naturally, hydrates the skin and helps retain moisture.
A natural source of polysaccharides, carrageenan, and hyaluronic acid, not only does red algae draw water and help retain it the upper layers of the skin, it also stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid in the epidermis for more hydrated, plumper skin with less fine lines resulted from dehydration.
Moreoever, it helps to stimulate ceramide production, which helps strengthen the skin barrier and limit trans-epidermal water loss.
Oxidative stress triggers cell damage, and is the primary cause of skin aging. Red algae is abundant in various types of antioxidants, such as astaxanthin and vitamin C, which help fight free radicals and protect against skin cell damage.
It also contains high levels of beta-carotene, which the body can convert to vitamin A. Together with its ability in inhibiting enzymes that break down collagen in the skin and stimulating collagen synthesis, it helps to tighten skin, smooth wrinkles, increase elasticity, brighten, and reduce other visible signs of aging.
Inflammation is a symptom that a part of the body and skin is irritated or out of balance, and can manifest as issues such as acne, rosacea, eczema, etc.
Red algae contains multiple anti-inflammatory compounds, including carrageenan, sulfated polysaccharides, chlorophyll, as well as porphyran, a polysaccharide that suppresses nitric oxide production, associated with tissue damage from chronic inflammation. This helps to create a calming environment and reduce inflammation, redness, itchiness, and other inflammatory symptoms.
Studies have shown that red algae's carrageenan content provides antibacterial action against Staphylococcus epidermidis and Enterococcus faecalis, two microorganisms responsible for acne and its associated inflammation issues.
In addition, red algae is rich in vitamin B, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, copper, and other detoxifying minerals that can help to reduce excess oil buildup in pores, which in turn minimize acne appearance.
Besides vitamin A, B, and C, and minerals such as iron and magnesium, which can help improve skin tone and reduce hyperpigmentation, studies have shown that agarose in red algae has anti-melanogenic activity. In fact, in a study that converted agarose into anhydro-L-galactose, it was found that it works much better than arbutin.
Red algae contains compounds such as mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) and carotenoids. Not only do they work as powerful antioxidants, but they can also help to dissipate UV energy into a form of harmless heat, essentially acting like nature's sunscreen, thereby protecting skin cells against UV damage and prevent UV-induced premature aging.
Whilst, its carrageenans content have been shown to offer significant protection against UV-induced cell damage and decrease the release of reactive oxygen species, which lead to skin aging.
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Thanks to all the benefits it offers, spirulina, or cyanobacteria, a type of blue-green algae that contains all the essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, phycocyanin, aminerals and antioxidants, is one of the most well-studied superfood on earth. Its skin benefits include:
Study suggests that Spirulina's high content of phycocyanins help increase growth factors in dermal fibroblast cells, which are cells responsible in producing collagen, as well as repairing and regenerating the skin. It is also rich in proteins, and vitamins such as vitamin B1 and B2, which stimulate the production of collagen.
Together with beta-carotene, all the amino acids such as glycine and proline that our bodies don't naturally produce, trace elements, other vitamins, and antioxidants, it helps to smooth wrinkles, reduce fine lines, increase elasticity and tighten skin, ultimately slowing down skin aging.
A natural source of all the essential amino acids and essential fatty acids, studies have found that Spirulina helps to hydrate and nourish the skin, whilst the high chlorophyll content of Spirulina helps retain moisture in the skin.
Spirulina contains anti-inflammatory compounds such as phycocyanin and chlorophyll, which can help reduce inflammatory conditions such as acne, redness, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis.
A recent study from 2020 suggests that an ointment containing spirulina help improve eczema symptoms when applied topically two times per day for 3 weeks. Whilst another 2020 study showed that Spirulina, which is rich in essential omega 6 fatty acid known as GLA (Gamma-linoleic acid), helps to ease some of the key symptoms of psoriasis.
Studies have shown that thanks to its high mineral content, as well as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, Spirulina is for great acne treatment, as it improves cell metabolism, which promotes healing and prevents bacteria from growing on the skin uncontrollably. In addition, it has the ability in destroying candida (yeast) found on skin, which is often an underlying cause of persistent acne breakouts.
In fact, it might even be a better option than antibiotics due to fewer side effects and no antibiotic resistance.
Rich in chlorophyll, Spirulina helps eliminate toxins and heavy metals from the skin, ultimately improving skin health. It can also help reduce puffiness under the eyes due to poor circulation and waste buildup in the skin.
With its vitamin A, beta-carotene, iron and chlorophyll content, Spirulina has been shown to decrease the overproduction of melanin, thereby evening skin tone and reducing hyperpigmentation.
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Chlorella is considered a skin healer, as it contains vitamins and minerals that helps our cells to replicate at a faster rate, thereby repairing wound better and quicker with healthier, newer skin tissue.
In fact, thanks to this property, it is great for skin with eczema condition.
Chlorella contains a high concentration of nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), which helps to promote cellular production and regeneration. Whilst, its high chlorophyll, vitamin C, and beta-carotene content help fight free radicals that cause premature aging, thereby improving skin elasticity, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and alleviating UV-induced cell damages.
In addition, chlorella is highly rich in amino acids such as lysine, proline, glycine, and alanine, which gives it the ability in stimulating collagen production, whilst restructuring and smoothing out the surface of the skin, particularly with scarred or aging skin.
Studies have shown that a small concentration of 0.016% stimulated collagen synthesis, and concentrations of 0.4% strongly increased the density of the epidermal layer. Whilst, other studies chlorella can increase skin firmness, and significantly reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory compounds such as chlorophyll, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc, Chlorella helps to alleviate inflammatory conditions such as redness, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea, as well as relieve symptoms like itching, redness, swelling and irritation.
Chlorella is a natural chelator, attracting metal particles in particular. This means it can help eliminate heavy metals and other toxins in the skin, thereby improving skin health. It can also help reduce puffiness under the eyes due to poor circulation and waste buildup in the skin.
Besides in anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and detoxification properties, Chlorella is very beneficial for acne, as it contains salicylates, which is a natural BHA that helps to clear pores.
With its vitamin A, beta-carotene, iron and chlorophyll content, Chlorella has been shown to decrease the overproduction of melanin, thereby evening skin tone and reducing hyperpigmentation. Whilst, its vitamin C content helps inhibit tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for melanin production.
A natural source of amino acids, essential fatty acids and various vitamins, Chlorella helps to hydrate and nourish the skin, whilst the high chlorophyll content of Spirulina helps retain moisture in the skin.
Nannochloropsis oculata is a type of marine microalgae that is rich in nutrients and antioxidants, including vitamins, chlorophyll, porphyran, beta-carotene, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamins, and other xanthophylls. It has recently gained popularity in the skincare industry due to its numerous benefits for the skin. Here are some of the benefits of Nannochloropsis oculata extract for skin:
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Nannochloropsis oculata extract is rich in antioxidants such as carotenoids and tocopherols, which can help fight free radicals and protect against skin damage, whilst improving skin elasticity, reduce fine lines, and wrinkles.
It has also been proven to firm skin by providing a thin film covering the skin and exerting an instant perceptible tightening effect, as well as reduce wrinkles and improve skin elasticity by stimulating the production of type I collagen. In a clinical study, the group aged between 40-65 years saw their skin become smoother and firmer within minutes of the first application, with visible lasting effects on wrinkles, together with increased elasticity in the nasolabial folds, jawline and neck area 12 hours after application. After 2 months of continuous treatment, twice a day, wrinkles were found to reduce by 23%, and skin elasticity improved by 15%.
Besides multiple anti-inflammatory compounds, such as omega-3 fatty acids, Nannochloropsis oculata also contains porphyran like red algae, a polysaccharide that suppresses nitric oxide production, associated with tissue damage from chronic inflammation. This helps to create a calming environment and reduce inflammation, redness, itchiness, and other inflammatory symptoms.
Nannochloropsis oculata is a natural source of polysaccharides, glycerin, omega fatty acids and vitamin B12, which helps to hydrate and plump skin, as well as eliminate dehydration-related fine lines.
With its vitamin B12 content, as well as minerals such as iron, magnesium, Nannochloropsis oculata can help improve skin tone and hyperpigmentation, whilst its vitamin C content helps inhibit tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for melanin production.
Nannochloropsis oculata contains compounds such as mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) and carotenoids. Not only do they work as powerful antioxidants, but they can also help to dissipate UV energy into a form of harmless heat, essentially acting like nature's sunscreen, thereby protecting skin cells against UV damage and prevent UV-induced premature aging.
Sea Kelp is a type of brown algae high in essential nutrients such as Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, D, E and K, amino acids, polysaccharides, antioxidants, omega-3, and minerals like iodine, zinc, magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, and potassium. Its topical skin benefits include:
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Studies suggest that just like other algae types, sea kelp helps prevent collagen degradation by fighting free radicals, stimulates collagen production, increases skin elasticity, heals and rejuvenates. Whilst, its calcium content helps to regulate cell turnover, which naturally slows with age.
It also contains fucoidan, a compound that helps to increase collagen production, which helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
What exceptional is that the abundance of micro and macro nutrients found in sea kelp helps to not only protect from, but also reverse existing damages caused by UV exposure and oxidative stress, turning back the clock on skin health, vitality and radiance.
Sea Kelp, a natural humectant, is known for its hydrating properties with its Vitamin E, polysaccharides, Omega-3 fatty acid, zinc and selenium content, all of which are essential to keep the skin hydrated and nourished. It is also rich in alginic acid, a polysaccharide that locks water inside the skin, thereby help skin remain hydrated and supple.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory compounds such as chlorophyll, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, sea kelp is considered to be effective in alleviating inflammatory conditions such as redness, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea, as well as relieve symptoms like itching, redness, swelling and irritation.
In addition, its iodine content prevents and treats infections by killing bacteria that can cause infections.
Sea kelp is abundant in iodine, which helps to detoxify the skin by removing toxins and heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, mercury, and aluminum. This in turn improves the overall health and appearance of the skin.
In addition to its ability in killing bacteria that can cause infections, sea kelp's iodine content can help regulate hormones that may lead to breakouts, making it beneficial for those with acne issues.
With its vitamin B12 content, as well as minerals such as iron magnesium, Sea Kelp can help improve skin tone and hyperpigmentation, whilst its vitamin C content helps inhibit tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for melanin production.
Besides topical usage, Spirulina offers great health benefits when taken internally, including:
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A healthy gut microbiome and body pH level are associated with improved overall health and skin health, including regulation of skin inflammation, such as eczema, acne, rosacea and psoriasis. Spirulina has been shown to promote healthier gut microbiota, as it is a prebiotic, the food that the good bacteria in your gut feed on, as well as help the body maintain a healthy pH level. This means better overall health and skin health, and less inflammatory skin conditions.
High cholesterol is one of the many risk factors linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Spirulina helps lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides, while also increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. A 2014 study found that by consuming 1g of Spirulina per day, people with high cholesterol had a decrease in triglycerides by 16.3% and a decreased LDL cholesterol by 10.1%.
Furthermore, the antioxidants in Spirulina are found to be effective at reducing lipid peroxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is one of the key steps in the development of heart disease.
Spirulina can also help lower blood pressure levels by increasing the production of nitric oxide, a signal molecule that relaxes blood vessels and dilates them, in addition to cleaning the blood.
Oxidative damage can harm your cells and can drive chronic inflammation, which contributes to cancer and other diseases, including skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis. Spirulina's high antioxidants content, in particular phycocyanin, help protect against oxidative damage by fighting free radicals and blocking the production of molecules that promote inflammation.
Research shows that Spirulina detoxifies the body by binding to toxins, heavy metals, pesticides, and solvents, whilst fighting candida. It also binds to radioactive isotopes, which could make it beneficial for individuals exposed to radiation or undergoing radiotherapy.
A lack of healthy red blood cells, or anemia, can cause extreme fatigue. Spirulina has been clinically shown to help improve anemic conditions by increasing the hemoglobin content of red blood cells, specifically benefitting older women.
Spirulina has been found to stop the release of histamines, which causes allergy symptoms. For instance, a clinical study found that people with allergic rhinitis who consumed 2 grams of spirulina a day experienced significant improvement in symptoms like nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching.
Not only is Chlorella a great topical skincare ingredients, it is also a superfood, with benefits including:
Chlorella is a natural chelator, meaning it binds to heavy metals and harmful compounds in the body and get rid of them.
Although it is rare to have dangerous levels of heavy metals in the body, they may still be present from pollution and even food.
Chlorella has been found to weaken the heavy metal toxicity of the liver, brain and kidneys, whilst lowering the amount of harmful chemicals that are sometimes found in food.
Chlorella is the richest plant source of chlorophyll, and has a unique compound called Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF), which stimulates and supports the immune system.
Whilst, the antioxidants and other nutrients in chlorella have shown anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-tumor properties. In clinical studies, chlorella increased white blood cell levels, which can stimulate the immune system and help fight infection.
Chlorella stimulates the growth of Lactobacillus acidophilus, an important bacteria essential for maintaining a healthy intestinal tract. Chlorella helps nourish this in the gut.
Studies have found that chlorella helps to shrink fat cells, and block and production of new ones, which helps with weight loss and overall body fat percentage.
In addition, because chlorella is very low in calories but rich in nutrients, incorporating it into a weight-loss program can ensure enough nutrients are consumed, while keeping calories at a minimum.
Chronic inflammation can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, and arthritis. In fact, inflammation is the leading cause of death in the world.
Chlorella contains various kinds of antioxidants, including chlorophyll, violaxanthin, vitamin C, beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein. These antioxidants can help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases by fighting free radicals, reducing the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), blocking the production of molecules that promote inflammation, and protecting against oxidative damage, which in turn, also help with skin inflammatory conditions such as eczema, acne, rosacea and psoriasis.
Some of chlorella’s nutrients, including arginine, potassium, calcium and omega-3s, help protect arteries from hardening, a factor that affects blood pressure.
Studies have also found that chlorella is effective in the reduction of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, lipid peroxidation, and blood sugar, while increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol.
Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, and chlorella happens to be a great source of iron, which helps to increase the hemoglobin content of red blood cells.
Clinical studies have also shown chlorella to lower the chance of edema and proteinuria.
Studies have found that Chlorella’s anti-inflammatory properties may help manage respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and reduce symptoms including coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
One study has also found chlorella to improve lung oxygen levels, which allows for better oxygen delivery around the body.
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