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Algae in cosmetics: fab or fad?

Algae in cosmetics: fab or fad?

The beauty industry's obsession with algae is rapidly increasing. But is the gloopy stuff you find at the beach, actually that good for your skin?

Algae is extremely rich in nutrients and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins such as C, A and even B-12. So, when that natural power is harnessed and popped into moisturisers and masks, it can deliver seriously potent results to your complexion.

Along with plumping dry skins, Haeckels' founder Dom Bridges, told us, 'Algae is also antibacterial, it has re-building properties, and is anti-inflammatory. Dom adds, 'We have also found many extracts that rival hydrating Hyaluronic Acid, and we have an amazing HA-like algae extract with data that indicates it to be three times more powerful at holding water in the epidermis.'

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Firming, slimming and anti-cellulite

The benefits of seaweed don't stop there, as a report by Mintel GNPD suggests that it might even help reduce the appearance of cellulite, the report stated, 'Global body care products with brown seaweeds (Oarweed* and Bladd erwrack**) represent a greater percentage of all three body contour claims – firming, slimming and anti-cellulite – when compared to the GBC category without seaweed ingredients’, says Mintel.

It's no that algae have become such a hot commodity, admits Dom, 'I think that people are becoming more aware of natural and local ingredients that can make a visible difference to the health of their skin. There is also a rise in instances of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and it feels like people are looking for natural alternatives to prescription medications to treat them.

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Algae and sustainability

Plus, algae are also sustainable. As a planet, we have a lot! It is one of the fastest growing organisms on earth and in some areas, we even have too much, with communities struggling to deal with the overflow.

This is certainly the case in seaside town Margate, where Haeckels owner Dom Bridges realised that the build-up of seaweed on his local beaches could be utilised. Now the surplus ingredient is foraged by his team and infused into most of their products.

'The plants are found in almost every ecosystem in the world, and they grow much faster than many traditional crops such as wheat and barley, says Julia Beauch at Mintel. She adds, 'Certain species of algae do not even require fresh water but thrive in saline conditions. This is a huge advantage over traditional agriculture, which uses vast quantities of clean drinking water.

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Why then, if seaweed is so readily available, are some beauty brands claiming their creams to harness magical ingredients and consequently charging the earth for them?

The benefits of seaweed

Well, while some companies certainly use clever marketing campaigns and terminology to lure us in, it is also important to note that there are 20,000 species of algae out there. And of course, no type is the same.

We have an abundance of certain forms of algae. Seaweed is the perfect example of this, as it can be harvested all year round. However, others may only be available between a small period and can be extremely difficult to source.

It can also be the way that a brand treats the ingredient and the amount of research and development involved in curating a product.

One thing is clear though, all types are naturally beneficial to your skin.

Here are some of our favourite algae infused buys…

Lush Sea Vegetable Soap, £5.10

Contains Arame, which is collected by female divers 20metres deep in the ocean.

Ren Kelp and Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Cream, £22

Plankton extract is used to help restore moisture balance and natural cell renewal.

Exuviance Anti Redness Calming Serum, £43, Skincity

Contains algae extract which supports the skin, helping to reduce blotchiness and sensitivity.

Haeckels Rosehip + Seaweed Suspension, £26

Bladderwrack seaweed is mixed with Rose Hip Seed Oil to nourish and protect complexions.

Voya Castaway Cleansing Facial Wash, £27.50

Naturally derived actives join Irish sourced seaweed to create this highly effective and caring cleanser.

Bamford Balancing Tonic, £40

Uses nutrient-rich red algae to help rebalance the skin's natural PH.

Skyn Iceland Icelandic Youth Serum, £40

Contains antioxidant-rich Astaxanthin, which helps to rejuvenate both texture and tone.

Words: Lydia House