just beneath the briny sea lies a submerged jungle, a tangle of undulating ribbons that reap the bounty of the ocean and provide refuge to all marine life.
"uv-screening compounds to reduce damage caused by ultraviolet (uv) radiation are almost ubiquitous in nature. the most active natural uv-absorbing substances are the mycosporine-like amino acids (maa's) that are produced by certain algae, corals and cyanobacteria. the peak absorption of maa's is in the uva range and their absorption coefficients are similar to those of synthetic sunscreens. a human study showed that a cream containing maa's from the red algae efficiently protects the skin against uva exposure on a typical working day."
-- mycosporine-like amino acids:
natural uv-screening compounds
from red algae to protect the skin
against photoaging (2003) sofw- international journal for applied science.
though they are the ancestors of land plants, sea algae and seaweeds are not plants at all. these primordial organisms are an evolutionary lesson in survival. they thrive in any condition, from the coldest depths of the ocean to the sun-beaten coastal rocks. without a root system, algae draws nutrients directly from the sea. as a pure concentration of sea water, their ability to draw in minerals and trace elements enables them to have ten to twenty times the mineral content of land plants that sustain the body and nourish the skin.
as part of the rich biodiversity of the ocean, algae comes in many forms, from small single-celled forms to the giant kelps of the eastern pacific that grow to 60 meters in length. over time, seaweed has been used by mariners and various cultures, such as the polynesians and the chinese, to heal burns, wounds, rashes and swelling. algae's cosmetic use dates back to babylonia, where it was draped on the body to achieve soft and supple skin -- an effect that is well known to those who harvest and process seaweed by hand. often associated with the culinary arts in japan, the japanese adopted seaweed into their diet early on, ingesting wakame to counteract the aging effects of uv rays and premature wrinkles to hijiki (a form of brown seaweed that is rich in minerals) for their notably lustrous hair.
this elemental ingredient contains a vast potential for uses that go beyond a healthy food source, from purifying polluted waters, providing an alternative energy source and its restoring the skin in health and beauty treatments. over 13 million tons of wet seaweeds are harvested each year in about 40 different countries. the most common types of seaweed used in skin care are rhodophyceae (red algae), phaeophyceae (brown algae), and cyanophyceae (blue-green algae). the defining trait that all algae shares is its unique pigments that have the ability to absorb vast quantities of sunlight and in turn, uv radiation. with over one billion years of solar protective adaptation, algae is best suited for protecting the skin.
much time and resources have been poured into the study of algae and its skin restoring benefits, although its track record in skincare is certainly not a novelty. one of the most common varieties of red algae, chondrus crispus, is routinely used as a thickener and stabilizer for all kind of creams, lotions and even toothpaste. this binding quality allows the algae to both attract and retain moisture in the skin. also known as "irish moss," it inhabits the rocky shoreline of the atlantic coast, from norway to gibraltar and the english channel. as a natural emollient, it reduces moisture loss by forming a protective layer on the skin. the cold coastal waters in which it inhabits, endows it with restorative and protective properties that plump the skin by rehydrating skin cells. with an abundance of vitamins a, c, e, b12 and marine minerals like magnesium, copper, calcium and a high amino acid content, it acts as anti-inflammatory and toner by regulating oil production and remineralizing the skin. this unique combination of gentle cleansing and toning action is utilized in the yuzu mimosa sea algae wash to create a soft, silky texture.
when descends on the atlantic
storm-wind of the equinox,
landward in his wrath he scourges
the toiling surges,
laden with seaweed from the rocks:
ever drifting, drifting, drifting
on the shifting
currents of the restless main;
till in sheltered coves, and reaches
of sandy beaches,
all have found repose again.
-- seaweed poem by henry wadsworth longfellow
the parallels between sea water and the body's inner chemistry are also present in algae and the skin. faced with the same environmental aggressors such as dehydration, pollution and sunlight, algae has developed a heightened defense system that the body can benefit from. algae's water-retaining abilities during low tide translate to the skin, where a combination of glucose sugars, minerals and amino acids pull in moisture to keep skin hydrated and firm. a source of 70 minerals including potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron, kelp seaweed (a large form of algae) is the skin's best ally when it comes to achieving healthy tone and texture. kelp was even used to make early forms of soap. in the early 18th century, natives on the scottish island of orkney would gather heaps of kelp and burn them on the beaches to make a base for soap. a natural source of alkali, kelp helped to balance the skin's ph levels while cleansing.
two primary types of kelp are used in red flower's islas das rocas sea scrubs for their stimulating properties: laminaria digitata and macrocystis pyrifera, the latter being the largest of all algae species. it dominates the ocean floor, creating dense forests of kelp that can grow up to two feet a day. with a high content of trace minerals, kelp (a type of brown algae) works as an anti-septic and anti-irritant that can not only heals sun-damaged skin, but can also prevent wrinkles. with inherent antioxidant properties, kelp's hydrating factors come from alginic acid. with the ability to absorb water up to 100 times its weight, this natural compound attracts and retains moisture that evens out the skin's texture. this skin-tightening ability minimizes the appearance of cellulite and wrinkles. additional compounds of polyglucosides and ursolic acid naturally enhance the skin's moisture barrier to prevent drying while stimulating the production of collagen and elastin to restore lasting firmness to the skin.
under the umbrella of "brown algae," there are an endless variety of seaweeds -- all of which deliver their own evident benefits to the skin. found in the shallow waters along the western baltic sea, pacific ocean and the north atlantic dwells fucus vesiculosus, better known as "bladderwack" seaweed -- an exceptionally nourishing type of brown algae. characterized by its greenish color and bubble-wrap texture, this algae encourages natural collagen and elastin production, strengthens skin tissue and bolsters moisture retention for youthful, toned skin. thanks to a large supply of amino acids, its virtues were well-known among women in brittany, france who used it to soften their rough skin caused by the salty, marine environment. components of brown algae (alginate) have even been used to develop advanced bandages that were originally used by the u.s navy to treat wounds, accelerate healing and prevent infection on a deeper level, this type of brown algae also treats arthritic pain, by stimulating the flow of lymph which reduces swelling and fluid retention. the addition of bromine and potassium further smooth the skin by with a powerful draining action that decreases the amount of excess lipid deposits that lead to cellulite -- for an overall synergistic effect on the body.
clinging to the surface of every watery habitat, blue green algae or "cynobacteria" is essential to the ecological functions of the world's oceans and one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. microscopic in size yet immense in benefits, micro algae such as spirulina are rich in chlorophyll, which purifies the blood of toxins that cause skin inflammation and irritations. containing the same sea minerals that boost every cell function, spirulina also features powerful antioxidants in the form of carotenoids (beta-carotene), phlorotannins, and tyrosinase inhibitors. as the name suggests, these "inhibit" the production of melanin which causes dark spots on the skin. phlorotannins (naturally occurring plant compounds) work similarly to retinoids (concentrated vitamin a) to reverse the signs of uv-damage and prevent collagen breakdown for increased elasticity. cosmetic concerns aside, these antioxidants also help to neutralize the oxygen radicals produced by uv rays that lead to skin cancer.
the holy grail of skin care, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish actually comes from the algae that fish subsist on. combined with a wide spectrum of minerals, vitamins, peptides and active enzymes, sea algae has the ability to cater to all of the skin's needs in a way few ingredients can. they moisturize, fight free radicals, repair tissue and smooth the skin. with new species being discovered everyday, the sea has become are our greatest laboratory.
to preserve the nutritional integrity of this raw material, algae must be harvested and preserved without the use of heat or chemicals. through freeze-drying and filtration, the extract only loses its water and maintains a concentrated potency, with nearly 100% of the original biological actives.