Algae's Many Beauty Benefits
Gone are the days when seaweed was nothing more than the stuff that made us break out in a cold sweat when it brushed against our toes at the beach. Today, this marine plant is increasingly known as a miraculous cosmetic ingredient. Here, a quick introduction to an oceanic treasure as precious as any long-lost riches.
A sea breeze
Sometimes it doesn't take much for a long-ignored product to become one of the most sought-after, seemingly overnight. A mainstay in South-East Asian cuisine for centuries, algae's success began to boom in Europe over the past decade. Nori, wakame, and spirulina; dried or in powdered form — we've all noticed the rapid increase of seaweed-derived products in our local grocery stores. Indeed, it's also been touted by Instagram influencers and reality stars for its health and wellness benefits, which were originally the driving force behind its widespread adoption. Rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, algae was elevated to the rank of "superfood" — ingredients worth adding to our diets in the interest of better health and a longer lifespan. In smoothies, salads, condiments, sprinkled over meals as a garnish or even spread on a piece of toast, this aqueous plant is a mainstay for today's most creative chefs, as they use it to revisit even the most traditional dishes in a way that's surprising and creative.
A new essential in our make-up bag
But after taking over our mealtimes, the most recent buzz around algae has been due to its numerous cosmetic benefits. Anti-aging, firming, regenerating, toning — research on the substance is on the rise. Starting in the 1950s, Dr. Max Huber had already begun to study its benefits following an accident that left him with severe burns. The physician eventually succeeded in formulating an ointment capable of healing his skin by refining the fermentation of kelp, an algae found in his home state of California. After twelve years and countless experiments, he obtained the elixir that would come to be known as La Mer, sold under the brand of the same name. Today, it's a classic product that's known for its effectiveness and versatility, available in the form of creams, balms, and serums, all touting diverse advantages. More recently and on the other side of the pond, Muriel and Jean Marc Dubois set about studying seaweed's numerous virtues. In 2011, the couple even moved to the Basque coast and, disappointed by the dearth of sunscreens that were both effective and ocean-friendly, developed Les Laboratoires de Biarritz. Their favorite product? Red algae, whose antioxidant properties fight cutaneous aging.
Why is it so effective?
It's no coincidence if seaweed is popping up in all the latest beauty products. The reason for it is simple, if surprising: it has a similar biochemical structure to our skin, due to the fact that all life forms emerged from the ocean all those millennia ago. In other words, our skin has much more in common with algae than with the most delicate of roses. And with all the stress it undergoes — exposure to harsh sunlight, dehydration at low tide, and more — seaweed has developed its own mechanisms of regeneration and protection, which today fascinate the scientists who endeavor to reproduce them as faithfully as possible. So next time we feel that familiar brush against the ankle as we walk toward the tide, we'll think twice about its many benefits!