Wake Up & Smell The Algae
These diverse marine plants have powerful wellness applications to benefit your body both inside and out.
Stop by any juice bar or health restaurant these days, and you’re likely to find trendy urbanites slamming shots of E3—and this isn’t the spirited drink du jour. E3Live is a concentrated dose of AFA, a blue-green algae bursting with sixty-five vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. It sure doesn’t taste great, but you’d never tell by the soaring popularity of this liquid superfood that’s essentially the new wheatgrass shot.
This speaks to the growing public embrace of the health benefits of algae, marine plants that range from microscopic chlorella to common seaweed to the giant kelp you’ve likely seen in documentaries. Comprising more than thirty thousand distinct species, most of which are categorized by color, algae are a large and diverse group whose applications on land, particularly in relation to health and the human body, are taking off. From overall nutrition and wellness to external beauty uses, algae can bring the benefits of the sea into your daily wellness routine.
“Algae represent extraordinary reservoirs of effective, vital molecules with unrivaled potential,” says Dominique Pradines, PhD, global research and development director for Thalgo, a French marine-beauty company with a fifty-year track record of cutting-edge algae research.
The benefits of algae aren’t new news. Humans have been tapping into the power of algae since eighth-century Asia. Drawing richness from the ocean, algae contain high concentrations of minerals, trace elements, and vitamins. On average, one alga contains a thousand times more iodine, a hundred times more calcium, and ten times more magnesium and copper than a plant on land, according to Thalgo’s research.
So it’s no wonder that scientists have learned how to tap into the innate potential of these plant powerhouses and are now passing the benefits on to us.
From the E3 shots and the nori (seaweed) wrap on your favorite sushi roll to oral algae supplements, algae can be ingested in various forms to deliver nutritional benefits. Low in calories and chock-full of nutrients, algae have been shown to be effective in reducing daily fat intake and strengthening the immune system, according to Thalgo, whose oral supplements claim to improve skin conditions, boost metabolism, and promote overall well-being and balance. Proponents also claim that algae have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
On the flipside, applying algae topically can be beneficial, too, and that’s true from head to toe. Algae are shown to have moisturizing, nourishing, draining, and stimulating properties that can be effective for treating conditions such as inflammation, wrinkles, cellulite, eczema, and psoriasis.
According to Randy Schueller, cosmetic chemist and cofounder of The Beauty Brains website, “Algae extracts contain polysaccharides, which are good film formers and can effectively tighten skin. They also have an affinity for water, which helps them bind moisture to skin. In addition, when combined with certain minerals, algae extracts can smooth wrinkles and reduce acne.”
For these reasons, beauty and skin care companies like Thalgo, La Mer, Algenist, and H2O Plus have taken the lead with algae- and marine-focused products for both personal and professional use, including face and body creams, serums, cleansers, and more. Meanwhile, you’ll find non-marine-focused brands are using algae in their cosmetic products as well, infusing it into mascaras, blushes, hair conditioners, cuticle creams, and more.
When shopping for algae products, Schueller advises seeking out potent strains such as alguronic acid, porphyra crispata, dunaliella algae extract, and seaweed oligosaccharides. He cautions to steer clear of products that need to be rinsed off, as they tend to be less effective than ones that absorb into the skin. Most importantly, don’t just blindly buy any product boasting algae as an ingredient.
“An algae-containing product isn’t automatically better than a regular product,” he cautions, although there is a good chance it will be more expensive. “Shoppers should look for reputable brands that disclose what kind of testing they have done on their products and explain which algae extracts they use and at what levels.”
But, find the right algae product for your particular needs, and you just might experience a sea change in your personal appearance and well-being.
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