Why algae might be the key to getting flawless skin

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Why algae might be the key to getting flawless skin
Clarks Botanicals Skin Clearing Face & Body Wash, $46: Contains brown algae (there are chunks of it suspended in the wash), which has known anti-bacterial properties, anti-oxidant properties, and acts as an emollient to soften skin. An amazing summer cleanser for when your pores are clogged with sweat, sunscreen, and other gunk.
Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist, $48: Our love of face mists, especially in the summer, is well-documented. This one touts the inclusion of red algae, which can improve hydration and provides a barrier for the skin.
Ole Henriksen Truth To Go Vitamin C Wipes, $15: Wipes are a must in every beach bag, and these contain vitamin C, an antioxidant that can reverse photoaging. They also contain micro algae, which–you’ve heard this one before–helps boost collagen production.
Algenist Advanced Anti-Aging Repair Oil, $79: When Algenist launched a few years ago, it made headlines because algae is the main ingredient. This new oil contains micro algae and brown algae, and will support cell regeneration and decreases DNA damage, something you need to worry about being out in the sun all summer long.
Lorac CC Cream, $28: You wouldn’t expect to find algae in a CC cream, which is supposed to correct redness among other things–yet here it is. It contains red seaweed, which the company claims acts as a primer in the formulation. CC creams, for the uninitiated, are a lighter foundation option known for color-correcting. At this point in the summer we probably all have some weird pink blotches that need disguising.
Origins Drink Up Mask, $23: Origins uses algae in tons of its products. It doesn’t specify which type is in this mask, but supposedly it will increase collagen production and contains high levels of anti-oxidants (this is true of most algae). After weeks in the sun and wind, you need a good hydrating mask.
NARS Light Reflecting Loose Setting Powder, $34: This is a surprising one, but the algae extract helps maximize light reflection on the skin, which is a good thing because it’s a visual trick for hiding/minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. Plus it acts as a great makeup setting product, which is a must in the summer if you don’t want everything to melt off.
Bliss Fat Girl Scrub, $38: Who isn’t a little paranoid about cellulite during the summer? Contains red algae, which in this product supposedly helps diminish the appearance of fluid retention, a contributor to cellulite.
Renee Rouleau Hawaiian Nourishing Cream, $69.50: Contains red marine algae harvested from the Hawaiian islands, which delivers loads of moisture.
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Did you know that tons of your favorite beauty products are loaded with algae? But don't run shrieking to your bathroom to throw it all out. The green, slimy gunk–which ranges in size from single cell organisms to giant sea kelp–has tons of potential benefits for your skin.

"There are a few studies that indicate algae (and seaweed) have cosmetic benefits. One says that algae can stabilize minerals that aid in skin moisturization," Randy Schueller, a cosmetic chemist and editor-in-chief of The Beauty Brains told me. "Another claims that seaweed provides anti-acne properties without the irritation of over the counter drugs. And yet another type of seaweed may help with skin lightening." (Go here for the scientific explanation of algae's benefits. It's fascinating. No, truly.)

Algae, often interchangeably called seaweed, has been a hot topic lately in the cosmetics ingredient world. One company, Heliae Development (which has used algae to make jet fuel, among other things), got some attention in May when it announced it would be using its cutting-edge algae harvesting technology towards branding its own health and beauty products. Former marketing execs from Elizabeth Arden, Esteé Lauder, and Unilever are on board.

Algae comes with some caveats, as do all beauty product ingredient claims. "There's enough science here to say that algae, seaweed and kelp may provide some benefits but of course it depends on the specific type of extract, how it's processed, and how much is used," Schueller cautioned.

Dr. Marcene Alexiades-Armenakas (who coincidentally was profiled this week in this rather unbelievable New York Times article about women who get plastic surgery to look middle-aged), uses it in her signature 37 Extreme Actives cream. "These creatures have spent millions of years on the sea surface and evolved mechanisms to protect their DNA from UV damage. These mechanisms are conserved cross species, meaning [they] work in human skin, too! That is why I included blue algae extract for DNA defense in 37," she said.

So in the spirit of beach season–you've been interacting with algae unknowingly for the last two months at your favorite shoreline hangout!–we've rounded up all the best algae-laden summer beauty products. Every single one contains a type of algae, and we'll break down what it does in each product. Click through–you're going to be surprised which products contain these green/blue/brown/red wonders.

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Photo Credit: Frederic Pacorel/Stock Image
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