If you’ve ever witnessed a lake covered in blue-ish green algae, the last thing you probably thought was, “this looks fantastic to slather on my skin!”
No, we’re not here to tell you to start scooping seaweed from lakes for beauty reasons… but we are here to show you how a specific type of algae may actually be your skin’s best defense against aging, while also promoting a healthy glow.
Let’s dive in (yep, pun all the way) to why blue-green algae are your skin’s ultimate superfood.
What is Blue-Green Algae?
Blue-green algae are a class of single-celled cyanobacteria that grow in both freshwater and saltwater. Two of the most popular types you’ve probably heard of are spirulina and chlorella, which were originally consumed for centuries by ancient cultures like the Aztecs for their rich vitamin and mineral content. Spirulina itself contains upwards of 70 percent protein and a high dose of iron: two extremely important nutrients that are rare to obtain in such a high amount from a plant source.
Recent research not only gives credence to ancient algae lore and usage but has also revealed even more benefits than expected from such an innocuous plant. In particular, the antioxidants and phytocompounds in blue-green algae are proving to be powerhouses for skin health, and are now being infused into all types of beauty products to help reverse aging and rejuvenate skin.
Let’s take a look at what algae has to offer our pores.
Top Benefits of Blue-Green Algae for Skin
1. May Help Turn Back the Clock
Studies show a great deal of promise for blue-green algae in preventing aging. Not only does it contain potent antioxidants that give it its deep blue-green pigment, which helps fight free radicals that can damage DNA and cause signs of aging, but it also contains another special mechanism of fighting this damage.
When free radical damage occurs, researchers have noticed the production of matrix metalloproteinase (MMPs) is upregulated, which has been shown to degrade collagen, the major protein that keeps our skin taut and supple. Studies also show that sun-damaged skin shows significantly elevated levels of MMPs, showing another correlation between the two.
Where algae come in is in its ability to help prevent oxidative stress from free radicals and the expression of MMPs. One study revealed an extract from marine alga Corallina pilulifera prevented UV-induced oxidative stress, as well as the expressions of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in human dermal fibroblast cells. By preventing both of these contributors to aging, blue-green algae could play a potent role in maintaining youthful skin. [*]
2. Can Fight Inflammation
If you’re dealing with acne, inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea, or even premature aging, research shows a common underlying cause could be chronic inflammation.
All types of environmental stressors, including pollution, bacteria, chemicals and toxins, and even diet and stress, generate those DNA-damaging free radicals we spoke of earlier, which then raise your levels of inflammation and MMPs – the compounds also mentioned above that can degrade collagen and result in signs of aging. [*]
Antioxidant compounds in blue-green algae called carotenoids can greatly minimize this damage, reducing both inflammations that can spur on acne and skin conditions, and reduce MMPs that can age skin faster. One study found that just one carotenoid in blue-green algae, astaxanthin, can reduce inflammatory compounds and slow skin deterioration, and blue-green algae contain several carotenoids. [*]
3. May Smooth Out Uneven Skin Pigmentation
Smooth, even skin tone is something most of us covet. However, sun damage, acne, and aging can lead to discoloration and uneven pigmentation over the years.
Interestingly, researchers have found that tyrosinase inhibitors can help reduce over-pigmentation, even going so far as to lighten skin. [*] This is because tyrosinase, an enzyme present in plant and animal tissues, interacts with the production of our skin pigment melanin.
While research is still new, studies have shown extracts from marine algae, like blue-green algae, can act as natural tyrosinase inhibitors, which could have a skin lightening effect and possibly reduce those pesky dark areas on your skin.
4. Can Strengthen and Moisturize Skin
It’s no secret that our skin takes a serious beating in our modern lifestyles. City pollution, stress, weather, and chemical exposure can damage our skin barrier and dry out our skin, causing wrinkle formation and dullness.
When we have a strong skin barrier composed of natural oils, think of it as all-around protection: it takes much more to penetrate our skin, keeping out more chemicals, toxins, and bacteria, and also locks in moisture to help keep skin supple and wrinkle-free.
Researchers have found that treatments of human stem cells with a blue-green algae species increased markers for skin barrier function (in essence, strengthening it) and also reduced water loss, which bodes good news for aging and skin damage protection. [*]
How to Use Blue-Green Algae for Glowing Skin
Luckily, blue-green algae are relatively easy to come across in health food stores and online. There are several ways to take them and/or use them topically for a skin-rejuvenating effect, including:
- Capsules or powders. If you want to cash in on the antioxidants in blue-green algae from the inside out, taking a capsule or adding an algae powder to a smoothie or green juice is the best route to go. There is no standard dosage for blue-green algae, but a teaspoon or so or a couple of capsules once a day seems to be a decent dose to start with.
- Topically. Many skincare products, serums, and exfoliating blends are now infused with potent extracts of blue-green algae that can help deliver its nutrients directly to your skin. You can easily add these into your daily regime, just be sure to choose a brand that offers only natural ingredients alongside your algae to avoid damaging chemicals and harsh toxins.
Do you have any experience with blue-green algae for your skin? We’d love to hear about it below!