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Beauty and the beach: wonders from the sea.

MARINE-DERIVED ingredients, including seaweed, algae and sea salts, often have excellent anti-irritant, antioxidant, moisturizing, and anti-aging properties, which makes them integral components of products for the fast-growing spa industry. Seaweeds are extremely hardy, adapting to changes in temperature and intense exposure to UV radiation. As a result, they thrive even as they are immersed in water and exposed to air. There are more than 3000 types of seaweed and each has unique properties. Seaweed extracts are loaded with amino acids, such as alanine, glycine and proline, to stimulate collagen synthesis and inhibit enzymes that destroy collagen and elastin. Seaweeds are broadly divided in three classes based on their color--brown, red and green. Many types of seaweeds are known by their Japanese names such as wakame, hijiki and kombu. Twelve seaweeds are widely used in spas: arame, bladderwrack, dulse, hijiki, irish moss, kelps, kombu, nori, sea lettuce, sea palm and wakame. The traditional Japanese bath includes strips of kombu or bladderwrack to dissipate excess fat deposits and soften the skin. With regular use, it reportedly improves the skin barrier and slows the aging process. Seaweeds have almost no calories, are extremely low in fat and are a great source of high quality protein and calcium.

Seaweeds are available in a variety of forms: whole, powder, extract, liquid and gel. They have a predominant amount of iodine, protein and mineral--all of them good for the skin. Laminaria or green algae is especially rich in iodine and reportedly stimulates cell oxygen content. Fucus or brown algae is rich in antioxidants and has a detoxifying benefit to the body. Spirulina is a single-cell algae that is loaded with protein and antioxidants. Rich in calcium and magnesium, white algae is an anti-inflammatory and boosts blood circulation.

Seaweeds contain rare minerals, soluble salts and other skin beneficial ingredients, too. Concentrated seaweed extracts yield superior cosmetic properties thanks to key components such as amino acids, polysaccharide and oligo elements which must be carefully preserved during processing. Both seaweeds and seawater are said to firm the skin. Seawater and human blood plasma reportedly have identical composition. No wonder why the French have practiced La Thalasso Therapie or seawater therapy for a long time.

Other ingredients, such as sea salts, sea mud and coral powder are used in wraps, creams, lotions and scrubs. Their active constituents are said to oxygenate and promote healthy skin.

The Dead Sea Thrives

Seawater, mud and salt are all rich sources of minerals and have healing and soothing benefits. The Dead Sea is a unique source for these ingredients due to its dense concentration of minerals, including potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium and chloride. Muds have high absorption capacity due to its colloidal size particles. But Dead Sea mud is different from other muds as it is not created by decomposing seaweeds or clays. Nor does it have any known side effects. Due to its high aluminum silicate content, Dead Sea mud provides relief from eczema and is often incorporated into face masks, body masks and baths.

Mud masks help refresh and pamper skin as well as promote cell rejuvenation. They remove dead skin cells and excess oil, while their deep cleansing action refreshes and revives the skin. The mud is usually applied to the skin without causing sensitization or irritation. Sea water and algae contain magnesium, strontium and algal polysaccharides fucoidan laminara which have antibacterial and antiviral properties. These cumulatively provide relief to psoriatic skin.

A Range of Uses

Seaweed body wraps are thick pastes made from fresh or dried seaweed, seawater and sea minerals. They are applied on the skin to create a coated surface which is then covered with a plastic sheet followed by a couple of warm blankets for 30-40 minutes. This occlusive skin treatment facilitates close contact of enzymes, mineral and other active ingredients with skin to provide remineralization and balance the whole body. Before they are washed off in a warm shower, wraps moisturize, firm and tone the skin giving it a healthy glow.


C-phycocyanin is a protein-bound pigment in blue-green algae, which occurs in four different structural forms. In vivo and in-vitro experimental models confirmed C-phycocyanin's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. (1)

These studies also demonstrated that blue-green algae is a bio-modulator with immuno-enhancing properties that could be beneficial in the treatment of AIDS and cancer. (2)

Alginates and carrageenans are extracted from seaweeds. When carrageenans are hydrolyzed, the resulting oligosaccharides yield additional skin benefits. (3) Adequately purified algae maintains its pale beige color. Poorly purified material assumes a brown color. To maintain a superior cosmetic product appearance, a lighter pale grade material should always be used.

Anticellulite preparations often contain seaweeds, as they are rich in vitamins, oligo elements, amino acids, iodine and mineral salts, which drain adipose accumulation, and stimulate and strengthen relaxed tissues. Clay, on the other hand, creates an isolating layer that increases body temperature to dialate pores and reduce water retention to reduce cellulite.

In cosmetic formulations, algae and its derivatives thicken products such as toothpastes, shaving creams and lotions. They also possess skin moisturizing and conditioning benefits. These ingredients can be difficult to preserve, hence suppliers sell them in different forms such as alcoholic extracts, infusions or suspensions.

Kelp from the South Atlantic Ocean is a renewable resource of minerals, amino acids and natural gels. Sea parsley is saturated with anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing components. It is grown under controlled conditions to provide a consistent quality extract to the cosmetic industry.

An extract of the red seaweed Rhodophyta has a balance of minerals similar to those found in blood plasma, which reportedly gives it great affinity to skin. It contains more vitamin C than apples, more zinc than oysters, considerably more iron and potassium than spinach and more vitamin A than tomatoes, according to Collaborative Laboratories. Clinical studies have shown that this material provides 16% better protection from skin redness and 64% better skin barrier protection than Sea Whip extract against which it was measured. Bluegreen algae has potent amounts of anti-irritants and inhibitors of collagenase and elastase. Upon fermentation, it transforms into sea-derived antioxidants.

Anti-aging Actives

Several recent technological advances are providing unique opportunities for formulators to select specific marine ingredients for their anti-aging products. One of these, squalene, is sourced from shark liver oil. It smoothes and softens the skin texture. It makes skin look more radiant and supple while hydrating and soothing dry, irritated skin. It helps protect the skin from free radical damage.

Marine Plant Extract is developed by extracting fluid from the cellular mass of various marine organisms. (4) It contains polysaccharides, vitamins and essential sea minerals. It is made from a combination of seaweeds specifically red algae and marine animals. It also contains small quantities of water soluble B, A and C vitamins, niacinamide and pantothenic acid in its co-factor form. It is suggested for use in spa products, moisturizers, serums and body washes.

Apt material is bio-engineered from a strain of the red marine algae? Its remarkable bio-activity is derived from its molecular weight peptide fraction of between 500 to 5,000 daltons. Its polypeptide fraction synergizes well with the polysaccharides to impart moisturization, soothing and aesthetic skin benefits. In cell culture studies, it stimulated fibroblast proliferation, triggering cellular synthesis. Both in-vitro and in-vivo studies confirmed its cosmetic benefits such as reducing wrinkles, improving short and long term moisturization, and improving and soothing irritated skin.


Homeostatine is an active complex of and Andean tree and a marine seaweed. It is designed to prevent and reduce wrinkles by increasing the production of dermal collagen and other extracellular matrix components in fibroblasts, by inhibiting the synthesis of pro-inflammatory mediators. (5) This natural cosmetic ingredient combines the activity of both of its components to produce a remarkable anti-wrinkle effect.

An Effective Cellulite Treatment

Plankton Total Extract consists of organisms which float freely and involuntarily in open water. (5) In cosmetics, the glucides provided by the phytoplankton fraction make it useful in moisturizing products such as body milks, hand creams and bath gels. The large amount of oligo elements and iodine, due to their attributed lipolitic action, make it suitable in cellulite and slimmimg formulations. The oligo elements and free amino acids are also fundamental in tissue restructuring and may be incorporated into anti-aging products.

Aldavine is a highly-potent cosmetic active ingredient derived from two different algae leading to the association of two sulphated algal polysaccharides. (6) It mainly targets the cytokine VEGF and also modulates PGE2 activity. Three biochemical mediators are upregulated in the skin upon aging, exposure to UV and environmental insults and are associated with microcapillary dilation and hyper-permeability. It is suggested for anti-aging, acne, sensitive skin and after-sun care products. It improves skin barrier function. The VEGF pathway is the most innovative feature of this new material.

Homeosta-sea, an anti-aging raw material, is created from four algae derivatives. (6) Together, they complement each other and improve the appearance of skin. Homeo-Shield (INCI: Fucus serratus extract and glycerol) is derived from brown algae. It improves skin barrier function. Homeo-Age (INCI: Acsophyllum nodosum extract and sorbitol and water) is derived from brown algae which is rich in vitamins and minerals. It stimulates cellular growth. It rejuvenates cells at the molecular level. Homeoxy (INCI: Entermorpha compressa extract and Palmaria palmate extract, sorbitol and water) is made from two algae known for their high vitamin B content. It prevents UV-induced skin damage. Finally, Homeo-Soothe (INCI: Acsophyllum nodosum extract, sorbitol and water) is extracted from brown seaweed. It reduces inflammatory response and protects the skin from environmental pollutants.

According to the manufacturer, when these four algae extracts are merged together their biological profiles combine to form an ingredient that acts effectively as an anti-aging product. Marine Biopolymer (6) enhances the viscosity of skin and hair formulations. It is the only natural polymer that is positively charged, allowing interaction with biological surfaces such as skin and hair. Tensa-Lift (6) is a compound based on marine biopolymer with a specific tensing activity. Within minutes after application, this tensorial activity softens skin and makes it appear younger. Since it uses a carefully selected grade of polymer, the poly-cationic feature of this raw material increases its bio-adhesion to the skin thereby intensifying its tensing effect according to the manufacturer. Lanablue (6) is sourced from blue algae. This retinoid-like ingredient activates the proliferation of keratinocytes and inhibits the differentiation of corneocytes. It is an anti-aging active with soothing power which has been demonstrated by several clinical studies.

Most enzymes, be they of plant, animal or bacterial origin, are inacrive or have low potency level at room temperature. (7) Marine enzymes, on the other hand, are at their peak potency level at skin temperature. Cold-adapted marine enzymes are derived from cod fish. These enzymes exfoliate, reduce inflammation, heal wounds and scars, and improve acne and other skin conditions. The self-preserving nature of certain marine enzymes allow for preservative-free cosmetic compositions. These aqueous marine enzyme formulas are pure and safe, thereby appealing to the consumer searching for natural and effective skin care therapies.

A Powerful Antioxidant

Astaxanthin comes from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis found in abundance in arctic marine environments. A natural carotenoid, it is a powerful antioxidant and is often referred to as "red gold from the sea." It provides wrinkle reduction by internal supplementation and reduces hyper-pigmentation. The material also has very good anti-inflammatory properties.

Gorgonian Extract GC (8) is a natural marine extract derived from Pseudo-pterogorgia elisabethae (Sea Whip). This anti-inflammatory ingredient is safe, effective and environmentally friendly. The anti-inflammatory properties of pseudopterosins are well documented. This ingredient (INCI: Caprylic/capric triglyceride and Sea Whip extract), is ideal for use in sun care products, aftershaves and skin care treatments.

Pseudopterosin, Sea Whip's active component, is currently under review as a new drug for treating burns, contact dermatitis, psoriasis and arthritis.

Kimarine, derived from edible seaweed, has been clinically proven to lighten skin and provide protection from reactive oxygen species.

Helionori is a marine active ingredient providing protection against UVA irradiation, due to the presence of special compounds called mycosporine-like amino acid.

Actiseane, developed from brown seaweeds, counters several factors that contribute to skin aging including slower cellular turnover assisting in wound healing and inflammation soothing. (9) Several well-known skin care companies use seaweed and seawater as their products "magic" ingredient. Creme de La Mer, a broth of bio-fermented Pacific Coast sea kelp, was developed by Dr. Max Huber to treat his scarred skin and the cream is sold for more than $100 an ounce. Phytomer's skin care line contains marine actives, while Repechage's skin care lines are based on different seaweeds to provide skin anti-aging benefits.

Natural and organic products are the fastest-growing sector of the cosmetic industry. Several studies have found that seawater in cosmetic products revitalizes and remineralizes skin cells. It boosts the immune system, prevents infection, stimulates basic enzymes and protects the skin from allergies by antihistaminic action. Seaweeds cleanse the toxins out of the body, beautify the complexion and slow the aging process.



(1.) C. Romay et al, Inflamm. Res. 47(1998) 36-41, 1023-3830/98/010036-06

(2.) Gitte Jensen et al, Holger N. I. S. Inc, Port Dover, Ontario, Canada.

(3.) C. Bodeau-Bellion,M. Boue Grabot and C. Chesne, Carrageenan oligosaccharides. Cosmet. Toil. 112(9) 93-96 (1997).

(4.) Arch personal Care, Inc., S. Plainfield, NJ 07080.

(5.) Centerchem, Inc., Norwalk, CT 06850

(6.) Atrium Biotechnologies, Quebec, Canada.

(7.) J. Bjarnason, Les Nouvelles Esthetiques and Spa. Nov. 2007.

(8.) Lipo Chemicals, Paterson, NJ 07504.

(9.) Biosil, Paterson, NJ.




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Title Annotation:Anti-Aging & Cosmeceutical Corner
Author:Geria, Navin M.
Publication:Household & Personal Products Industry
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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