Here’s Why It’s Time To Add Algae To Your Skincare Routine. Plus, The Algae Skincare Products You’ll Need

by | Nov 27, 2023 | Skincare

Let’s hear it for natural beauty extracts, which are having their profound moment in the sun. There exists an array of nature-based skincare products, all using extracts from fauna. Think: rose water, Africa’s own bakuchiol, aloe vera, argan oil and bentonite clay. And now, something from the sea this way comes: algae skincare is standing as its own powerhouse ingredient. Here’s what you need to know.

Meet the expert: Dr Alek Nikolic is a renowned specialist in aesthetic medicine and owner of SkinMiles, an online skincare store.

What is algae, actually?

The word algae brings to mind slimy green or brown plants washing up on the beach. Slimy they may be, but they’re also a good example of why we should never judge a book by its cover. Algae is actually a diverse group of aquatic organisms that can conduct photosynthesis. Certain algae are familiar to most people; for instance, seaweeds (such as kelp or phytoplankton), pond scum, or the algal blooms in damns. However, there are anything from 30,000 to over 1 million species.

Studies have indicated that algae, which is often used as an ingredient in Asian cuisine, may boost your immunity, lower blood pressure, and promote heart health. It is seen as a superfood in wellness circles, and this has led skincare brands to take a closer look.

READ MORE: 5 South African Superfood Products That Do Amazing Things To Your Skin

What does algae do for the skin?

Algae isn’t a new beauty ingredient, as it has been featured in skincare products since the 1960s. More studies have been conducted on individual algae species to explore their capabilities further and Astaxanthin is a great example of this. Astaxanthin, which is extracted from red microalgae found in Iceland, is thought to be 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C. This makes it one of the most potent antioxidants in the world.

“What makes algae a great addition to your skincare routine is that all alga types are considered humectants which are substances that attract water, making them extremely good at keeping skin moisturised and plump,” Dr Nikolic explains. “Most algae also contain a range of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, B, C, and E, fatty acids and lipids, and proteins, all contributing to moisturising and protecting the skin barrier”.

READ MORE: Um, People Are Using Sea Moss For Weight Loss But Does It Work?

Different types of algae in skincare

The most common algae used in skincare is macroalgae. These are multicellular organisms which are commonly known as seaweed. “I think often we forget that algae survive in harsh environments and are often forced to adapt. For example, during low tide, seaweed is exposed to the sun, which has forced the algae to produce UV screening abilities such as antioxidants. It makes sense to try incorporating some of those capabilities into skincare products,” adds Dr Nikolic.

There are four colour groups of algae, each with different properties and skincare applications:

  • Brown algae (for example, kelp) tends to be the most used type of algae in cosmetic applications, as they are high in antioxidants, provide the best skin hydration, and have been shown to increase skin elasticity
  • Red algae contain the highest number of carotenoids, which help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Red algae have also been shown to improve the skin’s UV protection.  
  • Blue algae, also known as spirulina, are rich in antioxidants and are an effective neutraliser of free radical environmental damage, making it an excellent morning application choice.
  • Green algae have been shown to promote firm, smooth skin. Interestingly, it is often used as a thickening agent in skin care applications.

What skin types benefit most from using algae?

The good news is that algae is beneficial to all skin types. “Due to the wide range of biological benefits, skincare infused with algae is safe for even the most sensitive skin. I would advise you to check the formula for each product to see if anything within would react with your skin type. The best application would combine the different colours to maximise the benefits,” adds Dr Nikolic.   

READ MORE: What Skincare You Should Follow In Your 30s

Algae skincare products

Try these products, recommended by Dr Nikolic to soothe, brighten and tone:

REN Everhydrate Marine Moisture-Replenish Cream

Suitable for dry, dehydrated, dull skin types. This water-locking algae-activated cream is clinically proven to deliver up to 48-hour defence from dehydration.

DERMALOGICA Circular Hydration Serum

Hyaluronic acid penetrates the skin’s surface for deep hydration and more supple, radiant skin. An algae extract-infused moisturising matrix delivers quick and long-lasting hydration.

IMAGE CLEAR CELL clarifying salicylic blemish

This powerful spot solution targets existing blemishes, helping to reduce their appearance through exfoliation. Natural extracts and a marine algae complex help to soothe treated areas and minimise the appearance of redness.

REN Everhydrate Marine Moisture-Restore Serum

This ultra-hydrating algae-activated serum is clinically proven to increase deep skin hydration for up to 72 hours.


Seatox includes algae, sea spaghetti and chlorophyll, which gives your skin the reset it needs, treating acne in a flash while improving uneven skin tone and texture.

ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Renewal Serum

Get retinol-like results, minus the irritation. A powerful blend of Pavonica and Red Microalgae, along with Alfalfa and Stevia extracts.

Women’s Health participates in various affiliate marketing programmes, which means we may get commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

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