Healthy skin and the secrets of seaweed
Many years ago, when Jenefer Palmer’s grandmother suffered a painful leg and hip injury, she collected seaweed and packed it on her wounds. It helped her heal, and Palmer grew up knowing about the power of seaweed. As a spa director, when she couldn’t find a skincare line to meet her standards, she decided to launch her own. “I thought I could create a synergistic relationship between seaweed and oils,” Palmer says. She first started formulating in 1982 and formally launched OSEA in 1996.
Palmer isn’t the only one who is in on the secrets of seaweed. It’s packed with minerals like potassium, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and iodine, plus trace elements that deliver plenty of perks to the skin. “These minerals help to detoxify your skin by ridding it of long-standing dirt and grime and also nourish your skin, making it appear bright, supple and healthy,” says Malcolm Macrae, founder and director, Ishga. “Seaweed is packed with skin-friendly nutrients that can be easily absorbed and so can penetrate the skin to deliver benefits where they are needed for maximum efficacy. All the seaweed extracts used in the manufacture of Ishga products have been independently tested and were found to contain high levels of polyphenol antioxidants, alginates, fucoidan, fucoxanthin and a range of minerals and vitamins, which are all recognized as being beneficial to the skin.”
People tend to look to land plants for skincare, but the botanicals below the surface have their own special benefits. “One of the greatest things about seaweed is its rich mineral content,” Palmer says. “So many land plants have been depleted through poor farming in soil.”
But not all seaweed is the same. There are many varieties and each has its perks. Seaweed is classified by color. “All the seaweeds we use in the Ishga range are brown seaweeds,” Macrae says. “They are all good and we have tested lots, but the ones we found worked best in cosmetic formulations are Fucus Serratus, Fucus Vesiculosus, Ascophyllum Nodosum and Pelvetia Canaliculata. These are the species we currently use in the Ishga range.” OSEA’s top three are Gigartina Skottsbergii, a red algae for deep hydration, which is rich in polysaccharides, vitamins and minerals, plus protects skin from environmental stressors; Undaria Pinnatifida, a brown algae, to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce redness and plump skin; and Macrocystis Pyrifera, giant bladder kelp, which is rich in essential fatty acids, evens texture and reduces irritation.
To ensure your seaweed has maximum potency, it is important to know where it is sourced. “When it grows in the ocean, it absorbs macro- and micronutrients, but also pollution and fertilizer runoff,” Palmer says. “It is sometimes referred to as the lymphatic system of the ocean in that it helps clean polluted waters. The source is everything when it comes to seaweed.”
OSEA sources most of its seaweed from a remote area of Patagonia, where the water is pristine. It is hand-harvested by a family-run farm that has existed for 50 years and they export the bulk of it to Asia, so it’s food grade and USDA-certified.
Ishga draws its seaweed from off the coast of Scotland. “The coastal waters surrounding the Outer Hebrides of Scotland are recognized as being amongst the most pristine in the world, and to reflect this, they have been given the highest quality classification available,” Macrae says. “This is where we sustainably harvest our seaweed, so we can be sure it is of the highest cleanliness and quality.”
There are other great brands—Voya, for example—that are dedicated to spotlighting seaweed as a hero ingredient. But beauty labels outside the seaweed sphere are embracing it too, like Josie Maran Cosmetics, which recently released an Argan Beta-Retinoid Pink Algae Serum to smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The cult favorite, Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel, is an antibacterial sea complex made up of sea oak, sea kelp and red seaweed, great for skin inflammation. And Captain Blankenship Sea Mineral Soap features skin-softening organic aloe vera and seaweed extracts, along with essential oils.
Another fantastic fact about seaweed is that it works for all skin types. “It’s beneficial for everyone,” Palmer says. “It’s very beneficial for oily, blemish-prone skin, but at the same time it’s incredible for anti-aging and even people with super sensitive skin can use seaweed. Seaweed is powerful; it’s incredible. It holds the answers to so much.”