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Plants and the chemicals they make. The miracle in sea kelp “broth”

Once upon a time I was in love with algae (I almost named my daughter after a Diatom, class Bacillariophyceae). Then I fell in love with polysaccharides. In fact, I am still in love with both. So what could be more perfect that to work with algae polysaccharides? Nothing, but, in top of the beauty of algae and the complexity of polysaccharides, there are all the health benefits that these special polysaccharides have for us, humans.

What so special about algae? It depends. All the plants we are familiar with, like the palms in my back garden or the roses in the front, evolved from green algae. The basic cell structure is the same and the biochemistry is extremely similar.  Roses have flowers and algae don’t, but photosynthesis in both is very similar and so is the cellulose in their cell walls. So if you make an extract of Chlorella, you will not find anything exciting. This is why at Skin Actives we don’t use Chlorella extract, we would not get anything very different than by using spinach (I have nothing against spinach, I worked with it for 10 years!).

What so special about sea kelp?  That it belongs to a different group of plant (Class Phaeophyta), not just from the anatomy but also biochemically speaking. Brown algae are made  of different biochemicals, including pigments and the polysaccharides that make its cell walls. For us, that is great, because a different biochemical structure means different properties and that can be good for our health and our skin.

For example, using the cell walls of “normal” plants we can use their cellulose to make paper. But the polysaccharides in the cell walls of brown algae like sea kelp have antiviral properties, through effects on the virus and through effects on our own immune system. From our glossary: “Fucoidans are sulfated polysaccharides with a structure that depends on the plant source and growing conditions. Fucoidan applied to the skin will promote and support the synthesis of collagen and fights free radicals. The fucoidan we use at Skin Actives is extracted and purified from brown algae.”

How about pigments? Brown algae contain fucoxanthin, a pigment present in brown algae that enhances light absorption at the depth where these algae grow. This pigment is not present in Chlorella or other green algae or in terrestrial plants.  From our glossary: “Fucoxanthin is a xanthophyll found as an accessory pigment in the chloroplasts of brown algae and others, like diatoms, giving them a brown or olive-green color. Like other carotenoids, it has antioxidant activities and helps reduce the appearance of redness and irritation. Heo and Jeon (2009) reported that fucoxanthin significantly decreased intracellular reactive oxygen species generated by exposure to ultraviolet B radiation in human fibroblast. Topically applied fucoxanthin may also decrease the appearance of wrinkles.”

So here we are: we start the sea kelp “broth” with a plant material that is rich in biochemical components that are already beneficial to our skin. But then we cultivate yogurt bacteria in this broth, and the microorganisms will make their own beneficial biochemicals and enrich the mix with prebiotics that will benefit the skin in other ways: supplying yet more vitamins and building blocks that our skin will use to make its own proteins (collagen, elastin and more), polysaccharides (like hyaluronic acid) and DNA.  It is not surprising than we add yet more algae antioxidants to the mix we end up with a miracle mask that makes your skin feel refreshed and vital. It is not a miracle: it is pure science.

Incidentally,  the algae we use for our bioferment is Laminaria digitata grown in the sublittoral zone of the northern Atlantic Ocean. It is harvested in the State of Maine following regulations for sustainable harvesting, and is designated as USDA Organic. As you can see in the New York Times article, by using our sea kelp bioferment you will be helping the environment because kelp is a great sink for carbon dioxide. It is also a good nest for cute otters that thrive in sea kelp “forests”.

We use or sea kelp bioferment in many of our  products.  Find it in our sea kelp coral. The color of this mask/serum/base, etc. is given by astaxanthin (a xanthophyll, from the carotenoid family of chemicals). Corals also need antioxidants and they obtain carotenoid pigments from algae, called zooxanthellae, that are in symbiosis with the coral (an animal).