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Going green: why you should be including microalgae in your skincare regime

This natural wonder ingredient can help with anything from increasing hydration to tackling pigmentation

With valuable skin-enhancing properties, microalgae has been making its mark as a powerhouse skincare ingredient for the last few years.

Found in aquatic and marine environments, these tiny organisms work on everything from protecting skin against UV rays and encouraging collagen production, and tackling hyperpigmentation and increasing hydration.

As the skincare industry continues to embrace natural and sustainable ingredients, microalgae is now playing a prominent role in our eternal quest for a healthier, more vibrant complexion–as well as being an effective moisturiser, scientific studies have shown that microalgae can rejuvenate, nourish and protect the skin. So what other skincare benefits does it offer?


Some species contain polysaccharides which have been shown to improve skin texture, form a protective barrier on the skin and reduce water loss. In fact, a 2008 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Science highlighted the moisturising effects of microalgae-derived ingredients for their role in soothing dry and dehydrated skin.

Skin superfood

Microalgae are packed with skin enhancing ingredients such as vitamins and minerals, including B, C, E and magnesium, as well as omega 3 fatty acids and amino acids. They’re also packed with iodine, which fights bacteria and speeds up skin healing.

Specific skin concerns

Microalgae show evidence in helping with more specific skin problems. For example, dunaliella salina, a microalga rich in beta-carotene, has been seen to be effective in brightening skin, reducing the appearance of dark spots, and helping even out the skin tone. A 2010 research paper outlined the potential of dunaliella extract in inhibiting melanin production, therefore demonstrating its role in addressing hyperpigmentation.

Eco credentials

As a sustainable and biodegradable ingredient, microalgae can help reduce the environmental impact of cosmetic products. Furthermore, the cultivation of microalgae has the potential to absorb carbon dioxide and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Look for the following ingredients:

One of the most nutritious foods on the planet gram for gram, this chlorophyll-rich blue-green alga contains omega 3 fatty acids and is rich in many nutrients, including B vitamins and iron, and is a popular ingredient in skincare. It’s believed to combat oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, brighten dull and congested skin and encourage cell renewal.

High in amino acids, peptides and fatty acids, chlorella has been found to support collagen production and aid in maintaining skin’s firmness, while its high levels of vitamins and minerals stimulate cells to reproduce at a faster rate. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, chlorella has been shown to protect the skin against UV-induced damage and can also be effective in lightening the skin by reducing pigmentation caused by the overproduction of melanin.

This red pigmented alga is what gives salmon, flamingos, and lobsters their colour. It’s a potent antioxidant notably stronger than vitamin C; most notably it has anti-ageing superpowers. A 2012 study showed that combining both skincare and supplements of astaxanthin can help to smooth wrinkles, shrink age spots and help maintain skin moisture.

Products to try

HydroPeptide Brighten & Glow Jelly Mask
Algae extract is combined with aloe vera, niacinamide and firming peptides in this two-step hydrating, plumping and firming mask.

Sukin Super Greens Facial Moisturiser
Spirulina and chlorella are leading ingredients in this lightweight daily moisturiser.

Sanctuary Spa Green Smoothie Recharge Mask
A blend of superfoods including spirulina pack a punch and leave skin soft, smooth and glowing.

Ren Everhydrate Marine Moisture-Restore Serum
Ultra-hydrating algae are the hero ingredients in this deeply hydrating serum.

Dr Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Dew It Right Eye Gel
Japanese green caviar alga provides line filling hydration and boosts skin’s suppleness.

In-clinic treat

This popular 6-in-1 facial has become a tried and trusted classic. Known for its rejuvenating, cleansing and hydrating results, the high-tech medical grade treatment can penetrate 20 times deeper than regular facials. Algae extracts are some of the active ingredients used for their antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and ability to leave skin soft, smooth and radiant. Hydrafacial is available nationwide at Nestor Demosthenous; Thames Skin Clinic (Dr Anna Hemming); Vie Aesthetics (Dr Liakas); Sean White; Zoe Myers and Dina Patel.

Find a local practitioner