The ocean can benefit your skin many ways.
Some say salt water cures everything, but it turns out the ocean has much more to offer in terms of natural beauty benefits. Sea algaes—super microorganisms and staples of both traditional Japanese and modern-day, health-nut cuisines—are lauded for their nutrient-rich powers when consumed. And like with many other ingredients found to be beneficial when in the belly (fruits, oils, probiotics), skin care companies are now researching and experimenting with these microorganisms for topical use as well. The result is a boom in sea-based ingredients found in beauty products—algaes, fennel, and seawater itself have been marketed as exotic wonder ingredients that can help hydrate, fight free radicals, and fade dark spots on skin.
While vitamin and nutrient-rich sea organisms (and the water they thrive in) may yield impressive nutritional stats while in their natural habitats—and even on the plate—one has to wonder: Can our skin really benefit when they’re infused into lotions, serums, and creams? In honor of World Oceans Day, Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist weighs in on if this massive skin care trend is worth the hype.
“There’s real science here — many of these ingredients bring real skin benefits,” says Jaliman. “But it’s important to consider the concentration being used. Look where it’s named in the ingredient list. If it’s one of the last ingredients listed, maybe it’s an afterthought.”
Here are a few of the standout ingredients that earned Jaliman’s research-backed approval:
This type of microorganism is chock-full of nutrients (vitamin C, B1, B2, B3, and B12, which is absorbed from seawater). We snack on the stuff to feed our bodies nutrients (wakame salad, anyone?). It works topically, too. “It has fucosterol, which decreases inflammation, along with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and the ability to break down hyperpigmentation in the skin,” says Jaliman. What’s more, brown algae and algae extracts have been shown to help hydration by inhibiting the enzymes in our bodies that naturally break down skin-plumping and moisturizing hyaluronic acid. They’re also equipped to inhibit the enzyme in our skin that breaks down collagen, which makes our skin appear lifted and plump.
Try: Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Serum ($220), which lists Norwegian sea kelp, a brown algae, as a top ingredient. Jaliman suggests serums as a vessel for skin-loving nutrients since many can penetrate the skin better than heavier creams, and can contain a higher concentration of active ingredients.
Jaliman likes this marine algae for those suffering from redness or puffiness, because it’s packed with beta carotene, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Red algae may also benefit those with rosacea or eczema, if it’s formulated with other ingredients suited for sensitive skin.
Try: Dermalogica Ultrasmoothing Eye Serum ($52), which combines red sea algae with calming chamomile and soothing oat kernel or Sunday Riley Start Over Active Eye Cream ($85), which pairs algae with licorice and vitamin C to reduce hyperpigmentation and brighten skin.
This plant, which grows on seaside cliffs and rocks, seems to have sprouted up everywhere in skincare as of late. And as Jaliman says, it’s a good thing: Sea fennel contains the antioxidant and anti-aging trifecta (vitamins A, C, and E) that is proven to fight wrinkles and skin stressors brought on by modern-day life (like UV light, alcohol pollution, and cigarette smoke). “It also has chlorogenic acid, which is a potent antioxidant,” says Jaliman, making this unassuming seaside plant a powerful skin protector.
Try: NUDE Skincare Purify Deep Cleansing Mask ($48), which uses antioxidant-rich sea fennel along with pink and white clay to deep cleanse oily skin.
This type of green algae, which is referred to as Ulva lactuca on ingredient lists and in medical journals, doesn’t possess much in the way of anti-aging qualities; instead, it’s lauded for its antiseptic nature. Jaliman suggests looking for toners stocked with sea lettuce to help quick cleanse and balance the skin.
Try: H2o Sea Foam Toner ($22) which combines sea lettuce with anti-aging wakame and free radical-fighting sea fennel for a multitasking skin balancer.
People have long taken to the Dead Sea for its healing properties. And research has shown that the mineral-rich water can help improve skin barrier function, increase hydration, and reduce inflammation in severely dry skin. With this in mind, some skin care makers tap minerals found in dead sea water (magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium) to help hydrate the skin.
Try: Ahava Mineral Hand Cream ($23) which uses a high concentration of mineral-rich dead seawater to hydrate rough skin. “We’re born with minerals in our body, but our skin can’t produce minerals on its own,” says Idit Gandelman, vice president of global education and retail Marketing for the brand. “So as we age, the amount of minerals decreases. You can drink water and eat food to replenish minerals in your body, but the only way to replenish those minerals in your skin is to integrate them with your cream.”