Algae is like the grass of the sea. It grows like a weed, is a food source for many fish, and oxygenates the underwater ecosystem. You’ve probably seen it by the ocean as a sludgy-slimy type of underwater moss or if you’ve kept a fish tank, wanted to get rid of it. Or, perhaps you already take algae as a superfood in your diet, like spirulina. Aside from being necessary to sustain aquatic life, albeit a littttle gross, algae thrives as beauty ingredient. We checked in with Tammy Yaiser, VP of Product Development for Algenist – a brand built on the benefits of algae — and the IGK founders who are using the ingredient in their latest product, to find out all about red algae, specifically.
What is Red Algae?
Let’s get right into it – first off, what is red algae, actually? According to Tammy, red algae is “large group of algae that includes many seaweeds and microalgae that are mainly red in color.” It differs from other algal (add that to the Scrabble arsenal) species because it appears reddish in color due to the composition of unique pigments. “These allow red algae to use wavelengths of light that penetrate further into the water, which other species are unable to use, making red algae often abundant in deep or heavily shaded habitats. Red algae are found all around the world,” she continues.
Algae is abundant but we wanted to find out what helps it grow – luckily, Tammy knows all-gae. “Like all algae, red algae depend on photosynthesis to survive. Most other varieties of algae live near the surface of the water in order to get enough sunlight to live. Since red algae can absorb wavelengths of light that penetrate deeper into the water, red algae can live in much deeper water where light of long wavelengths can’t reach,” she explains. “Red algae have the ability to live and photosynthesize at greater depths than other algae because their unique pigment composition allows them to absorb light that can penetrate deeper than other light waves.”
Benefits to the Environment, Aquatic Environment and Skin/Hair
When it comes to sustainability, algae are winning awards on land and sea. “Algae is extremely sustainable as it helps reduce carbon in the atmosphere by absorbing a large amount of carbon dioxide. Moreover, algae grows more rapidly than terrestrial plants, and does not require fresh water like land crops do. Within an aquatic environment, algae convert water and carbon dioxide to sugar via photosynthesis. This process generates oxygen as a byproduct which contributes to the survival of fish and other aquatic organisms.”
If it’s good for the earth, it’s probably good for the body. As far as skin is concerned, it can help minimize the appearance of unsightly dark under eye circles, increase skin luminosity, de-puff and reduce appearance of under eye bags. It also helps erase the look of fatigue in the eye and increase protection against oxidative stress, as well as help soothe the skin while improving skin firmness and texture. Tammy recommends seeking out algae for it’s beauty boosting benefits because it is both an extremely sustainable and multifunctional. “Like all algae, red algae is naturally rich in various minerals and micro-nutrients which help with overall skin health. Also, red algae ingredients help provide a pleasant sensorial experience to the finished product,” she shares.
Algae is the gift that keeps on giving – it’s also a must for haircare. “Red Algae is known to provide shine, hydration, and strength thanks to its vitamin and mineral-rich content. It is also known for its high levels of antioxidants, which may act as a shield against pollution. Marine/ocean-inspired ingredients (seaweed, sea kelp and algae) are trending for 2023 according to WGSN trend reports,” note the founders of IGK Hair Care, Aaron Grenia, Leo Izquierdo, Franck Izquierdo and Chase Kusero. The IGK team wanted to test if the skintastic benefits of red algae would extend into the hair world, and it did!
“Red Algae is also a good play into skinification of hair, as it is more commonly found in skincare due to its antioxidant content. IGK decided to formulate with this trending ingredient because consumers have existing knowledge of the positive benefits it has on skin which can now translate to hair benefits as well as continue to support the brands overall positioning of using vegan, cruelty-free ingredients that give salon-worthy results.”