To make your skin look and feel like it's fresh from a dip in the sea, add some natural algae into your routine. The aquatic plant is brimming with protective antioxidants and swimming with line-smoothing and moisture-boosting benefits. Find the best kind for your complexion, and take the plunge.

By Claire Sullivan
July 01, 2020
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Anthony Cotsifas

The world's oceans contain more than 70,000 varieties of algae, which fall into three main categories based on their pigment, says East Providence, Rhode Island, dermatologist Tiffany Libby, MD. Each has unique powers, but they're all most potent when left on the skin, adds New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, who suggests using serums and creams, rather than cleansers and scrubs. Here, everything you need to know about algae-infused beauty products by color—including a powerhouse product that combines all three.

Blue Green Algae

This algae type is best for hydration and bolstering skin's ability to shield itself from irritants and allergens, says Dr. Zeichner. Green-caviar algae provide firming amino acids, and chlorella seals in soothing vitamin E.

As for where you can find it? Okinawa-sourced green-caviar algae fortify Dr. Dennis Gross Marine Dew It Right Eye Gel ($48, sephora.com), which feels cool on contact. Give Good Habit Glow Potion Oil Serum ($80, goodhabitskin.com) a shake before use; the blue-spirulina-enriched formula ups suppleness and protects skin from blue-light damage. Chlorella is one of three algae in Estée Lauder Nutritious Micro-Algae Pore Minimizing Hydra Lotion ($48, shop.nordstrom.com). Together, they deliver nourishing amino acids, beta-carotene, and polyphenols. Algenist's Blue Algae Vitamin C Dark Spot Correcting Peel ($85, sephora.com) contains microalgae-derived antioxidants to brighten and even tone; smooth it on two nights a week.

Brown Algae

Stimulate your skin's elastin with brown algae, which helps it to snap back. "It's particularly beneficial for improving water retention in the skin's outermost layers," says Dr. Libby, and it can also treat uneven pigmentation and atopic dermatitis.

Test it out with Cyan Atlantic Serum ($48, cyanskincare.com), where moisturizing niacinamide joins forces with sustainably sourced Neptune kelp. If your skin is on the dry side, try Mara Universal Face Oil ($40, credobeauty.com), which packs other nutrient-rich plant oils for instant suppleness, including moringa, bilberry, and baobab. Calming bladder wrack gives Mario Badescu Seaweed Night Cream ($22, ulta.com) a lightweight feel with the hydrating power of a rich salve. And morning and night, dab One Ocean Eye Revival Marine Cream ($74, net-a-porter.com) atop any of the above treatments to pep up sagging areas and fill out fine lines.

Red Algae

Fight skin-damaging free radicals and calm inflammation with red algae. "These algae have been shown to protect against UV-light exposure," says Dr. Zeichner. Get your fix by spritzing on Osea Sea Vitamin Boost ($38, amazon.com) after your morning cleanse; it contains hand-foraged Gigartina seaweed, brightening resveratrol, and pomegranate enzymes that gently exfoliate. Extracts from coralline algae deliver moisturizing polysaccharides in Kiehl's Powerful Wrinkle Reducing Eye Cream ($45, sephora.com), which also contains caffeine to reduce puffiness. Cherry-red Skyn Iceland Icelandic Youth Serum ($45, dermstore.com) has astaxanthin, a natural pigment that's six thousand times more effective than vitamin C at ridding skin of free radicals. At night, let algae-derived retinol in Josie Maran Argan Beta-Retinoid Pink Algae Serum ($68, qvc.com) help encourage collagen production without redness or irritation.

A Mix of All Three

Now, for an even deeper dive: The Seaweed Bath Co., a Colorado-based company, hand-harvests organically grown bladder wrack in Maine (a sustainable choice, because it grows back quickly) and swirls it into natural formulas for the hair, face, and body. The Whole Seaweed Detox Bath ($7.99, amazon.com) includes entire leaves of the plant; steep them in steamy water (or use the sachet bag for quick tub cleanup). "These soaks contain minerals that increase circulation and decrease inflammation," says Mount Kisco, New York, dermatologist David Bank, MD, and the magnesium in them can ease muscle pain. For a full spa experience, smooth on the Restoring Marine Algae Overnight Face Mask ($12.99, target.com) before you hit the bath. The shamrock-green gel has all three colors of seaweed, plus turmeric to reduce redness and irritation.

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