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Algae, a class of photosynthetic organisms found in both marine and freshwater habitats, are well known for their applications in food and fuel [1]. Algae being an important source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and natural colorants, the incorporation of the whole biomass in food and feed could be used to provide color, incremental nutritional value, and improved texture or resistance to oxidation [2]. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (2014) estimated that 38% of the 23.8 million tonnes of seaweeds in the 2012 global harvest was eaten by humans in the form of seaweeds, e.g., kelps, nori/laver. The global harvest of seaweeds in 2013 was estimated at US$ 6.7 billion, with China and Indonesia being the top producers (FAO 2015) [3]. DSM’s product DHAgold®, used high quality, dried marine algae as a sustainable source of omega-3 DHA for nutritional health claims across all pet life stages [4]. Amway incorporated fat-soluble carotenoid compounds from algae in their product Nutrilite™ Multi Carotene which helps in protecting skin [5]. Algae has received more attention recently, not just in food, but also in cosmetics, and more particularly in skin cosmetics. Algae extract contributes to skin health and beauty [6].

Skin Aging And Algae

Researchers have found that the nutrient density of algae, such as amino acids, mineral salts, trace elements and vitamin content, supply the skin cells with energy. Skin aging is a slow and complex process leading to many changes in the texture of skin such as thinning, dryness, laxity, fragility, enlarged pores, fine lines, and wrinkles. Progerin accumulates over time as the skin ages, and works with telomeres to trigger cellular senescence in normal human fibroblasts [7]. Skin aging is related to the reduction of collagen production and decrease of several enzymatic activities that degrade collagen structure in the dermis. Various factors such as changes in DNA, signal transduction pathways, immunology, UVR and pollution activate cell surface receptors of keratinocytes and fibroblasts in the skin, which leads to a breakdown of collagen in the extracellular matrix and stops new collagen synthesis. The mechanism of skin aging is shown below [8].



Therefore, efficient antioxidants such as marine algae which are rich-sources of metabolites can be used to fight against oxidative stress that leads to skin aging [9].

Microalgae Vs Macroalgae

Microalgae, also known as blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, are prokaryotic, microscopic unicellular algae with an approximate diameter of 1-50 μm. Macroalgae are eukaryotic, macroscopic, multicellular algae, widely known as seaweeds. The habitat of macroalgal species is marine water or seawater with the optimal availability of light. Macroalgae can be divided into three major groups based on their pigmentation:

  • Chlorophyceae (green algae)
  • Phaeophyceae (brown algae)
  • Rhodophyceae (red algae) [10]
Extraction Of Algae

Algae are sold directly as food and nutrient supplements, but for usage in biopharmaceuticals and cosmetics, algae must be extracted or processed. Novel extraction technologies for main bioactive compounds including proteins from marine algae include enzyme-assisted extraction, microwave-assisted extraction, ultrasound-assisted extraction, supercritical fluid extraction, and pressurized liquid extraction [11, 12].


Microwave Assisted Extraction (MAE) is used to obtain aqueous extracts of Baltic seaweeds to be applied in agriculture as biostimulants [13]. Freshwater algae C. glomerata extract is prepared via supercritical fluid extraction and brown seaweed Sargassum plagyophyllum is extracted in ethanol-water mixture. Both are considered as effective raw materials for moisturizing, firming and as anti-wrinkle agents [14, 15]. Fucoidan is extracted from the brown alga Ascophyllum nodosum by an innovative low-chemical process [16]. Seasonal variation of Fucoidan in three species of brown macroalgae, Fucus serratus (FS), Fucus vesiculosus (FV) and Ascophyllum nodosum (AN), are found to be 6.0, 9.8 and 8.0 wt% respectively with highest quantities extracted in autumn and lowest in spring [17]. Fucoidan from Laminaria japonica is extracted using Chitosan as extractant [18]. Fucoxanthin, effective in protecting skin from photo-aging [19] can be extracted from brown seaweeds by using enzymes, water, low‐temperature dehydration and mechanical blending [20]. Algal products, such as micronized algae and extracts of algae, should be prepared according to a set of regulations and standards, which vary from country to country and it involves various steps and technique to obtain high‐value and safe algal products for cosmetic industry [21].

Algae In Skin Care

Vitamins in algae act as a natural anti-aging complex, activate the skin, protect it against environmental influences, and fight free radicals, whereas Chlorophyll, similar to the haemoglobin, contributes significantly to the oxygen supply of the skin [22]. The incorporation of macroalgae-derived ingredients in cosmetics has been growing, as more and more scientific evidence points to their skin health-promoting effects [23]. Algae extracts from Laminaria, and Nannochloropsis, seaweed such as Undaria pinnatifida and microalgae Thalassiosira Nannochloropsis are found effective in skin hydration and restoration of trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) as they contain several molecules with moisturizing properties such as polysaccharides, fatty acids (sophorolipids, rhamnolipids and mannosylerythritol) and proteins [24]. Studies on two microalgae, Undaria pinnatifida extract (containing 85% fucoidan), and Fucus vesiculosus co-extract (containing 60% fucoidan) showed that fucoidan helped in skin immunity, soothing and protection [25]. Euglena gracilis, a unicellular eukaryotic alga, upon anaerobic incubation for three days, were found synthesizing amino acids such as arginine, alanine, leucine, lysine, and valine which commercially have been used for cosmetics [26]. Research has demonstrated the potential use of marine microalgae and cyanobacteria in Thalassotherapy, which involves using seawater and all related marine elements [27]. Presence of radioprotective phytochemicals, such as phlorotannins, polysaccharides, carotenoids and other compounds in marine microalgae have been explored which could be used as ingredients in cosmetic formulations for providing protection against ultraviolet radiation [28]. Apart from marine microalgae, freshwater macroscopic green algae species (e.g., Chara fragilis, Cladophora glomerata, Ulva flexuosa) may also be a rich source of macro- and micronutrients as well as other bioactive substances such as fatty acids, polysaccharides, pigments, polyphenols, etc. Research on freshwater macroalgae for cosmetic applications is currently lacking [29].

Recent Skin Care Products

Japanese beauty company Shiseido has recently developed a patented (WO2018074606A1) new anti-aging active ingredient Stemlan-173 which effectively protects the degradation of laminin-511, that improves skin texture, rejuvenates skin, and protects the decrease of epidermal stem cells. Shiseido has claimed that the algae extract, from green algae, red algae and brown algae, acts as an active ingredient to promote the production of laminin-511, which decreases with aging [30].



L’Oréal Paris’ skin experts have created a super-charged pure exfoliating clay mask enhanced with Red Algae Extract to exfoliate and refine skin in just 10 minutes.


Gallinee’ s Face Vinegar is a toner, containing a cocktail of hibiscus vinegar, is known for its astringent and purifying properties; algae prebiotics help to calm stressed skin and prevent irritation and redness.

Gallinee’ - Face-Vinegar

AlgEternal Technologies has introduced a new line of microalgae-based skin care products AlgAllure AlgaRiche in Texas. The line uses a patent-pending, proprietary marine red microalgae extract AlgEternal having trade name PhycoDerm, which, according to the company, minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, hydrates the skin, and protects against visible signs of aging.


Algenist’s first color-changing, transformative mask is formulated with a prebiotic from algae, a good-bacteria probiotic and patented Alguronic Acid. This product balances, detoxifies and boosts radiance for a healthy, glowing complexion.


Algenist launched the Genius Sleeping Collagen, a supercharged overnight treatment that promises plump, dewy skin by morning. The components in the formula include the brand’s patented alguronic acid (which helps skin retain moisture) and microalgae oil, which is naturally rich in omegas 3, 6 and 9 and vitamin E.


Repêchage Professional Skin Care has launched a collection of products, Repêchage SeaSmooth Artisan Seaweed Wax. Seaweed is the magic ingredient (used in most Repechage products) designed to transform the depilation process. Repêchage SeaSmooth Artisan Seaweed Wax is a soft, creamy wax infused with select sea plants that deliver vitamins, minerals and trace elements for smoothness.


ALGAKTIV® LightSKN™ by Greenaltech performs the role of a whitening agent. It is obtained from biotechnological microalgae fractions designed to reduce melanin production and remove spots from skin. ALGAKTIV® LightSKN™ finds its application in whitening preparations.


Lip peeling booster by Innisfree (Amorepacific) contains algae extract that has been used as an active ingredient to exfoliate lips by rolling the product gently with fingertips thus creating smooth lips.

Innisfree (Amorepacific)

Active Concepts has developed AcquaSeal® Algae to promote youthful skin, through mechanisms such as reducing inflammation and increasing cellular proliferation. Derived from green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, using a proprietary technology to isolate and extract lipid fractions from this sustainable green algae source, it provides cellular renewal, cellular hydration, cellular proliferation, and anti-inflammation benefits to defend against aging skin.

Algae In Hair Care Products

Eksperience™ is the first thalassotherapy hair range by Revlon Professionals that solves different hair related problems such as hair loss, sensitive scalp, oily scalp, etc. Revlon Thalassotherapy marine algae scalp treatment is a mixture of marine algae and essential extracts, creating active mud with Spirulina algae and Vitamin B stimulating essences.

  • In October 2017, Innospec announced an exclusive partnership with Australian biotechnology company, Marinova Pty Ltd, for the unique Luminact fucoidan cosmetic ingredients. Clinical research showed that fucoidan extends these remarkable benefits to human skin care through a diverse range of protective and anti-ageing properties [31].
  • TerraVia, formely Solazyme, signed a deal in March, 2016 with Unilever for $200 million worth of sustainable algae oils. The oils will be used in Unilever’s personal care products [32].
  • Natural ingredient firm Frutarom signed an agreement in Jan 2016, to invest in Algalo Industries Ltd. Frutarom invested a total of NIS 10 million (approx. US$ 2.6 million) in exchange for the allocation of 50% of Algalo shares to build a modern biotechnology facility specialized in cultivation, harvesting and processing algae using advanced methods [33].
Start Up Activity

ALGALO INDUSTRIES COMPANY LTD.:Established in 2011, as a start-up – for microalgae growing technologies, the company is located in Kibbutz Ein Hamifratz, Israel.

Vison: Global leading in Algaculture and Algae-based products.

  • The Company grows Haematococcus for its Astaxanthin content.
  • Algalo’s unique algae growing methods showed results of production of Astaxanthin concentration in the range of 2.5% to 4% with high yield per volume.
  • Astaxanthin has been scientifically proven to be more effective than any other Carotenoid: the antioxidant effect is 500 times higher than Vitamin E, 10 times more than β-Carotene and other Carotenoids.
  • Algalo’s revolutionary Flat Panel Bioreactors (PBR) in its microalgae growing facility are patent protected.
  • Algalo Company maintains collaboration and engagement with several companies in Israel and abroad in many sectors such as food additives, dietary supplements, bio energy, universities, cosmetics companies, aquaculture and animal feed additive.
Nature Beta Technologies:

Owned by the Japanese company Nikken Sohonsha, reportedly is Israel’s largest and oldest algae producer. NBT has been growing the beta-carotene-rich alga Dunaliella bardawil, under license from the Weizmann Institute of Science, since 1989.

  • This algal species was originally discovered in the Dead Sea and in the Bardawill lagoon in the Sinai Desert.
  • The algae, dehydrated into a dry orange beta-carotene powder, are useful for health foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, besides as nutritional supplements for markets in Japan and other countries.
  • The largest and most advanced facility for Dunaliella cultivation in the world, NBT’s plant produces a pure paste by centrifugation, which is then spray-dried into powder form.
Recent Patent Application
  • BASF in its patent US9717932B2 titled Marine extracts and biofermentations for use in cosmetics discloses that biofermentation of marine algae, Sarcodiotheca, particularly Sarcodiotheca gaudichaudi is useful as a skin care active ingredient for anti-aging cosmetic applications, and particularly useful when used in combination with extracts of red algae, such as Chondrus crispus.
  • Amorepacific Corp., in two of its recent patents (KR1972071B1, KR1901859B1), has disclosed incorporation of marine algae extracts such as green algae, rhodophyta, brown algae, microalgae, horsetail kelp, Spirulina and Sargassum Fulvellum extract, Codium Fragile extract and Undaria Pinnatifida extract in cosmetic composition for improving skin tone, preventing skin aging and enhancing skin elasticity, masking skin wrinkles and protecting skin from UV rays.
  • Fucoidan based mask pack has been developed by an independent inventor OH, Chung Heon (KR1841099B1). The fucoidan powder is obtained by washing brown algae, immersing washed brown algae in water, stirring to extract alginic acid and fucoidan polysaccharide, filtering the same, obtaining purified fucoidan-containing liquid, adding acetic acid, heating, neutralizing, mixing the resultant neutralized fucoidan with culture medium of Microbacterium sp. SC092, followed by fermenting, drying, and pulverizing.
  • Skin becomes thinner, fragile, and progressively loses its natural elasticity and ability to maintain hydration as people grow older; people are getting more concerned about their appearance. As a result, the cosmetic industry faces a lot of challenges, which may provide tremendous business opportunities.
  • Algae has various nutritional components such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, lipids, antioxidants, natural colorants, etc
  • Algae’s organic nature coupled with the presence of micronutrients has led to increased research on incorporation of algal extracts in cosmetics.


  • This document has been created for educational and instructional purposes only
  • Copyrighted materials used have been specifically acknowledged
  • We claim the right of fair use as ascertained by the author


Dr. Baisali Sarkar
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