A big portion of the seaweed on earth grows in the intertidal area. This means that they are interchangeably flooded and exposed to air.
Combined with rough physical conditions such as wave action, strong direct sunlight exposure and big temperature changes, you get a very stressful environment.
To overcome and thrive in these circumstances, seaweed produces a whole range of compounds within itself.
Compounds we can use too, to combat the stresses our own skin has to endure in everyday life as we grow older.
Just as in terrestrial plants, marine plants consist of primary metabolites, such as polysaccharides, proteins and lipids. These are directly involved in the growth, development and reproduction of the organism.
The polysaccharides within seaweed have a strong ability to prevent the skin from losing collagen and elasticity. They also have a high-water holding capacity, making it a better hydrator and moisturiser than hyaluronic acid! Because of their anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, polysaccharides within seaweed help to heal wounds on the skin faster.
Seaweed fatty acids have anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory activities and also act as an emollient that protects the skin from water loss. On top of that, seaweed contains more polyunsaturated fatty acid than terrestrial plants.
But it is mainly the secondary metabolites that are so extremely interesting for us, especially the phenolic compounds. These compounds are created within the plant organism under influence of ecological interactions and stressors and act as defence mechanisms, for example against UV radiation.
They have a wide range of biological activities, such as anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-allergic, anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and neuroprotective properties. Phenols also have anti-microbial and anti-bacterial activity with a proven efficiency against acne.
A class within the polyphenols is the phlorotannins, which can only be found in brown seaweeds. Phlorotannins play an important role in protecting the skin against wrinkle formation and reducing melanogenesis (dark spots and pigmentation). They have the unique ability to repair skin damages from various allergens.
On top of that, phlorotannins have an anti-oxidant power that can be 10 times larger than ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and tocopherol (vitamin E).
Protection against and healing damage from UV radiations is very important when talking about skincare, because it is a major contributor to skin aging.
Mycosporine-like amino acids (MAA) can be found in seaweed. These are UV-absorbing compounds which reduce UV induced cellular damage. These compounds also have a high anti-oxidant, anti-cancer and photoprotection activity.
The unique pigments of seaweed, act as a shield against UV radiation. Fucoxanthin, a pigment found in brown seaweed, has an extraordinary anti-oxidant activity, making it extremely effective in successfully suppressing cell damage.