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March 16, 2018 4 min read

Like plants on land, algae live with photosynthesis - in salt and fresh water. This means that they are among the most important oxygen suppliers on earth. Every second oxygen molecule should be formed in the atmosphere by algae. This is more than the rainforests do for the decomposition of carbon dioxide. This is because scientists estimate the number of million-year-old algae to be around 400,000 species. Only 40,000 of these are known to date and for cosmetics a total of around 50.

Their appearance is diverse. There are millimetre-sized microalgae and macroalgae, which can grow up to 60 metres long. This includes seaweed, which is not so pleasant when bathing by the sea. Algae are actually green because of their high chlorophyll content. However, they often appear reddish or brown. Therefore, they are also divided into the categories red, brown, green and blue-green algae. Blue-green algae belong to the group of bacteria, but are nevertheless considered to be algae. Algae love and need moisture and are extremely adaptable. They grow in hot springs, in polar ice and can also settle in bathrooms or on damp house walls.

Which active ingredients and nutrients are contained in it?

Algae use their entire surface area for their metabolic processes and can therefore filter many nutrients from the water. For example, amino acids that contribute to the formation of collagen and elastin fibres and thus to the firmness of the skin; polysaccharides (sugar compounds) such as alginic acid store moisture. Furthermore, algae contain a lot of vitamins, carotenoids and trace elements such as iodine, iron, zinc and selenium.

And because algae have a pH value similar to that of the skin, creams containing algae, for example, can be easily absorbed. So much for the skin benefit. Sea vegetables play an important role in nutrition, especially because of their iodine content as well as vitamin B12, calcium, iron and protein, explains Niko Rittenau, vegan nutrition expert and co-founder of the Plant Based Institute in Berlin. "But not every algae contains these nutrients," says the nutrition expert.

What is the fascination of natural cosmetics?

Especially the moisture retention capacity of the algae. This is because the water-dependent algae can survive even at low tide and in glaring sunlight and do not dry out. And: You can protect yourself against UV light thanks to the antioxidants it contains. Of course, this is also important for the beauty manufacturers. Many products from moisturising serums to body lotions contain algae. "Algae can be used in many different ways as a gel former, as a stabiliser, to keep the water moist. Their potential is inexhaustible", says Daniela Lindner, member of the management board of the natural cosmetics manufacturer Börlind.

Knotentang and Knorpeltang, for example, act against free radicals and thus against premature wrinkle formation. The green alga can accumulate beta-carotene and is used as skin protection against UV radiation. The kombu alga, which is also eaten, has an anti-inflammatory effect and strengthens the skin barrier. Queller, which is at home in the North German Wadden Sea, has many nutrients to offer: Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Its extract strengthens the skin's own urea production, i.e. the ability to bind moisture.

What makes the stomach happy?

In Asia, algae are part of the staple diet. Sushi eaters know that. Around 500 species of algae appear on plates worldwide. And anyone who claims to never ever eat slippery algae is grossly mistaken. This is because powdered algae are an important component in many foods. Ice cream, pudding, yogurt can't do without them. And food supplements contain powders from dried microalgae such as the freshwater algae chlorella and spirulina.

Algae have a completely different meaning for the vegan diet. Niko Rittenau: "Algae of the Schizohytrium genus provide omega-3 fatty acids and others, such as Lithothamium, provide lots of calcium and iodine. In addition, algae such as fermented golden yellow chlorella as a binding agent in baking offer a substitute for eggs. "As a nutrient supplier, algae still lead a niche existence. Above all, they are processed as gelling, binding and colouring agents," says the expert.

Where do the algae come from?

From coastal regions of the seas, which should be as clean as possible. Industrial runoff, shipping and fertiliser are taboo in the vicinity. The North Atlantic is an algae region from France to Canada, from Norway to Iceland. Japan has been an established algae country for thousands of years - for the kitchen as well as for cosmetics. There are algae that colonize rocks, those that love strong tides, prefer high salinity or need extremely deep water. GREY Fashion algae are harvested off Iceland.

Why are algae healthy?

The multitude of ingredients not only have an external effect on the skin, but also from within. In 1899, a doctor founded the first thalassotherapy spa centre in Brittany/France that worked with algae. Algae stimulate intestinal activity and the entire immune system. Application: Purification, stimulation of the metabolism and compensation of mineral deficiencies.

Can you take too much of it?

For creams, lotions and masks this can be denied for healthy skin. The algae used by GREY contain e.g. about 10-15mg iodine per 100g algae powder. There are about 12.5 grams of seaweed in a GREY shirt. This would correspond to an iodine content of 1.25-1.88 mg iodine per shirt.

It's different with nutrition. Expert Rittenau says: "Anyone who ingests algae in large quantities can certainly absorb too much iodine."

Which are the most famous?

Green caviar, also known as sea grape or green algae extract, because it is considered a delicacy in Japan, but also does valuable work against skin aging in many cosmetics. Nori, red algae from Japan, are used for sushi and for vegan wraps. For this purpose the algae are crushed, pressed thinly and then dried. Wagame is an Asian brown algae, which is bought dried and then soaked again. The iodine-containing Kombu as food and UV protection for the complexion. Chlorella can serve as a herbal B12 supplier for vegans, although not all chlorella contains B12 and there is still too little research to guarantee the effectiveness of B12 in chlorella for humans.

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