Red seaweed is most often found in Europe, in the Atlantic Ocean, the Channel, and the North Sea. In the cosmetic industry, red seaweed is frequently used to thicken formulations and give them a gel-like consistency. But, it also has hydrating benefits for your skin. Let’s take a closer look at this multifunctional sea plant.
What is red seaweed?
Red seaweed, or Rhodophyta, belongs to a taxon of marine algae which groups several different species. It owes its colour to its pigment composition, characterized by the fact that it has only one type of chlorophyll. It is mostly found on the Atlantic coast, usually on the beaches. There are several varieties of red seaweed: Chondrus crispus, Porphyra conchocelis, Palmaria palmata…
In skincare products, as well as the food industry, carrageenan is a sulfated polysaccharide, extracted from red seaweed, that thickens formulations and gives them a gel-like consistency. Traditionally extracted from the species Chondrus crispus (also known as Irish moss), carrageenan now mainly comes from the species Kappaphycus alvarezii and Eucheuma denticulatum.
The benefits of red seaweed in skincare products
In skincare and haircare products, red seaweed is often used to thicken formulations. Red seaweed contains carrageenans, natural polysaccharides made from sulfated D-galactose residue. On contact with water, these biopolymers unfold and form a gelled network. Red seaweed is a natural thickening agent, so is often used in organic skincare to replace certain synthetic thickeners like carbomers.
Alongside this essential function, red seaweed has many benefits for the skin. Its humectant properties allow it to hold water in the upper layers of the skin and reduce transepidermal water loss. Red seaweed helps to fight tightness often linked to skin dryness, and reduces the appearance of dehydration wrinkles.
Even better, red seaweed extract is able to boost hyaluronic acid production. As a reminder, hyaluronic acid is a biomolecule, produced by fibroblasts in the dermis, which maintains skin hydration and gives it that plumped, healthy look.
As time goes by, our skin produces less, and of worse quality. With every decade, we lose around 6% of our hyaluronic acid.
This drastic drop leads to atrophy of the fatty pockets located deep in the dermis, causing fine lines and wrinkles on the surface of the skin. So, stimulating production allows us to maintain plumped skin for as long as possible.
Red seaweed also helps to limit imperfections on the skin’s surface. Studies have shown carrageenan’s antibacterial action against Staphylococcus epidermidis and Enterococcus faecalis, two microorganisms responsible for acne and its associated inflammation issues.
Finally, red seaweed extract helps to stimulate ceramide production which tightens the epidermis and limits transepidermal water loss. As a reminder, ceramides are lipids organized as dense and structured lamellae which form the intercellular cement.
When should you not use red seaweed on your skin?
Red seaweed is well-tolerated by all skin types, even the most sensitive. It’s not contraindicated for young children nor for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Red seaweed is non-photosensitising, so can be used morning and evening on clean and dry skin.
Which skincare products contain red seaweed?
As a natural thickening agent, red seaweed is found in many skincare products such as creams, gels, shampoos, body lotions, balms etc…
In Typology’s plumping serum, red seaweed extract works with polyglutamic acid to hydrate your skin on two levels: the red seaweed extract boosts hyaluronic acid production, whereas polyglutamic acid forms a protective film on the surface of your skin to fight dehydration.
Use this product morning and evening, on clean, dry skin. It’s especially recommended for those with dry skin and/or to help prevent dehydration wrinkles and first wrinkles.
DOTY M.S. & al. IR Studies on carrageenan of ahnfeltia concinna, a marine red alga. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences (1975).
KANAAN H. M. & al. Anticoagulant and antibacterial activities of polysaccharides of red algae Corallina collected from Lebanese coast. Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science (2014).
HUANG N. & al. Potential use of seaweed bioactive compounds in skincare:A Review. Marine Drugs (2019).