In the salty depths of Earth’s oceans and seas lies a treasure trove of ancient secrets for youthful skin. Cleopatra is said to have ordered her lover Mark Antony to conquer the Dead Sea to ensure her uninterrupted supply of its salt and mud. Today, skin care products boast ingredients like salt, mud, and algae, which pack potent doses of skin-supporting minerals such as magnesium, iodine, and zinc. With this prevalence of sea-sourced antiaging and healing ingredients, you too can tap into the benefits of a marine-beauty routine.
This green algae lightens and brightens skin with marine coben, a component of algae that regulates and decreases production of melanin, the source of skin pigmentation. “Chlorella works especially well on dark circles, decreasing the overall darkness and pigmentation of the skin,” says Jeanette Jacknin, MD, a San Diego–based holistic dermatologist.
Chlorella also keeps skin firm and supple by protecting collagen and elastin and stimulating the production of new collagen that can improve the appearance of scars. A 2007 study found that a solution of 1 percent chlorella extract more than tripled collagen expression.
Dead Sea mud
Dead Sea mud’s megadoses of minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, strontium, boron, and iron offer so much skin-healing potential that Dead Sea visitors slather it on, head to toe. In products such as facial masks and soaps, Dead Sea mud is an effective acne treatment thanks to its softening, pore-tightening, and antibacterial properties.
“Its remarkable absorbency reaches deep into the pores, thoroughly cleansing and removing grime that impedes the absorbance of topical skin care products that nourish the skin,” says Jacknin.
Ageless beauties take note: A 2009 study demonstrated that Dead Sea mud fights wrinkles because it reduces certain UVB-related aging responses.
Dead Sea salt
Table salt gets a bad rap for causing bloating and dehydration, but mineral-dense Dead Sea salt affects the body very differently, given its lower sodium chloride content and its high concentrations of magnesium and calcium that relax muscles, increase circulation, and reduce fluid retention.
This powerful salt has traditionally healed psoriasis and dermatitis. Now research has found that the magnesium in a Dead Sea salt soak hydrates skin, improves skin barrier function, and visibly reduces topical inflammation, says Jacknin. She recommends using Dead Sea salt products one to two times each week, and more often if you suffer from eczema or psoriasis.
Also known as Laminaria digitata, brown seaweed, and kombu (when sold as a food ingredient in grocery stores), kelp has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat swelling and edema (fluid accumulation under the skin). Now kelp is popping up in skin care products to manage concerns as varied as wrinkles, cellulite, and acne.
Like other types of algae, kelp regulates sebum and acts as a topical anti-inflammatory ingredient, alleviating acne and redness from skin conditions like rosacea. But it may have even more exciting benefits: Polyphenols from brown algae are strong antioxidants with potential anticancer properties when applied topically. Like spirulina, kelp has the potential to become a key ingredient in sunscreens and antiaging products.
Also called blue-green algae, spirulina offers an antiaging boost with its antioxidant-rich pigment phycocyanin that makes it a popular superfood supplement. Topically, spirulina defends against free radical damage by creating a barrier of natural sun protection with a high concentration of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that also evens skin tone. “Spirulina is one of the primary sources of beta-carotene on the planet,” says Jacknin.
Although the sun-protective benefits of spirulina are still new to science, the ingredient holds promise for sunscreens of the future. Like other algae, spirulina also balances skin’s natural pH, preventing irritation and infection. You’ll find it in a variety of facial products, such as masks, cleansers, and moisturizers.