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Seaweed: the superfood for skin, hair and health

September 12th 2013 / Anna Hunter

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Lancome's DreamTone serum has been selling fast since it was revealed that Kate Middleton is a fan - but what is it about its marine ingredients that makes it so powerful? Anna Hunter looks into the secrets behind seaweed

Sebastian the crab was onto something. It really is better ‘under de sea’, and for Ariel-esque complexions we need to look to the deep dark blue. In fact, marine plants and extracts can revitalise our skin, hair and overall health; from seaweed baths to sushi wraps, getting a dose of sea greens will make you glow inside and out.

Whether you’re blighted by acne, suffering hair loss or feeling sluggish, seaweed is your friend. It may be slimy, sludgey and lacking in the glamour stakes, but seaweed is packed with an unusually high concentration of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Get acquainted with algae for the sake of your looks, locks and lease of life - it’s got a lot to give. Our experts are inclined to agree, and here’s how the humble sea leaf can rev up your beauty routine.

The benefits of seaweed... for your skin

From cleansing to toning, moisturising to repairing, seaweed and marine extracts have earned some serious kudos in the skincare world. And for good reason, as Crème de la Mer’s creators highlight:

“The ocean’s plants are able to survive extreme conditions and often adapt to changing environments, giving them potent powers to be harnessed for renewing the look of skin.”

It’s this resilience and restorative ability that make seaweed and marine extracts so valuable in skincare terms. Founder and creator of Crème de la Mer Dr Max Huber selected sea kelp as one of the prime ingredients of the brand’s range after discovering ‘its natural ability to regenerate itself at a rate of up to two feet a day in prime growth seasons’. After concentration and fermentation the sea kelp can become ‘a powerful catalyst for skin renewal’; it bathes the skin in moisture and calms sensitivities.

Dr Huber isn’t the only one to have uncovered the ocean’s elixir of youth, as facialist Caroline Hitchcock underlines:

“Brown algae complex is used in facial serums, eye creams, night creams and is a very potent, concentrated antioxidant. It is definitely an ingredient that I would look for when purchasing an anti-ageing product.”

Caroline reveals that this particular seaweed extract can dramatically impact on the crusade against skin ageing, as “it helps to prevent damage to amino acids and protects the cell’s membranes. Because it reinforces the cell membranes it in turn protects against free radical attacks, which accelerate ageing. The extract can also ‘re-organise’ the cell membrane structure to reverse cell damage and restore them to their healthy state.” So essentially it’s a tiny, slightly soggy skin saviour.

MORE GLOSS: Introducing the new Lancome DreamTone

In addition to taking no prisoners wrinkle wise, seaweed extracts are also your weapon in the battle against pigmentation. The ultimate seaweed-infused glow giver so far has to be the newly launched and much lauded Lancôme DreamTone serum, £69, which shows blotchiness the back door for good in just eight weeks. The potion is packed with micro-seaweed extracts to address vascular changes and combat redness, two problems that can lead to stubborn pigmentation for women with paler skins in particular.

The lighter your skin, the earlier these signs of pigmentation, or melasma, begin to develop, and it is especially common to experience dermal discolouration during pregnancy (stay tuned for Emma Bartley’s report on her clash against her melasma ‘cornflake’ post birth). Kate Middleton has reportedly snapped up some DreamTone for this very reason, and the serum was so popular pre-release that Lancôme set up a dedicated hotline to deal with enquiries.

Whether you suffer from spots, sensitivity or skin like the Sahara, seaweed can help. Here are our picks of some additional seaweed salves that have achieved cult status and others that are rising to the surface at speed:

Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream

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£79, www.feelunique.com

The marine algae Padina Pavonica gives this anti-ageing marvel its edge - the extract has been clinically proven to increase skin hydration by up to 45% and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by up to 78%. Its transformative powers start to reveal themselves after just two weeks.

Thalgo Intense Regulating Serum

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£30.80, www.thalgo.co.uk

The brown algae extract contained in this silky serum rebalances oily skin and keeps sebum in check. It also diminishes redness and irritation and keeps skin matte all day long.

The Body Shop Seaweed Clarifying Toner

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£3, www.thebodyshop.co.uk

Like splashing your face in the surf after a long, hot day, this refreshing toner is alcohol-free and made with bladderwrack seaweed sourced from the coast of Ireland.

Dr. Alkaitis Organic Universal Mask

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£47.75, www.beingcontent.com

Nourishing and calming, this all-natural mask is packed with mineral and nutrient rich seaweed actives. It’s skin food, and safe to eat too (although YO! Sushi won’t be losing custom anytime soon… we suggest keep it on your face).

MORE GLOSS: Lancome DreamTone launches #bareselfie campaign

The benefits of seaweed... for your hair

Just as skin drinks in seaweed’s fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, so does hair. Like a protein shake for your locks, marine extracts help hair to rebuild itself and grow stronger. Urban Retreat trichologist Ricardo Vila Nova is on team seaweed:

“Collagen and spirulina supplements both contain seaweed extracts. These are the two supplements that we rely on for hair recovery and to soothe dry hair and scalps. The intake of seaweed helps to promote scalp hydration, which improves the condition of dry hair. Seaweed can also increase hair mineralisation, which leads to thicker hair.”

For a mermaid mane, we recommend diving into the following seaweed infused hair healers:

Voya Silky By Nature Organic Shampoo and Forget Me Knot Organic Conditioner

£16 and £19, www.selfridges.com

A seaweed dream team, this purifying duo harnesses the nutrient-dense properties of hand-harvested Irish seaweed. An established brand in its native land, Voya make some of the greenest, greatest seaweed derived products around, and these two gems deliver high-octane shine and moisture whilst protecting the hair from environmental damage.

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Bumble & Bumble Seaweed Shampoo + Conditioner

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£35.50 for set, www.bumbleandbumble.co.uk

Softening, detangling and scalp-friendly, this shampoo and conditioner are both brimming with marine extract goodness. Think of them as a green juice for your roots.

The benefits of seaweed... for your health

What’s good for your skin and hair is generally pretty wholesome from a health point a view (although perhaps don’t go swigging shampoo), and seaweed is no exception as nutritional therapist and health writer Ian Marber confirms:

“Seaweed is exceptionally rich in iodine and a rare food source of vanadium, a mineral that is required in trace amounts to assist carbohydrate metabolism. Magnesium, calcium and vitamin K are well represented too along with iron and vitamin C. Research suggests that seaweed may have anti-inflammatory properties as well as antioxidant and anti-viral capabilities.”

Slip some Itsu Crispy Seaweed Thins (£1.25) in your handbag and let the wave of virtuosity crash over you. Alternatively start the day on a seaweed high by whizzing up food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye’s Super-Shake, from £9.75, containing chlorella, spirulina and sea greens. Life began in the sea after all, so if you can’t make it to a palm-lined beach anytime soon then putting the life back into the daily grind via seaweed’s superpowers is a great substitute.

Have you tried DreamTone? What are your favourite seaweed products? Let us know in the comments!

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