Despite its reputation as pond scum, Algae represents big money to some investors and is a possible solution to predicted food shortages in the future. Globally, the algae products market is expected to reach $970 million by 2025.

Algae products are now used in a wide range of sectors from cosmetics, agriculture, human & animal health to Industrial applications such as chemicals and fuel.

In the Pharmaceutical Industry different types of algae possess distinct potential uses in medicine. Various research studies have sought to examine algae’s antioxidant (for example the phlorotannin’s found in marine algae) and antiviral properties, and even their potential anti-cancer action. In addition to their uses in pharmaceuticals, algae-based drugs may be manufactured at a fraction of the cost of today’s manufacturing methods.

In the food sector, the nutritional benefits of algae and microalgae are already well known. The development of vegan protein could be the next big thing in the replacement of meat and there has been a noticeable increase in companies researching the versatile plant based ingredient. It is also used as a thickening agent in many products instead of gelatine and can be used to improve meat and fish quality.

In cosmetics, algae can be used for anti-ageing creams, detoxifying masks and cleansers with the proteins of algae supplying the skin cells with energy. The algae’s mucus substances protect the skin from drying out. Their vitamins activate the skin, protect it against environmental influences and act as a natural anti-aging compound.

Some forms of algae, including Irish moss and carrageenan contain proteins, vitamin A, Sugar, Starch, Vitamin B1, Iron, Sodium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Copper and Calcium. Most of these are beneficial for skin as moisturisers, soothing agents or antioxidants.

Many skincare companies are investing in algae based products. In January, Shiseido launched a new patented anti-aging active ingredient which improves skin texture, rejuvenates skin, and protects the decrease of epidermal stem cells. Shiseido has claimed that the algae extract, from green algae, red algae and brown algae, slows the visible signs of aging.

Unilever recently agreed to buy skincare brand Tatcha, which makes creams using a foundation of green tea, rice and algae. Tatcha was founded in 2009 and is inspired by Geishas skincare rituals when removing their heavy makeup. Vicky Tsai, the founder of Tatcha, explained how after meeting a Geisha for the first time she learnt about their rituals, and with the help of scientists in Japan Tatcha was born.

L’Oréal Paris skin experts have created a super-charged pure exfoliating clay mask enhanced using Red Algae extract to exfoliate and refine skin within ten minutes.

Algenist, the skincare company who patented Alguronic Acid, the discovery that kick-started the brand in 2011 in a biotech lab, recently spoke to Connect Search to give a deeper insight into the Algae market and how the business has developed. Amy Turman, Director Consumer Engagement explained ‘we naturally extracted and sustainably produced this vegan compound that allows algae to survive, thrive and regenerate in the world’s most extreme environments, and then put it in almost every single one of Algenist’s formulas.’

For the skin, Alguronic Acid helps promote hydration and minimize fine lines and wrinkles; when paired with other well-known ingredients it can boost formula efficacy and visible results. This strong biotechnology background and obsession with algae continues to inspire and drive innovation at the ingredient level. ‘We have focused our expertise to maximize the use of vegan ingredients and renewable resources leveraging the newest innovations in green chemistry and green processing technologies.’

Amy went on to offer further insight into the Algae market;

Are there any disadvantages/difficulties in using algae?

Consumer perception and education can be challenging – just because algae is used in all our formulas doesn’t mean that we rely on algae “in the wild” to support our products. All the algae we use is naturally sourced, but sustainably produced in a lab thanks to our rich heritage in biotechnology. We are inspired by nature and respect it, so it’s very important to us that we aren’t disrupting natural ecosystems.

How is your product perceived by customers?

Of course, Algenist stands for “the genius of algae” – so naturally, we are associated with algae and science. Consumers also see us as high quality, highly efficacious and consistently delivering results. We are proud to be able to create clean, safe, vegan innovations at the ingredient level without compromising results – so the fact that this resonates with consumers feels pretty good.

Is there a specific demographic / Target audience?

Our sweet spot is about 34-38 years old – however, we are seeing a lot of loyal customers older than that age range because of our efficacious formulas and stunning visible results, and younger consumers who are starting to educate themselves early and starting skincare routines preventatively.

As more companies are turning to algae, what does the future look like for algae within skincare from your point of view?

Algae is the most abundant and tiny-but-mighty plant on the planet. We see algae becoming increasingly more utilized in the space simply because of its availability and unique properties – especially as the consumer becomes more knowledgeable about what makes their formulas safe.

Algae consumes carbon dioxide (CO2) and emits oxygen as they grow, so they help reduce the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Also, With around 70% of the planets available fresh water going towards crops and raising livestock, algae doesn’t require fresh water to flourish.  On average it reaches its peak within 30 days and can be harvested before this, far quicker than any other resource. In addition, companies are turning towards more natural produce and becoming more aware that the consumer is interested in the impact products they purchase have on the environment.

Growth in the human population, pollution, overexploitation of land and lack of freshwater will encourage use of algae. Future uses of marine algae may be decisively influenced by the efforts companies put into and the results coming out of seaweed research,  as many Consumers today are increasingly concerned about the sustainability of their beauty and skincare products. 42% of North American consumers will buy socially responsible brands, according to GlennCorp (supplier of specialty chemicals) and 73% of Millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. This means highly sustainable ingredients like red marine algae have the potential to become a key claim of new products. It seems highly likely that the sustainability claim of marine algae will only continue to grow in importance and familiarity for consumers.