Seaweed is the general term for numerous species of marine plants that grow in oceans, rivers, lakes and other water bodies. Marine algae (red, green and brown) represent a very large and diverse group encompassing at least 28,000 species. Algae are among the most ancient of all known living organisms and date back at least 3.5 billion years.
Seaweeds are typically 20 to 50% dry weight. Minerals commonly found in seaweeds include potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, chloride, sulfur, phosphorous, vanadium, cobalt, manganese, selenium, bromine, iodine, arsenic, iron and fluorine.
Many seaweeds contain anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial actives and may have been used for thousands of years to treat various skin disorders. The ancient Romans used them to treat wounds, burns and rashes, and anecdotal evidence suggests that ancient Egyptians may have used them as a treatment for breast cancer.
Micro-algae are among the fastest growing photosynthesizing unicellular organisms known and can complete an entire growing cycle in a few days. Currently the most commercially important seaweed derivatives are algae oil, carrageenan, sodium alginate, and agar.
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Algae species have a very high oil content (up to 75% oil by weight) and can produce up to up to 15,000 gallons of oil per acre, per year under optimum growing conditions. It is believed that the majority of oil and natural gas currently produced from ocean oil rigs originated from decomposed algae.
I believe that in the future, farmed algae will be an important oil feedstock to produce many cosmetic ingredients, such as fatty alcohols, fatty acids, emollients and other oleochemicals. The largest commercial producer of algae oil is TerraVia (formerly called Solazyme); the company offers algae-oil formulations for food, personal care and aquaculture uses.
Carrageenans are linear, sulfated polysaccharides that are extracted from edible red seaweeds. Carrageenan is the most important seaweed-derived thickener used in personal-care products. It is a sulfated, anionic polysaccharide that exists in three forms: Kappa, which has one sulfate group per galactose molecule; Iota, which has two sulfate groups; and Lamba, which has three sulfate groups. Only the Iota form is widely used as a thickener. The Kappa form produces only hard gels.
Sodium alginate is a natural anionic polysaccharide extracted from brown seaweed that grows in cold-water regions. In the presence of calcium, sodium alginate can form a viscous gel or insoluble film, depending on the calcium level. This reaction can be used to produce alginate encapsulates that contain oil or peel-off masks.
Agar is derived from certain species of red algae and consists of a mixture of agarose and agaropectin. The polysaccharide agarose is released when solutions are boiled. Solutions of agar form hard gels when heated to 85 degrees Celsius and cooled without mixing. If the solutions are mixed using high shear through the set point, viscous dispersions can be produced that have a good skin-feel and can thicken water-based formulations. Agar can also be used to form soft encapsulates that easily break when rubbed.
Interesting seaweed-derived ingredients:
- AlgaWise High Stability and Ultra Omega-9 algae oil (TerraVia)
- Genuvisco TPC-1 (carrageenan) by CP Kelco is an Iota form of carrageenan designed for cold processing that is stable over a PH of 4.5-11. The processed viscosity is low until an electrolyte is added. A 1% gel has a viscosity of 18K cps with 3% salt added.
- Gelcarin PC 379 (carrageenan) by FMC BioPolymer is an Iota form of carrageenan that rapidly hydrates at room temperature. A 1% gel in water has a viscosity of 32K cps without salt and a 2% gel has a viscosity of 27k cps with 3% salt added.
- Nomcort AG (agar and xanthan gum) by Ikeda Corp. of America can formulate emulsifier-free oil in water emulsions that have good skin-feel, are heat stable and have electrolyte tolerance. Novel large-particle (50-100 microns) and stable emulsions can also be formulated using 1% Nomcort AG (10-15K cps).
- Softspheres by Kobo Products, Inc. is a line of encapsulates that contain agar and polyquaternium 11.
- Softlets by Chongqing Pellets is a line of encapsulates that contain calcium alginate and agar.
- SeaPure Agarose (agarose) by Lonza is a highly purified thickening agent derived from agar with better gelling properties. Like agar, it forms hard gels when heated and cooled in water without mixing.
- Isagel FM (diatomaceous earth, algin, calcium sulfate, tetrasodium pyrophosphate) by FMC BioPolymer is a complete gelling system for peel-off masks. Add water and mix. Mask peels off easily 5 to 8 minutes after application.
- Snow Algae Powder (coenochloris signiensis extract, maltodextrin, lecithin and water) by Mibelle AG Biochemistry is reported to increase skin’s longevity. In-vitro studies demonstrated that Snow Algae Powder “stimulates the longevity gene klotho and activates AMPK, a master switch in the cellular defense system.”
- Spiruline AP (aqua, butylene Glycol, spirulina platensis extract) by SEPPIC has a beautiful blue color that is stable from a PH of 4.5-8 but requires a UV absorber for light stability. It has been shown to act as a skin-soothing agent, antioxidant, and can increase cell turnover. Note that it isn’t approved as a colorant for cosmetics, but you can use it if you claim a different benefit.
- Esculane (caprylic/capric triglyceride, algae extract and laminaria digitata extract) by SEPPIC stimulates the epidermis production of SKALP/Elafin. SKALP/Elafin is a serine proteinase inhibitor with antimicrobial properties that is not normally expressed in human epidermis but is induced under hyperproliferative or inflammatory conditions.
- PromaCare ATT (astaxanthin) by Uniproma Personal Care Division ) is reported to have 100 to 200 times better antioxidant activity than beta carotene or lutein and has been shown to reduce UV-induced skin aging, both orally and topically applied.
|TEGO® Cosmo C 100 by Evonik – The hair architect TEGO® Cosmo C 100 keeps hair with various ethnical requirements healthy and beautiful looking. The amino acid derivative is identical to the natural creatine occurring in the skin and improves mechanical properties of stressed hair.|
|TEGO® Care PBS 6 by Evonik – The versatile PEG-free O/W emulsifier for challenging fluid emulsions. TEGO® Care PBS 6 is based on fully renewable sources and is natural certified. This high performance emulsifier shows outstanding stabilization properties in demanding systems.|
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