By Dan Fryda
Seaweed Treatments have been established in the spa market for decades now; but the real benefits for their use and importance in health and beauty are often overlooked. Below I discuss some of the key reasons you can no longer ignore seaweed therapies.
Spa Technologies offers anti-aging skin care facials based on the restorative and antioxidant properties of seaweed. I am going to broaden this to include all marine algae which includes microscopic plankton to the giant bullwhip Pacific kelp that grows to an astounding 180 feet in length. Marine algae provide anti-aging due to its richness in delivering the building blocks of life—minerals and trace elements directly to the basal cell layer of the skin. Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Phosphorous, Magnesium are all vital to the synthesis of collagen and fibronectin fibers. Therefore, these elements help to firm up the connective support matrix of the skin increasing skin firmness and tone.
The Role of Marine Algae
Marine algae are also rich in a vast array of antioxidants to protect the cell against environmental aggressors such as ultra-violet radiation, pollution, smoking and deficient nutrition. Among the most powerful antioxidants are a range of polyphenols, carotenoids, asthaxanthan, lutein, vitamins E&C, and many more. Added to this are marine ions such as selenium that neutralize free radicals. The carotenoids and polyphenols also demonstrate UV absorbancy to deflect the damaging effects of the sun.
When there is damage, there exists a wide range of photolyase enzymes in plankton and brown algae that have been clinically shown to repair damage to nucleic DNA and mitochondrial DNA. Our creams and serums all have these enzymes extracted from plankton and Laminaria algae that work within 2 hours of application (Heinrich Heine University study; Ohio State University study).
Marine algae is also rich in polysaccharides that are powerful in skin rejuvenation. L-fucose is the most prominent of these polysaccharides and studies conducted by the Pierre et Marie Curie School of Medicine in Paris have shown their efficacy. Other properties of polysaccharides is that they are anti-inflammatory and provide super moisturization to the skin. (There are other properties of polysaccharides when taken internally such as reducing serum cholesterol, anti-tumor properties, thinning blood, etc.)
Some algae such as Dictyopteris and wakame are providing us with skin brightening properties without the cytotoxic side-effects of hydroquinone. These are found in our luminous program.
These are but a few of the compelling reasons to turn to marine algae for skin rejuvenation. Yet the majority of interest in seaweed revolves around body care; specifically body toning, detoxification and cellulite reduction.
Most spas that we have been working with began with seaweed body wraps as the preferred slimming and detox treatment. (In the case of those spas with hydrotherapy tubs, this applies to them as well) Much of the popularity of this treatment is can be attributed to the belief that these will reduce the appearance of cellulite. In part this is true. Seaweed contains a number of active ingredients responsible for slimming and evacuation of lymph. Iodine is the first ingredient that comes to mind. This trace element is responsible for boosting metabolism of fats among many properties that it has which I will go into later.
Additionally, brown algae such as Laminaria and Fucus contain a pigment called fucoxanthin which is also a big contributor to increasing metabolism of fat. Laminaran which is a polysaccharide found in brown algae improves circulation which is abundantly evident following every body treatment. The appearance of the skin is smoother, and the skin’s color shows a radiant even tone enhancing the overall appearance of the legs. Lastly the high levels of magnesium and calcium help to reduce the retention of excess fluids responsible for bloat, swelling ankles and the exacerbation of cellulite.
Yet there are more compelling reasons for turning to seaweed body wraps that most spa therapists are not necessarily aware of. That is their ability to help prevent the onset of certain degenerative diseases. This brings us back to the iodine content of brown algae. Iodine as everyone knows is responsible for the proper function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland regulates metabolism and supports the immune functions of the body. Yet it does more. According to researchers at UCLA, iodine regulates estrogen levels helping to maintain proper hormonal balance. This element’s ability goes directly to preventing the onset of cysts in the breasts and uterus. Further these studies suggest that iodine from seaweed is the key element responsible for the low incidence of breast and uterine cancers among Asians who consume large quantities of iodine-rich seaweed.
All of these elements—iodine, magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc, etc., have been shown to cross the skin’s corneal barrier and enter the body. Clinical studies conducted by University of Rennes in France (and later replicated by the University of Bordeaux), demonstrated conclusively that micro-elements penetrate the skin due to their infinitesimally small size and also due to their ionization that facilitate their passage.
All told, marine algae are a storehouse of the nutritive and healing powers of the ocean. Their organic chemistry assures that the body is receiving the most perfectly balanced concentrate of the elements of the sea making them bio-available to the body as well as bio-compatible.
In conclusion, marine algae offer the spa therapist a wide menu of potential services. From anti-aging skin care and rosacea treatments to seaweed slimming and detox treatments; hydrotherapy baths and body scrubs are also popular using the elements of the sea. There are also skin brightening elements found in brown algae such as Wakame and skin plumping properties (lips and breasts) in Dictyopteris algae.
As for contra-indications, the one that keeps coming up is allergy to iodine. Iodine is the most misunderstood of all elements. According to studies including UCLA, most Americans have an iodine deficiency. The RDA of iodine is 150 IUs in the United States. It is closer to 10,000 IUs in Japan where they experience one tenth the incidence of breast cancer. Allergies associated with seafood usually revolve around certain proteins found in shell fish…..not iodine. Yet perception can be reality. For those who are still skeptical we offer a red algae and clay treatment. Red algae and white algae contain low doses of iodine making them quite suitable for those with perceived sensitivity to this vital element. We mix these three forms of algae to create face masks and body wraps that allow spas to reach a wider audience.
To conclude, we turn to the ocean around us to restore, replenish and purify the ocean that is within all of us. We invite the healing ocean into our bodies to improve our quality of life and build our resistance against environmental aging aggressors and provide us with a Marine Eco-Protective Shield. The by-products of the ocean’s care: radiant skin, firm, toned bodies; energy boost and a better quality of life.