Found in freshwater lakes, rivers and ponds, spirulina has been revered for centuries for its rich concentration of nutrients, including proteins and essential amino acids. In the ninth century, during the Kanem Empire of Chad in Africa, civilians baked spirulina harvested from the local lakes into cakes; later, during the 1500s, spirulina was considered a food source by the Aztecs. It wasn’t until the early 1970s, however, that the algae started to attract worldwide attention. Read on to see why spas are going overboard for this powerhouse ingredient.
Why it’s a skincare all-star:
Spirulina’s A-list roster of nutrients serves a wide range of skin types and concerns. Rich in vitamins A and E, the ingredient works to target free radicals within the skin, improving its overall health and vitality. Spirulina’s potent chlorophyll concentration helps eliminate toxins, increase cell turnover and reduce dark undereye circles. Its elevated protein content is believed to promote hair growth and nail health, making it a head-to-toe beauty superstar. “Spirulina is one of Mother Nature’s best ingredients,” says Julie Mahoney, president of Oasis Day Spa in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. Mahoney uses spirulina-infused products in both facial and body services, and attributes its rebalancing and healing properties to its ability to penetrate the skin’s epidermal layer.
Lydia Sarfati, founder and CEO of Repêchage, is another fan. “Spirulina contains very high levels of proteins, carotene, vitamin E, zinc, phycobiliproteins and essential amino acids,” she explains. “That’s why it’s a key ingredient in some of our signature facial treatments.” Sarfati praises the algae for its antiaging properties, noting that it helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and lends skin a firmer, smoother appearance.
In the treatment room:
Spas and healing centers have used algae in mud, mask and moisturizing treatments for decades, so it’s no surprise to find spirulina popping up in more and more treatment rooms. Thirty Six Oaks Country Retreat in Vacaville, California, offers a Body Polish, Mud Wrap and Rehydration Treatment (60 min./$115) that features Biotone’s Firmi-Sea Body Mud. “Guests love how replenished and soft their skin is after this service,” reports owner Linda Tipton. She credits spirulina, a star ingredient in the mud, for clients’ increased circulation and improved skin texture.
At Oasis, Mahoney offers Repêchage’s Vita Cura Firming Facial (60 min./$105), during which a spirulina-infused seaweed mask is applied to the face and left on for 15 to 20 minutes to soothe and nourish the skin. “This treatment produces stunning results: Clients are shocked at their skin’s transformation after just one facial,” she shares. “They’re not usually aware of spirulina’s remarkable benefits until we educate them on it, but they come to understand its power once they experience such great results.”
Stacie Sheely, owner of Polished Salon, Spa & Wellness in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, points out that the ingredient also works from the inside out when taken as part of
a supplement. “We enjoy using M’lis Essential Greens, which includes spirulina, as a way to add nutrition to our diets since we can’t always eat as healthily as we’d like. By incorporating this product into our services, we see better wellness and beauty results.”
- Spirulina’s striking color is derived from the green pigment in chlorophyll and the blue hue from a protein called phycocyanin.
- When taken as a daily supplement, spirulina has been found to increase the hemoglobin content of red blood cells—necessary for warding off anemia.
- Spirulina is considered a complete protein source, containing all of the essential amino acids, including tryptophan, needed for adequate levels of serotonin.>
- NASA and The European Space Agency have researched spirulina as a possible resource to be cultivated for long-term space missions.
- The plant gained worldwide attention in the early 1970s, after the first large-scale manufacturing effort.