Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are the source of PhycoBoost™, the natural ingredient found only in Cyantific Skin Care. A Google search for “blue-green algae” will uncover a dizzying array of hits that range from popular nutritional supplements to blue-green algae that make toxins. Let’s sort out some of that information to understand why some blue-green algae are good, some are bad, and some, like the ones we use to make PhycoBoost™, are totally freakin' awesome!
Top of page with a Google search for blue-green algae are nutritional supplements from a never-ending list of independent producers. Some species of blue-green algae have been dried down and pressed into pills or sold as powders for human consumption for decades. One you may have heard of is Spirulina.
Fans of Spriulina supplements swear by the health benefits. Indeed, the contents are impressive: vitamins A, E and B-12, essential amino acids and fatty acids to name a few. Benefits for the hair, skin and nails are the most commonly claimed for this vegan-friendly rich protein source. Spirulina supplements have enjoyed a boost in consumer interest in recent years as they ride the “superfood” wave, and even the smoothie trend since the powders are easily added to your own blend of healthy ingredients.
In nature, there are hundreds of types of blue-green algae, and they are often foundational in healthy aquatic ecosystems. They reside at the base of the food web where they are grazed on by small aquatic organisms and bugs that are then in turn eaten by fish and so forth. However, it is also in their natural habitats that some blue-green algae have earned a rather notorious reputation. That's because when blue-green algae are bad, they are really bad.
Some species of blue-green algae make potent toxins that can affect the liver and nervous system. These blue-green algae are cause for concern these days because they cause something known as a "harmful algal bloom," a massive overgrowth of algae in a lake or reservoir. The "harmful" part can range from the aesthetic (green slime--yuck!) to being harmful to animals, including humans (do not swim!).
The toxin-producing bad actors have been one of the challenges for the supplements discussed above—sometimes they grow alongside the good blue-green algae and can contaminate products. The best supplement producers have a toxin screening program in place to protect their customers, and if you’re concerned you should ask the manufacturer how they prevent this kind of contamination.
It may surprise you to know that it was while I was studying toxic blue-green algae that I came up with the idea for PhycoBoost™, the unique extract from blue-green algae that you’ll only find in Cyantific Skin Care. I was visiting lakes like the one shown in this picture, and I started digging into the question of why the toxic algae were so hardy, resisting high exposures to UV radiation as they sat on the surface of a lake. It ends up that some of the toxic blue-green algae make natural UV-protectant compounds that helped them to cope with being baked by the sun. Most blue-green algae, including Spirulina, actually don’t make these compounds.
So the question I was faced with was, how do I get my hands on the good stuff (those UV-protectant compounds) while avoiding the bad stuff (the toxins)?
I’m a pretty good biochemist, and showed time and again that I could remove all traces of toxin from the bad algae in the laboratory. However, I'm also a businesswoman, and it’s not a great marketing strategy to use toxic blue-green algae as a primary source for a skin care ingredient! If they were ever present, they needed to be in trace quantities only. That’s what led me on the hunt for blue-green algae that make the good stuff, and which don't typically make the bad stuff. That's how I learned about the totally freakin’ awesome blue-green algae that we use to make PhycoBoost™ for Cyantific Skin Care.
There is a special group of blue-green algae that I learned about around five years ago, and which are catching up to Spirulina in popularity in the nutritional supplements world. They grow naturally to very high levels in beautiful Klamath Lake in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Klamath Lake Algae are actually a population of several species of blue-green algae, but that population is hugely dominated (over 90%) by Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, called "AFA" for obvious convenience. I took this picture of AFA growing in Klamath Lake around 2014; it looked like cut grass floating in the lake.
AFA is a super-producer of the UV-protectant compounds that are also found in the toxic blue-green algae I had been working with. So AFA was the perfect source for making PhycoBoost™--after all if this resource was safe enough for people to eat, then it would be ideal for me to make my skin care ingredient. If the total population contains traces of toxic algae, our proprietary process easily removes all toxins (we’re actually experts in that regard). Of course we test for the toxins to be extra safe, and all of our products have undergone industry-standard safety testing in FDA-approved laboratories.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little about blue-green algae, and might see why I find them totally freakin’ awesome!