Friday, March 18, 2011

Cosmeceuticals: Sea kelp bioferment

I've always loved the words "sea kelp" (say it fast) and even created a "therapeutic body wash" to go with the name. But what's the deal with sea kelp bioferment?

Sea kelp bioferment is derived from the fermentaiton of sea kelp using the bacteria Lactobacillus, which breaks down the cellular walls of the kelp, which should make the insides actually beneficial to our skin. (Remember that plants have really thick cell walls, and our bodies can't break those walls down, hence the eating of our vegetables equalling good fibre for our intestines.) The claims are made that this is a soothing and emollient ingredient that should offer some oil free moisturizer and film forming on our skin.

Sea kelp bioferment is found in one of the most expensive creams around, Creme de la Mer, which goes for something like $135 an ounce. (Joe Schwarcz has a great article about this cream and the attempts to recreate it in his book Science, Sense & Nonsense. You can read a bit of it here at Google Books.). And I think this has helped to create the idea that sea kelp bioferment is some mysterious ingredient that is worth a fortune. (I found it for $7.50 for an ounce at the Herbarie, and it's about the same at other suppliers.)

So does sea kelp bioferment live up to the expectations? If you're looking for a film former and oil free emollient it will do just that. It works a lot like our hydrolyzed proteins or aloe vera in that it offers great film forming and emolliency through the proteins and polysaccharides. Our hydrolyzed proteins are broken down to make them more suitable for our skin and the fermenting of the sea kelp does the same thing. So it will behave as a great emollient and film former.

Is it better than other, cheaper ingredients? It's hard to say. I wasn't able to find a lot of information about studies or research on this ingredient, so I can't give you an evidence based answer. It seems like it should work just as well as our hydrolyzed proteins for increasing moisture in our skin through film forming and emolliency, and it sounds like it would be a great inclusion in an oil free moisturizer to increase emolliency without increasing oil content. I think you could substitute this easily for any hydrolyzed protein you're using at the moment and get similar (or possibly better) skin feel.

As an aside, if you ask me if Creme de la Mer is worth $135 an ounce, I'd have to say no. Looking at the ingredient list, the first ingredient is the seaweed algae extract, then we find mineral oil, petroleum, and glycerin. There's nothing in there that is worth $135 an ounce - especially considering that we'd find that same ingredient list in a lot of drug store products - so don't believe the hype. I'm sure it's a fine product, but very few things in life are worth $135 an ounce! Okay, maybe my adorable puppy, but she works out to about $100 an ounce when I consider the grooming, feeding, vet bills, chewed socks and underpants, and toys. 

Sea kelp bioferment comes as a thickish yellow to amber coloured liquid that is water soluble and heat stable, so we can add it to our heated water phase at 2% to 5%. I've seen that some people find the smell a bit briny, but I've been assured this odour won't show up in the final product. (I've used unfermented sea kelp extract and I found it very briny. Even my Clementine Cupcake fragrance oil couldn't save it - I just had fishy orange cupcake scent! It did feel very nice on my skin, but I couldn't get past the odour!)

Join me tomorrow for more fun with cosmeceuticals!


Lise M Andersen said...

thank you for an insightful and entertaining article. As usual interesting reading!!

Ellbie said...

Your blog inspires me!

Tara said...

Thanks, I've wanted to know about this ingredient from someone other than the suppliers/manufacturers. Some people use it straight to remove makeup, as a face mask, a hair gel (not bad in small quantities), and in hair treatments (supposedly to stimulate hair growth). I've been buying it, but not necessarily buying into it. I'll probably finish using what I have and stop purchasing more, since I have to get it across the border.

Jen W said...

Just discovered your blog through the skin care talk forum. You are one amazing woman!

I've recently started taking a big interest in DIY skin care and learning all about ingredients so I will be devouring this blog. <3

Anonymous said...

Interesting read on the Sea Kelp.
Sea Kelp mainly comes from overseas. I have been purchasing Bull Kelp BioFerment from (They have a standard version and a preservative free version)
Same Product but Bull Kelp comes from North America

Anonymous said...

very happy to have discovered this blog! will join officially when I have more time -- I have lots of great tips to share

PLEASE can someone tell my at what temperature sea kelp bioferment melts? thanks!

Melizza Thompson said...

Sea Kelp BioFerment melts when heated to 80°C could be less as well. My formula states that. I love hearing when people buy their sea kelp Bioferment from because when I saw this blog I noticed the formulator sample shop comment and ordered mine there. It is JUST like the other retailers but less than these other retailers.. How is that possible? I think its the exact same... anyway i received an email from them and they are offering Free shipping and No Min orders unlike the other companies They also have other things you can mix with it. their shipping promo code is 6566 and their website is
I also use the SKB as a hair gel which works AWESOME!

Cherri said...

I have been researching sea kelp for some time and still can't figure out if it's worth the steep price. I haven't ordered yet. I am wondering if I will get the same out come with oat protein and aloe vera.
Has anyone gone from using the above two ingredients to the sea kelp and thought wow!
So do any long term formulator's have any input. Susan, I read your post any it was kind of vague. Should I assume personally you were not impressed?

mamirican said...

I bought sea kelp bioferment from bulkactives for about 7 dollars for a good sized jar, I believe four ounces. It doesn't smell bad at all, in fact it has no smell.

Jessie H said...

I purchased from Formulator sample shop for their special price of 4.20 and it was a decent size!
heres the link

also the material from bulk actives contains presertives and parabens - the material from formulator sample is paraben free

Stefanie Slovaki said...

Cherri - I recently used the SKB from formulator sample shop as well. It seems to be the same stuff and I bet the manufacturer of SKB sells these other places.
The one formulator sample shop has is exactly same as the others but the pricing is so much better.
go on to their websites and compare it. i purchased from all 4 companies and picking formulator sample shop because they offer free shipping most of the time. good luck in ur search!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, I just made your intense hair conditioner with coconut oil, I weight out the heated phase in a container and the cool down phase in another the night before and sealed it with plastic wrap for the next day. In the cool down phase container I also added the sea kelp biferment that I bought from Saffireblue which came in a gel form resembling aloe Vera gel. I added to my cool down mixture and it became white plasticky balls I took it and squeezed it and the gel came out it was very strange I don't know what happened maybe some kind of chemical reaction producing a white plastic like skin capsule. I will try adding it to the heated phase next time. Have you experienced this or know why this might have happened.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Maureen. I'd check what phase you should add the sea kelp with the supplier of the ingredient. The stuff I use comes in a jelly and I have added it to the heated water phase without issue.

Why did you allow the heated phase to completely cool before adding the cool down phase? I'm a little confused by your method...

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. You probably won't get a response in this threa as the odds of someone looking at it and having that information is pretty slim. Plus, you didn't use your name, so I have to delete your comment shortly. I suggest posting in this thread on Canadian suppliers and see if you get a response there. Or try the Facebook page or blog for the company.

Kim said...

Where did you buy your sea kelp bioferment from? Can it be used to create a gel that you can add hydrosols to or will it become really runny?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I have bought mine from Lotioncrafter or Formulator Sample Shop. Both are great. No, it'll thin out when you add water to them!