We have all come across seaweed at one time or another and thinking of it usually conjures up memories of family holidays in the UK, when it would wash up on the beach and we could poke it with our plastic spades.
However, at some time or another, people realised that you could do more with this strange water-based plant than threaten to throw it at your siblings - and seaweed's reputation as a fantastic resource for skincare began.
History of seaweed for skin protection
In fact, our ancestors have been using seaweed for centuries, with the ancient people of Polynesia among those known to be aware that it could treat wounds, bruises and swellings. Mariners have also relied heavily upon it during long voyages - so useful was it for a variety of complaints and ailments that it is sometimes called Sailors' Cure.
Today, we might not put it on our bumps and scrapes like they might have in the past, but a surprising number of modern products still use compounds from seaweed called Alginates, especially those designed to treat burns.
Why does seaweed work for the skin?
To answer this, it's useful to take a look at what seaweed is actually made up of - and it's more than you might think. The plants contain a huge array of mineral elements, macro-elements, vitamins and trace elements.
In fact, many of them are the same as those found within the plasma of our blood, which is why seaweed doesn't tend to cause negative skin reactions.
Within seaweed, we can find essential fatty acids, vitamins A and E, polyphenols and carotenoids, the latter of which are powerful antioxidants and can help protect the cells against damage from oxygen-free radicals. There are also amino acids including glutamic acid, which the body needs but can't make itself.
All these 'ingredients ' variously work to hydrate the skin and prevent moisture from escaping, soothe inflammation, draw out excess fluid and toxins, boost the skin's elasticity by slowing the breakdown of hyaluronic acid, promote cell renewal and reduce the signs of ageing.
For these reasons, it's ideal for reducing cellulite, soothing wounds and bites, beating wrinkles and even cutting the severity of some serious skin complaints such as psoriasis, eczema and acne.
Knowing all this, perhaps we should be wondering why everyone doesn't use seaweed in their products!
What is seaweed like to use on the skin?
First of all, don't worry about seaweed-based products smelling salty or even fishy - they actually don't really smell that much at all.
Actually, what we do here at Heyland & Whittle is collect the oil from seaweed and mix it with our other ingredients so you get all the associated benefits and a really nice clean scent too.
Our Seaweed soap is made from a type of plant called Spirulina, which is actually a type of freshwater algae similar to saltwater seaweed or kelp, only smaller.
What you'll instantly notice when you use it is the thick lather, which feels almost like a lotion on the skin as it deep cleans. The fragrance isn't strong in this soap, which makes it ideal for all the family to use, particularly if you know a man who tends to get dry skin and doesn't want to smell flowery.
You can get the soap in one bar to try it out, but we also stock it in a big block that's the equivalent of 14 bars for the price of ten once you've sampled it and liked it.
Other ways to use seaweed
There are lots of other ways to reap the rewards offered by seaweed. You can eat it in a salad if you buy the dried types from specialist food stores (don't eat it straight off the beach, obviously), or you can take the seaweed supplements that are readily available in health shops.
And if you're feeling especially indulgent, you could event treat yourself to a seaweed wrap at a spa. Whichever you do, we're sure you'll start to look at seaweed in a whole new light.