Snow algae, or popularly known as watermelon snow, get its name from its reddish appearance in the snow. It also looks like watermelon flesh. Now, what’s interesting about snow algae is its alleged benefits on the skin.
What’s in Snow Algae?
Other terms used to describe this event is blood snow, red snow, or pink snow. Walking on it would leave a pink stain on your boots and some even said that the color isn’t only similar to watermelon but also smells like one—slightly sweet.
Snow algae are actually green algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis. They contain chlorophyll and a secondary red carotenoid pigment called astaxanthin, which gives the snow a reddish tint. Most species of algae are known to thrive in warmer climates. However, this kind of species is cryophilic, which means it flourishes perfectly in freezing temperatures.
This phenomenon commonly occurs in the coastal polar and alpine areas during summer. For example, in the Sierra Nevada in the United States where the altitude is approximately twelve thousand (12,000) feet and the cold environment is maintained throughout the year.
Earliest Accounts of Snow Algae
The first description of snow algae appears in Aristotle’s writing. In it, he expresses his bafflement and at the same time amazement to this spectacle. In the last centuries, it puzzles scientists and no explanations were given. Some theorize that the possible cause is geological in nature and can be explained by chemicals in the rocks or mineral deposits.
In the year of 1818, England sent four ships on an expedition led by Captain John Ross to North America to particularly chart its coastline. The ship was, however, forced to retreat because of harsh weather. They didn’t return totally empty-handed though and reported a phenomenon they describe crimson snow that’s red as blood streaking through the mountain cliffs. They first observed this on the northwest coastline of Greenland near Cape York. Captain Ross’s party managed to land a crew and brought back a few samples to England.
Later in that year, The Times wrote an article about his remarkable discovery. Then three days after, the same publisher made a follow-up article that scientists concluded that the red coloration is caused by meteor deposits. In the following years, Captain Ross published his own account of the expedition and included a reference from a botanist named Robert Brown. Brown suggests that the likely cause of red coloration is from a species of alga that has a high tolerance in cold environments.
In 1967, same events happen in the snow patch region of Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland.
Effects of Snow Algae on Skin
Aside from the spectacular sight, snow algae are well-known to provide numerous benefits, especially to the skin. It’s believed to have an ability to rejuvenate the skin. Pollutants, harsh winds, and UV rays from the sun are harmful to the skin. Scientists noticed that snow algae can resist effects from these factors; so, they began investigating if it could have the effects on humans.
So far, some research suggests that it can make the skin look healthier by improving moisture and reducing wrinkles. Basing on the samples they’ve gathered, they observed that snow algae contain two anti-aging properties. They suggest that when the algae are applied to living cells, it may stimulate a certain kind of longevity gene called klotho and an enzyme called adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK). These compounds are believed to promote DNA repair.
When AMPK is stimulated, it helps in clearing cellular debris in the body that causes chronic inflammations. It also enhances resistance to cellular stress that results in healthier skin. They also observed that AMPK activity increased by 100% when exposed to snow algae. It revealed that snow algae help prevent degenerative effects on AMPK, which is one of the causes of rapid skin aging. In another study, it shows that snow algae stimulated an increase in collagen production and eliminate a certain type of substance harmful to skin cells by forty-five percent.
In a study of twenty-one volunteers ranging from the ages of thirty and sixty, the researchers applied extracts of snow algae on half of the faces of the volunteers and the other half was placebo. They applied the compounds three times a day for twenty-one days. After the first week, they exposed the volunteers under the harsh environments of the Alpines. They particularly evaluated skin moisture before the treatment, and then they evaluated it again on the 14th and 21st day.
The experiment showed promising results because transepidermal water loss on the skin where snow algae were applied area was twelve percent lower compared to the other half. Thus, confirming their belief that snow algae do improve skin health. In addition, it also shows a decrease in age spots by sixty-five percent after three weeks.
In more recent experiments, creams with a high concentration of snow algae were applied to the forearms of twenty women, while the other arm was applied with placebo. Age ranges from forty to sixty years old and the extract was applied two times a day. Skin moisture was observed through an instrument called Corneometer. Skin hydration was observed in all participants. The forearm where snow algae extracts were applied, showed that skin moisture increased by approximately 10% in fourteen weeks, while the other arm decreased moisture when exposed to cold temperatures.
Snow Algae Extracts in Skin Care Products
Because of recent studies confirming skincare benefits, we can find an increasing number of beauty products with snow algae extracts in the market. It’s usually mixed in moisturizers, serums, and face creams.
Research in Switzerland suggests that snow algae in powder form may promote longevity by restricting calories. They further explained that by restricting calorie, it may not only promote youthful skin and improve lifespan but would also enhance a person’s general health. It’s believed to rejuvenate the skin and strengthen its defense against harmful elements such as pollution, harsh climates, and stress. They even considered snow algae powder a groundbreaking anti-aging strategy.
Snow algae in beauty products possess no potential risks to any consumers and no serious cases were reported. However, some ingredients mix with it may trigger an allergic reaction to some individuals. Thus, it’s advisable to look into the label before you purchase one. If possible, consult also a dermatologist to know more information about the product.