Snow algae — What the heck is that? Face it, anti-aging products are the end-all be-all panacea of the beauty industry, but not all ingredients hold scientific weight in our quest for youthful skin. One remote, colour-changing algae that has stirred the imagination of explorers since the 1800s is now capturing the attention of biologists and beauty companies alike due to its anti-aging properties.Enter

What is snow algae?

Imagine going for a hike in the snowy mountains and coming across blotchy patches of pink, slightly sweet-smelling snow that stains your shoes underfoot. You’ve just stumbled across a photosynthetic microbe commonly known as watermelon snow, pink or red snow, , blood snow, or chlamydormonas nivalis to the scientists studying it.

It’s actually a species of green algae that turns red to protect itself from the harsh UV rays of the sun at high altitudes. As the name suggests, the algae grows in freezing water, creating eery swathes of pink or blood-red snow on mountaintops.

Where does it come from? 

Snow algae grows in mountainous regions like the Alps, the Sierra Nevada in California, the North Shore mountains in British Columbia, and the Canadian Arctic. While most fresh-water algae would die in such harsh environments, snow algae thrives in the cold and is hardy enough to survive in these remote, freezing conditions.

When did it pop up? 

We’ve known about snow algae for thousands of years, but it’s become of particular interest to scientists recently as a marker of the feedback loops of climate change.

According to a 2016 study from the University of Leeds, snow algae is responsible for a 
dramatic increase in melting snow in the Arctic. As the snow algae grows, it absorbs light and heat from the sun, melting the snow around it. It can grow extremely rapidly, sometimes multiplying 16 times in a day.

Under a microscope its cell division processes are new to science so scientist don’t exactly understand how it forms or grows.

Snow Flakes

What has snow algae got to do with face cream?
Recently, some of the unique properties of snow algae have caught the attention of the beauty industry, and this hardy microbe has found its way into anti-aging creams and serum.

How does it work?
In clinical trials, snow algae powder has some notable anti-aging effects on the skin. It does two things: it stimulates the expression of the Klotho gene and the activity of the AMPK protein.

The Klotho gene is an age suppressor. When disrupted, it leads to premature aging syndromes. When over-expressed, it extends life. In other words, snow algae literally activates an anti-aging gene.

AMPK protein is like a master switch for cell metabolism, activating the skin’s defense systems and inhibiting inflammatory reactions.

Snow algae extract also appears to stimulate collagen production and reduce its loss, improving the papillary structure of skin, increasing skin hydration and eye wrinkle smoothing. Though it’s only just starting to hit the shelves, the cellular-level anti-aging potential of snow algae is sure to make a big splash in the world of skincare.

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