Hailed as the next wonder anti-aging ingredient, phytessence wakame is derived from an exotic kelp (actually a sea algae) native to the sea of Japan. Belonging to the Phaeophycae Laminariales plant family, phytessence wakame is said to have immune-stimulating, cancer preventing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties. Perhaps in part due to the invigorating effects of wakame, it is one of the most commonly eaten algae in Japan. I'm sure that I unknowingly swallowed some of it (along with any number of unidentified foods) while I was in Japan last spring.

Not only can phytessence wakame be eaten both fresh and dried, but it can also be transformed into a cosmetic extract using new technology. Like their wholesome diet, which centers on essential fatty acid-packed raw seafood and antioxidant-rich leafy green vegetables, the Japanese have for centuries assimilated all sorts of naturally occurring elements in their cosmetics, from almond oil to rice bran. Who knew that an indigenous sea kelp is one of their best kept secrets for keeping their skin healthy and youthful?

Loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and protein, this super food is also rich in vital minerals like calcium (15x more than milk), iron, potassium, and sodium, all of which nourish the body inside and out. While polysaccharies function as fibroblast stimulators, oligoelements maintain the skin' moisture balance. Phytessence wakame is especially good at healing inflamed skin because of its high levels of B-group vitamins, in particular B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, and B12. It also contains an active ingredient called sulfated polyfucose, which protects cell wall integrity and stability against damaging environmental factors, such as UV light, temperature, and abrasions.

Most importantly, phytessence wakame has demonstrated dose-dependent inhibition of the activity of hyaluronidase in vitro. Hyaluronidase is an enzyme that attacks the skin's supply of hyaluroic acid, which improves elasticity and smoothness. By binding collagen and elastin fibers together, hyaluronic acid makes skin smooth, firm, and flexible. Without hyaluronic acid, elastin and collagen fibers lose their "glue," leading to a loss of youthful appearance. In inhibiting hyaluronidase, wakame prevents the deterioration of the extracellular matrix, which is a dominant means of defense against visible aging and the weakening of dermal thickness.

Thus, phytessence wakame helps to hamper one of the main factors contributing to skin decline with age. When collagen, a fibrous protein possessing great tensile strength, and elastin, another protein that helps skin stay flexible, start to break down due to aging, skin begins to sag and becomes less firm. Hyaluronidase prevents skin from forming new collagen and elastin molecules because it destroys their connective glue, hyaluronic acid. It seems perfectly logical to include an ingredient that blocks the activity of this unwelcome enzyme in skin care.

I came across phytessence wakame while researching noteworthy ingredients in topical anti-aging products. Though this marine phytoactive often makes an appearance in natural Japanese formulations, it isn't that common in American products, particularly in concentrations high enough for real results. You'll find it on ingredients lists under the name Undaria Pinnatifida. Some skin care lines I uncovered that really highlight phytessence wakame are Corrective Skincare and Xtend-Life. Or you could always concoct your own wakame-rich cosmetic using a seaweed extract blend.