They may be the bottom of the underwater food chain, but up here, algae are sitting pretty at the top of the beauty world. The living plant organisms are the latest ocean ingredients making motion on land, as they are being used in skincare formulas for their many beauty benefits. “Algae are great ingredients because they have many proteins, amino acids and minerals,” says YouBeauty cosmetic chemistry expert Ni’Kita Wilson. “Many varieties find their way into skincare for everything from stimulating collagen to evening out the skin tone.”So how does algae actually get in to the formulas? Through their extracts. “The extraction process is crucial,” says Wilson. “That is how you get the constituents of the algae that deliver the results that we are looking for. Where the algae is harvested and how it’s processed also determines what it does.” For example, Sachajaun actually uses an exclusive Ocean Silk Technology—a process that extracts valuable proteins and minerals from nutrient-rich coldwater sea algae and blends them with other active  ingredients—to reap all the benefit algae has to offer.A Quick Guide to AlgaeThere are over 20,000 species of algae growing under the sea. These are the main ones you should know about—and introduce into your skincare routine.Brown Algae“The most commonly used algae in skincare is brown algae,” says Wilson. “Why? Perhaps because brown is the oldest and most studied.” It’s also super popular because of its super antioxidant powers. Brown algae extract (or phaeophyceae) is amazing at combating free radical oxidation.Red AlgaeThis group of algae (AKA rhodophyta) has been found to protect against sun damage by helping to absorb UVA rays—making it a natural sunscreen! And like other marine algae, it’s an excellent source of antioxidants. Some red algae species called porphyra (a type of seaweed) also have antimicrobial benefits, making it useful for fighting blemishes.Green Micro-AlgaeGreen micro-algae are full of phytochemicals, one of which is called astaxanthin, which acts as a potent antioxidants. More specifically, chlorella, which is a type of single-cell green algae fights inflammation and irritating free radicals that mess with our melanin production, meaning a more even skintone for you.Go ahead, dive in.Sophyto Marine Peptide Brightening Treatment A serum formulated with chlorella vulgaris, an emerald green micro-algae, to brighten dull and UV-damaged complexions.NUXE Aroma-Perfection Purifying Cleansing Gel A purifying daily face cleanser with laminaria digitata algae, which soothes and moisturizes.Clark’s Botanicals Smoothing Marine Cream An extremely smoothing and softening facial moisturizer infused with nutrient-rich algae extracts.Christopher Drummond Beauty SkinPrep Primer An all-natural, vegetarian-based primer that uses laminaria and red algae to pull dirt from the pores and firm the skin, and hyaluronic acid to add serious moisture.MORE: Seaweed Skincare is AWESOME