Q&A With Algenist: The Bay Area Biofuel Startup Turned Anti-Aging Skincare Superhero


Skincare can get a bit overwhelming, but we're finding refuge in the latest anti-aging craze: algae, from the local skincare line, Algenist

Harrison Dillon and Jonathan Wolfson, Algenist co-founders, are anything but beauty buffs. Seven years ago, they set out to create renewable energy from algae, in their garage in Palo Alto. After studying thousands of strains of microalgae, they unexpectedly discovered a protective, regenerating compound called alguronic acid. When they took this to algae expert and Stanford professor Arthur Grossman, he basically told them they may have struck skincare gold.

Alguronic acid protects algae from some of the harshest environments in the world, and regenerates cells, allowing the algae to thrive. Now, alguronic acid is doing the same thing for human skin, with Algenist.

The line, which launched in March, is sold at Sephora, and features five products -- a serum, an eye balm and three moisturizers  ($65-$135) -- that all help with age prevention as well as correction. After testing Algenist for two weeks, we saw improved radiance (a good summer glow), total hydration, diminished dark spots and fewer fine lines. Basically, it's nerdy skincare that works.

When we really love a product, we always have questions, so we spoke with Frederic Stoeckel, Senior Vice President of Algenist, and Algenist Product Developer, Riva Barak, to get the inside scoop on this hot new line.

If customers were to purchase a single Algenist product, which one would you recommend? 

RB: The Concentrated Reconstructing Serum -- it's key. It has the highest level of alguronic acid, and beyond that, it shows incredible results. We saw large numbers in size and number of deep wrinkles that were minimizing during our tests.

Is Algenist okay for men to use too? 

RB: That's one of the things we really wanted, a great product for men and women. Our products are not overly feminine in scent -- the serum is the only one that has small amount of fragrance, but it's not overwhelming -- and the textures are universal. Both men and women experience aging in their skin so we encourage all to use Algenist. 

There are so many anti-aging products and ingredients out there. Can they be mixed and matched with Algenist? 

RB: It's not bad to mix the algae with other products. In fact, the key anti-aging ingredient in Algenist is the alguronic acid, but it is combined with complimentary bio acids, too. We've tested it and we know it works very well with other bio actives. As far as integrating Algenist products, the line is completely compatible. You shouldn't have any sensitivity. Algenist is hypoallergenic so it won't cause irritation. 

Currently, there's no exfoliator in the line. Would you recommend using an exfoliator with Algenist? 

RB:  The great things about alguronic acid is that it really promotes cell regeneration. It gets rid of those old dead cells and bring on new, vibrant skin cells. The idea of Algenist and its cell regeneration is to provide the key functions to those who don't want the irritating retinol, and other parts because their skin can't handle it. Whether or not you want to use an exfoliator in addition to Algenist, it's really personal preference. 

Are you looking for new strains of algae that are potentially better than alguronic acid? 

FS:  There are millions of strains of algae and microalgae in the world. We have tested thousands of them and, with more, we may find even better strains.

RB:  It's not even just that we found this unique strain though, it's also the research and development that went into cultivating this strain. We've researched and developed alguronic acid to and understand how to grow it, and how to use it in our products. 

What's next for Algenist? Can we expect a body care line?

FS:  We are growing and have plans for new products, but nothing is confirmed yet. We have positioned the brand on anti-aging and efficiency in increasing firmness, so it makes sense to go into body care, but that will be down the road. 


Lily Ko (lily.7x7 @ gmail.com) studied fashion design and merchandising at Central Saint Martins and the Academy of Art University. In addition to writing for 7x7, Lily is an editor at SF Station, works as a freelance stylist and covers food, fashion and fun on her blog, Curated SF.


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