ALIVE Prebiotic Balancing Mask
Algenist’s ALIVE Prebiotic Balancing Mask is a good soothing mask, though it can’t quite work as claimed and its packaging does it no favors, which is why we can’t recommend it with enthusiasm.
This somewhat creamy, fragrance-free clay mask comes in a jar (more on that in a moment) and has a color that’s initially a light mint green. You’re advised to scoop out enough to cover your face in a thin layer, then rub it in until it changes color to a faint peach shade. This takes about two or three minutes, then you leave it on another three to five minutes, after which you rinse. We found it came off easily, though we recommend using a soft washcloth to be sure all traces are removed.
Once the mask is removed, skin feels noticeably softer and smoother. Because it's kaolin clay-based, it’s best for normal to oily skin, but it’s not so absorbent that those with normal to dry skin can’t use it (like many other clay masks).
Taking a look at the rest of the ingredients, there are numerous antioxidant plant extracts (turmeric and chinaberry among them), as well as the antioxidant algae that gives the brand its name.
As advertised, this also contains probiotic ingredients (they primarily show up in the ingredient list as different ferment extracts). Probiotics in skin care can help skin act healthier and stronger. There isn’t a "best" probiotic or blend of them because each person’s microbiome is different and in a near-constant state of change. Still, they’re good ingredients to have in skin care, but are more beneficial in leave-on products than in rinse off products.
What about the prebiotics from algae? Algae, including the type Algenist uses (in this case, Parachlorella beijerinckii exopolysaccharides and Chlorella vulgaris) contain complex sugars known as polysaccharides. These are considered prebiotics because they help feed the good bacteria on skin that allow it to thrive and keep doing the right thing.
Unfortunately, prebiotics and probiotics are also very delicate and can deteriorate rapidly in the presence of light and air. The jar packaging for this mask means they’re exposed to both each time you open the jar, and there’s also the potential for the probiotics to be exposed to bad bacteria than can further break them down (see More Info below for details).
Our only other issue is that Algenist claims this can detox skin, but that simply isn’t possible; toxins in the body are handled by the kidneys and the liver, so that claim is without basis.
Though this mask has some good qualities, it’s better to select one of the superior options you’ll find on our list of best face masks.
- Creamy-smooth mask is easy to rinse.
- Leaves skin feeling softer and smoother.
- Contains beneficial antioxidant and probiotic ingredients.
- Fragrance free.
- Packaged in a jar, which compromises some of its beneficial ingredients.
- Cannot detox skin as claimed.
Jar Packaging & Anti-Aging Moisturizers: Beneficial anti-aging ingredients, which include all plant extracts, almost all vitamins, antioxidants, and other state-of-the-art ingredients, are unstable, which means they begin to break down in the presence of air. Once a jar is opened and lets air in, these important ingredients begin to deteriorate, becoming less and less effective. Routine exposure to daylight also is problematic for these ingredients.
Jar packaging is also unsanitary because you dip your fingers into the jar with each use, contaminating the product. This stresses the preservative system, leading to further deterioration of the beneficial ingredients.
Remember: The ingredients that provide the most benefit in addressing visible signs of aging must be in airtight or air-restrictive packaging to remain effective throughout usage. Buying products in this type of packaging means that the ingredients have the best chance of remaining effective—to the benefit of your skin!
References for this information:
Pharmacology Review, July 2013, pages 97–106
Dermatologic Therapy, May-June 2012, pages 252–259
Current Drug Delivery, November 2011, pages 640–660
Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, May 2011, pages 4676–4683
Journal of Biophotonics, January 2010, pages 82–88
Guidelines of Stability Testing of Cosmetic Products, Colipa-CTFA, March 2004, pages 1–10
This color-morphing mask is formulated with a prebiotic from algae + a probiotic to target concerns that may result from unbalanced surface skin bacteria. On application, it transforms from mint green to pink and re-balances, detoxifies, and leaves skin feeling alive and hydrated. Also paired with patented Alguronic Acid, naturally-sourced and sustainably produced from Algae, this mask helps to hydrate the skin for an even, clarified, and radiant look and leaves skin more resistant to pollution and the appearance of lifestyle aging.
Strengths: Good facial cleanser and toner; select serums and moisturizers formulated with an impressive mix of anti-aging ingredients; Targeted Deep Wrinkle Minimizer really does make wrinkles less apparent.
Weaknesses: Expensive; the star ingredient (a modified form of algae) doesn't have reliable research to support its anti-aging efficacy; jar packaging; some of the moisturizers contain eucalyptus oil, which can be a potent irritant.
Algenist is a small, rather expensive range of skin-care products sold at Sephora with a focus on anti-aging. Like several other cosmetics companies, Algenist has based their brand on a single ingredient, an ingredient they claim has superior benefits for skin and that, therefore, is worth the steep price tag. In this case, it was the "accidental" discovery of a substance found in algae. As the story goes, a group of biotechnology scientists were looking for ways to use something called microalgae as a renewable source of energy when they stumbled upon a compound known as alguronic acid. Their research revealed that alguronic acid is one of the compounds responsible for regenerating and protecting algae cells.
Figuring they were on to something, the company did further in vitro testing (although the details of their tests are not available, so you only have a science-fiction style story, not facts) and, of course, found that alguronic acid had anti-aging benefits on skin, too. Aside from having no idea what their studies did or didn't really show, in vitro means this ingredient was examined in a petri dish, not directly on human skin. They did limited testing on human skin, but many key details of these "studies" are not available. Instead, we're asked to accept that their ingredient made a remarkable difference. At the time of this writing, there isn't a single published study attesting to the claims Algenist makes for alguronic acidso you're taking an expensive leap of faith in buying these products!
Before you get seduced by Algenist's claims and their explanation about how algae reproduces, let us tell youit has no relation to how human skin works. Algae is about as related to human skin as a 747 jetliner is to roller skates.
Whether the story about alguronic acid being the answer for your skin is true or not, it is critical to keep in mind that skin, and skin care, is far more complex than one allegedly miraculous ingredient. Think of it like your diet: As healthy as green tea is, if that's all you consumed, you'd soon be malnourished. Just like your diet should contain a healthy mix of nutritious foods, your skin (which is your body's largest organ) needs a wide array of helpful ingredients to become and remain smooth, healthy, and, yes, able to look and act younger.
To Algenist's credit, their products contain more than just alguronic acid. Most of them have a good blend of skin-repairing and antioxidant ingredients, although the ones they call out as key ingredients (such as apple stem cells) have no real published research proving their efficacy. Despite the fact that their products contain some tried-and-true anti-aging ingredients, Algenist makes the same mistakes as many other lines, such as using jar packaging (which won't keep any of the beneficial ingredients stable during use) and including fragrance or fragrant plant extracts to give the products an appealing scent. Fragrance isn't skin care and, in fact, more often than not, will cause irritation that hurts your skin's ability to look and act younger!
In the end, Algenist is not a must-have line, and it certainly isn't worth expanding your beauty budget to afford. There are some acceptable to impressive options for those who don't mind spending more than they need to for effective products, but you'll find a wider, often better range of options on our list of Best Anti-Aging/Anti-Wrinkle Products.
For more information about Algenist, call (877) 650-1837 or visit www.algenist.com.
Note: Algenist lists the alguronic acid in their products as algae exopolysaccharides, which is the accepted cosmetic labeling name for alguronic acid.
About the Experts
The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.
Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.