Phycocyanin at a glance

  • Antioxidant-rich algae extract that helps skin defend itself against environmental stressors
  • Provides soothing benefits, especially great for reactive or compromised skin
  • Certain types of phycocyanins show potential for visibly reducing the appearance of skin discolorations
  • Most stable when air and light exposure are limited, hence jar packaging is not recommended

Phycocyanin description

Phycocyanin is an extract derived from algae that can help protect skin from environmental stressors due to its antioxidant power. Research shows it also delivers soothing properties, making this a welcome ingredient for any skin type, but especially compromised or reactive skin. Phycocyanins can be derived from different types of algae and are divided into three classifications: cyano-phycocyanin (derived from blue-green algae), R-phycocyanin (derived from red algae), and allophycocyanin, derived from both blue-green algae and red algae. Cyano-phycocyanin in particular has been studied for its ability to visibly mitigate the appearance of skin discolorations and shows promise in this regard. Newer researchers also include a fourth type, R-phycocyanin II, which is derived from marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus species. Thanks to their natural pigments, phycocyanins are being explored as color additives for cosmetics, in addition to their skin benefits. Due to phycocyanin’s high molecular weight, some chemists prefer utilizing encapsulation methods that enhance the delivery and penetration into skin. As with other antioxidants, phycocyanins remain the most stable when air and light exposure are limited, hence it’s best if skin care products containing phycocyanin do not come in packaging such as jars.

Phycocyanin references

  • Molecules, August 2022, pages 1-12
  • Plants, May 2022, pages 1-18
  • Clinical Applications of Biomaterials, February 2016, ePublication
  • Mediators of Inflammation, 2002, pages 81-85

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.