Biofuels company makes skin cream from algae

Once you've determined that you can take algae - culture it - give it a good shake and process it into fuel for a car - then the next logical strategic move for a biofuels company is -- cosmetics?

"It doesn't seem connected," said Solazyme Senior Vice President Frederick Stoeckel.

"We weren't looking for this stuff at first," said chief scientist Tony Day.

The stuff is alguronic acid -- a discovery made by scientists at South San Francisco-based Solazyme. They weren't looking for alguronic acid at first, but they were looking for other products they could squeeze out of continuing research into algae. A consultant told them to think outside the box -- and consider anti-aging creams and lotions.

"Algae has to survive in harsh sunlight, nutrient depletion, they get washed up on the shore and they're desiccated and they evolved to tolerate those kinds of environmental insults," said Day.

Solazyme scientists had never done this sort of work before and they screened thousands of types of algae looking for the right properties and this is the result.

"The concentrated reconstructing serum works at removing the deep wrinkles, improving firmness, and elasticity and boosting skin radiance," said product sales manager Riva Barak.

And that's what Barak will be telling an audience on QVC later this month, when the products go public. Prices will vary, but most will be under $100. Then we'll see if a company with the drive to produce an alternate fuel for the road has the delicate touch needed to make it at the beauty counter. But, I put the most important question to Solazyme's chief scientist.

"Would you buy it for your mom?" asked ABC7's Eric Thomas.

"I have," said Day.

Actually he's had to buy the product for his mom because free samples are tight even for the chief scientist. The algenist products go on sale at Sephora stores today.

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