Seaweed is practically in Jenefer Palmer’s blood. Part of the OSEA co-founder’s family’s life for three generations now, it all started over a century ago with her grandmother, Elsa, a mother of six and chiropractor. When she had a bad fall, she suffered a serious leg injury that left her bedridden. Facing the possibility of amputation, she had a dream that the ocean would heal her, so when she woke up the next morning, she asked her husband to carry her into the waters of the Long Island Sound. The chilling January temperatures didn’t deter her and she returned every day for a swim for weeks until eventually the water healed her. After that, they continued to swim together in the seaweed-packed ocean, which she credits for healing her leg. “That was our family belief system,” Palmer says. “Every family lives their own kind of mythology. That was our mythological point of view of the world.”
Fast forward many years later and Palmer was working as a spa director in California, taking a deep dive into skincare brands and their ingredients. “I thought what are all these skincare products that smell like perfume?” she recalls. “I didn’t even know what the ingredients were. I saw that some of the most common cosmetic skincare ingredients were skin irritants. There had to be a better solution. That’s what got me going on my journey. Of course, the first thing I thought was seaweed and all the richness of its minerals. I knew how healing it had been to my grandmother.”
Palmer took a deep dive into formulation herself, ordering books through the library from the FDA to do her research. Having partially grown up in Switzerland where she did class trips to perfume fields, she knew about essential oils and that they would cover up the smell of seaweed, as well as deliver efficacy. “Essential oils are extraordinary,” Palmer says. “I thought what if I create a synergy between land and sea, and it was so incredibly obvious to me. That was the easy part. Then it took me over 10 years to really understand the basic principles of cosmetic chemistry, and then to start to source and [make a line].”
Eventually, OSEA was born. The acronym stands for ocean, sun, earth and atmosphere, since Palmer wanted the name of the brand to communicate what it was all about and truly represent something. “I wanted to immediately communicate that it came from the ocean,” she says. “I always says OSEA chose me; I did not choose OSEA.” In 1996, she officially launched with six products and all of them are still in the collection.
To this day, seaweed remains a cornerstone of the brand and is infused in most products, including their latest, the Seaglow Overnight Serum AHA Treatment. Beauty sleep in a bottle, the blend of 9% AHAs, 2% phytic acid, tropical fruit extracts (specifically caja, mango and banana), fermented shiunko oil, and sea actives—red algae, spirulina and sea water—team up to gently resurface skin, strengthen the skin barrier, even tone and texture, nourish and hydrate, promising glowing skin in the morning. The inspiration behind the new serum was OSEA’s customers, who requested an exfoliant.
“I wanted to create a product that was composed of acids, but still supported the skin barrier—the barrier is key,” Palmer says. “People get congestion under their skin; their pores get clogged. So that was really the idea. I wanted to exfoliate to help expose that top layer of skin to help with texture, but I also still wanted to maintain the integrity of the skin. It helps with skin tone and gives you that radiant, dewy look. It’s in the magic sauce of the seaweed, which adds minerals. There hasn’t been any clinical studies on this, but what I’ve seen is that minerals appear to enhance the efficacy of the other actives.”
Aside from its skin-boosting properties, another reason OSEA has embraced seaweed is because it’s eco-friendly and all of theirs is sustainably sourced. “In general, seaweed is invasive,” Palmer explains. “Most of the algaes that we use are very fast-growing sea plants, so that’s one of the beauties of the sustainability.” OSEA uses three main seaweed varietals: Gigartina Skottsbergii, Undaria Pinnatifida and Macrocystis pyrifera. Each have their own distinct beneficial properties.
Carefully sourcing ingredients is just part of OSEA’s sustainability efforts. “As a brand inspired by the ocean, we have a distinct duty to protect our deepest source,” says Melissa Palmer, co-founder and CEO of OSEA. “With climate change progressing at the rate it is, sustainability efforts are no longer optional. Since 1996, our family-run brand has been passionate about creating products that are kind to your skin and kind to our planet.” In April 2021, OSEA became a Climate Neutral Certified brand, one of the first in the beauty industry. Since 2020, they have offset 100% of their carbon footprint by purchasing carbon credits to fund sustainability projects, a commitment they make annually.
“OSEA has implemented a Reduction Action Plan to reduce emissions from within our own operations and supply chain,” Melissa Palmer says. “As part of our plan, we are minimizing excess material in our packaging by removing paper inserts from our product unit boxes, increasing the percentage of post-consumer use material and relying less on virgin paper. We are also improving our packaging recyclability profile by eliminating plastic tertiary packaging and instead shipping our products in post-consumer unit boxes for all professional product orders. Additionally, we use renewable energy for our office and skincare studio, and even through our giving initiatives, supporting nonprofits that are taking action to protect our planet for our future generations.”
That’s been the ethos of OSEA from the day it launched, long before glowing skin or prioritizing the planet were trendy. That’s why the brand has always put ingredients first, to ensure the efficacy of their products and that they were ethically and sustainably sourced. “When we first started, we didn’t have a budget for advertising and marketing,” Jenefer Palmer recalls. “I used to say my tagline and no one got it, which was: ‘What would happen if we spent all the money on the ingredients?’ And that’s what we did.” And OSEA has been doing that ever since.