She was the global authority on Pacific marine plants who brought traditional Hawaiian plant knowledge to the scientific community.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’d like to introduce you to one of our new heroes – Dr. Isabella Aiona Abbott.
Dr. Isabella Abbott (1919-2010) was a trailblazing ethnobotanist from Hawaii and the world’s leading expert on Pacific marine algae. In 1950 she became the very first Native Hawaiian woman to receive a PhD in science, launching a long and highly accomplished career as a scholar and educator at Stanford. Working along on the coasts of California, she discovered over 200 new species of algae and authored over 150 publications.
Abbott’s interest in marine botany began during her childhood in Maui, where she would often join her mother on beachside foraging trips for limu (edible seaweed) used in traditional Hawaiian cooking. While working in California, Abbott adapted many of her childhood recipes for local kelp species, often surprising her students with limu pickles and cakes. When asked if her mother had a favorite seaweed, Dr. Abbott’s daughter replied – "She couldn't pick one, that would be like picking a favorite child."
After retiring in 1980, Abbott returned to Hawaii and dedicated the rest of her life to researching the traditional Hawaiian uses of plants, publishing the first comprehensive textbook on the subject in 1992. Dubbed the “First Lady of Limu,” Dr. Abbott was a true pioneer, charting the course for generations of women and indigenous scientists that followed her.
Why We Love Seaweed
Like Dr. Abbott, we’d be hard pressed to pick our favorite type of seaweed. We use two different types of Hawaiian algae in our skincare, each selected for their natural abundance of health and beauty benefits:
Chlorella is a bright green micro-algae that grows in mineral-rich pools under direct sunlight. Called the “perfect food” because of its balanced ratios of proteins, nutrients, vitamins and minerals, chlorella fights oxidative stress to renew and deeply purify the skin. The cracked cell chlorella we use in our Mermaid Mask is fermented in order to soften its cellular walls, making its nutrients easier for the skin to absorb.
Spirulina is a mighty micro-algae that mitigates premature aging, acne, redness and uneven skin tone through its abundance of proteins and amino acids. The Hawaiian spirulina used in our Siren Serum and Mermaid Mask is the only spirulina cultivated in a Biosecure Zone, certified free from pesticides herbicides and industrial pollutants. Each pond is fed with lava-filtered, 100% potable drinking water from pristine Hawaiian aquifers and blended with pure deep ocean water to bring in beneficial trace minerals.
Shop Seaweed Skincare
A superfood purifying mask
A radiant brightening serum