How nutricosmetics promote healthy skin from within.
What are the most important factors in having youthful, healthy skin? Probably hydration, plumpness and elasticity. Now the harder question: How can you acquire these things, especially as aging takes a toll on all of them? The answer may be a combination approach, with both topical and internal products playing important roles.
“Like all tissues and organs in our body, skin gets nutrients from our diet through the bloodstream,” points out Andreas M. Papas, Ph.D., author of The Vitamin E Factor, editor of Antioxidant Status and adjunct professor at East Tennessee State University. “In addition, we can nourish the skin with external application of creams, lotions and other products.”
But, due to absorption issues and the suitability of topical delivery for certain nutrients (like omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids or large molecules), inside–outside supplements are definitely important options for shoppers to know about.
Soaking in Extra Moisture When skin gets dry and irritated many shoppers reach for their favorite creams and lotions and load up on drinking water. Both are good ideas, but many times a companion beauty-from-within supplement can be a great way to keep skin hydrated.
Hyaluronic acid, a “moisture magnet,” is commonly used for this purpose. According to Steve Holtby, president and CEO, Soft Gel Technologies, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, hyaluronic acid binds to water, helps retain it and has “instructive effects on cell signaling and behavior (adhesion, migration and proliferation).”
When you look at the research on hyaluronic acid, it suggests that 1,500 mg/day helps with hydration of the cells, says Audrey Ross, N.D., western regional educator at Country Life Vitamins, Hauppauge, NY. She believes combining hyaluronic acid with adequate amounts of drinking water will make a big difference in maintaining hydrated skin.
A clinical study involving a branded hyaluronic acid (Injuv from Soft Gel Technologies, Inc.) was conducted on 107 volunteers (ages 30–50) (1). For a month, individuals took two 70-mg soft gels twice daily or a placebo. Skin moisture was measured before and after supplementation using an SHP88 probe. According to Holtby, “Subjects who took Injuv showed a statistically significant increase in skin moisture content compared to both baseline and placebo. There were no adverse events reported” (see Figure 1).
In another study, 96 women (ages 22–65) took the supplement (six 70-mg Injuv tablets daily) for 45 days (2). Questionnaires revealed: • 84% reported a great improvement in the moisture levels of their hands and face. • 83% reported a great improvement in the smoothness of their skin. • 78% reported a great improvement in the softness of their elbows, knees and hands. • 50% reported a great improvement in the stiffness of their joints.
Meanwhile, ceramides—biolipids present in the top layers of our skin—create a protective barrier and “play a huge role in water retention and skin hydration,” says Rob Maru, chief innovation officer at Reserveage Nutrition, Boca Raton, FL.
He speaks of one branded wheat-derived ceramide (Ceramosides from SEPPIC Inc.) that combines phytoceramides and digalactosyl diglycerides (DGDG). According to Maru, one study on the ingredient found “hydrating effects starting in just 15 days.” After 60 days, even more noticeable effects were found, like increased skin moisture, increased skin smoothness and reduced skin roughness.
Tim Mount, CN, CCMH, director of education at NeoCell, Irvine, CA, calls hyaluronic acid and ceramides “two superstar nutrients for skin hydration.”
He explains that the two nutrients work well as a pair: “hyaluronic acid at the deeper layers of the skin draws in long-lasting hydration, and ceramides at the surface of the skin act as a barrier to reduce water loss from the skin.”
The benefits of supplementing with both nutrients become especially important with age, says Mount. Over time, the skin produces less hyaluronic acid and ceramides break down, which he says is a big contributor to the dryness we often see in mature skin. “By replenishing hyaluronic acid and rebuilding the ceramide barrier through supplementation, we have a solution to reduce or reverse this aging process,” says Mount. “Less fine lines and wrinkles are visible because of the plumping affect of increased skin hydration, and our skin looks softer and more youthful.”
In addition to boosting hyaluronic acid in the body by supplementing with it directly, taking French maritime pine bark extract may be an option. Sébastien Bornet, vice president of global sales and marketing at Horphag Research (exclusive worldwide supplier of Pycnogenol), Hoboken, NJ says his company’s branded version (Pycnogenol) is “the only natural supplement that has been demonstrated via clinical study to increase the expression of hyaluronic acid synthase and collagen production in human skin.”
In this study, 20 postmenopausal women took Pycnogenol for 12 weeks, and their skin was analyzed before, during and after the trial (3). The researchers found, “Pycnogenol significantly improved hydration and elasticity of skin,” with the best results in women who had dry skin before the study.
The group also found a significant increase in the mRNA expression of hyaluronic acid synthase-1. This enzyme is involved in hyaluronic acid production, which benefits hydration. According to Bornet, Pycnogenol caused a 44% increase in hyaluronic acid after 12 weeks of supplementation while skin elasticity increased 25%, skin fatigue decreased 30% and skin hydration increased 8%. Those with dry skin from the start had a 21% increase in moisture.
Collagen is another factor in hydration. In fact, Suhail Ishaq, president of BioCell Technology, LLC, Newport Beach, CA, calls collagen one of the “current go-to nutricosmetics for skin hydration.”
He says that a branded collagen ingredient from his company (BioCell Collagen) was studied for its benefits on this very front. The study included 26 healthy women with photodamaged facial skin. After taking one gram of the collagen supplement daily for three months, skin dryness and scaling dropped 76% and the appearance of wrinkles was reduced by 13% over baseline .
Taking omega-3s is also a good way to support hydrated skin, with Nick Bitz, chief scientific officer at Nutrawise/Youtheory, Tustin, CA, suggesting 1,000 mg of DHA and EPA daily, to “help to optimize cellular structure/function.”
Papas believes vitamin E is worth exploring for hydration. “Vitamin E has been shown to increase stratum corneum hydration and enhance its water-binding capacity,” he states. “In addition, as a lipophilic vitamin with a major role in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, it plays a key role in normal hydration of the skin.”
Another antioxidant that’s key for hydration astaxanthin. “Research has shown that astaxanthin, when taken alone or combined with tocotrienols, can help improve skin hydration,” states Gerry Cysewski, Ph.D., interim chief executive officer and chief science officer for Cyanotech Corporation.
In one six-week study of 28 participants taking 4 mg per day of astaxanthin, skin hydration nd elasticity were significantly improved.
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