New research confirms what holistic dermatologists have told their patients for years: A high-glycemic diet, heavy on refined sugars and white flour, could be a major player in skin problems such as acne. It makes sense then that science also continues to affirm beauty from within, the idea that consuming the right nutrients (along with applying natural skin care products) can improve your appearance. “Dermatologists are looking more and more toward the right foods and supplements as a vehicle to healthy skin,” says Farah Ahmed, vice president and associate general counsel for the Personal Care Products Council, a national trade association for the cosmetics industry.
Many key beauty nutrients are food based: think free radical–fighting carotenoids found in dark leafy greens and moisturizing omegas abundant in salmon. So why choose a pill? Rising stars like collagen and omega-7s aren’t readily available in your refrigerator. Plus, “research shows a specific ingredient is going to have better results when combining oral and topical therapies to maintain skin health,” says Chris Fields, vice president of scientific affairs for Applied Food Sciences. Some companies already offer both topical products and dietary supplements formulated to work better together. Read more about natural beauty ingredients and nutricosmetics.
Collagen strengthens hair, skin, and nails; reduces fine lines; heals wounds.
Types I and III support healthy hair, skin, and nails by tightening and firming tissue (type II promotes healthy joints, bones, and cartilage). Some products contain multiple forms for more benefits; others combine collagen with vitamin C, lysine, or hyaluronic acid, ingredients that help your body produce more collagen. Most products are derived from chicken, bovines, or fish, but vegetarians and vegans will soon find “vegetable collagen” from tobacco plants.
Fatty acids moisturize; reduce wrinkles; boost hair and scalp health.
Omega-3, -6, -7, and -9 are fatty acids that may replenish moisture to stave off acne and wrinkles. Ceramides, lipids that contain fatty acids, can hydrate skin and reduce inflammation. Sea buckthorn oil is the only beauty-from-within ingredient with omega-3, -6, and the rare omega-7. Omega-7 may improve skin hydration and elasticity and increase skin thickness, improving collagen synthesis to ward off visible aging signs.
Fruit and vegetable concentrates
Fruit and vegetable concentrates enhance skin elasticity and tone; provide UV protection.
Tomatoes are well-known for their UV-protective lycopene. Plus, recent research shows that taking capsules of fruit and vegetable concentrates, including tomato, cherry, and broccoli, can significantly improve skin hydration and thickness. Another recent study found that carotenoids—antioxidants found in sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and kale—lend skin a golden hue, in addition to counteracting skin-damaging free radicals. Because every antioxidant works differently, supplementing with multiple extracts best supports skin structure, says Fields.
Hyaluronic acid (HA)
Hyaluronic acid hydrates skin; reduces fine lines.
A hydrating, gel-like molecule, HA holds a thousand times its weight in water, drawing moisture from the air to fill wrinkles. For this reason, many experts tout this natural substance—now available in serums, creams, masks, gelcaps, and liquid supplements—as the ultimate ingredient for turning back the hands of time.
Resveratrol offers UV protection.
Resveratrol, found mostly in red-grape skins, combats free radical damage, mainly by fending off harmful UV rays. New research indicates you may get the most protection by pairing a supplement with a lotion; grape flavonoids also help prevent UVA and UVB damage when applied topically. Resveratrol offers secondary actions to repair cells as well, says Fields.
Detoxifies; clarifies skin.
Rich in chlorophyll, a compound believed to stimulate energizing red blood cells, chlorella also facilitates your body’s detoxification process, so fewer toxins end up being eliminated through the skin, leading to acne and other irritation. Topically, chlorella growth factor 9CGF) may promote skin-cell production. Complement chlorella with other detoxifying ingredients such as aloe.