A review of published research conducted by nutrition scientists at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) reveals a very limited evidence base to support some of the ingredients used in popular, and often costly, orally consumed beauty supplements, that promise ‘youthful’, ‘firm’ and ‘glowing’ skin. The review concludes that while a healthy, balanced diet, containing essential vitamins and minerals, is required for healthy skin, nutraceuticals for skin may not add further benefit to the effects already obtained from a healthy diet.
The desire for ‘youthful’ skin is more pronounced than ever. With the increasing pressures of social media, and judgements made on appearance so prominent, many people go to great lengths to ‘beautify’ themselves. As a result, there is an increasing demand for oral supplements – nutrients taken as pills, powders or drinks, rather than applied directly to skin (sometimes termed ‘beauty from within’) – claiming to improve skin appearance. The global beauty supplements market is expected to reach 7,100 million US dollars by 2023.
Scientific evidence shows that skin ageing is a natural process that can be exacerbated by external factors, such as sun exposure, causing damage to skin cells and structures. The BNF’s review entitled: Nutraceuticals and skin appearance: Is there any evidence to support this growing trend? investigates whether oral beauty nutraceuticals can provide a defence against skin damage from external factors, helping to reduce wrinkles and maintain skin elasticity. The review examines published evidence behind some of the common ingredients used in the most popular products, to explore whether these ingredients have been found to benefit skin appearance in clinical studies.
Some ingredients, such as vitamins A, C, B2, B3, B7, and the minerals iodine and zinc, are proven to contribute to the maintenance of normal skin and a deficiency of these essential micronutrients can result in skin abnormalities. However there is a wide variety of other ingredients used in oral beauty nutraceuticals including; green tea extract, pomegranate extract, carotenoids, evening primrose oil, borage oil, fish oil, collagen and co-enzyme Q10. According to the BNF, although many of these are perceived as ‘natural’ ingredients, with some having health benefits when consumed as part of our diet, there is only a small amount of evidence to suggest that, as nutraceutical ingredients, they could provide any real ‘anti-ageing’ benefit to skin.
BNF highlights that results from some laboratory experiments – for example conducted on skin cells in a dish – suggest that these ingredients can have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory or collagen enhancing effects. However, these results cannot automatically be assumed to be relevant beyond the laboratory. In its review, the BNF was only able to identify a limited number of well-conducted human trials, and the findings of these were inconsistent.
According to the BNF, making healthy lifestyle choices like eating a nutritious diet, not smoking and not drinking alcohol in excess, as well as using topical sunscreen, is likely to be a much better route to helping delay the inevitable skin ageing process than taking oral beauty supplements, and will also have wider health benefits.
Ayela Spiro, Nutrition Science Manager, British Nutrition Foundation, comments: “As consumers can spend hundreds of pounds a year on oral beauty supplements, we felt it was important to investigate the association between the ingredients in these products, and the signs that we associate with skin ageing, such as wrinkles, loss of elasticity and moisture. While there is a body of research on the science of skin ageing, evidence for the benefit of nutraceuticals to skin appearance is currently not strong enough to draw firm conclusions.”
The BNF review, Nutraceuticals and skin appearance: Is there any evidence to support this growing trend? will be published in the March edition of the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition Bulletin, and can be read online here.
Just one or two small trials suggest a benefit for green tea, evening primrose oil, collagen and co‐enzyme Q10, cocoa flavanols and probiotics with respect to improved skin elasticity, but with regard to skin hydration the results have been inconsistent.