‘Beauty from within’ not backed by scientific evidence

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Evidence for the benefit of nutraceuticals to skin appearance is not strong
Evidence for the benefit of nutraceuticals to skin appearance is not strong

Related tags Nutrition

Very little evidence exists to support the use of some ingredients used in popular – and often costly – orally-consumed beauty supplements that promise ‘youthful’, ‘firm’ and ‘glowing’ skin, according to new research by scientists at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF).

A review of published research conducted by the BNF, released today (February 13), concluded that while a healthy, balanced diet, containing essential vitamins and minerals, was 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 was more pronounced than ever and many people go to great lengths to ‘beautify’ themselves, said the BNF. As a result, there was 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.

Beauty from within market

The global beauty supplements market is expected to reach $7.1bn by 2023, according to a report​ published by Research and Markets last September.

Scientific evidence showed that skin ageing was a natural process that can be exacerbated by external factors, such as sun exposure, causing damage to skin cells and structures, reported the BNF in its review, titled ‘Nutraceuticals and skin appearance: Is there any evidence to support this growing trend?’.

The study, which will be published in the March issue of BNF’s Nutrition Bulletin​, investigated whether oral beauty nutraceuticals could provide a defence against skin damage from external factors, helping to reduce wrinkles and maintain skin elasticity.

The review examined published evidence behind some of the common ingredients used in the most popular products, to explore whether they had 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, were proven to contribute to the maintenance of normal skin, and a deficiency of these essential micronutrients could result in skin abnormalities, said BNF. However there was 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.

Little evidence that they work

According to the BNF, although many of these were perceived as ‘natural’ ingredients, with some having health benefits when consumed as part of our diet, there was only a small amount of evidence to suggest that, as nutraceutical ingredients, they could provide any real ‘anti-ageing’ benefit to skin.

The BNF said making healthy lifestyle choices like eating a nutritious diet, not smoking and not drinking alcohol in excess, as well as using topical sunscreen, was 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.

“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,”​ said Ayela Spiro, BNF nutrition science manager.

“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.”

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