Can consumers “eat themselves” to beauty? And what nutricosmetics show real efficacy? Cosmetics & Toiletries posed these questions and others to renowned dermatologists Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., and Alan Dattner, M.D. Following are excerpts adapted from our podcast interview series with them. Listen now!
C&T: Can nutrition affect beauty? If so, how?
Draelos: Nutrition is a very important part of beauty. That old saying, “You are what you eat,” is actually really true because it relates to the skin, hair and nails, which are made of pure protein. There are many individuals who eat a vegan diet and if they choose not to eat meat, they need to eat protein because that is the structural backbone of skin, hair and nails. If the body doesn’t have an adequate source of amino acids, it can’t make protein.
Proteins are also the building blocks for the brain, nerves, muscle, etc.; and of course, a healthy inside leads to a healthy outside. The most common problem I see in people with brittle nails or who are starting to lose hair is that they’ve decided to go on a strict vegan diet and don’t know enough to balance vegetable proteins so they get complete nutrition. It’s important to ensure you eat everything you need for your body to be beautiful.
Dattner: What makes beauty is, in part, the lack of extra lines and wrinkles on the skin. Exposure to the sun and other oxidative processes generates free radicals, and that causes damage to the elastic tissue matrix and collagen. When oxidative damage occurs, it induces enzymes called MMPs that break the collagen and elastin down. Good nutrition will supply a variety of different antioxidants that quench those free radicals and protect against damage.
Another issue with nutrition is if you eat a lot of foods that have what are called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. When your body absorbs them, they can cause trouble. You get them from eating too much sugar because sugar glycates or alters the proteins in the body. You can also get them from high-temperature heated foods.
So, it’s a balance of getting enough of the right foods with minimal amounts of the wrong foods.