Could pre- and pro-biotic supplements lend themselves to nutritional beauty? What other external forces come into play? Cosmetics & Toiletries posed this question and others to renowned dermatologists Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., and Alan Dattner, M.D. Following are excerpts adapted from part V in our five-part podcast series, "How Nutrition Impacts Beauty." Hear more by clicking on the podcast at the bottom of the page.
Follow additional podcasts in this series on: "How Nutrition Translates to Beauty" (part I); "Measuring Nutricosmetic Efficacy" (part II); "Nutricosmetic Successes and Stumbling Blocks" (part III); and "Consumer/Client Interest in Nutricosmetics" (part IV).
Cosmetics & Toiletries: Do you think new market concepts including the microbiome, epigenetics, psychology, well-being, wellness, nutrition, beauty, health, etc., intersect?
Draelos: The microbiome is an interesting concept because it embodies the bacterial organisms that are on our skin surface. We live in a contaminated world and the purpose of our skin is not just to make us look beautiful, but to protect us from the external world.
The idea of altering your microbiome, though, is really not feasible. Because your body and immune system will dictate what your microbiome is. Sure, you can wash your hands but it will repopulate itself. Eating probiotics to help your topical microbiome…that really isn't effective. And applying topical probiotics has not yet been shown to produce sustained changes. It’s not something you have a lot of control over.
Epigenetics is a fascinating area as it relates to nutrition. A lot of the work on how nutrition affects epigenetics has been done in mice but we see some human corollaries. In studies of the medical effects of folic acid, brown-haired female mice mated with brown-haired male mice, who are then deprived of folic acid during pregnancy, produced light, strawberry-red blonde offspring. How could this be? Well, if you do not have enough folic acid or enough methyl groups, even though you carry the brown hair genetics, you cannot methylate your DNA, so you end up with a different red colored pheomelanin.
But not only is appearance affected, the offspring is also more predisposed to cancer, obesity, heart disease, etc. So this change in body structure, health, longevity and appearance is totally related to nutrition. It’s a huge area of research.
Dattner: There certainly are some nasty organisms that can live in the skin. And those cause all kinds of problems such as staph and strept infections...this does nothing for beauty save for maybe a little sympathy. I think we’re just beginning to get a handle on the microbiome.
There are some who have written (inaccurately) about the overgrowth of the bacterium acnes and how it causes acne; but it’s really more complicated than that. An interesting study came out showing that actually, a good amount of the acne bacteria was associated with less acne; the real problem was with what’s called the metagenomic shift in the microbiome of the skin.
The epigenetic and genetic shift of the microbiome in the skin toward a more inflammatory status causes trouble. Furthermore, it’s not just the mites that live in the follicles that cause the problems, it’s the bacteria that’s on the mites in the follicles. Now we’re going to find out it’s also how those bacteria are behaving, and this is what’s happening with acne as well. This is some of the latest work, and findings are indicating these metagenomic changes predispose toward unhealthy conditions.
The other thing that’s not even being addressed is related to work I've done in the past on cross-reactive recognition. I think we’re going to find out that what gets stimulated by the microbiome in the gut may be sensitizing cells to attack, inappropriately, the microbiome on our skin. It’s becoming complicated enough that we have to go back to other ways of summing up the situation in order to put it together easily. Put another way, some of the core things that we understand about nutrition go back to what our grandmothers told us about eating our vegetables.