Nutricosmetics: Feeding the Skin

Everybody agrees that fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals are beneficial to human health. Humans have been eating them since the days of Adam and Eve. The question is: Do fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals added to cosmetics have a measurable effect on the health and appearance of skin, hair and nails? To put it another way, do nutricosmetic products—which the Kline Group values as a $1.5 billion global market with 12% growth per annum1—actually feed the skin, or are they merely feeding the youth appetite of an aging consumer?

The search for the science behind nutricosmetics often leads to a blind alley. For example, as this is written in December 2008, the term nutricosmetic yielded not a single “hit” anywhere in all the patents and patent applications on file at the Web site of the US Patent and Trademark Office. Similarly, the Wikipedia page for the term nutricosmetic had been deleted in November. The deletion log contained two explanations. One said there was “no indication that the article may meet the guidelines for inclusion.” The other called the deleted article “blatant advertising.”

Advertising has certainly contributed to the growth of the nutricosmetics market. So has the muscle of big companies. In 2002, cosmetics giant L’Oréal and food products leader Nestlé cooperated to create the Inneov range of nutricosmetic products, attracting follow-up activity at Estée Lauder, Amore Pacific and Shiseido. Many companies, seeing nutricosmetics as a way to add value to their formulations, are competing with their own product lines. For example, the Inneov range, which is used for antiaging, is a skin care product that not only prepares the skin for solar exposure, but also intensifies the tanning process.2

This Bench & Beyond column will look at a few of the nutritional ingredients being added to cosmetics to promote the concept of beauty through a healthy body. Both the claims and the claims support (if any) will be discussed. The column will end with a suggestion about where to find the science behind nutricosmetics.

Skin Nutrition
Inside out or outside in: Nestlé is the world’s largest food conglomerate. Its nutrition research occurs at the Nestlé Research Center (NRC) in Lausanne, Switzerland. In this decade, the NRC has extended its expertise in nutrition research beyond foods and beverages, to nutritional supplements for skin and hair health and beauty. The premise is that the skin is not only nourished on the outside with moisturizing creams and topical solutions, but also with nutrients to nourish from the inside.

In collaboration with L’Oréal Dermatological Research, NRC scientists are actively researching nutrients that promote antiaging benefits. Research in this area focuses on the selection of ingredients and the understanding and control of nutrient bioavailability in plasma, skin or hair, and the demonstration of the bioefficacy of these nutrients taken orally:3
• Vitamin A (carotenoids) to maintain and repair skin tissue.
• Vitamin C to reduce the damage caused by free radicals and UV exposure. Over time, free radicals can damage collagen and elastin, the fibers that support skin structure.
• Vitamin E to lessen the skin effects of free radicals and UV exposure.
• Probiotics to improve recovery of the skin and cellular defenses after UV exposure.
• PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) to reduce dry, scaly skin. PUFAs play an important role in cell structure, barrier function, lipid synthesis, inflammation and immunity.3

Israeli Biotechnology Research Ltd. (IBR) develops innovative and proprietary natural active ingredients for the cosmetics, therapeutic and foods industries. Its vice president of business development and marketing is Liki von Oppen-Bezalel, who agrees that skin nourishment and protection could be delivered either via supplementation (oral intake) or topically (cosmetics). Each has its pluses and minuses.

“When beauty aids are delivered from within, they face several barriers—bioavailability, bio-distribution and delivery to the skin as the target organ, metabolism and degradation during the long journey from the mouth to the skin,” Oppen-Bezalel tells C&T magazine. “However, when these barriers are crossed and the active molecules are delivered to the skin, they enter from the inside and move toward the outer layer. They are still found in the deeper layers of the skin where they can do their work effectively.”

The other route of skin nourishment is from the outside, applying the ingredients topically. “Topical application of actives and ‘skin foods’ has the advantage of easy delivery and achieves effective levels of the materials even when they are applied in small quantities,” Oppen-Bezalel says. “However, topical application involves fast metabolism and degradation on the skin before getting to the place of action by either oxidation or enzymes localized in the skin that destabilize and degrade the actives. And in principle, any penetration to the deeper layers of the skin is an ambivalent desire, based on the definition of the term cosmetic.”

Oppen-Bezalel notes that discussion continues about the contribution to skin health and appearance made by various common food ingredients, such as coenzyme Q10, various fatty acids, flavonoids, polyphenols, vitamins A, E and C, minerals, some carotenoids and more. Furthermore, each has “pros and cons for either topical or oral application including stability, formulation issues, color, bioavailability and proven benefits,” she adds.

Drinkable or oral: A 2007 Frost & Sullivan market report2 identifies two main categories of nutricosmetics:
• Drinkable nutricosmetics that are taken in liquid form or yogurts, fortified with minerals and vitamins, for better skin care and body health. Examples of drinkable nutricosmetics marketed for skin care properties include Borba’s skin balancing water, Groupe Danone’s Essensis beauty yogurt and Coca-Cola’s Lumae tea.
• Oral nutricosmetics that are ingested as pills for purposes such as antiaging and skin care. Some popular brands include Inneov by L’Oréal and Nestlé, Imedeen by Ferrosan, and the Olay Vitamins line from Procter & Gamble. Both of these types of nutricosmetics enhance skin and hair condition and also protect the skin from UV damage, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Ingredients and Tests
Frost & Sullivan’s list of the major ingredients used currently in nutricosmetics includes soy isoflavone proteins, lutein, lycopene, vitamins (A, B6, E), omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene probiotics, sterol esters, chondroitin and coenzyme Q10. They are antioxidants promoted for their skin care properties and antiaging effects on free radicals. They also claim anti-inflammatory action to protect the skin against UV radiation. Discussion of any comprehensive list of nutricosmetic ingredients is beyond the scope of this column, so here is only a sample of those ingredients (Figure 1), followed by available research supporting their claims.

Phytoene and phytofluene from tomatoes: IBR Ltd. offers the colorless carotenoids phytoene and phytofluene, which are obtained from tomatoes and the edible unicellular algae of the Dunaliella species. There are more than 700 different carotenoids, many of which differ in the health benefits they offer and the body sites where they are found. Unfortunately, most carotenoids are sensitive to light, a property that considerably limits their use and shortens the shelf-life of products that contain them. In addition, almost all carotenoids have a distinctive visible color, which limits their utility for cosmetic applications. However, phytoene and phytofluene are colorless (i.e., they absorb light only in the UV range) and dietary phytoene and phytofluene have been shown to accumulate in human skin.4 According to IBR Ltd., this accumulation potentially can protect the skin by several mechanisms: as UV absorbers, as antioxidants, and as anti-inflammatory agents. Therefore, IBR has developed both topicala and dietaryb tomato-based products to bring phytoene and phytofluene to the skin.

Lycopene from tomatoes: Scientists at the NRC developed a food ingredient, Lactolycopene, to enhance the bioavailability of the carotenoid lycopene, a nutrient found commonly in tomatoes and tomato products. This unique preparation contains the antioxidant lycopene dispersed among milk proteins for increased nutrient bioavailability.

Lactolycopene was later combined with vitamin C and soy extract in a nutricosmetic supplement called Innéov Fermeté. This antiaging supplement reportedly helps to improve skin firmness and density.

The effects of active ingredients in Fermeté in menopausal women have been studied. A clinical test on women aged 45 and over confirmed that after three months of daily consumption, Fermeté efficiently affected the metabolic processes involved in skin aging, modifying skin physiology, and providing antiaging benefits.3

Kiwi seed extract: In 2007, online sources5 reported that a company in New Zealand sought to make a nutricosmetic ingredient from the seeds of the kiwi fruit. Kiwifruit Extract Venture Ltd. was already supplying the cosmetics industry with kiwi oil, which contains omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, and the fruit contains vitamins C, A and E, potassium and flavonoid antioxidants, but the company found that the seeds, which are typically not digested by humans, are a source of two antioxidant flavonoid glycosides: quercitrin (a precursor to quercetin) and kaempferol.

Initial research had centered around topical application of the seed extract, but the company discovered that both the kiwi oil and the seed extract can be taken orally in supplement form. Soon came preliminary evidence that 50 mg of the antioxidant extract taken in oral supplement form can have an improving effect on skin, notably in reducing fine lines and wrinkles, the company reported.

Separately, a 2006 Japanese study conducted on guinea pigs6 examined the effects of an aqueous ethanol extract prepared from defatted kiwi seed and its constituents quercitrin and kaempferol (KSE) 3-O-rhamunoside on acne and melanin formation. The authors concluded that the extract “inhibits the enzyme activities involved in acne and melanin formation, and oral administration of KSE is effective in eliminating skin pigmentation.”

Lychee extract: Laboratoires Sérobiologiques (LS) describes its lychee extractc as “a holistic active ingredient, multifunctional, fruity and attractive, bringing essential ‘well-being’ elements to the skin.” The ingredient is extracted from the pericarp of lychee (Litchi chinensis Sonn.), a fruit native to southern China and valued for thousands of years as an astringent, analgesic, stomachic and fortifier. Tea made from the pericarp of the fruit is said to cure skin rashes. LS discovered that extracts from the pericarp also strengthen the skin’s natural defense mechanisms in a number of ways.

LS used several tests to support claims for the efficacy of its lychee extract.7 A clinical study of skin complexion on 20 women found that the group using a cream containing the lychee extract at 5% for eight weeks scored an improvement in various skin complexion parameters (such as color of the cheekbones and facial tonicity) evaluated on a semiquantitative scale by trained specialists, and this improvement was 39% greater than for a group using a placebo cream. An in vivo test demonstrated that the ingredient’s scavenging effect was similar to tocopheryl acetate in protecting against oxidative stress. An in vitro test indicated good protective activity against UVB- and UVA-irradiated stress. In vitro and ex vivo tests showed the ingredient’s ability to reduce the release of MMP-1 after UVA and UVB irradiation, demonstrating protection against photoaging. Also, a Tagami test showed the ingredient’s moisturizing activity lasts up to 24 hr.

Beauty foods: An article8 appearing in the November 2006 issue of Nutraceuticals World, titled “Beauty from the Inside Out: Claims Versus Science in Cosmeceuticals and Beauty Foods,” authored by Joerg Gruenwald, president of Analyze & Realize AG, a Berlin-based specialized business consulting company for herbal medicine, dietary supplements and functional foods, defines beauty foods as “common food ingredients that are now entering consumers’ awareness as not only being healthy, but also as having a beneficial impact on overall appearance.” In contrast to cosmetics and topically used cosmeceuticals, beauty foods claim to improve appearance from within the body. Among the claimed effects are wrinkle reduction and general improvement of facial skin structure, cellulite reduction and body shaping through slimming, and improved structure of nails and hair, but Gruenwald admitted that it is difficult for the consumer to know whether these claims have any basis in fact.

Gruenwald analyzed a variety of available natural or herbal beauty foods, their claims, and the existing clinical evidence supporting those claims. His conclusion was that in general, most cosmeceuticals and beauty foods contain low levels of active components but high levels of claims “without backing those claims with proof of any kind.

“Nevertheless,” he concluded, “there is encouraging scientific evidence for the effectiveness of some products, even if the methodology often leaves room for improvement.”

Where’s the Science?
Where is the science on nutricosmetics that encourages Gruenwald but leaves others like Allen Burke9 of QVC and Ralph Bronner10 of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps unconvinced?

The foods industry has the science. For example, BASF is already using food science technology in skin care, according to Serge Rogasik, global marketing director for BASF Beauty Care Solutions. “Several of our most successful topical products have roots in the nutrition world. Retinol and caffeine are obvious examples, but the dill extract behind the Lys’lastined concept or Smartvector UV CEe are all based on food technologies,” Rogasik told C&T magazine. (See Marketing Nutricosmetics for additional comments from Rogasik.)

The pharmaceuticals industry has the science. The only academic department known to this columnist with a scientific focus on nutricosmetics is the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology, Biopharmaceutics & Nutricosmetics, at the Free University of Berlin. At least one member of that department, R.H. Müller, has published in cosmetics and personal care technical journals, but his subject was nanotechnology, not nutricosmetics. One might even argue that Berlin has the science, because both Free University and Gruenwald are located in that city.

Europe has reason to obtain the science. It is the largest nutricosmetics market, representing 55% of the $1.5 billion world market, with 41% going to Japan and 3% to the United States, according to Kline & Company in 2008.1 With the publication of the EU Health Claims Directive (EU 1924/2006), standardized scientific evaluation and evidence of product-related health claims became a legal requirement across Europe in 2006. Gruenwald argues that more proven scientific background on product usage required by that directive will improve the image of the nutricosmetics segment.

Corporate research labs may have the science. After all, the nutricosmetic antiaging boom started in the research labs of L’Oréal and Nestlé. Jay Tiesman, principal scientist/genomics group leader at Procter & Gamble, also was quoted in FastTalk magazine: “Our labs can measure not only what’s going on at the top of the skin, but also how it responds from the inside. We’re gauging its response to exterior damage as well as nutrition. What nutrition triggers a response on the skin’s surface? There’s still a lot of snake oil out there, but we actually have a much better understanding of beauty products, with much more soon to come.”9

Even the publishing industry may soon have the science. William Andrew claims its Nutritional Cosmetics will be the first book to review the scientific evidence showing the potential benefits of nutricosmetic ingredients. Publication is scheduled for 2009. Wherever the science is, you can count on Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine to find it and bring it to you.

Send e-mail to [email protected].
(All Web sites in these references were accessed on Dec 23, 2008.)
2. Nutricosmetics—Health and beauty within and without, Frost & Sullivan Market Insight (May 25, 2007)
4. F Khachik et al, Chemistry, distribution, and metabolism of tomato carotenoids and their impact on human health, Exp Biol Med 227 845–851 (2002)
6. J Tanaka, S-J Shan and H Shimoda, Effect of kiwi seed extract and its flavonoid glycosides on skin functions, Fragr J 34(10) 69–74 (2006)
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