The human body is a system, and the skin, its largest organ, is a window through which that system’s health issues may be viewed and assessed. Like the body, health issues in the skin can be caused by improper nutrition and only temporarily alleviated by topical skin care products. Paula Simpson, executive director of Isocell North America, firmly believes in “feeding the skin from within.” As a nutritionist, Simpson has made a career of advising consumers to follow a healthy diet and supplement it with nutraceuticals; more recently, she became involved where nutraceuticals and cosmetics meet—in nutricosmetics.
To define nutricosmetics, one must first understand the definition of nutraceutical. Simpson explained, “Nutraceuticals are ingredients such as antioxidants, botanical extracts, vitamins and minerals [that are] formulated at concentrated amounts to benefit a certain condition in the body.” She added that a nutraceutical is considered a supplement since it provides supplemental nutrients to benefit consumers’ health. “A nutricosmetic is a nutraceutical formulation specifically targeted toward skin health and beauty, bridging personal care and nutrition,” said Simpson.
Nutricosmetic ingredients often are nutraceuticals with known skin benefits such as omega-3 for hydration, or antioxidants for photoprotective properties. According to Simpson, it is basic biochemistry; consumers are ingesting higher concentrations of nutrients than what are found in their diet alone.
Nutricosmetics at Work
Studies are often published that claim skin benefits from certain ingredients. According to Simpson, however, these ingredients are only as effective as shown if they are taken in the recommended amounts. She cited the touted collagen-building effects of vitamin C, noting, “[One] would have to eat 10–15 oranges a day to get the recommended amount of vitamin C (1000 mg) [that has been] shown to promote collagen production in the skin.” Simpson added that while base nutrients can be absorbed from a healthy diet, it is difficult for the consumer to eat the best every day. Nutraceuticals or nutricosmetics, then, bridge the gap between a moderate eating plan and optimum health.
While the effects of topical skin care often are seen in relatively shorter periods of time, the effects of nutricosmetics take longer to see due to skin turnover. Simpson explained, “Healthy skin turnover occurs every 3–5 weeks. A nutricosmetic has to bypass the digestive system, where it goes to the bloodstream and works systemically, targeting the dermis where healthy skin cell turnover occurs. The nutricosmetic promotes optimal skin cell turnover, so as the cells are turned over, eventually the skin begins to look better.”
Ingredients for Skin Health
Simpson noted ingredients that benefit the skin, including essential fatty acids, omega-3 rich marine oils, foods such as berries and beta carotene in fruits and vegetables, and flaxseed oils for inflammation control. She also commented on the benefits of fiber. “Fiber leaches toxins from the digestive system and eliminates them before they can be absorbed by the bloodstream. There is a direct link between toxicity and dull, blemish-prone skin.”
Through her work with Isocell, Simpson has learned of the skin benefits of a naturally occurring superoxide dismutase (SOD) derived from Cucumus melo (melon) that is coated in vegetal prolamine (wheat gliadin), which she reports promotes its delivery into the small intestine mucosa. Of the ingredient, known as Glisodin, she commented, “The material is an antioxidant that neutralizes all forms of free radicals that cause accelerated aging, whereas resveratrol and other antioxidants can only target certain types of free radicals.”
Simpson finds that some applications of nutricosmetics are not as effective as others, critiquing the recent launch of a collagen-building coffee as an example. “Coffee is a diuretic, so it is going to dehydrate the skin ... It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Asia and Europe have well-established nutricosmetic markets, according to Simpson; however, North American consumers have not yet embraced how nutrition can benefit the skin. “The North American market is a ‘quick fix’ society. There is an obvious interest in nutrition, but consumers are looking for more of a quick answer,” commented Simpson.
The future of the nutricosmetic market looks bright, in Simpson’s eyes. “The consumer is becoming more educated and aware of the direct link between nutrition and beauty.” She predicts that the future of nutricosmetics lies in protecting the skin from environmental stress and in optimizing dermal healing.