Brave new beauty world

Beauty supplements tout fabulous skin from the inside out

Brave new beauty world

Source: Adapted from Health Smart

Once, most women in search of good-looking skin headed straight for the cosmetics counter. Now, the search for a more youthful and attractive appearance has a new destination: the supplements shelves. And a new solution: not a cream or moisturizer but beauty in a pill.

Antioxidant and mineral supplements such as vitamin C and zinc have long been popular with those keen to achieve vibrant and healthy looks. “What has changed, though, is that more and more of us are developing a belt-and-braces approach to everyday skincare,” says Pam Stone, director of education for the Australian supplement manufacturer Blackmores and a trained naturopath. “When women see major skin care brands like Nivea using coenzyme Q10 as a hero ingredient, for example, it’s an easy stretch to think they can enhance the effect by taking CoQ10 supplements.”

The practice of using supplements in tandem with creams and lotions has really taken off in recent years. Supermodels Naomi Campbell and Helena Christensen are just two leading celebrities who admit to popping pills for their skin’s sake, while the market for appearance-enhancing supplements is in the billions, according to the U.S.-based market researcher The Freedonia Group.

Even Grandma’s old recipe for shiny hair and a glowing complexion—fish oil—has surged back to popularity.

In particular, concentrated omega-3 oils have seen an extraordinary rise in sales. Figures from Euromonitor International market researchers show that fish oil sales, driven by the demand for omega-3s, have grown from US$521m in 2002 to US$1062m in 2006.

It’s not hard to see why. “Dry and sensitive skin affects 50% of women,” says Dr. Marie Bejot, president of Laboratoire Oenobiol, a leading French manufacturer of beauty and slimming supplements. “It’s a condition partly related to an inadequate supply of essential fatty acids.”

No pill or supplement can promise to be the elixir of youth. Yet many do appear to offer a relatively “natural” anti-aging solution – something beyond surgery or “soft option” clinical treatments such as Botox and dermal filler injections. Vitamin C, which helps build collagen, one of the skin’s natural binding ingredients, is almost a given in most beauty supplements. So are B vitamins to battle dry, flaky skin and vitamin A for its proven role in skin repair. Iron, copper, protein, folic acid and vitamin E also feature strongly.

Most beauty supplements also contain a selection of what are known as “actives”. These, researchers have discovered, play a major role in diminishing the appearance of wrinkles or in helping to increase the moisture content of skin. They include alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, flaxseed oil, ginkgo biloba, soy, green tea, kinetin, copper peptides, chromium, selenium, magnesium and zinc. Sound familiar? They’re already among the most popular “hero ingredients” in leading moisturizers and facial serums.

French women spend the most per head on beauty supplements, thanks to France’s strong “you are what you eat” tradition. In Japan, another huge marketplace, Shiseido offers many products that promise beauty from within, including its Beauty Foods range. While Canada may lag behind some international markets as far as ingestible beauty products go, brands such as Imedeen and Murad tout supplements to treat conditions ranging from acne to aging from the outside in.

But many dermatologists aren’t convinced that skin-specific supplements offer anything more than standard multi-vitamins. There is, however, some evidence that the same foods you’re slipping into your diet to boost overall health can also keep your skin at its beautiful best.

A groundbreaking study carried out by researchers at Australia’s Monash University compared the skin of volunteers who had eaten distinct cuisines over many years. Those on a typical Mediterranean diet—one recognized as a key reason for the low rates of cardiovascular and circulation problems and the long life expectancy among southern European people—easily had the best skin. They displayed fewer wrinkles and fewer skin problems related to aging.

The key ingredients in their diet? Olive oil. A fresh and varied supply of colourful vegetables naturally high in minerals and antioxidants as well as vitamins A, B, C and E. Unrefined carbohydrates. Teas. High-fibre foods and oily fish.

This study clearly confirmed that good nutrition has a marked anti-aging effect, keeping the body primed to fight attackers from inside and out.

As researchers pinpoint more of the foods that tick all the boxes for good health and good looks, beauty supplement manufacturers won’t be far behind, ensuring we feed our faces as well as our bodies day in, day out.

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