While the eyes are the window to our soul, our skin is a mirror to our physical and emotional wellbeing. Our general health, our nutrition, our lifestyle and our emotional state are all reflected in the way our skin looks. So, there is real truth in the saying “beauty starts from the inside."
The skin care category now, more than ever, is embracing the fact that overall wellness and a healthy, youthful appearance are two sides of the same coin, and as such, a holistic approach that combines topical as well as inside-out skin care is the best strategy to achieve healthy, beautiful look. Many ingredients play in both topical and ingestible products. Examples would be collagen or collagen peptides, lipids and different antioxidants and vitamins. In fact, research shows that by utilizing a combined approach one can experience better results. For example, providing carotenoid antioxidants via topical and ingestible treatment led to greater accumulation in human skin compared to each delivery method alone.
Skin aging is a continuous process that happens naturally as we age and is accelerated by different environmental factors such as exposure to the sun, pollutants and other hazards. These factors induce oxidative stress and local inflammation in the skin, which are key processes leading to skin aging. The free radicals and oxidative environment can damage DNA proteins and lipids in the skin cells. In addition, as we age our skin produces less collagen and elastin, causing the skin to become thinner and more fragile and lose its elasticity. The aging skin also loses its ability to keep itself naturally moist. Importantly, ultraviolet (UV) exposure serves as a catalyst to all those processes. It increases local oxidative stress and inflammation, causes extensive loss and damage to collagen and elastin, and depletes the antioxidant reservoirs in the skin that serve as a defense mechanism to prevent those processes.
So, how can we maintain and support skin longevity?
Prevention is a huge component of minimizing wrinkle formation and premature aging. To prevent changes in skin structure, sun protection is imperative as are using quality skin care products that maintain moisture balance, offer antioxidants to neutralize free radicals, reduce inflammation, help rebuild collagen and elastin, as well as replenish protective barrier lipids. Some ingredients that offer beneficial effects to aging skin include:
Collagen is the major protein of skin cells. It supplies the firmness and structural integrity of young skin. As a result of intrinsic aging as well as environmental factors, collagen production is reduced while collagen fragmentation is increased. Keeping healthy density of collagen in the skin is important for preventing sagging and wrinkling of the skin, therefore, giving the body the raw materials it needs to build collagen is a favorable strategy. Today there is increasing popularity of the use of hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides, especially in the nutricosmetic segment. These building blocks stimulate synthesis of new collagen by the cells
Ceramides belong to a family of lipid molecules that are integral part of cell membranes. As such, ceramides are important for skin protective barrier function. Using ceramides in a supplement or in a cream can support skin barrier function and help keep skin hydrated and moist.
While replenishing collagen or ceramides can be very beneficial, and support specific skin effects, there is also a need for general support of skin longevity in a broader mechanism of action. This can be achieved by dietary antioxidants. Also, collagen is very sensitive to oxidation and UV damage. Therefore, protection of collagen that is already formed in the skin is a challenge that can be addressed via different antioxidants such as carotenoids, polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids.
Our first line of defense against UV is the antioxidant reservoir in our skin. This reservoir is gradually depleted as we age, and ironically, UV radiation serves as a catalysis to this harmful depletion process. Therefore, there is sense in replenishing antioxidants into our skin. Several antioxidants have been implicated in photoprotection effects, with natural antioxidants from fruits and vegetables being leading ingredients serving as “edible sunscreens." while the major challenge of topical photoprotection is compliance (we need to remember to put on our sunscreen before we go out to the sun), the great advantage of ingestible sun protection is that it is working for us 24/7, complementing the topical protection even during those short everyday intervals when we don’t remember to put on our sunscreen.
Some leading ingredients in this sub-category are carotenoids, and particularly tomato carotenoids such as lycopene, the main tomato carotenoid giving it its red color, as well as the colorless carotenoids phytoene and phytofluene that have been associated also with a beneficial effect in skin pigmentation. These antioxidants not only quench free radicals but can actually induce the body’s own protection mechanism against oxidative stress, helping the skin cells to better cope with the harsh environment they encounter and reducing the damages associated with intrinsic and extrinsic aging factors.
Reduction of sun burn is key not only in maintaining skin health but also in prevention of longer term UV damage, from increased risk of skin cancer to premature skin aging and loss of skin youthfulness. Prevention is the name of the game when it comes to UV damage. In fact, the primary preventable cause of skin aging is UV exposure, with up to 80 percent of facial skin aging attributed to sun exposure.
Nutritional studies suggest a diverse diet rich in fruits and vegetables can better support wellness. In fact, a carotenoid-rich diet was suggested to support a healthy look and more attractive skin color. Similarly, when we are looking at dietary supplements or any other delivery format for dietary antioxidants, the use of natural whole food extracts/concentrates provide better support to skin wellness compared to single antioxidants. Of note, some dietary antioxidants were found to potentiate each other in enhancing skin longevity. For example, tomato carotenoids synergize with one another as well as with several polyphenols.
Combining the different protective approaches (topical and ingestible) is a sweet spot in the industry, and we will probably see more brands coming out with this holistic skin care approach. With the topicals facilitating the consumer expectation for short-term effects and the ingestible complementing the bigger picture and providing long term, 24/7 benefits for skin parameters as well as for overall wellness which is reflected in our skin.
Karin Hermoni, Ph.D., is the nutrient complex category manager at Lycored.