The Pretty Pill

Oral supplements encapsulate nature's most beautiful ingredients.
By Cara Lucas

A  pill a day just may keep the wrinkles away—and the doctor, too.

What if there was such a thing as a magic beauty pill? Imagine an entire realm of supernatural beauty supplements from natural sources that could transform you physically—from the inside, out. It sounds too good to be true, but research is evaluating the claims of nutricosmetics and is coming away with validating results.

Americans are known for their preoccupation with quick fixes, and we seem to have a pill to solve every problem. From inducing amnesiac-like slumbers to erasing not-so-pleasant memories to calming anxious nerves on an airplane ride, your problems are a pill-pop away.

The unfortunate side of these enticing solutions is that many only mask the side effects of internal problems, failing to address the core issue. Putting a band-aid on the wound doesn’t heal it; it simply offers a temporary solution to a chronic problem. The exciting field of nutricosmetics aims to tackle the internal trouble, and, by doing so, simultaneously hopes to solve both health and beauty issues you might be battling.

Nutraceuticals & Nutricosmetics

The arena of nutraceuticals emerges as a convergence of two fields: healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Within the genre of nutraceuticals is nutricosmetics, also known as the “beauty-from-within” industry—literally. This field combines personal care and nutrition that addresses the specific areas of skin, hair, and nails.

Beauty-minded individuals have topically applied plant-based botanicals for years, dating back to ancient Egypt. But administering these beauty ingredients in the form of creams and lotions supplies only the surface layer of skin with vital nutrients, failing to address organs or other internal systems. These interior issues can often be the root of the problem and, if taken care of first, could eliminate future flare-ups.

But the new millennium provides significant advancement in terms of delaying the aging process—and it’s happening from the inside out. Research shows that active compounds in plants, concentrated in the form of oral supplements, can rejuvenate cell turnover and begin to heal mature or sun-damaged skin from within.

The great thing about nutricosmetics is that they are safe, ingestible, and often derived from food. There is an obvious link between food and health, so it makes sense to think that there is an equally strong connection between proper nutrition and beauty—since beauty starts with good health.

The following ingredients focus their natural healing powers into supplement form as the beauty-from within industry attempts to complete a comprehensive strategy to address your skin health.

Sea Buckthorn

Sea buckthorn is a plant with many legends attached to it, and, although it seems like a mystical berry, its healing properties are grounded in the scientific world. Legend has it that the ancient Greeks used sea buckthorn leaf in a diet for their racehorses, allowing the horses to recover quickly while giving them brilliantly shiny coats. It was also rumored to be the preferred diet of the great flying horse, Pegasus, which gave him the power to soar.

No matter if it’s an accurate account or a tall tale, we can be sure that this plant has made an impact on history. It is currently held in prominent regard around Europe and Asia for its healing properties, with the United States recently discovering the endless possibilities that it can bring to the skincare market.

Let’s talk a little about sea buckthorn in regards to skincare. Given that lipids are essential to skin health, it is obvious why sea buckthorn flourishes in nourishing your body’s largest organ. Its specialized fatty-acid composition, along with the high presence of antioxidants, replenishes essential oils and nutrients that promote skin regeneration and speed up wound healing.

The sea buckthorn berry has proven beneficial effects when applied topically with creams and, in the last couple of years, has garnered attention for its efficacy when orally consumed in supplement form. A recent study investigated the anti-aging effects of both oral supplementation and topical skin application of sea buckthorn seed oil, measuring skin hydration status, elasticity, luminosity, surface roughness, and cutaneous thickness as markers for visible improvement.

Sixty female subjects aged 50 to 70 years were divided into two groups—one group who took sea buckthorn capsules orally (four capsules per day for three months) and one who applied sea buckthorn seed oil rejuvenating night cream topically twice per day for three months. Both groups were tested using non-invasive measurements before, after one month, and at the end of treatments. They both showed significant improvement in the above measured areas, making it the first study that showed beneficial results of using sea buckthorn oil orally to reduce the signs of skin aging.

Maybe we should consider those legends a little more seriously.

BioCell’s Collagen

So you have a few laugh lines that seem to get more pronounced with age. Somehow, this fact doesn’t make you smile—and may even make you laugh less! Injecting collagen in your face seems so… impermanent. Expensive. Painful. Address the issue, but start at the source of the problem. Collagen can solve your worry lines, but replenishing it the right way can make the results last longer and even improve with time.

Collagen is one of life’s most useful and diverse ingredients when it comes to holding onto your youth. With its connective and supportive properties, it not only improves the skin’s health, but can supplement joint health, as well. The networks of cartilage-dense material that constitute the skin and joints both make use of these collagen-based, structural building blocks and are imperative to maintain if you are interested in looking and feeling youthful.

BioCell Technology has created BioCell Collagen, a dietary supplement that uses hydrolyzed collagen and highly bioavailable hyaluronic acid (that serves as a primary lubricating molecule in the synovial fluid around joints) in its combination of ingredients. Hydrolyzed collagen type II is the most abundant type of collagen in the cartilage of synovial joints (which is the most movable joint).

Studies that tested BioCell Collagen in human clinical trials have shown it reduces joint discomfort and stiffness as much as 40 percent in eight weeks. As a result of the studies, participants also had remarkable improvements in skin texture and hydration, reduced scaling, and enhanced blood circulation. The role of hyaluronic acid in the skin is to retain water molecules in the dermis, which not only promotes well moisturized skin, but also generates a youthful appearance. Hyaluronic acid in Biocell Collagen supports healthy looking skin in a more comprehensive way than spot treatments.

“The effect of skin beauty from within will be systemic throughout the body, not local, and should last longer than topical applications. It is noted that one prominent advantage of topical application may be getting a fast result, although it can be temporary,” explains Dr. Joosang Park PhD, MBA,  and vice president of scientific affairs for Biocell Technology.

How does it work, you ask? Hydrolyzing the collagen reduces its molecular weight and allows it to be made into an oral supplement that is readily absorbed by the body. Once it is digested, it begins to generate biologically active peptides in the body. One of these peptides has been shown to stimulate the production of hyaluronic acid, which, as stated earlier, plays a key role in retaining water molecules in the skin for hydration. Park says that this is a benefit of ingestion that cannot be achieved from topical application, “exerting a more fundamental and long-lasting effect than other administration methods.”

Probiotics and Prebiotics

It may be strange to think that bacteria could be good for your skin, but just like the “friendly bacteria” that live in your gut and mark good intestinal health, beneficial bacteria also exist to help balance out the environment on the surface of the skin.

First of all, what is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Prebiotics are the nutrients that feed the probiotic bacteria. They are not absorbable and usually come from foods such as whole grains, legumes, and fruits. Prebiotics provide nourishment for probiotics, stimulating the bacteria to kick into gear and grow, or become active, which is necessary for a lot of bodily functions like digestion.

Probiotics and prebiotics are slowly becoming key players in the game of nutricosmetics.  A disproportionate amount of bad bacteria can cause undesirable skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Probiotics encourage the microflora that is present on the skin to fight the bad bacteria that results in skin inflammation and irritation. They help build a protective barrier on the skin, reducing and even eliminating breakouts.

Don’t think that probiotics are only for the vain or pimple-ridden teenagers, though. A recent double-blind study was published in the British Journal of Dermatology on two groups of mothers who drank milk with probiotics from 36 weeks pregnant until three months after birth. Those who drank the probiotic infused milk had a reduced incidence of eczema in their children through age two—up to 40 percent! And those who still experienced eczema had less severe symptoms.

Probiotics help fight against aging, as well. Outside factors like smoke and the sun can cause serious damage to the skin, dispersing harmful bacteria, which can cause inflammation, loss of elasticity, and, ultimately, wrinkles. But probiotics are believed to help improve moisture content, stimulating cell functions so that your skin becomes softer and smoother.

Speaking of inflammation, did you know that healthy skincare (and internal care) starts with the use of anti-inflammatories? Inflammation can lead to redness, pain, or swelling. Internal inflammation, also known as sub-clinical inflammation, is thought by many to be the underlying cause of aging and the beginning of several diseases. Antioxidants found in plants can also counteract the oxidative damage that assaults us on a daily basis.

Try to think of it this way: Your skin is a reflection of your inner health. What actions can we take to beautify the inside so that the outside mirrors the same image? A good start is looking to nature. Applying a system that is innate to the natural world has the ability to solve many of our equally inherent beauty dilemmas. Oral supplementation goes to the source and addresses the root of the problem. Sounds like the pretty pill has potential.