Beauty From Within
Mom was right: When it comes to beauty, what’s on the inside is just as important as what’s on the outside. New research shows that certain foods and beverages can literally improve your skin from within. Here’s how you can slather, supplement, and snack your way to glowing, youthful skin with the help of four hot, new beauty ingredients.
Superman can multitask—he flies and saves Lois Lane—so why can’t superfruits? That’s the theory behind lotions, creams, and serums that contain pomegranate, açai, and goji berries. These superfruits are packed with antioxidants that blast free radicals, a major cause of wrinkles and other signs of aging. Of the trio, pomegranates have the most science behind them. Several studies show that consuming pomegranate juice, extract, and oil—as well as using creams containing pomegranate extract—effectively helps reverse skin aging caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. But a lack of lab work doesn’t mean açai and goji berries are second-tier beauty tonics. “There’s that old conundrum: Just because there’s no science out there doesn’t mean that something doesn’t work,” says Valori Treloar, MD, an integrative dermatologist in Newton, Massachusetts, and coauthor of The Clear Skin Diet (Cumberland House, 2007). “Antioxidants have such beneficial health effects; we’re just scratching the surface in understanding them.”
Just be careful not to eat or drink too much of a good thing in your quest for younger-looking skin. Superfruits—especially when dried—are packed with sugar. “Sugar gloms onto proteins, which breaks down collagen and promotes loss of elasticity in the skin,” says Alan Dattner, MD, founder of HolisticDerma tology.com. Treloar’s advice: “Add some pomegranate seeds to your salad or some açai juice to your water, and you should get the antioxidant effects.”
What about slathering your skin with superfruits? “Topical antioxidants seem to have a benefit if you can get them to penetrate,” Treloar says. But labels don’t tell you if the superfruit molecules are small enough to slip through pores, or if the pH balance of the cream or serum is optimal for penetration. Still, she says, “the bottom line is superfruits probably do something good for your skin.”
Moisturize: Blissoma Amend Antioxidant Sprayable Lotion ($16.99, 4 oz; iriestar.com). Packed with açai, pomegranate, and rooibos tea, this spray-on lotion leaves no oily residue.
Supplement: Doctor’s Best Goji Berry Extract ($19.99, 120 capsules; drbvitamins.com). This vegetarian supplement contains nothing but goji berries and natural binding agents.
Snack: Invigorate your guacamole recipe with a handful of pomegranate seeds.
Some skin docs love probiotics—the beneficial bugs that live in our bodies and help fight off myriad diseases— and they don’t understand why their colleagues aren’t joining the probiotics posse. “Everyone accepts the fact that the bacteria living in our gut are extremely important to us,” says Richard Gallo, MD, chief of the division of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego. “So why is there such difficulty accepting that perhaps the bacteria living on our skin are also important to us?”
Dattner points out that scientists at the 2007 World Congress of Dermatology produced data showing that probiotics help your body build a better barrier for the skin and gut, which in turn decreases the production of antibodies that cause inflammation. Translation? Probiotics are great for acne or other inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema—when they’re in foods like yogurt or taken as supplements. But are they as effective in beauty products? “While there is no conclusive scientific evidence that topical probiotics benefit the skin,” says Kat James, author of The Truth About Beauty (Atria Books, 2003), “if I were personally suffering from one of the many inflammatory skin diseases connected with poor gut flora and function, I might include topical steps to assist the culture of healthy bacteria we know exist on the surface of healthy skin.”
Lather: Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic Kampuku Soap ($8.49, 80 grams; mynatural market.com). James says because this soap contains extremely hardy TH10 probiotics in a temperature-stable food base, it has the “highest likelihood of probiotic benefit in topical products I have found.”
Supplement: Natren Healthy Trinity ($59.95, 30 capsules; natren.com). Constant refrigeration throughout the manufacturing process ensures that delicate probiotics don’t lose their potency.
Drink: GoodBelly Probiotic Fruit Drink ($3.99, 32 oz; goodbelly.com). If milk allergies are preventing you from getting your daily dose of probiotics, try this vegan juice that doesn’t contain dairy, wheat, or soy.
Turns out the regenerative powers of milk baths aren’t just old wives’ tales: Treloar and Dattner both point out that all milk—including the hot, new beauty ingredient goat’s milk—contains proteins and lactic acids that can soothe and soften skin for some people. There’s also a theory that milk’s biologically active growth factors can actually make skin cells act younger than they really are, says Treloar. As we age, the cell-growth process ages too, resulting in skin that is flakier and takes longer to heal. “There’s some speculation that the growth factors in milk communicate with the skin cells to help them grow more efficiently and youthfully,” she says.
Goat’s milk offers even more benefits than its bovine cousin. Not only is it less allergenic than cow’s milk, but James notes that goat’s milk also has more minerals and vitamins A and B and is rich in shorter-chain fatty acids, which balance pH and increase absorption of milk fats. In addition, it’s believed that because the nutrients in goat’s milk have a smaller particle size than those in cow’s milk, they can be more readily absorbed into the skin.
Slather: Chivas Sweet Nothings Goat Milk Facial Crème ($16, 2.17 oz; chivasskincare.com). Coconut, grapeseed, jojoba, avocado, and neem oils make this crème extra moisturizing.
Supplement: Jarrow Formulas Goat Milk Protein ($44.95, 16 oz; jarrow.com). This powder made from free-range goat’s milk also contains probiotics.
Nosh: Liven up split pea soup with a few pieces of crumbled goat’s milk cheese.
James calls seaweed her favorite of all “inside-out skin foods,” because it’s the only substance on earth that has the same mineral ratio as human blood plasma. This characteristic makes seaweed easily absorbable through the skin—as long as it’s broken down into tiny, micronized particles. Several studies show that the minerals and vitamins in seaweed extracts can slow down the signs of aging. “Seaweed extracts in skin topicals have all the ingredients to build collagen and also give the skin proven plumping and firming actions that make irritating exfoliants and acids obsolete,” James says.
Dattner points out that seaweed can pull some toxins and heavy metals out of the body—one reason why seaweed wraps are so popular—and its slime produces an emollient effect, adding moisture to skin and hair. Taken internally, it is a good source of skin-fortifying omega-3s and can also boost iodine levels, which may help prevent the thin, dry skin and hair loss associated with iodine-related hypothyroidism.
Repair: Spa Technologies Bio-Active Marine Complex ($60, 1 oz; spatechnologies.com). James loves this Ecocert certified-organic anti-aging serum, which is made with seaweed tested for purity.
Supplement: Now Kelp Caps ($10.99, 200 capsules; nowfoods.com). Contains wild Norwegian seaweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) that grows deep in the ocean, where there is less chance the plant will absorb heavy metals and toxins.
Season: Sprinkle kelp or dulse flakes, spiked with garlic or onion powder, on any dish in place of salt.
Beauty Potions or Unfounded Notions?
Collagen-stuffed marshmallows and antioxidant-spiked chocolate may be all the rage in Japan and Europe, but US consumers are cautious when it comes to “beauty” foods and drinks. It seems as though our foreign friends are more trusting that these products—which are fortified with vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients thought to improve the appearance of hair, skin, and nails—really work. Still, several American companies have recently launched natural beauty-from-within drinks, and trend watchers predict we’ll be seeing more soon.
Glowelle has received the most hype. This all-natural juice from Nestlé contains vitamins A, C, and E; coenzyme Q10; carotenoids; lutein; lycopene; pine bark; and pomegranate and green tea extracts. Glowelle cites a nonclinical user-group study to back up its claims. A majority of 40 women who drank Glowelle daily for 45 days said their skin was brighter, more radiant, smoother, and healthier. ($42, six 8 oz bottles; glowelle.com)
The makers of Toki, a powder you add to beverages, also conducted a study involving 40 people. Seventy-eight percent of participants in a 60-day clinical trial claimed Toki’s mix of collagen, calcium, hyaluronic acid, and glucosamine improved their skin’s radiance and reduced fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration. ($175, 60 packets; lanelabs.com)
Votre Vu, which makes SnapDragon Beauty Beverage—a mix of teas, superfruit juices, and vitamins—claims that daily doses may help “repair, restore, and rebalance your body’s internal systems, naturally giving your skin a radiant, beautiful glow.” The company doesn’t cite any research, however. ($23, 60 oz; votrevu.com)