Cosmetic Nutriceuticals: Enhancing beauty from the inside out.

We all know that topical skincare products, including cleansers, anti-aging serums, sunscreens and moisturizers are important to maintaining a healthy and youthful appearance.  However, did you know that great advancements have been made in treating skin from the inside out? Research has shown we can actually enhance skin health through the use of oral supplements, known as cosmetic nutriceuticals. 

Below I describe the most important activities a supplement should posses to complement a healthy skincare regime and also list the anti-aging effects of five different botanical ingredients.

What are the most important activities to look for in a skin care supplement?

1.    Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.  When you think of inflammation, skin redness, pain or swelling may come to mind.  But, sub-clinical inflammation -the kind of we can’t see- is now recognized as the first step in all diseases and is part of the breakdown of overall healthy cellular regeneration. Sub-clinical inflammation is potentiated by stress, excess sun exposure, and poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking and poor diet.  Antioxidants counteract these effects and aid repair of the skin.  They should be considered important in our arsenal of defense to help prevent visible changes in aging skin.  Antioxidants also protect the skin against our biggest challenge in counteracting premature aging- the damaging effects of the sun's rays.

2.    Collagen and elastin production.  Several botanical ingredients provide important nutrients and vitamins which may improve the production of connective tissue components such as elastin and collagen. This is sometimes known as the extracellular matrix of the skin, providing contour, plumpness and bounce to young-looking skin. The enzymes that break down this matrix increase as we age, but research shows that certain botanicals will counteract these enzymes to maintain a youthful appearance longer.

Here are a few of the most popular, well-researched and effective botanical ingredients used in cosmetic nutriceuticals.

 1.    Resveratrol.  There is a tremendous amount of research on this isolated compound found in a number of plants. It is usually derived from Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), though there are other sources including grapes, berries and chocolate. This compound is a premier anti-inflammatory and is considered a leading ingredient to slow the aging process. It is also very high in antioxidants, and will not only preserve the health of your skin, but has numerous other benefits for staying young and healthy. Resveratrol is naturally rich in a Mediterranean diet.

2.    Goji  (Lyceum barbata). The nutrition-packed wolf berry is available as an extract or juice, and an oil is pressed from the seed for both internal and external use. Many of these forms are currently being used for a variety of health benefits which relate to anti-aging. Goji berries are rich in antioxidants, particularly the carotenoids beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.  This protein and mineral rich fruit contains polysaccharides that fortify overall immunity and support healthy skin from the inside out.  A concentrated extract will be most potent for skin health, but the mildly sweet flavor of these superfruits make them an effortless and tasty addition to the diet.

3.    Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Formerly known as Siberian Ginseng, this well known herb has multiple effects that benefit skin health, but in a less direct way. Its antioxidant properties prevent cellular damage due to oxidative stress, such as excess sun exposure and physical overexertion. Its adaptogenic effects are the subject of most studies; stress, fatigue and mental and physical endurance are improved with the use of this herb.

4.    Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica). Indian pennywort, as it is sometimes known, is an edible plant native to India, southeast Asia and Africa. It was once thought of only as an herb to improve memory and detoxify the body. Anti-aging claims are not new; this herb has been used for centuries throughout its native regions to help prevent wrinkles. Anecdotally, it is also said to be useful in the treatment of psoriasis, varicosities, stress, arthritis, wound healing and weight loss.

5.    Frankincense (Boswellia serrata).  This resinous plant extract is a potent anti-inflammatory through several mechanisms. It limits degradation of the extracellular matrix of skin and reduces elastase, the enzyme that breaks down the production of elastin in the skin. Elastin and collagen give skin the plump, full look of youth; these break down with age leading to visible wrinkles, sagging and laxity of the skin.

6.    Grape (Vitis vinifera). This most ancient of food-herbs is high in proanthocyanidins and oligomeric flavonoids, found mostly in the seed and skins of grapes. Research has been done on everything from wine to skin and seeds. Overall protection against oxidative damage throughout the body is one of the keys to longevity.

We all want to look the best we can for the years we've lived and we expect high quality products that nourish, heal and rejuvenate.  With an understanding that healthy skin begins within, it makes sense to rely on the natural healing power of botanicals in a supplement regime that supports our topical use of natural ingredients.

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