For so long, we have been told ‘you are what you eat’. We know this - a diet high in wholefoods (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, lean protein) and low in refined sugar is only going to do good things to our health (and, therefore, our skin). So if we are already eating this type of diet for most of the time (with a few treats on occasion), what good will an ingestible beauty supplement do?
First of all - what is an ingestible beauty product? Ingestibles are edible supplements that may come in a powder, liquid or pill form, and usually contain ingredients such as collagen, probiotics, vitamins and fish oil with the idea that what you put inside your system will show up on the outside. After all, the skin is the body’s largest organ so it makes sense that we should see the effects of a healthy (or unhealthy) lifestyle on our outer surface. But what I want to know (and I’m sure you do too) is do they actually make a difference? Or is it all just snake oil and good marketing?
Until relatively recently, the jury was out over whether or not taking an oral beauty supplement was worthwhile. Some critics stated that any supposed goodness from ingestibles would either be destroyed by stomach acid during digestion or would pass through the system, meaning that your expensive supplement was literally being flushed down the toilet. Others state that following a wholefood diet, exercising regularly, avoiding sun exposure and not smoking should be enough to keep your skin glowing. However, technology changes quickly in the beauty industry, and the ingestibles we are now seeing are much more sophisticated and focus on using whole food ingredients which the body recognises and uses, rather than synthetic chemicals which are passed during urination. The key is looking for recognisable ingredients and extracts of real foods, rather than a synthetic cocktail - if the label reads like a chemistry experiment rather than a shopping list, it is probably best to avoid it.
Let’s take a look at collagen, as this is a protein we hear a lot about, and it is contained in many ingestible supplements. Firstly - what is collagen? It is a protein that makes up 75% of our skin, and it gives skin its structure and strength. But from the age of around 25, we start losing collagen from our skin at about the rate of 1.5% every year. To improve the tone and texture of our skin, collagen is key. A reduction in collagen levels will result in wrinkles, sagging skin and lack of elasticity. Not what we want to hear! But, going back to my first question - does adding collagen to the diet by way of an ingestible really make any difference?
A study published by The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in February, 2016, showed that the use of collagen supplements "led to improvement in facial skin conditions, including facial skin moisture, elasticity, wrinkles and roughness.” This is supported by a 2015 Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology clinical trial, which showed an improvement in both skin hydration and collagen density after daily oral collagen supplements were taken for eight weeks, with the effects lasting for 12 weeks afterwards. According to the report, “the oral supplementation with collagen peptides is efficacious to improve hallmarks of skin ageing.” Another report in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (2014) examined a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 69 women between the ages of 35 and 55 which showed a significant improvement in skin elasticity after eight weeks, compared to the placebo group. Interestingly, another clinical trial which was undertaken in 2008 at Penn State University over 24 weeks, found that a collagen hydrolysate supplement was found to show improvement of joint pain in athletes, showing that the benefits of collagen go beyond a bright complexion. More trials are needed, and on a larger scale, to find out more about ingestible beauty products and their ingredients, but we can certainly see that some studies are discovering the benefits of taking collagen to improve skin tone and structure. Add to this the number of testimonials from daily users who notice an overall improvement in health (especially digestive health) as well as improved skin, and we can't ignore that ingestible beauty products are becoming part of our daily beauty routine, much like a serum or a toner.
However, in a growing market like the ingestible beauty industry (it is estimated by 2020 it will be worth US$7.5 billion), there are always going to be some standouts and some duds. Extracting ingredients from whole foods is never going to be cheap, but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for (sigh). There are natural ways to increase your collagen consumption by choosing to eat foods, such as bone broth which is naturally very high in collagen, on a daily basis. But if that doesn’t work for you or your lifestyle, there are quality supplements available that are worth trying if your skin is losing its shine. My philosophy about ingestibles is that while we eat good, nutritious, healthy food and limit treats, there are times when life is extremely busy and demanding, and I personally benefit from the addition of a wholefood supplement for wellbeing as well as for my skin. At Temple+Co, we have tried several, and only our favourites make it into our store.