Cleanse, tone, moisturize—and swallow? No well-rounded beauty routine is complete without a foundation of nutrients to support good looks from the inside out. But whether you get those nutrients from diet alone or you pop a beauty–boosting supplement remains a personal choice, one that’s heavily influenced by lifestyle, age and individual beauty concerns.
Whether you have an existing regimen of beauty-focused supplements, known as nutricosmetics (a.k.a. nutracosmetics), or you’re newly curious about the potential for wrinkle reduction and healthier hair from within, you’ll want to read on. Nutricosmetics are steadily carving out a major share of the supplement aisle (their global market value will soon top $4 billion), and beauty-conscious consumers are taking notice: women 25 to 35 are the newest group to catch on to the nutricosmetic trend. Why seek pretty in a pill?
Adequate nutrition isn’t supplied by the average American diet, says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., author of Beat Sugar Addiction Now! (Fair Winds Press), so supplements are a form of beauty insurance. “Nutritional support can be very helpful for staying young and beautiful,” says Teitelbaum, who names omega-3s and biotin as top beauty supplements. The majority of dermatologists seem to agree: a report in Nutrition Journal found that 59 percent of dermatologists take supplements regularly, while 66 percent recommend supplements to their patients. Their primary motivation? “Benefits to skin, hair, and nails.” To help you figure out which supplements fit your needs, we gathered a lineup of cutting-edge nutricosmetics. These supplements address your biggest beauty concerns, and a few even use your unique genetic profile to address beauty woes that could arise as you age. You might just find that it’s time to, well, open up to a new approach to beauty.
Beauty Multivitamins: Daily Beauty Insurance
Grueling work schedules, jet-set travel and grabbing food on the go mean more of us are popping pills to maintain our pretty. The nutricosmetic equivalent of a one-size-fits-all solution is a beauty multivitamin, like the 3-in-1 skin, nail, and hair blends by MegaFood ($34; megafood.com) and Natrol ($16.99; natrol.com).
These supplements cover your beauty nutrition bases with a foundational dose of vitamins like Bs, C and E, beauty-friendly minerals like zinc, copper and sulfur, and age-fighting antioxidants from turmeric root to blueberry extract. We’re regularly bombarded by pollution, UV exposure, and stress, so these general health boosters support overall beauty and damage defense, says Jody Villecco, Nutritionist and Quality Standards Coordinator for Whole Foods Market. Since these beauty multis aren’t comprehensive multivitamins, Villecco suggests alternating them with your regular multivitamin; try an every-other-day plan.
Targeted Treatments: Specialty Supplements
Why take a supplement that contains nutrients for nail growth when you’re really worried about wrinkles? A fair question that’s being answered by a wave of targeted nutricosmetics that address ultra-specific beauty concerns like skin pigmentation, blemishes and hair strength.
Targeted treatments are built around specialty ingredients like resveratrol and collagen that aren’t typically found in beauty multivitamins. And the supporting nutrients that round out these formulas amplify their power, creating unique combinations of beauty nutrients that save you from downing three or four separate supplements at a time. Jarrow Skin L&P ($44.95; jarrow.com), a favorite of Villecco, lightens and protects skin with a mix of nutrients including the antioxidant astaxanthin, vitamin C, hydroxytyrosol (a potent antioxidant extract from olives), and glutathione, an antioxidant that supports smooth, even skin. “Research shows that glutathione can regulate melanin production in the skin and even skin tone,” she says.
If blemishes are your concern, Eminence Clear Skin supplements ($56; eminence.com) combine skin-soothing borage seed oil with anti-blemish zinc and acidophilus to encourage healthy digestive flora. Why the digestive emphasis? The ecosystem of our gastrointestinal tract influences acne. In tests, 100 percent of users of this unique capsule-within-a-capsule supplement showed a reduction in acne in scars after 28 days of use.
When it comes to wrinkle reduction, collagen is key. A study in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging found that women who took 1 gram of oral collagen daily for twelve weeks showed a 76 percent reduction in dryness and a 13.3 percent reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. The study used BioCell collagen, a unique blend of collagen and hyaluronic acid found in nutricosmetics like Reserveage Ultra Collagen Booster ($49.99, reserveage.com), which also contains a host of antioxidants like resveratrol, pomegranate extract, acai, and acerola cherry. The new Collagen Beauty Builder by NeoCell ($19.99, neocell.com) contains a proprietary blend of collagen, hyaluronic acid, biotin, vitamin C, silica and alpha lipoic acid that also targets wrinkles from the inside out.
For fuller, thicker hair, the trio of collagen, biotin and keratin, the main structural component of hair, are nutricosmetic must-haves. NuHair Hair Regrowth supplements for women ($31.49; nuhairproducts.com) combine collagen and biotin with a Follicle Stimulating Botanical Blend that includes traditional hair growth-simulating herbs like horsetail extract to fight thinning hair.
DNA Testing: Your Genetic Crystal Ball
With the growing accessibility of genetic testing, there’s a futuristic opportunity to further personalize your regimen using your unique DNA data. Companies like Skinshift (skinshift.com) and GeneME (geneme.me) build an anti-aging supplement regimen based on genetic information gathered from a personal sample—usually a quick swab inside your cheek.
Your genetic variations can be red flags for future beauty issues. Skinshift analyzes genetic data for variations in collagen formation, sun protection, antioxidant protection, glycation protection, and inflammation. It may still be early to place great emphasis on genetic analysis, since the size of the testing pool influences our ability to understand genetic data. A commonsense approach to genetic personalization could be using information like your skin tone and family history of disease to help decide what supplements benefit you most.
As with any supplements, nutricosmetics come with a few major caveats: They won’t work unless you remember to take them regularly, and even then you’ll need to allow about three months to see marked changes. There’s also a chance that you won’t see results at all. “Even with good supporting data, one ingredient or one supplement isn’t going to work for everyone,” says Villecco. And nutricosmetics aren’t a substitute for a healthy lifestyle. “Supplements wont compensate for negative habits. You have to have your foundation in place with diet and lifestyle first.” Of course there’s hope, and a growing body of research, that point to nutricosmetics as the way of the future. One thing is certain: beauty is much more than skin deep.
The Fairest Foods of All?
Foods designed to offer beauty benefits, known as nutriceuticals, are often disguised as snacks and sweets—not exactly the first place you’d look for beauty nutrition! But when you look more closely, there are major beauty nutrients packed into these treats. Check out some of the hottest new nutriceuticals hitting shelves.
Starbar Beauty Bar
These raw, gluten-free bars combine antioxidant-filled organic apples, dates, and blueberries with the omega-3 power of chia seeds. The result is a sticky, sweet and travel-friendly beauty snack. $40.70 for 12; starbars.com
Kusmi Tea BB Detox
BB stands for Beauty Beverage, the perfect name for this detoxifying grapefruit-flavored tea blend. Antioxidant-rich green tea decreases inflammation and damage caused by UV exposure, while the blend of green, mateand dandelion reduces water retention and boosts detox. 4.4 oz for $19.50; kusmitea.com
CocoaWell Chocolate Bar in Longevity and Omega-3
This Fair Trade, organic chocolate bar has more than just the antioxidant benefits of 70 percent cacao; the Longevity bar contains anti-aging resveratrol, while the Omega-3 bar has DHA (shown to combat eczema) and chia seed oil, a good source of beautifying omega-3s. $3.99 each; at Whole Foods Markets
NeoCell Beauty Bursts
These candy-like collagen and hyaluronic acid chews are a sweet route to smoother skin. Natural Chocolate Mint and Fruit Punch flavors are so tasty that you’ll forget there’s one gram of collagen and even a gram of protein in each 20-calorie chew. $19.95, neocell.com
Beauty Food Nightly Beauty
Hot cocoa with beauty benefits? That’s the idea behind this collagen-packed nighttime drink, which also contains a full daily dose of B12 and biotin, as well as calming herbs like chamomile and passionflower. Mix the drink powder with your favorite milk or milk alternative for a sweet sip before bed. $49.99 for box of 14; beautyfoods.com