Are more women turning to supplements to defy the aging process? It seems so …
The idea of eating ourselves beautiful is not new. But could the key to keeping wrinkles at bay be found in a tablet rather than a face cream?
In the past year, nutraceuticals – dietary supplements, once a niche area of the beauty business – have taken off.
Today, alongside anti-ageing lotions and serums are glossy bottles of capsules and pills.
Rather than being sold in health-food stores in practical pots fit only to be hidden behind the kettle in the kitchen, the new offerings are designed to look beautiful in your bathroom and are sold in the smartest places – Liberty stocks Dr. Perricone supplements, while Selfridges sells the Inner Me brand.
And many skincare firms such as Caudalie, Healthspan Nurture and Yllume now offer supplements alongside their face creams, for a full-scale assault on ageing skin.
So, is this the logical extension of a beauty regime – supporting your skin from the inside as well as from the outside?
A COCKTAIL OF BOOSTERS
Some brands advocate the power of the naturally occurring protein collagen to help the skin produce more of its own to support the structure and firmness.
Anything that helps maintain collagen levels in the skin will keep it looking younger as natural levels of collagen start to fall in your mid-30s and by the age of 55 may have fallen by 40 per cent. Less collagen means skin that sags and wrinkles.
Other supplements focus on high-strength antioxidants such as astaxanthin (which is found in minute crustaceans), lycopene (found in tomatoes) or resveratrol (which is extracted from grapes).
Antioxidants help counteract the effects of free radicals, unstable molecules in our body’s cells which help speed up the ageing process, and astaxanthin and lycopene have been shown to help protect skin from ultraviolet light. Resveratrol is a particularly potent antioxidant, hailed as a wonder-worker in slowing the effects of ageing.
Other supplements contain ceramides (which help the skin retain moisture) and hyaluronic acid, claiming they may help soften wrinkles and smooth the complexion.
WHERE’S THE PROOF?
The only sensible advice is to spend your money on brands that offer proven results for their products – though even with products that offer ‘proof’ in the form of clinical trials, you need a bit of help to read between the lines.
Evelle (£35.95, multivits.co.uk) includes pycnogenol, a standardised form of pine-bark extract. Pharma Nord, the company behind Evelle, boasts a clinical study to show that it improves the skin – though on closer examination, this translates as a nine per cent increase in skin elasticity, and no worsening of skin roughness.
The makers of PureLogicol collagen supplements (£29.99, pure logicol.co.uk) says a placebo-controlled clinical trial on 100 women showed a 43 per cent reduction in wrinkle width after six weeks, along with an increase in skin hydration.
Imedeen, one of the longest-standing beauty supplements, is continually conducting trials on its products, which are based on a skin-improving ‘marine complex’.
Its most recent showed that, over a year, the Time Perfection supplement (£40.80, imedeen.co.uk) improved skin by increasing the amount of collagen and the protein elastin.
Seven Seas’ Ilumina (£29.99, at Boots), uses antioxidants from grapeseed extract.
Its clinical trials show a ‘highly significant’ reduction in fine lines after 12 weeks – a 5.8 per cent reduction, to be precise.
That’s clinically significant, but would you notice the difference on your face?
BEAT WRINKLES FROM INSIDE
All of these sound extremely promising, but cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting, who has seen all the clinical studies, is less impressed.
‘Most studies are too short to be significant, or use unusual methods of measuring their results, or are published in obscure journals.
None of these is a patch on the study design that Unilever put in place to test their DoveSpa pills last year,’ she says.
The DoveSpa supplements are called Strength Within (£37.50, dovespa.co.uk), and there has been a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on almost 500 women to back up their claim to reduce wrinkle-depth by up to 30 per cent – research that was considered rigorous enough to merit a story in New Scientist magazine, which normally remains aloof from cosmetic concerns.
The DoveSpa pills contain soy isoflavones, which are thought to act on the body’s estrogen receptors to encourage the skin to make collagen (the abrupt decrease in estrogen levels between the ages of 35 and 50 is one of the factors that leads to less collagen being made in the body), while it’s also thought the omega-3 fatty acids in the pills act on a gene involved with making collagen.
‘I see skin pills as a potentially useful adjunct to a proper skincare routine, based on thoroughly researched active ingredients,’ says Dr. Bunting.
‘They may well be very useful at helping prevent lines and wrinkles. However, we need better long-term data to know what visible effects they can really have on the signs of ageing that already exist.’
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