Beauty Starts from Within

woman with headband and facemark smiling with avocado


Contributed by Audrey Matney

You’ve heard the saying ‘you are what you eat,’ well, now beauty experts are touting the amazing anti-aging benefits of cosmeceuticals to quench their thirst for younger, healthier looking skin.
All of us are looking to spend less and still get high-level results with our beauty routines. Including foods in your diet that support healthy skin is easier and more cost effective than any other skincare method. Feeding your skin from the inside out with skin-friendly foods is the new skin savvy. What many people don’t know is that your kitchen pantry holds many secret ingredients with multiple uses that will give you skin-revitalizing results. Olive oil, baking soda, honey, avocados, vanilla extract, sea salt, oatmeal, coffee, green tea– the same ingredients that should be in your medicine cabinet, too. Ingesting and applying is the one-two punch against ageing.
According to Albert Kligman who coined the term ‘cosmeceutical’ in 1984 to refer to substances that have both cosmetic and therapeutic benefits, in order to be considered a true cosmeceutical, a product must satisfy three main benchmarks:

  • The active ingredients penetrate the stratum corneum (first layer of skin) and reach the intended target within the skin with sufficient concentrations.
  • A specific biochemical mechanism of action targets the skin cells.
  • Results can be mimicked on different patients to substantiate the efficacy claims (double-blind, placebo controlled study).

Due to the lack of FDA regulations of the cosmeceutical industry, these questions may leave aesthetic laypeople confused as to what really works and what is simply snake oil. To ensure you are taking the correct cosmeceuticals, you need to make sure that the product is clinically tested to validate the claims of having benefits to the skin. I am sick and tired of being sold wishes, and hopes, and dreams via anti-aging serums and creams!

Cosmeceuticals are designed around active ingredients that are thought to have benefits to skin health. There are many different conditions that cosmeceuticals claim to improve including increased radiance, improved texture and tone, and the reduction of acne and pigmentation. But do they really work topically?
Peptides, antioxidants, growth factors, and stem cells, are all examples of cosmeceutical ingredients. To explain:

Peptides are short amino acid chains that are the building blocks of the protein collagen. There are different types of peptides: carrier, signal, enzyme-inhibiting, and neurotransmitter peptides, all of which have been shown effective at diminishing wrinkles and reducing signs of aging when applied topically twice daily. They are included in many anti-aging products for their ability to increase skin elasticity and firmness. To help fight the good fight against aging, it is important to incorporate peptide creams and peptide serums in order to activate the skin into rebuilding lost collagen. The technology behind the peptides however needs to make sense. Amino acid chains break down very easily. This raises the question of topical efficacy, the thought of delicate amino acid chains being able to penetrate the epidermis (our bodies’ protective outer skin layer) to get to the cells that produce change seems unlikely without compromising the surface of your skin.

Antioxidants are the most popular ingredient in cosmeceuticals as the oxidation of cells is a major cause of skin ageing. Antioxidants are natural substances made up of vitamins and minerals, which are found in most plants in varying amounts. They can counter “free radicals” that damage DNA helix. Damaged skin cells can speed up aging with wrinkles, dry skin, dark circles under eyes, dull skin, and more. Antioxidants include caroteniods, flavonoids, and polyphenols.  Antioxidants are useful in two ways: they prevent degradation of natural ingredients (proteins, sugars, lipids) in cosmetic products, they also protect the skin cells from being damaged and slow down the aging process. Antioxidants have been shown to boost the skin’s radiance, minimize age spots, sun spots, and fine lines. Antioxidants are clinically proven to combat the signs of aging, so slather away!

Growth factors are specialized proteins that help to regulate cellular growth, proliferation and differentiation. Growth factors play an important role in maintaining healthy skin structure and function. They are secreted by all cell types that make up the epidermis and dermis (the layer of skin between the epidermis and subcutaneous tissue) of the skin including keratinocytes, fibroblasts and melanocytes. Growth factors stimulate your cells to create collagen and elastic fibers, which give the skin its softness and suppleness. They also provide synergistic interaction with other proteins in the epidermis and dermis that result in skin repair and regeneration, which is used widely in wound healing and the treatment of burns. These findings are supported with reliable, important clinical research in numerous scientific publications.

Lastly, and most controversial are stem cells. Multicellular organisms (plants, fruits, animals, humans) all have stem cells. They are found throughout our bodies, where they play an essential role in cellular renewal. The stem cells in skincare products are obtained primarily from fruits and plants that can stay fresh for a long time, i.e. like Swiss apples, edelweiss, roses, and date palms. Extracts of these stem cells—not the live cells—are added to skin-care products. This unique and precise extraction technology is why the cost of products containing stem cells is very expensive, that along with all the marketing efforts to woo you with promises of a youthful glow. Let me raise this question, have you ever seen a plant repair its leaves if they’re torn — or fix a bruise on its fruit? Plant stem cells do not seem to have the ability to repair themselves as human stem cells can. NO ONE has been able to provide clinical studies to support such claims. In fact, the research shows quite the opposite; plant based stem cells do not have the ability to communicate with anything other than the delicate cellular process of THAT plant, and they do not work independently from the plant. Plants produce stem cells unique and conducive to their biological functions. Plants and humans are different organisms, our cellular activities and processes are also different which makes sense. Bottom line, although stem cells are a sexy story, using plant and bacteria based stem cells are not going to be effective as they cannot communicate with human cells, so save your money, bunny.

Before purchasing a cosmeceutical, make sure they are medical grade products that have undergone stringent clinical testing with regards to their interactions with human skin, not your cousin the French melon. Improper stabilization and or delivery of any of these products will nullify their benefits and waste your money. Bottom line, be an educated consumer when shopping cosmeceuticals and be mindful to still eat your fruits and veggies, this is still the best way to ensure your skin is receiving vital minerals, nutrients and antioxidants to keep your cells fresh, young, healthy, and radiant.