Special edition: Beauty from within

The science of skin health ingredients

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

The science of skin health ingredients

Related tags Skin

In the third part of our special series on nutricosmetics, we take a look at the science behind the ingredients positioned for skin health, from antioxidants to omega-3 oils.


The carotenoids lycopene, lutein and astaxanthin all have growing science to support their claims. Indeed, at the recent NutraIngredients Antioxidants 2010 conference​ in Brussels, Dr Regina Goralczyk from DSM Nutritional Products presented on the topic of Antioxidants and Skin Health​.

Dr Goralczyk identified vitamins C and E, carotenoids, some selenium-containing enzymes, EGCG from green tea, hydroxytyrosol from olives, and resveratrol from grapes as ingredients with the most skin health potential.

Indeed, vitamin E is an important part of cell membranes, including skin cells, said Dr Goralczyk, while vitamin C plays a role in the synthesis of collagen.

In terms of the carotenoids, a significant and growing body of science supports the potential of lycopene to support beauty from within.

The world’s largest food company Nestlé also has an interest in lycopene. The company produced a form of lacto-lycopene with high bioavailability, giving the company a patentable form of an existing nutrient. This resulted is Nestlé's innéov lycopene supplement for skin health and beauty - the company's first and only move into dietary supplements, produced in collaboration with L'Oreal.

British researchers have previously reported that consumption of a lycopene-rich tomato paste may protect against sunburn and sun-induced skin ageing, with the tomato paste associated with 33 per cent more protection against sunburn, compared to the control group (presented at the British Society for Investigative Dermatology in 2008).

Israel’s LycoRed has also played a strong role in developing lycopene-rich ingredients for the skin health segment, and obtained patent protection for the lycopene, phytoene, and phytofluene-containing ingredient in Australia in 2008.

Another carotenoid receiving significant attention is lutein. Data from a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled, multi-centre study, co-funded by Kemin Health found that oral supplements of lutein and zeaxanthin provided a four-fold increase in protection from UV radiation-induced skin damage.

When used in combination with a topical lutein, zeaxanthin application, a six-fold increase in protection was also observed, in addition to significant boosts in skin hydration, elasticity and superficial lipids of skin (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology​, Vol. 20, pp. 199-210).

Beyond carotenoids and vitamins

Antioxidant-rich chocolate has also been reported to provide skin health benefits. Work with Barry Callebaut’s Acticoa ingredient, for example, reported that eating flavanol-rich chocolate may help protect the skin from the damaging effects of UV light (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology​, Vol. 8, pp. 169-173).

In 2006, German researchers led by Wilhelm Stahl from the Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf reported that a daily flavanol-rich chocolate drink, providing 326 milligrams of flavanols per day, could thicken skin and reduce reddening by 25 per cent (Journal of Nutrition​, Vol 136, pp 1565-1569).

The antioxidant Pycnogenol – an extract from the bark of French Maritime Pine – also has strong to support its skin health benefits. The ingredient has been reported to bind and protect collagen and elastin in the skin (Free Rad Biol Med​ Vol. 36, pp. 811-822), increase blood flow to the skin (Angiology​, Vol. 56, pp. 699-705), and protect against UV damage (Free Rad Biol Med. ​Vol. 30, pp. 154-160).

Earlier this month Korean scientists reported that extracts from berries and pomegranate may also protect the skin from the detrimental effects of UV exposure. A study with human skin cells showed that ellagic acid may prevent the degradation of collagen, which would maintain skin structure and slow the formation of wrinkles (Experimental Dermatology​, Vol. 19, pp. e182-e190).

Collagen, HA, et al.

The importance of collagen for skin health is well established. Scientifically supported ingredients include a hydrolysed collagen from France’s Rousselot. Results of a study presented at Vitafoods 2009 suggested that the company’s Peptan-branded ingredient may improve skin hydration by 28 per cent, and reduce the wrinkles by 30 per cent.

Californian company BioCell Technologies also has a collagen-containing ingredient with scientific substantiation. The company released results of a bioassay in 2006 to support the effectiveness of its dietary ingredient BioCell Collagen II in preventing wrinkles.
The ingredient provides a matrix of bioavailable hyaluronic acid (HA, 10 percent), depolymerized chondroitin sulfate (20 percent) and collagen type II (60 percent).

HA is a glucosaminoglycan extracellular matrix constituent which occurs naturally in the human body up until the age of 30, after which levels start to decrease. This decrease is understood to play a large role in the aging process. Hence, it is often used as an ingredient in both joint and skin health formulations.

German researchers reviewed the skin health science of HA in 2004, noting that “HA is a major component of the extracellular matrix of skin, joints, eye and many other tissues and organs […] Biological activities in skin, however, are also due to its interaction with various binding proteins (hyaladherins)”​ (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology​, Vol. 17, pp. 207-213). However, it is not yet known if dietary supplements of HA can directly benefit skin health.


The potential of omega-3 fatty acids has also been reported in the literature. Supplements containing flaxseed or borage oil, for example, have been reported to offer protection against skin reddening and decrease skin roughness and so-called skin scaling, according to findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition ​(doi: 10.1017/S0007114508020321).

Beauty From Within 2010

NutraIngredients.com​ and CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com​ have combined resources to bring you the Beauty From Within 2010 conference​. Taking place in Paris on 11th October this one day event aims to help companies harness the potential of the category.

The conference program will look at the science behind the ingredients and the important issue of marketing claims, as well as exploring how to bring successful products to a highly competitive market.

Disclaimer: ​This list of ingredients in this article is not exhaustive and we apologise for any omissions.

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