Popping Pills For Youth

The beauty enthusiast continues to seek the new “holy grail”, the secret something that will deliver perfect skin. This trend has moved from lotions and potions to oral supplements with alarming speed-in recent months, almost every glossy magazine has featured a piece on beauty supplements, with a list of “insider’s must-haves”, most of which are decidedly pricey. Do they work? And is there any science to back up their use?  Patients come to me for an honest medical opinion on what works and what doesn’t.  This is my take on the trend.

Most of us don’t eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables-its that simple. This is the best source of the essential vitamins and micronutrients that we need to ensure skin is healthy simply because the body was designed to extract these vital elements from food, as opposed to a man-made pill.  This is amply borne out in a study from Cornell University, which demonstrated that a single apple has more antioxidant properties than 1500mg of Vitamin C in supplement form. But to eat the minimum of 5 to 9 fruits and vegetable recommended by the World Health Organisation is a struggle for most of us. So in the absence of enough natural nutrition to support our skin’s needs, it seems reasonable to resort to some sort of supplement.

We know that one of the main ways sun damage causes premature ageing is through the generation of chemicals called free radicals which damage the skin’s scaffolding and limit its ability to repair itself-leading to wrinkles. Anti-oxidants may mitigate these damaging effects by binding and neutralising free radicals, preventing their harmful effects. But for something to be helpful it needs to get to the right place-so for a supplement to work it needs to be absorbed and be shown to raise levels of that particular substance in the skin.

There are many different skin-orientated anti-oxidants on the market, which promise to make you look younger. The ones that are most likely to be of some benefit are Vitamins C, E, glutathione and Coenzyme Q10, all of which are effective anti-oxidants and importantly, are thought to work together for an enhanced biological effect.  However, I think that a whole-food based supplement makes more biological sense than taking isolated chemicals because of the complex array of micro-nutrients that foods naturally contain which undoubtedly work together as a team (remember the apple). A good example of this is Juice Plus, the most researched food supplement currently available-no synthetic chemicals, just the juice from fruits and vegetables reduced to a powder taken as capsules. This is probably the next best thing to fresh fruits and vegetables, in my opinion.

Many experts believe there is likely to be added benefit from combining both topical and oral anti-oxidants for an ‘inside-out’ approach and, provided you are using high quality, well-stabilised topical agents which actually penetrate the skin, this is probably the best approach. I recommend Vitamin C because, unlike any other antioxidant, it is proven to actually treat wrinkles as well as prevent them.

As with everything in life, too much a of a good thing can be a very bad thing-it’s important to not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended amounts when taking a supplement as vitamins and minerals in excess can be toxic. However when taken as part of a balanced diet they are safe and suitable for all.

In terms of delivering results, beauty supplements are an investment in the future of your skin.  Can they turn back the clock? Probably not….but they can help keep your skin in the state its in for the foreseeable future.

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  1. My philosophy on skin care is the same as it is for all other aspects of my body, give the body all the nutrients it requires on a daily basis. If some particular area needs special attention then I will add an additional supplement to compensate. Topical skin care products are great but only after you have given your body everything it needs. Thanks for a great blog!

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