The Beauty-Food Connection

By Navin Geria, SpaDermaceuticals | September 15, 2011

From broccoli to coffee berry to euphoria fruit—and everything in between— the link between beauty and diet is strong and growing stronger.

Today’s beauty food formulas generally address four areas: skin, hair, nails and general well-being. In skin care, specific benefits include repair, rebuild, prevention, sun protection, firmness and pigmentation. For hair, the benefits include manageability, growth, restoration, nourishment and volumizing. For nails, the key benefit is strengthening.

Beauty from within connotes that the nutrients we consume could affect the way we look. The beauty market has tapped into this idea and has developed the food-meets-cosmetics category of nutraceuticals. At an In-Cosmetics conference in Milan earlier this year, Mintel senior beauty analyst Vivienne Rudd predicted an increase in cross-category launches and complementary topical and ingestible skin care products.

Growing consumer interest in the concept of beauty from within is helping to define the category as an independent marketing platform for certain ingredients and products. According to the market research company Kline Group, the category was worth around $1.5 billion in 2007, and is expected to soar to $2.5 billion by 2012. With gains like these, it’s no surprise that formulators are eager to combine the benefits of nutrition and beauty. But what ingredients show the most promise? This article provides a brief snapshot of the materials with the greatest potential.

Age-Defying Beauty Recipes

You can fight inflammation with melatonin, which is found in cherries, bananas, tomatoes, rice bran and ginger. Antioxidants help to scavenge damaging free radicals and fight skin inflammation that is visible as acne, redness and irritation. Nails and hair can be strengthened with biotin found in eggs, peanut butter, oats and liver. A biotin deficiency causes hair to become dry and brittle, which could contribute to hair loss or thinning hair.

Sun damage may be prevented, in part, with resveratrol, which is found in grapes, blueberries and red wine. Resveratrol slows the breakdown of collagen. Damaged skin may be repaired with vitamins C and E, which are found in kiwi, citrus fruits, wheat germ oil, nuts, leafy greens and broccoli. Vitamins C and E are powerful together. Vitamin E helps hydrate skin and also protects against free radical damage, while vitamin C stimulates collagen production. Both vitamins repair damaged skin cells.

Dry skin relief is possible by consuming foods such as walnuts, flaxseeds and salmon. All add hydration and moisture to skin cells from within. Skin redness may be reduced by eating cucumbers, which are high in silica and zinc—which can also be found in almonds, chickpeas and shellfish. Zinc is essential for skin injury repair. Consumers with oily skin or acne should eat foods high in vitamin A and zinc, which help reduce oil production and the swelling associated with blemishes. Less oil production contributes to less pore clogging. Furthermore, a probiotic diet helps fight inflammation and reduce acne.

Fine wrinkles may be reduced by eating cucumbers and other high water-content foods. These foods penetrate cells better than water alone by helping strengthen the cell membrane, which plumps skin cells and helps reduce fine wrinkles. Tone and texture may be improved by consuming fruits like apple, goji berry, grape seed extract and vitamin C-rich foods. All of them prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin. Nourishing ingredients like lutein and CoQ10 help boost levels of skin lipids that keep the skin hydrated. Lycopene, vitamin E and selenium work synergistically to combat rough, dry skin and even-out skin tone.

An Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant Diet

Free radicals are produced by both normal metabolism and environmental factors such as pollution, UV rays and sunlight. These unstable oxygen molecules are missing an electron in their outer shell. To replace it, they steal an electron from a nearby cell and, in so doing, damage or destroy that cell and its DNA. When this happens, cells no longer function well, resulting in poor health and loss of vitality.

To prevent this, the body is already equipped with endogenous antioxidants such as glutathione, CoQ10 and superoxide dismutase (SOD), which defend against the invading free radicals. If free radicals win this war, two things happen: the skin shows signs of premature aging, including wrinkles and sagging skin, and secondly, a state of oxidative stress occurs. Oxidative stress underpins virtually every degenerative disease, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke and cancer. To avoid this fate, you must eat foods rich in antioxidants to supplement endogenous antioxidants (i.e., those already present in the body).

The oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) evaluation allows for the comparison of one antioxidant to another in terms of protection. Consuming high levels of high ORAC value antioxidants does much more for the skin. Furthermore, when these antioxidants are formulated with sunscreens and when such a product is routinely applied topically, the skin is further protected from damaging free radicals. Thus, if you follow the principles of an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant diet, your skin will gain health, beauty and radiance.

Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables represent an ideal source of antioxidants, such as polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, ligands and other important anti-aging actives. Their long-term use prevents oxidation and deterioration at the cellular level. These bioactive botanical extracts are effective ingredients for functional food, dietary supplement and topical skin care applications.

Black currant is one of the richest sources of vitamin C, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), manganese, magnesium, calcium, anthocyanins and other phenolic compounds. Its extract was shown to be an elastase inhibitor, which may influence elastin in skin. It also supports a healthy immune response.

The soluble fiber pectin in blueberries helps lower cholesterol. Fiber binds to bile salts in the colon and removes them from the body. Grapes contain flavones, anthocyanins, quercetin, kempferol and resveratrol, which all have antioxidant properties. Broccoli and other dark green vegetables contain carotenoids, folate and vitamin C. Carotenoids are powerful weapons against cancer, while folate is good for the heart and brain, and vitamin C slows the skin wrinkling.

Coffee berry is rich in polyphenol antioxidants, which prevent and repair free radical damage. It also combats signs of photoaging.

Vitamin D, the so-called sunshine vitamin, is poised to become the nutrient of the decade. It can be obtained by exposing skin to ultraviolet radiation as well as through fortified drinks like milk, soy milk, some juices, oily fish like salmon, bluefish, catfish, sardines, tuna and fish oils. Low levels of this vitamin are linked to autoimmune diseases like Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Euphoria fruit is a very good source of phytocompounds such as ellagic acid and adenosine. Studies of the extract have shown that it supports normal blood pressure and has skin tightening benefits.

Goji berry has a wide range of general nourishing and tonic effects. It helps support the immune system, as well as healthy red blood cells. It is a rich source of zeaxanthin, vitamin C and flavonoids, and its beta-carotene content, obtained from carotenoids, turns into retinol, a form of vitamin A that helps boost the immune system.

Kiwi is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E and polyphenols, which help lower triglyceride levels and reduce plaque buildup that leads to arterial blockages.

Lucama is a South American fruit that has superior healing and skin repairing benefits, while mangosteen is a good source of folate, magnesium, potassium, manganese, niacin and xanthones, which may help support a healthy complexion and improve gum health.

Omega 3s come from marine sources such as salmon, tuna, halibut, herring and sardines. Plant sources include nuts and oils, chia seeds, flax seeds, olive oil, soybean, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and spices such as oregano, cloves and mustard seeds. They are vitally important for proper development of the eyes, brain, cardiovascular system and immune system.

Passion fruit is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, folate, choline, niacin, magnesium, potassium and iron. The peel extract may help support healthy skin elasticity and suppleness by inhibiting matrix metalloproteinases. Pomegranate is rich in ellagic acid, anthocyanins, tannins and other polyphenolic compounds. It improves skin elasticity, balances skin pH and has heart protective benefits. Resveratrol is a polyphenol that inhibits inflammation, carcinogenesis and up-regulates sirtuin enzymes to slow the aging process in a manner similar to caloric restriction.

Sea buckthorn berry is rich in vitamins A, C and E, essential lipids, potassium, phytosterols and flavonoids. A fatty acid unique to this fruit has been shown to have valuable antioxidant skin effects. Flavones help support healthy skin.

Soy reinforces the skin’s epidermal barrier, promotes collagen production and elastin repair, decreases hyperpigmentation and inhibits hair growth. It has gentle anti-inflammatory actions.

Spirulina is composed of up to 70% protein, which helps the body repair damaged tissues and build bones, skin and muscle. Tart cherry juice has higher ORAC levels than pomegranate and açai. It is loaded with antioxidants, anthocyanins, melatonin and potassium. It reduces pain, inflammation and the risk of heart disease. It also helps regulate sleep.

Green tea contains a significant amount of polyphenols, which are known to reduce DNA damage, sunburn inflammation and erythema. Topical EGCG has been shown to reduce oxidative stress.
Whole grains are high in fiber and other disease-fighting nutrients that have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease.


Good health and good-looking skin and hair depend on good nutrition. Deep-green spinach and lettuces and the brightest berries provide the most antioxidants. Even black dried beans have more antioxidants than white or red beans. Consumers are increasingly looking for antioxidant foods and supplements that support a healthy lifestyle as well as a healthy physical appearance.

About the author:
Navin Geria is vice president of research and development for SpaDermaceuticals, Martinsville, NJ. He has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Pfizer, Warner-Lambert, Schick, Bristol-Myers and, most recently, LeDerma Consumer Products Laboratories. He has earned more than 15 U.S. patents, has been published in cosmetic trade magazines and has been both a speaker and moderator at cosmetic industry events. He can be reached at

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