When we use active skincare, we apply vitamins, collagen peptides and anti-inflammatory nutrients to promote the health of our skin and reduce signs of ageing, sun damage, redness or other concerns. The problem is that skincare can only penetrate so deeply. Exfoliation can help your serums penetrate through the surface of your skin, but even then, they can only go as deeply as the basal cells in the surface epidermal layer of your skin, at best.
Ageing, however, occurs at all layers of the skin. The deeper dermal layers receive nutrients through blood circulation, and your blood gets its nutrients through diet. “In our fast-paced lives, it can be difficult to get all the nutrients we need, and we don’t always absorb them from our food,” says Ally Cussell, Clinician and nursing student with certifications in skin nutrition, “which is why we need supplements. They’re a compliment to a healthy diet.”
When it comes to beauty supplements specifically, there are four main purposes they aim to achieve; boosting nutrition, supporting the gut-skin axis, building collagen and preventing damage from oxidative stress.
Vitamins A, C and K are widely known for their anti-ageing benefits because they help circulation and tissue repair. B vitamins, when applied to the skin, can have a calming effect. When ingested, they can help your body metabolise amino acids, which are crucial to the health of muscle and skin tissues.
Your body sends nutrients where they’re needed, so you cannot guarantee that the nutrients you consume orally will go to your skin. Supplementary nutrients may increase that chance when paired with a healthy diet.
Additionally, for a healthy complexion, you need to feed nutrients to more than just your skin. “Your skin is a reflection of what’s going on in your body,” Ally says, explaining that good overall health will help support a healthy appearance in the skin. Much of this is linked to gut health.
Gut-Skin Axis and Inflammation
The gut-skin axis is quite an old theory that has enjoyed a recent resurgence in medical research. The theoretical framework looks at how the bacterial cultures in your gut relate to inflammation in the body, and how that inflammation appears in your skin.
“Technically, illness and disease are inflammatory responses of the body,” Ally explains. That inflammation can show up on the skin. “To maintain healthy skin, prioritising healthy gut function is essential and will help keep inflammation down.”
It’s important to note that it’s not always a two-way street, Ally points out. Not all skin inflammation is caused by inflammation in the body, there are other potential causes of skin inflammation, but inflammation in the body does contribute to inflammation in the skin.
A lot of gut health has to do with bacteria cultures. The gut is a diverse biome of bacteria, both good and bad. Foods that are high in sugar help the “bad” bacteria proliferate, which can lead to inflammation in the gut and the skin. This is why people with acne sometimes notice a breakout after eating sugary foods, or why others may get a red complexion after drinking alcohol.
Probiotic foods, such as yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi and kombucha, are popular for supporting the health of the gut, but it’s also important to get enough prebiotic fibre in your diet. This is the non-digestible fibre found in oats, leafy greens (like kale), apple skins and beans.
Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that help the gut maintain healthy bacteria cultures. They’re becoming more popular in beauty supplements because healthy bacteria culture means a healthy gut, and a healthy gut supports healthy skin.
We mostly know collagen as the key foundation for smooth, youthful, elastic skin, but as Ally points out “collagen is found all throughout the body. Our connective tissues are made from collagen and it’s heavily involved in wound healing.”
Ageing and environmental exposure leads to natural degradation of collagen in our skin. Theoretically, an oral collagen supplement will help our bodies rebuild collagen fibres in our skin and connective tissues, but the experts are somewhat divided on this. As we digest collagen, it’s broken down into amino acids (the building blocks of collagen and proteins), so there is no guarantee that collagen we ingest will be used to rebuild collagen in the body. There is some promising evidence from research conducted in the industry.
Controlled studies were conducted by the producers of the collagen used in RejuvAus Supershot. In a study involving 69 women aged 35-55, they measured up to 15% increases in skin elasticity after 8 weeks of taking collagen orally. In another study involving more than 100 women aged 45-65, they measured higher accumulation of collagen in the skin and reduction of wrinkles after 4 weeks.
Antioxidants are compounds found in foods such as goji berries, pomegranate, sea buckthorn, wheatgrass and other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A and Vitamin C have antioxidant properties, as do phytonutrients found in many plant-based foods.
Basically, when oxygen is metabolised in our bodies, it creates unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals take electrons from other molecules and cause damage to our cells. The damage is also known as oxidative stress, and it can contribute to signs of ageing.
Antioxidants found in foods can prevent some of the damage caused by oxidative stress. They can also help reduce inflammation in the body and the skin, hence why they’re so important in our diets and supplements.
Overall, the premise for most beauty supplements is that you can boost your beauty by promoting certain aspects of internal health. As a doctor-led clinic with a long history of taking a more holistic approach to cosmetic medicine, we strongly support the idea that maintaining your health is a huge part of maintaining your appearance. Just remember that we’re all unique, so you should check with your healthcare professional before taking any new supplement.