Nutri-Beauty: Look Good = Feel Good

When you look good, you feel better—and vice versa. And while we may not be getting dolled up to hit the town very often these days, COVID hasn’t disrupted the nutri-beauty market (a.k.a. beauty from within, a.k.a. nutricosmetics, a.k.a. cosmeceuticals—those ingestible products taken for beauty purposes). “In fact,” Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, Sr. Director of R&D at Bluebonnet Nutrition, says, “we have seen a rise in beauty products due to stay-at-home orders during COVID, as individuals improve their beauty routines while at home.”

Market At-a-Glance 

Some facts Bluebonnet’s Sugarek MacDonald highlights:

  • The global nutricosmetics market was valued at $4.3 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $7.9 billion by 2025, according to ingredient supplier Seppic.
  • Compared to the Asia Pacific and Europe, the U.S. nutri-beauty market is underdeveloped, and therefore displays the greatest growth potential.
  • The estimated CAGR of nutri-beauty in the U.S. through 2024 is 9-10%.

Seconding that: Karin Hermoni, Ph.D., Head of Science and Nutrition, Lycored, notes that not only are people interested, but they are “more willing and able to comply with nutri-beauty regimes that last several weeks.” And Sébastien Bornet, VP Global Sales & Marketing at Horphag Research, adds, “With so many professional skin care services disrupted, the pandemic increased awareness around the importance of nutrition for healthy skin, self-care, and overall health. Spending long hours videoconferencing has actually helped many realize the importance of taking care of their skin. Based on a more holistic approach to health, they are seeking natural solutions that provide various skin and beauty benefits.”

More support for the growing trend comes from Richard Passwater, Jr., Product Education Director for BioMinerals, makers of BioSil, sold by Natural Factors. Following a study showing that BioSil could reduce bags and dark circles under subjects’ eyes as well as improve skin radiance skin radiance and tone, BioMinerals looked to Google to find out frequency of these search terms. “We noticed a strong positive association to the increase in searches related to better using video conferencing systems and the number of daily video conferences being held,” Passwater says. “We don’t have proof, but we can’t help but think that perhaps the COVID-related surge in videoconferencing is also impacting demand for nutri-beauty products.”

Moreover, Bornet feels that the pandemic may have created a situation that increased need for nutri-beauty. “Consumer interest has increased in the nutri-beauty category, as the pandemic has been a host of various new skin-stressors. Masks can be physically abrasive, and increased screen time with exposure to blue light prompts the formation of free radicals, which break down collagen and causes inflammation, redness, dark spots, and wrinkles. We are seeing an increased awareness of the importance of skin health from the inside out.”

Passwater says that this market performance is to be expected. “We’ve been involved in the nutri-beauty arena dating back to 1994. Historically, without exception, we’ve seen BioSil sales—and the category as a whole—perform stronger than expected during uncertain and/or hard economic times. Over the years, we’ve discussed possible reasons why with various market researchers, and even a few behavioral psychologists. Some experts we’ve spoken with feel hard times often lead consumers to invest more of their resources into bettering themselves. Some are perhaps motivated to do everything possible to be their best in order to keep their job, find a replacement for a lost job, or to keep the momentum they gained and earned in other aspects in their lives.”

That said, market data for nutri-beauty varies from source to source. One reason, although it seems contradictory, may be that the market is growing, opines Passwater. “Vitamin C and carotenoids such as lycopene, lutein, and astaxanthin are multifunctional ingredients that are becoming increasingly popular nutri-beauty products, but these sales aren’t generally coded as nutri-beauty. Also, some multifunctional ingredients such as collagen historically were coded as nutri-beauty products, regardless of why someone took them. Now, many of the larger collagen brands have numerous SKUs each marketed for different applications, so the sales aren’t all being coded as nutri-beauty, as in the past.” All of this, Passwater suggests, can lead to market sales appearing flat, or even on the decline, despite customers increasingly purchasing products for nutri-beauty purposes.

Thick Skinned

Skin is a complicated barrier. “The skin has three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue,” explains Bluebonnet’s Sugarek MacDonald. “With aging, there is a loss of hydration and the increased onset of wrinkles, laxity, and hyperpigmentation. These characteristics are due to several factors. In the epidermis, there is a flattening of the dermis-epidermal junction, and cell turnover is decreased, giving skin the appearance of looking thin, rough, and dull. Moreover, in the dermis, 20% of the dermal thickness vanishes by old age since collagen—the main structural protein—loses strength and begins to fragment and degrade. This loss of collagen causes the skin to undergo noticeable changes regarding hydration, smoothness, and firmness. The major collagen types found in youthful skin are types I and III, in a near 80 to 20 ratio—but as skin ages, this ratio reverses due to the loss of type I collagen, usually from chronic sun exposure. Sun exposure also reduces the elastin, glycosaminoglycan, and hyaluronic acid content of the skin, causing the skin to lose its elasticity and hydrated, supple appearance.”

There are lifestyle strategies that can help. “External factors like cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol use, an unbalanced diet, dehydration, lack of sleep, and sun exposure only speed up the hands of time,” Sugarek MacDonald states. “Healthy skin starts with a balanced diet to help maintain collagen status, support healthy hydration, and improve antioxidant quality in the skin.”

In terms of diet, it’s useful to remind customers of two facts: Collagen is a protein, and humans are capable of making our own, although that ability wanes as we age. Thus, supporting collagen production via diet means getting plenty of amino acids, which come from and make up proteins, so that the body can do its best work. Some foods actively contain the necessary amino acids, or collagen itself—these tend to be animal products, such as bone broth, meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Plant-based protein can help as well: beans, nuts, seeds, and tofu all contain useful amino acids (4). Nutritionist Katie Trant writes on the blog Hello Glow that zinc acts as a cofactor in collagen formation; vitamin C helps prevent collagen breakdown due to free radical damage, and helps convert the amino acid proline into hydroxyproline, which stimulates collagen synthesis; and copper indirectly supports the production of collagen.

In terms of protection against the sun, it’s worth noting that—while sunscreen will always be vital—there are ingestible ingredients for sun care, too. “Dr. Ohhira’s Propolis Plus provides strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity,” Dr. Pelton states. “A great deal of skin damage is due to UV rays from sunlight exposure. Astaxanthin—an ingredient in Propolis Plus—protects against UV-induced skin aging. Several studies have shown that propolis extracts also inhibit UV-induced photodamage to human skin.” Trant notes that catechins—found in green tea, berries, and cocoa—are also thought to protect the skin against sun damage, while working to prevent improper cross-linking of collagen to elastin in skin as it ages. While intake of these ingredients shouldn’t stop your customers from applying sunscreen, it may be a useful addition to a nutri-beauty routine.

Standout Ingredients 

The concept that “feels good” equals “looks good” may have some scientific backing. “The skin is our largest and most visible organ, and in many ways skin health tells us a lot about our internal health,” says Ross Pelton, R.Ph., CCN, Ph.D.,
Science Director at Essential Formulas. “For example, skin that is dry, wrinkled, sagging, and easily bruised is showing signs of increased free radical damage and accelerated aging. In addition to being visible externally, these signs are an indication of what’s happening internally. Hence, there is a growing awareness that skin health mirrors internal health and human aging.”

Key benefits people are after: “Consumers want to defy the changes that come with maturing, particularly fine lines and wrinkling,” says Sugarek MacDonald, pointing to data from a marketing intelligence group. “Thus, it is no surprise that skincare consumers are linking inner health and outer beauty. In fact, ~38% of U.S. consumers over the age of 35 are motivated to adopt a new diet to improve their physical appearance. This change in consumer attitudes has laid the groundwork for functional food products that benefit the skin, defying the aging process from the inside out.”

Here, a roundup of some of the ingredients that can help.

Antioxidants. “A great deal of skin damage,” notes Dr. Pelton, “is due to the generation of free radicals that damage collagen and elastin, which results in the visible signs of skin aging such as wrinkles and sagging.”

That free radical generation can be caused by a number of things. Steve Holtby, President & CEO, Soft Gel Technologies, Inc. (SGTI), lists several: “Free radicals may be introduced into the body as a result of environmental toxins, stress, a sugar- and trans fat-laden diet, and exposure to ultraviolet light, to name a few. Cosmeceuticals with antioxidant properties are able to combat oxidative damage at a cellular level.”

Sugarek MacDonald points to astaxanthin here, a carotenoid present in most red-colored aquatic organisms. “Its ability to neutralize free radicals has been shown to help smooth wrinkles, make age spots smaller, and help maintain skin moisture. It also helps repair and protects the skin from UV-induced oxidative damage.”

Glutathione, too, is an important antioxidant and cofactor for enzymes, according to Sugarek MacDonald, “due to its high electron-donating capacity, where it functions in various redox reactions, such as in the destruction of peroxides and other free radicals. Found in every cell of the body, glutathione is critical to preserving cellular integrity and essential for optimal skin health.”

Reg’Activ products, manufactured by Essential Formulas, contain Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3, which, once inside the host, makes glutathione.

Another option: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is present in nearly all human tissue, Sugarek MacDonald explains, and is essential for mitochondrial energy production. “Many factors have been found to compromise the level of CoQ10 in the body: the normal aging process, chronic conditions, certain medications, oxidative stress, et cetera,” Sugarek MacDonald says. “As the body ages, it produces less CoQ10, making supplementation important. CoQ10 helps counteract oxidative stress caused by the constant wear and tear of the body.”

Found in red wine, our next antioxidant—resveratrol—may already be beloved by many of your customers. Sugarek MacDonald summarizes the benefits: “Studies have shown protective effects of resveratrol against ultraviolet radiation-mediated oxidative stress and cutaneous damages to the skin. Since many skin conditions stem from ultraviolet radiation and oxidative stress, this antioxidant appears to have promise and prospects against a wide range of cutaneous disorders, including skin aging.”

As with most anything, vitamins can help. Sugarek MacDonald points to A and C as useful ones in this arena. “Vitamin A regulates the production, structure, and normal function of epithelial cells in the skin,” she explains. “Plus, it is also a potent antioxidant that neutralizes harmful oxidizing free radicals, protecting healthy cells in the body, including skin cells.” Vitamin C is also involved in collagen synthesis.

Vitamin E is another antioxidant, and Holtby says it shares an important property with a few of the other antioxidants listed here. “Most antioxidants lose their protective power once they have quenched a single free radical. Five antioxidants—alpha lipoic acid, the complete vitamin E complex, vitamin C, glutathione, and coenzyme Q10—are unique in their synergistic ability to recycle one another into their active antioxidant forms. Specifically, vitamin E works synergistically with other antioxidants, such as vitamin C. In order to inactivate free radicals, the vitamin E molecule must accept the extra electron from the free radical. In doing so, the vitamin E molecule becomes inactivated. Vitamin C takes the extra electron from the vitamin E molecule, recycling vitamin E and restoring the antioxidant power to vitamin E. Alpha lipoic acid, like vitamin C, can also recycle vitamin E. The cooperation between these antioxidants keeps the first line of defense strong.”

Biotin. “Biotin functions within cells as a coenzyme for multiple reactions,” Sugarek MacDonald says. “The biotin in your body contributes to the production of healthy hair and nails by providing an essential ingredient in hair growth: Hair is made of keratin, which is built from amino acids and is formed due to the reaction of cell enzymes and biotin.”

Keratin itself is made by the human body, Sugarek MacDonald notes, where it aids in protecting and repairing damaged hair, skin, and nails. “It is able to bond with hair in the body and has been shown to reduce hair loss from washing, improve hair strength, and improve the brightness and luster of hair,” Sugarek MacDonald explains. “It is capable of binding to the nail to improve strength and improve skin elasticity and moisture retention.” Foods containing zinc, vitamins A and C, L-cysteine (an amino acid), and biotin can boost keratin production (1).

Cherry Blossom Extract. “Cherry blossom extract has been shown to inhibit glycation, and it provides anti-inflammatory activity and stimulates the production of healthy new collagen,” Dr. Pelton says. “In an eight-week, double-blind,
placebo-controlled trial, the skin in the women taking cherry blossom extract exhibited improved elasticity and moisture; a reduction in skin pores, redness, and hyperpigmentation; an improvement in the smoothness of the skin; and a reduction in glycation cross-linking damage. Studies such as this indicate that cherry blossom extract improves the underlying collagen skin structure and the visual appearance of skin, as well as a slowing down of the process of skin damage and skin aging.”

The Beauty of Liver Detox 

While the liver isn’t often thought of as part of the nutri-beauty arena, Brian Zapp, Creative Director, Applied Food Sciences, makes the case that it should be. “One of the primary functions of our liver is to filter and eliminate toxins from our body,” Zapp says. “Without an efficient system, environmental toxins and hormones can build up in our bodies. How and where these chemicals manifest is an amazing example of the beauty-from-within concept—except in a reverse scenario. Toxic loading in cells can play a major part in the health of our skin, hair, and nails.”

Another important area affected by the liver: stress. “Hormone balancing is an important task that our liver has, through phase II detoxification,” Zapp explains. How is this relevant to beauty? Stress is in part a hormonal issue. Zapp explains: “Stress can have physical reactions such as skin rashes; I think we can all relate to stress-related skin issues like acne or worsening chronic breakouts. Proper nutrition, self-care practices, and supplementation can help mitigate some of these complicated consequences during this public health emergency.”

Collagen. This ingredient is major: Douglas Jones, Global Sales & Marketing Manager at BioCell Technology, makers of branded ingredient BioCell Collagen, cites the Nutrition Business Journal, which found that the U.S. collagen market was $300m in 2020, up from $50m in 2014, and is expected to hit $400m by 2022. And there’s a good reason for that: “Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, and constitutes 70% of dry mass skin content,” Sugarek MacDonald tells WholeFoods. “As a key component of the skin’s structure, collagen fibers provide elastin infrastructure, which maintains skin elasticity. As we age, the number and activity of skin cells (fibroblasts) that produce collagen decreases. As fibroblasts become less active, the collagen matrix that provides skin firmness and structure starts to break down. The skin then becomes dehydrated and thinner, and fine lines, wrinkles, and deep furrows start to appear. Smooth, firm, and younger-looking skin requires optimum levels of well-organized collagen fibers to ensure skin retains its elasticity, firmness, and moisture-binding capacity.”

Besides the aging process, there are several causes of collagen damage, according to Passwater. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that more compounds damage collagen—and damage collagen at a faster rate—than most researchers historically believed.” One of the causes, Passwater says, is homocysteine: an amino acid produced by the body, which is usually broken down into usable compounds (2). However, in some cases, the body is not capable of processing it correctly, resulting in homocystinuria. This can be caused by a vitamin deficiency, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, or genetics. High homocysteine levels are associated with a number of diseases, ranging from Parkinson’s to atherosclerosis. Homocysteine increases as we age, and tends to be higher in men than in women.

Other causes of collagen damage, according to Passwater: stress hormones such as cortisol, free radical damage, and sugar. “Modern approaches to support collagen metabolism now focus on supporting new collagen production and also protecting collagen,” Passwater explains. “BioSil, a choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid, is such a product because it’s clinically proven to help generate new collagen, and can also help protect collagen from being damaged by homocysteine and cortisol, two leading causes of collagen loss.” The most recent nutri-beauty arena clinical study on BioSil was presented at the 93rd Annual Italian Dermatology Society Congress in Bologna, Passwater says. The study investigated the effects of BioSil in women with an average age of 59.2 years who had rough, brittle nails. Over the course of six months, the researchers found that 100% of the women taking two BioSil capsules per day reduced the roughness and brittleness of their nails, and 83% reduced the vertical ridges in the nail plates.

Collagen production can be boosted via other methods, too. “Human clinical trials have shown that orally ingested collagen peptides increase collagen production, which increases elasticity, strength, and hydration of the skin,” says Dr. Pelton.
“Increasing the body’s production of healthy new collagen is actually an example of reversing the aging process. This results in noticeable improvement in skin and wrinkles. For example, in one human clinical trial published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology in 2014, women who ingested collagen peptides for eight weeks were found to have a 20% reduction in the volume of eye wrinkles, a 65% increase in type 1 skin collagen, and an 18% increase in skin elastin content.” Dr. Ohhira’s
Collagen Plus, from Essential Formulas, contains low molecular weight collagen peptides for better bioavailability.

Hyaluronic Acid. “HA is able to absorb many times its weight in water,” Dr. Pelton says, “which explains why it is so effective at improving skin moisture content.” He points to a six-week clinical trial published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition in 2015, in which subjects who ingested hyaluronic acid daily exhibited significantly greater moisture content in their skin as well as improved facial features such as better skin luster and suppleness and a reduction of facial skin wrinkles.

“Unfortunately, HA synthesis declines as we age,” explains Holtby. “We lose water, when we actually want it to stick around and help us maintain that youthful appearance and stay agile. As people age, the body synthesizes less hyaluronic acid, and because of its short half-life, HA is depleted quickly in the epidermis. Depletion of HA in the extracellular matrix of the skin causes elastin to dry up and become brittle, which leads to fine lines and rough, dry, brittle skin.” SGTI offers Injuv, which has a low molecular weight for improved absorption. “After taking Injuv for 30 days,” Holtby says, “52 subjects in the test group showed significant improvement in skin moisture without any adverse effects.”

Pycnogenol. The branded French maritime pine bark extract has multiple benefits for skin, according to Horphag’s Bornet. It is an antioxidant, it helps boost collagen and hyaluronic acid synthesis, and it helps reduce hyperpigmentation. Bornet points to two studies published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology in 2012 and 2016 backing these claims, as well as a study published in Panminerva Medica in 2014 that found benefits for those suffering from psoriasis.

Sulfur. Tim Hammond, VP Sales & Marketing at Bergstrom Nutrition, says that sulfur is essential for general health: “It is part of the basic building blocks of protein and hundreds of metabolic processes, including the production of the molecular building blocks of skin, such as collagen, hyaluronic acid, and keratohyalin.” Customers may know sulfur in the form of methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM. “By maintaining healthy collagen cross-linking, MSM and sulfur inhibit the hardening of the skin’s tissue, supporting the skin’s overall health and maintenance,” Hammond says. “This provides the skin with flexible, supple, and resilient characteristics.” For more, search for “Sulfur: The Forgotten Nutrient” at www.WholeFoodsMagazine.com.

Bergstrom offers OptiMSM, a branded MSM that has been clinically studied for nutri-beauty benefits. Two recent studies highlight the benefits of OptiMSM. A study published in 2019 found statistically significant improvements in the condition of the hair and nails of subjects ingesting either 1g or 3g of MSM per day. A second study, published in 2020, indicated that oral supplementation of OptiMSM decreased aging signs like facial wrinkles and skin roughness when compared to placebo, as evaluated with study participants using visual and subjecting self-assessment of wrinkles and skin texture. Expert clinical grading, instrumental measurements, and consumer perception were used to evaluate skin conditions in the second part of the study, leading researchers to conclude that there were improvements in skin hydration, firmness, and elasticity. A key takeaway from the study, Hammond says: “OptiMSM effectively reduces visual signs of skin aging, even at a low dose of one gram.”

Tomato Extract. Lycored offers ingredients made from tomatoes intended to help support skin health. “Lycoderm delivers optimal concentrations of lycopene, phytoene, phytofluene, and carnosic acid, and is extensively researched,” says Dr. Hermoni. “The most recent study, published last year, was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial exploring its effect on visible beauty parameters. After 16 weeks, the Lycoderm group saw a significant reduction in wrinkle severity and fine lines. The vast majority—80.6%—of subjects taking Lycoderm also reported that their skin felt smoother. The newest addition to our ingestible skincare range is Lumenato, a carefully calibrated extract of natural tomato nutrients and antioxidants optimized to work synergistically and offer proven benefits for beauty and skin wellness.”

Keys to a Gorgeous Smile

Beyond skin, hair, and nails, Stratum Nutrition’s Content Coordinator Jacqueline Rizo points to another area of nutri-beauty importance: teeth. “On a daily basis, billions of invading bad bacteria attempt to displace the natural and beneficial bacteria of the mouth, teeth, and gums.” Besides the bacteria that cause bad breath and cavities, Rizo points to chromogenic bacteria that can cause black dental stains: “Present in 1-20% of children and adults, black dental stains can be removed by professional cleaning, but usually recur.”

Stratum offers BLIS M18, a probiotic developed by scientists at the University of Otago in New Zealand for oral health. “Two recent studies—one in vitro trial and one clinical trial—both investigated the effects of BLIS M18 on black teeth staining and found that BLIS M18 is effective in inhibiting bacteria that cause black teeth staining,” Rizo explains. “In the in vitro study, it was shown to inhibit two of the bacterial species that cause the black stains to form on teeth. In a companion clinical trial in children, BLIS M18 was shown to discourage the recurrence of the black stains after removal by professional cleaning.”

How much does this matter, in times of COVID? “In today’s climate, more and more meetings occur in the virtual environment,” Rizo notes. “Like meeting someone in person, the first thing most people notice is someone’s smile. BLIS M18 naturally supports healthy teeth and gums by reestablishing a healthy balance of bacteria in the mouth. It is uniquely qualified as a probiotic for supporting a healthy smile, begins working in the mouth to support overall health and wellness, and it is safe and effective for children and adults.”

Taking Advantage of a Growing Market 

People are looking for these products. How can manufacturers and retailers help them get results? One tip: “Marketing research firms are advising CPG brands to ‘think beauty,’” Jones says. “Consumers are creating stay-at-home Spa Days in order to beautify and de-stress as the pandemic continues. Create approachable solutions: health and beauty, together.” BioCell Collagen, he says, can offer consumers a viable
product solution.

Highlight your key ingredients. “We would advise manufacturers to include information about what sets the OptiMSM brand apart,” Hammond recommends. “For example, that it is the only MSM made in the U.S., and the only MSM distilled for purity. We would also suggest that they explain the sulfur connection, since OptiMSM is a proven source of bioavailable sulfur. This connection is key, because sulfur supports the structure and flexibility of connective tissue by maintaining collagen disulfide bonds. Sulfur is also a building block of keratin, the chief structural constituent of hair and nails.”

Education on that level is a major driver. “We have seen consumers react best when we educate them about the science behind Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract to fully understand the extent of its benefits,” Bornet explains. “Consumers are spending more time researching products and ingredients to inform their purchase decisions. We note their interest in natural ingredients backed by science to support their skin and beauty needs without the potential irritation or side effects of other products. Invest in research, connect with consumers where they are searching, and communicate science-supported benefits.”

The final word, courtesy of Sugarek MacDonald: “According to consumer research, Americans are skeptical of nutricosmetic claims. To be convinced, they need to see credible scientific validation. The market is rising, and beauty within products will be one of the biggest trends between now and 2025. In other words: nutricosmetics are big business.”

Be sure to catch the nutri-beauty train. And if you’re looking for more education in this arena, head to www.NaturallyInformed.net and register to view educational sessions from the virtual event Nutri-Beauty: Mastering the Market on-demand for free. The sessions explored new research and technologies in skin health and beauty, taking deep dives into core ingredients and the latest in the skin microbiome and the gut-skin access, and considered how brands and retailers can best position and engage with consumers on this topic. Nor is that all. Find out more at www.NaturallyInformed.net. Plus: For the latest in HABA trends, check out Meet the New-and-Improved HABA, from the May issue of WholeFoods Magazine. WF

 Resources 

  1. Beth Sissons, “What are the benefits of keratin-rich foods?” Medical News Today. Posted 10/23/2020. Accessed 03/19/2021.
  2. “Collagen Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report by Source, by Product, by Application, by Region, and Segment Forecasts, 2020-2027,” Grand View Research. Published 02/2020. Accessed 03/29/2021.
  3. Jenna Fletcher, “What to know about high homocysteine levels,” Medical News Today. Posted 03/25/2020. Accessed 03/29/2021. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/homocysteine-levels
  4. Katie Trant, “The Best Plant-Based Foods to Naturally Build Collagen,” Hello Glow. Posted 03/18/2019. Accessed 03/19/2021. https://helloglow.co/foods-for-collagen/