Can you really make an internal cosmetic?

There is this trend in the cosmetic industry called “beauty-within”. (There’s even a conference about it.)The idea is that people can consume some product and it will have a beneficial effect on skin and hair. In general, I’m skeptical of the food supplement industry but I’m always willing to change my mind about things if there is good evidence.

So, is there anything to this “beauty-within” trend or is it just marketing BS?

Define the scope

At the start, I want to say that of course what you eat or drink can have an impact on your skin and hair. If you starve yourself you’ll lose your hair and you skin will get dry. If you are short of some critical nutrient your skin can change color or start looking awful. I’m not talking about these extreme effects.

What I’m wondering about is whether a normal, healthy person can take some food supplement or eat some special diet to improve their skin.

Skin wrinkles and food

In a study done out of Monash University in Australia, researchers concluded that “skin wrinkling in a sun-exposed site…may be influenced by the type of foods consumed.”

But after reviewing the study, I’m unimpressed with their conclusions. There are numerous flaws in the study including…

1. Self-reported food intake. They asked people who were 70 years or older about their food intake over the last year. Who would actually be able to give a good estimation of this? Unless you are writing it down, forget about it. The conclusions of the study hinges on this diet data and the data the collect is nearly worthless.

2. They didn’t control for sunblock use. I saw nowhere in the study a discussion of whether people used sunscreens or not. That would certainly effect the end results.

So, maybe eating more vegetables will be good for your skin as they point out, or maybe not. This certainly isn’t enough support to give any credence to the “beauty within” marketing trend.

Dietary intake and wrinkles

In this next study conducted by researchers at Unilever (uh oh), they attempt to look at women aged 40-74 to see the impact of diet on skin appearance.

The conclusion is that higher intake of Vitamin C and linoleic acid and lower intakes of fats and carbohydrates were associated with better looking skin.

Interesting enough but this study also relies on self reported food levels. And they say they control for sun exposure but there is no mention of sunscreen use. Not sure how they can control for it. Somehow, this feels like weak science to me.

Proof needed

I know these are only two studies but there isn’t a lot published on this subject. If you know of any other studies, let me know as I’d love to review them.

Here is a study I would like to see.

1. Recruit people of varying ages for the study. Rate their skin at the start of the study.

2. Give them food diaries to keep track of what they eat.

3. Check back on their skin condition over the course of a year. 5 years would be even better.

Of course, this study would be pretty difficult to do. Perhaps it would work better at a retirement home where the food is more controlled.

I don’t know. I still am curious whether you can change your skin and hair condition based on the food you eat. I suspect you can but the data collected thus far is sketchy at best.

At the moment, there is no good evidence to say the products for the “beauty from within” trend are worth using.

And eating fruits and vegetables still remains the best advice. It may not have any positive effect on your skin, but it certainly won’t hurt.

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