In an ideal world we should all get what we need from food, but our intense reality of HIIT, triathlons and ironman (and woman) competitions, are our bodies getting enough to keep us healthy, strong and balanced, mentally and physically? As for our skin, are the seductive promises of pills, powders and liquids comprising collagen, peptides and hyaluronic acid really worth their price tag?
Many of these inner beauty powders list hydrolysed collagen or marine proteins as their hero ingredients designed to alter our skin at a cellular level. Science has shown the importance of collagen for keeping skin elastic and supple. Alarmingly we lose an estimated one per cent of collagen every year after the age of 20, exacerbating ageing with overall skin thinning and fine lines. But can collagen in a beauty supplement really penetrate the cells to make a significant difference deep within?
Celebrity trainer and Bodyism founder James Duigan believes so. His Bodyism Beauty Food is formulated to achieve this internal glow. He says, “Beauty Food’s star ingredient marine collagen peptide is the building block for connective tissue and helps fight ageing, reduce lines and repair damage. It offers a shortcut to all the most important nutrients for a glowing complexion, glossy hair and strong nails.”
However, Dr Simon Jackson isn’t convinced. Entrepreneur in residence and pharmacognosy fellow at Trinity College Dublin, Jackson is founder of Dr Jackson’s natural products. “I wouldn’t recommend taking collagen orally as I don’t think it would be broken down in sufficient amounts to rebuild at a cellular level. Instead you should be looking at stimulating fibroblast (normal healthy tissue) growth, as this will stimulate collagen.”
As buyers we should also bear in mind that collagen is not actually used in the manufacture of many of these products, but gelatin, due to its emulsifying benefits. From a scientific perspective, when we ingest collagen, it’s used as a protein once it reaches the stomach, which releases enzymes to break it down into amino acid building blocks, that are either used by the body or excreted. In essence, we don’t put collagen into our body; we help our body make its own, by giving the fibroblasts the building blocks to secrete more.
Former Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson admitted that on the eve of her 50th birthday she was in a bit of a rut. “I wanted to tweak my lifestyle in an intelligent way and soon realised that I had been so busy being fabulous that I didn’t feel so fabulous.” So under the guidance of Dr Simone Laubscher in London’s Harley Street, she started a completely new regime based on the latest generation of alkalising food supplements. So was born The Super Elixir.
“The Super Elixir Alkalising Greens contains barley grass, wheat grass, alfalfa, spinach and spirulina, all nutritional powerhouses that help to balance the acidity in your skin and blood,” Laubscher explains. “When balance is achieved, your skin holds moisture and your cells function properly, giving you that alkaline glow. Your skin is often referred to as the third kidney, as whatever the liver doesn’t want it dumps into the kidneys, and whatever the kidneys can’t handle will show up in your skin. Your skin should always run acidic so it holds moisture, and your body should always run alkaline. When you take the Alkalising Greens, your internal environment flips alkaline and balanced which will have a positive effect on the skin.”
Another supplement enjoying a cult celebrity following is Lumity. Created by founder Dr Sara Palmer Hussey, the two-step morning and night soft gel supplement was formulated for anti-ageing. She says, “The condition of the skin is determined firstly by inner health and its ability to counteract the nine causes of ageing – glycation, inflammation and oxidative damage being the main threats. To minimise these threats, protection and repair is needed.” She clarifies that the difference between Lumity and other anti-ageing supplements is that “certain nutrients have been proven clinically to improve the condition of the skin in terms of hydration levels, transepidermal water loss, skin density/collagen structure and elasticity. Lumity has been shown to improve these skin health markers by up to 22 per cent.”
Jackson warns that many supplement producers just take what is fashionable and blend them together. “You are mixing numerous chemicals as each plant extract contains 20–30 compounds. So if you have more than six ingredients, that’s over 120 different chemicals ingested simultaneously – each from a separate plant, sometimes a separate continent – all reacting together, often without any therapeutic effect at all.” He advises buyers to err on the safe side by choosing a supplement with a maximum of six ingredients. “Personally to have any health benefits, I would use medicinal grade pharmacopeia extracts, that can safely make clinical or medicinal claims. Look for the Ph Eur (European Pharmacopoeia) next to an extract to give you a level of security that you are actually taking something that will have a benefit.”
Questioning the level of scientific peer reviewed papers written on these elixirs, Jackson warns it’s very difficult to make claims without them. “Many supplements contain naturally derived ingredients. The company isolates what it believes is the active compound and concentrates it, when in effect less is often more – as hyaluronic acid is never found at these high concentrations in the body and can be damaging. Personally I would choose a 100 per cent natural extract, not naturally derived.”
The key is giving the skin the best building blocks possible by eating and drinking ingredients that support it, while realising that some drinks are simply a cocktail of water, sweeteners and preservatives. In 2016, Coca Cola was legally forced to remove the health-promoting claims on its VitaminWater drink. With a sugar content of around 32 grams per 32floz bottle, nutritionally, it’s on par with a bottle of coke.
Supplements are not the answer to slowing the ageing process – feeding the skin from within is a game changer. It’s important to be mindful that often the powders look and taste anything but beautiful, and a lot of disguising is needed to make them palatable. But just maybe, the fact that people are investing in these pricey products means that they really are choosing to invest in their health which can only be a good thing.