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Nutritional supplements and your skin

Reviewed by Marta November 29, 2012 12 Comments

If a plant or nutritional extract can work topically, then wouldn’t an oral supplement work just as well? Because I am not a big believer in vitamin supplements, I’ve never put much thinking or research effort into whether, for example, sea buckthorn supplements have been proven to have a direct positive effect on the skin. Then the other day headlines blared that French maritime pine bark, taken as a supplement called Pycnogenol, had been clinically proven to have anti-aging benefits for the skin.

Because I am innately cynical and uncharitable, I immediately wondered if the makers of Pycnogenol were behind the study claiming that 20 postmenopausal women experienced “significantly improved hydration and elasticity of skin”. It was conducted at the Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine, which sounded objective until I saw that one member of the team was from Horphag Research, the company that, yes you guessed it, makes Pycnogenol.

I was exactly happy to prove myself right though. I’d love to find out that popping a pill alongside all my potions and lotions would boost my skin’s appearance. So I set about seeing if there is an independent study somewhere. Pine bark has been linked to a mind-boggling and implausible amount of cures. It is supposed to treat everything from erectile dysfunction to sunburn. Its fabled potency is due to the presence of proanthocyanidins. But independent research on the effects of taking a supplement on the skin was not something I could find.

What of other supplements. I remembered mentioning once  mentioning one on borage and flax on Truth In Aging. Researchers from Germany and France claimed that the omega-3 and omega-6 (fatty acids) in flax and borage oils prevent skin from roughening and scaling. After 12 weeks, there was a decrease in reddening of the skin in the flaxseed and borage oil groups of 45% and 35% respectively. But this is the only study on these supplements that I have found.

I decided to look at sea buckthorn and had quite a bit more luck. A 2009 study using extracts of leaves and fruits of sea buckthorn at a concentration of 500 μg/ml concluded that it reduced free radical production. And more specifically, a Finnish study on sea buckthorn supplements and dermatitis reported symptoms improved and a beneficial effect on the composition of essential fatty acids within the skin. There’s also one published in the Journal of Applied Cosmetology. According to the study, which examined the effects of both sea buckthorn oral supplements and topical oil application on skin aging, the plant works as a skin hydrator, an anti-wrinkle serum, and as a collagen promoter.

Next, I took a look at astaxanthin. Here again, I found only one study on astaxanthin supplements and skin. The study stated that it is “usually very difficult to observe any significant difference to skin condition resulting from the oral administration of dietary supplements”. I was intrigued – does it mean that typically supplements don’t have a visible effect on the skin and this is all a waste of time? No, it just means (in the researchers' view) that the astaxanthin results – “excellent cosmetic effects on human skin were observed from astaxanthin administration” were all the more remarkable.

Although there isn’t exactly a wealth of evidence and my examples are hardly exhaustive, I feel encouraged enough to continue to look for evidence that a daily pill is a worthwhile supplement to our potions and lotions. In the meantime, sea buckthorn could be the best bet.

  • April 9, 2013

    by Ursula

    yeah i personally use bioCorrex and the ingredients alone kinda persuaded me to get this and I do see a difference. But I know what you mean Karen about trying to be aware of what is truth and what is fact. I'd say check the ingredients and I went to numerous sites and the doses and ingredients in imedeen (any one of their range) is pretty lame. but if you're worried about price then you should definitely go back to imedeen but i'd personally hedge my bets with quality rather than price. check out imedeens ingredients and I don't think you'd be talking about price anymore :))) by the way, find a decent omega 3 too because biocorrex don't include that and I personally think that's a necessity.

  • February 13, 2013

    by Michele Watson

    My son has had great success with Sea Buckthorne for his Psoriasis. Living in Perth Australia we take astaxanthin at the moment for sun protection. What is interesting e is the antui ageing pills being touted by Dr Sister in the UK:"Age defying YOUTH Supplement
    YOUTH, is designed to reverse the signs of ageing from the inside out, by stimulating growth hormones that deplete as we get older. It has been covered extensively in the press, and has proved to be an instant, sell-out success" hmmm. Does any one know more about these? Seems to be mainly amino acids.

  • February 13, 2013

    by Tom Adams

    My wife and I found some high quality nutritional supplements that have improved our skin and overall health. Emerald Sea is derived from 7 organic sea vegetables and is good for detoxification and cell regeneration which are both important for the skin. We also use their organic skincare products that nourish your skin with whole food sources and nothing artificial. We have experienced younger looking skin and so have others who are using the products. You can find both products here.

  • February 13, 2013

    by Karen Cullen

    Hi Jina/all

    I am in the same position - I have been taking Immedeen for at least 10 years and my skin is pretty good - however I switched to Biocorrex about 4 months ago. Was just about to order my next lot when I thought it worth googling again to find any other opinions. In the UK Imedeen is much much less expensive than Biocorrex and i'm really confused as a result of the 'comparison' studies which seem to deride Imedeen and promote Biocorrex - how can I tell if these comments are real or part of the marketing campaign. Thank you for any comments

  • February 4, 2013

    by Susanna

    I have been taking Imedeen Time Perfection tablets for a long time and it seems to work as I have very good skin. However, I have been reading articles saying that it is not that effective compared to what's in the market, could you please let me have your view and advise on any alternative supplement? Thanks.

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