The key words for skin care and beauty are: water, antioxidants, lipids, omega fatty acids and proteins.

Water is one of the most important elements for maintaining skin integrity. It is a hydrating agent that keeps skin radiant by cleansing it of toxins and accumulated metabolites in the skin cells; however, water alone does not make us look and feel good. At different stages of life, or when facing different climates and living conditions, we need to provide our skin with different nutrients from within.

At first glance, the simple way to maintain beauty and well-being is to incorporate a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, nuts and fish in our daily diet, but is this realistic and simple? In this case, these foods will provide the steps that make being beautiful and healthy a bit easier. They all have different features and benefits, and can be used in a variety of applications, such as functional foods, beverages and supplements.


This category broadly covers the vitamins, mainly C and E (tocotrienols) and A (the carotenoids lycopene, β-carotene and lutein). Other important antioxidants are anthocyanins, xanthophylls (astaxanthin) and flavonoids (quercetin, resveratrol, epicatechin and tangeretin).

Free radicals acting as toxins change the metabolic cycles and cell lifecycles of our tissue. Skin tissue has a fast regeneration rate and clears metabolites. This is suppressed by a high level of free radicals.

"Free radicals acting as toxins change the metabolic cycles and cell lifecycles of our tissue."

Antioxidants fight free radicals, providing us with defence mechanisms that prevent premature aging and photoaging resulting from a harsh climate and the sun or skin health problems that could be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle that causes accumulations of toxins and metabolites.

Carotenoid-rich nutrition based on large amounts of fruit and vegetables was shown to increase the measured carotenoid levels of skin, while stress factors such as fatigue, illness, smoking and alcohol consumption results in lower carotenoid levels in the skin.

Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can directly damage cellular structural membranes, lipids, proteins and DNA. Intracellular and extracellular oxidative stress initiated by free radicals – reactive oxygen species (ROS) – advance skin aging, which is characterised by wrinkles, and atypical pigmentation.

The production rate of free radicals increases with age, while defence mechanisms that combat and clear them falls. The consequence of this misbalance leads to the progressive damage of cellular structures, resulting in accelerated aging.

Because of the UV-enhanced ROS generation in cells, skin aging is usually related to UV exposure. The use of antioxidants proved to be an effective approach to prevent symptoms related to photo-induced aging of the skin. In general, antioxidants were found to be substances that can provide protection from internal and external oxidative stresses by scavenging free radicals.

Antioxidant studies

Results from a study carried out by the Arizona Prevention Center at the University of Arizona’s School of Medicine, US, suggest that supplementation with natural carotenoids may partially protect human skin from UVA and UVB-induced erythema (redness of the skin).

Another study conducted in 2008 by the Department of Dermatology at the Charité University of Medicine in Berlin, Germany, showed a significant correlation between skin roughness and lycopene concentration, where findings demonstrated that higher levels of antioxidants in the skin effectively led to lower levels of skin roughness.

"Carotenoid-rich nutrition based on large amounts of fruit and vegetables was shown to increase the measured carotenoid levels of skin."

Here, the foreheads of 15 female and five male subjects in the 40-50 years age group were analysed using the 3D optical system Primus 4. The relative concentrations of lycopene were measured by the non-invasive Raman spectroscopy. For each subject, three variables were determined: age, skin roughness and the concentration of lycopene in the skin.

The correlation between the lycopene levels and skin roughness revealed that subjects with high levels of lycopene in the skin exhibited reduced roughness and enhanced smoothness.

In a study conducted at the Institute of Experimental Dermatology, University of Witten / Herdecke, several skin structure parameters were examined after the oral administration of a combination of lycopene, lutein, β-carotene, α-tocopherol and selenium compared with a soyabean placebo. After ten weeks of supplementation, there were increases in skin density and thickness for the carotenoid combination compared with the placebo. Scaling and roughness decreased compared with the placebo.

Skin density and thickness were determined by ultrasound measurements, while roughness and scaling of the skin were determined by the Surface Evaluation of Living Skin (Visioscan). Moreover, carotenoid complexes (Lyc-O-Mato in particular), when administrated orally, were shown to protect against sunburn cell formation.

Selenium and zinc

Micronutrients such as selenium and zinc are also known as strong antioxidants. When consumed, selenium enters the body to form selenoproteins and glutathione, the body’s antioxidant immune system detoxifier. The richest natural source of selenium is Brazil nuts – 2.8g of dried Brazil nuts contain 54.4ug of selenium (the recommended daily dose of selenium for adults is 55ug/day7).

One of the outstanding ingredients on the market for selenium supplementation is Sabinsa’s Selenium SeLECT, which also has GRAS status.

"The foreheads of 15 female and five male subjects were analysed using the 3D optical system Primus 4."

According to Sabinsa, its branded L-(+)-Selenomethionine compound can be used in products including yoghurt, flavoured milk, desserts, bread, biscuits, pasta, cereal, oils, confectionery, water, beverages and tea.

There is also selenium-enriched yeast available for nutritional purposes and applications in functional foods and food supplements.

The importance of zinc physiologically is evident in studies of wound healing and inflammation reduction. During these conditions, the high need for zinc is typically supplemented externally, generally increasing the rates of the natural processes. When knowing that skin is constantly being exposed to external pollutants and bacteria, the benefits of zinc should be taken into consideration. Natural sources high in zinc is pumpkin seeds, 20g of which contain 1.3mg of selenium (the required daily intake of zinc is 7mg and 9mg for adult women and men, respectively).

Sources containing high amounts of antioxidants are berries (in particular, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries), fruit (apples, pomegranates and passionfruit), vegetables (tomatoes, pumpkins and avocados). Antioxidants as a rule are normally concentrated in the peel and seeds of fruits for optimising the reproduction of the plant, which is the purpose of fruit. This natural protection is measured by the antioxidant capacity (ORAC value) and is an inbuilt parameter for the potency evaluation of some of these ingredients.

Today, there is a variety of standardised ingredients in the market produced by companies such as FutureCeuticals, Frutarom and LycoRed. Their ingredients are used in various functional foods.


Lipids are of high interest as beauty ingredients, because they are the main structural components of the skin. For example, ceramides are key constituents of skin and they account for 35-40% of the lipids of the intercellular cement that make up the skin’s hydrolipidic barrier. Moreover, this barrier plays a key role in hydration.

"Berries contain high amounts of antioxidants."

Ceramides are contained in the food ingredient Lipowheat, which is developed by pharmaceutical firm Lavipharm.

In April 2010, it was announced that Lipowheat Oil’s natural ceramides had achieved New Dietary Ingredient status with the product claim ‘helps promote healthy skin hydration’.

Lipowheat is composed of natural active lipids, ceramides and digalactosyl-diglyceride, which act in synergy to hydrate and improve dry skin. It is protected by two patents and its efficiency was demonstrated by clinical studies. Studies have proven the antiradical, anti-elastase and restricting effects of Lipowheat.

Omega fatty acids

There is well-documented evidence that omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids play important roles in health maintenance and even in the prevalence of some disorders, as well as enhancing beauty.

Low intake of essential fatty acids, including omega 6 fatty acids, has been linked to a higher risk of skin infections such as dermatitis and eczema, as well as reduced overall immunity to ward all types of skin conditions.

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega 6 fatty acid commonly found in borage seed oil, blackcurrant oil and evening primrose oil, has been shown to create positive results for people suffering from eczema.

"Ceramides account for 35–40% of the lipids of the intercellular cement that make up the skin’s hydrolipidic barrier."

GLA, as well as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), serves as a building block for prostaglandins, which are biological regulators (hormones) that help skin problems such as dry, flaky patches, thereby also improving skin texture and elasticity.

Within the body, GLA is converted into dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), which is capable of counteracting inflammatory effects as a precursor of the prostaglandin PGH1.

In a study published in the Journal of Lipid Research in 2005, it was demonstrated that fish oil, which is rich in omega 3 acid EPA, helps prevent wrinkles and so delays the skin’s aging process. Scientists also found that fish oil could limit damage to the skin caused by overexposure to the sun and help reduce the negative effect of UV rays. EPA equivalents are found in plants (mainly nuts and seed oils) as α-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA also has demonstrated an anti-inflammatory activity, which helps maintain a healthy rate of skin cell renewal.

"Omega fatty acids plays a pivotal role in skin preservation and nourishment."

In a pilot study carried out at the Allergy Centre Charité in Berlin, researchers demonstrated that the omega 3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid might have a beneficial impact on the outcome of atopic eczema.

Thus, omega fatty acids plays a pivotal role in skin preservation and nourishment, whereas skin disorders such as eczema, rash or wrinkles need other components like those derived from shea nuts, sea buckthorn oil (symbiotic activity of omega fatty acids, vitamins and minerals), and hyaluronic acids, which are naturally derived from vegetable plants.

On the market, there is a wide variety of omega fatty acid ingredients, with features highly suitable for implementation in functional food products, beverages, dairy and supplements. Leading manufacturers include Aromtech, Croda, Ingredia, Martek and Valensa International. There are also vegan and organic options available.


Proteins are essential building blocks for our well-being and provide amino acids, which participate in all vital biochemical reactions in the body. In this context, collagen and elastin are crucial components of connective tissue and keratin is found in hard or filamentous structures such as hair and nails.

"One of the major reasons for aging is reduced production of collagen in the dermis."

One of the major reasons for aging is reduced production of collagen in the dermis (skin layer under epidermis).

Some proteins, such as the ingredient Collactive, have antioxidant activity.

Collactive is a Copalis marine-based ingredient, composed of marine collagen and elastin peptides in the same ratio found naturally in skin. It acts as an antioxidant to fight free radicals and promote skin health.

Collactive claims to be water-soluble and fully digestible and because of these features, it can be applied to clear beverage formulations, making it an anti-aging ingredient for beauty drinks and beauty-from-within formulations.

Marine collagen peptide was shown to have a protective role on skin aging by improving the activity of antioxidants. In a study performed by Dermscan Laboratories, collagen and elastin showed a synergistic anti-wrinkle action, stimulating the skin to lift and tone sagging areas, and minimise lines and wrinkles while increasing skin moisture retention.

References available on request.