Can You Eat Your Skin Care? Do Nutricosmetics Really Work?


Is the best skin care from a pill?

About The Author:  FutureDerm is pleased to welcome Leah Argento to our staff as a Contributing Writer. For a complete bio please visit our About page.

There is a growing worldwide trend in skin care for nutricosmetics. That is, cosmetics you eat to support the structure and function of the skin. It seems reasonable that if micronutrients like Vitamin C and Omega-3 fatty acids, carotenes and flavonoids are topically effective, ingesting them would be too. Nutricosmetics can take several forms, including pill, tablet, liquid or food.

So why not just drink more juice or eat more of the foods that contain these nutrients? Well, I suppose for the same reason we take dietary supplements instead of eating better – it takes discipline to stick to a nutritious diet, not to mention diligence in researching and shopping for specific foods. What’s more, in most cases you would have to consume unrealistic quantities of said foods to get the same nutrient punch you can get in a supplement. And if you’re not steadfast with your skin care regimen, nutricosmetics could be your savior!

The Original

ImedeenOne of the pioneers in this field, considered by many to be the “Father of Internal Skincare,” is Swedish biochemist Ake Dahlgren. He invented the world’s first nutricosmetic in the 1980’s, called Imedeen.  There are several Imedeen supplements available and what I like about these are the clinical studies behind them.

Imedeen’s Time Perfection anti-aging supplement contains lycopene, a biomarine complex, and grape seed extract which has been shown in some studies to:

  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Improve skin quality and moisture balance
  • Protect collagen and elastin fibers from UV damage
  • Leave skin softer and more supple

Some Science Exists

Many consumer reports I found stated that the growth of the nutricosmetics market in the U.S. has been stymied by consumer skepticism. Yet, I found a few solid studies, including this double-blind study out of Germany that involved 62 women, and reported statistically significant improvement in skin elasticity and roughness after both 6 and 12 weeks. This study was conducted on an oral skin supplement whose active ingredients include vitamins C and E, carotenoids, selenium, zinc, amino acids and glycosaminoglycans, blueberry extract and Pycnogenol®.

What’s the Difference between Nutricosmetics and Dietary Supplements?

Nutricosmetics differ from dietary supplements in that dietary supplements (or nutraceuticals) are taken for medical and/or health benefits. Nutricosmetics, on the other hand, are foods or supplements that are taken specifically to produce an appearance benefit, most notably for anti-aging effects and fighting free radicals (aging prevention).

Recently, the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology published an article on the (positive) potential of nutricosmetics that contain polyphenols and carotenoids, stating:

“Nutricosmetics can be defined as a result of the intersection of cosmeceuticals and nutraceutical, characterized as oral supplementation of nutrients formulated and marketed specifically for beauty purposes. The concept of nutricosmetic is new and has been the subject of scientific research more frequently; however, they deserve greater attention in relation to clinical studies and regulation”.

Here on Futurederm we have previously reviewed several fantastic & useful nutricosmetics, like Viviscal for hair growth. However, there exist many other nutricosmetics whose sole purpose is to deliver beauty benefits to the skin.

Perricone MD

Perricone MD Skin Clear Nutricosmetics

One such product is the Perricone MD Skin Clear nutricosmetics, which claim to help clear up acneic skin and control future breakouts. These pills are part of Dr. Perricone’s three-tiered philosophy of healthy aging. According to Perricone’s website, the nutricosmetics are designed to work with diet and topicals to deliver optimal and visible results.

And while I could not find any studies on the Perricone supplements specifically, many independent studies exist on the positive impact of several of the nutrients these supplements offer, like DMAE, omega-3, and zinc. I also ran across many anecdotal articles (i.e., Dr. Murad and Borba) that suggested a combination of topical products + oral supplements were most effective and provided the quickest results.

Eat Your Collagen

Two comprehensive clinical studies carried out in Japan and France of PeptanTM hydrolyzed collagen demonstrated the positive benefits of oral intake on skin health, including improved skin smoothness, reduced micro-relief furrows, prevention of deep wrinkle formation, improved skin suppleness, and improved skin moisture levels. Though both of these studies seem to have been carried out professionally and thoughtfully, I would be remiss if I did not point out they were funded by Rousselot, the manufacturer of PeptanTM.

The Future

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not substantiate the safety of cosmetic products and ingredients before they are marketed to consumers; the cosmetic companies are responsible for that. Manufacturers are also not required to file data on ingredients or report cosmetic-related injuries to the Food and Drug Administration (though they are encouraged to do so). This may be why, thus far, nutracosmetics are not as popular in the United States as they are in Japan and China.

What’s more, a 2008 report from market research firm Kline & Company suggests that more hard science is needed on nutricosmetics and that Americans are not comfortable buying ingestible products from cosmetic brands.  And really, can we blame them?

So while American consumers have swallowed the idea of vitamins, they are not as sure about having their wrinkle-reducer & eating it too!

What are your thoughts on nutricosmetics and “eating your skin care”?  Let us know in Comments!

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FutureDerm's Ultimate Bluemercury Shopping Guide: What to Buy, What to Pass By

It’s summertime, and one of my all-time favorite things to do is go on a road trip! This past weekend, my boyfriend and I went to Washington, D.C. for the heck of it. Which means one thing to a beauty blogger:


Bluemercury in Georgetown

That’s right.  Bluemercury!  Started in 1999 by Marla Beck and her husband, Barry Jon Beck, Bluemercury is a store filled with handpicked, rather innovative beauty products where the sales staff is trained to give technical product knowledge, expert advice and friendly service.  (Sounds a little like heaven, without the calorie-free cheesecake.)

Nicki in Bluemercury

Me in Bluemercury on June 15. Dress is vintage Diane von Furstenberg.

Because none of their 30+ locations are in Pittsburgh – yet – I decided to stop in during my trip.  Here’s what I found:

Must Buy:  M61 Labs Vitablast C Serum  ($110.10)

M61 Vitablast C: A definite buy - if you don't mind the slight sticky finish.

Vitamins C and E have been proven to boost sun protection up to four times when worn under sunscreen (American Journal of Dermatology, 2005.)  For this reason, now that the CE Ferulic patent has expired, everyone and their brother seems to be formulating their own vitamin C and E serum, with a few variations here and there.

The secret to the M61 product, for instance, is gallic acid.  A new antioxidant on the market, gallic acid has been found to prevent the formation of pigment in human skin cells (Biological and Pharmacological Bulletin, 2007). The idea here is that gallic acid will further help vitamin C prevent and eliminate age spots on your skin.  Pretty genius – and this is the first product I’ve ever seen it in! My only reservation?  It dries a little sticky, so pass on it if you’re super sensitive about the way products feel on your face.

PASS BY:  Bliss Treat Yourself Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Eye Mask

Bliss Treat Yourself Triple Oxygen Energizing Eye Mask

Bliss Treat Yourself Triple Oxygen Energizing Eye Mask: Not a buy in my book, but a "pass by."

I feel bad knocking bliss – I really love a lot of their products and think they have a great brand image.  That said, I’m not a fan of any product that contains oxygen.


There are three reasons why.  The first is that oxygen is a gas.  No cream or lotion can actually contain oxygen gas.  Second, even if it did, it is impossible to infuse skin cells with oxygen from the outside.  Hyperbaric oxygen chambers can do this because you’re breathing in oxygen, supplying your blood vessels and hence skin cells with additional oxygen.  But putting oxygen on your skin would do nothing more than the atmosphere already does.  Lastly, while “oxygen facials” done in-house leave skin feeling moisturized and hydrated, this is only due to the hose-like attachment that squirts your skin with pressurized oxygen.  As Dr. dermatologist Ellen Marmur, M.D., says, “Oxygen, as a topical ingredient, is completely ineffectual.”  You’re better off investing in one of the other technologies in skin care available at Bluemercury.

Must Buy:  The Multiple by NARS Cosmetics ($39.00)

NARS the Multiple in Bluemercury

NARS the Multiple in Bluemercury - 10 shades, all quite foolproof. I also snuck in a photo of my boyfriend here, muhaha.

I’ve always been a huge fan of NARS Orgasm Blush, but I have zero patience for the whole “suck in your cheeks, contour, fill in” sequence.  I tend to snooze till the last minute, so I need to get out the door pronto most mornings.

So when NARS came out with their The Multiple Blush Stick, I knew that I was going to be hooked.  The formula is cream-based and medium-pigmented, so you can build color with additional applications.  It’s also light enough to be suitable for just about all except the most oily of skin types.  And the color?  The Orgasm shade is still right-on.    It lasts for a few hours, though I must say I did have to reapply by lunch hour (I applied around 9 AM).  Still, it’s definitely a must-try for everyone – and a must-buy for those hurried like me in the morning!

PASS BY:  bliss the Youth As We Know It Moisturizer

bliss The Youth as We Know It

bliss The Youth as We Know It: Not a buy in my book

I feel really bad knocking on bliss with this post.  But, truth be told, these oxygenating products are amongst the worst in Bluemercury right now.

The reason?  Again, oxygenation.  The Youth As We Know It contains hydrogen peroxide, which has been reported by Keyse et. al (amongst others) to create free radicals in human skin fibroblasts.  (Yes, the very same creatures antioxidants were designed to fight!)  The free radicals attack cells, proteins, and DNA, and are believed to play a significant role in the aging process.

Thankfully, the product contains hydrogen peroxide in extremely low concentrations, and contains numerous potent antioxidants, which can impede or slow the free radical chain reaction.  It also has a slew of other ingredients I love:  MMP inhibitors, peptides, ceramides, and retinyl palmitate.  But I’m not a fan of the hydrogen peroxide, and will never buy it or recommend it to anyone else, so long as that peroxide is still in there.

Must Buy:  Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads($128.00)

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads: A Must-Buy!

My photography skills don’t do this product justice.  But, my rave review will.
These peel pads are sensational, with skin-refining, cell turnover-enhancing glycolic acid, salicyclic acid, lactic acid, and malic acid.  After just one use, your skin looks brighter – I swear, I use them before going out on a date or a big event at nighttime, and my face just has a healthy, light-reflecting sheen that says, “Yes, I am a beauty blogger who picks the right products.”

The major complaint I’ve heard against this product is that it contains a high concentration of denatured alcohol.  However, alcohol in skin care products is not always bad, despite popular belief.  [Read more:  Is Ethanol in Skin Care Products Safe?]  In this case, the alcohol helps the formulation be thinner, and hence penetrate into the skin better, creating faster – and better – results.  I’m a huge fan.

Bottom Line

I love Bluemercury, and hope to return soon.  Many of their products are quality, though I’m not a fan of anything that says “oxygenating,” particularly if it contains hydrogen peroxide.  That said, I feel the “must buys” right now are the M61 Vitablast C Serum, the NARS The Multiple blush stick, and the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel.

FutureDerm bluemercury

What are your favorite Bluemercury products?

Product Review: La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid

LaRoche Posay Efflacar KIf you have tried everything for oily or acne-prone skin and nothing has worked, then look no further than La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid ($15.35,  The cream contains three proven acne fighters – salicyclic acid, retinyl linoleate, and LHA – which synergistically work together to improve cell turnover, resulting in improved texture, cleaner-looking pores, and (best of all!) fewer breakouts on average.   Here’s the breakdown of the science behind it:


Skinceuticals LHA Solution

Skinceuticals LHA Solution, also under parent company L’Oreal, contains LHA for the same purpose: to help fight acne.

I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a LOT more about LHA in the future.  LHA has been shown to stimulate the skin in a manner similar to retinoids, i.e., by increasing cell turnover (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology, 2009).  Although LHA is undoubtedly weaker in this effect than, say, 1.0% retinol or prescription retinoids, its exfoliating action is potent enough to make a difference in the skin.

With acne or oily prone skin, LHA has the bonus effect of killing bacteria within the pore, according to the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.  This effect is enhanced when used in conjunction with salicyclic acid (as seen in La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid), according to the same study.

Unfortunately, we probably won’t be seeing LHA in drugstore products any time soon.  That is because the rights to LHA are currently owned by L’Oréal, the parent company of both Skinceuticals and La Roche-Posay.  We’re likely to see a trickle-down effect in the next 5-10 years from “medical-grade” cosmeceuticals to regular cosmeceuticals to the drugstore.  In the meantime, LHA can be found in the following products of L’Oréal-owned brands:

Salicyclic acid

Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash

Salicyclic acid works well, but it has been found to work even better when combined with LHA.

Salicylic acid works in part by softening keratin, a protein that forms part of the skin structure. Once keratin is softened, dry, scaly skin is loosened, resulting in increased cell turnover and more refined skin over time.  Salicyclic acid is often used in acne treatments to cleanse and prevent clogging of the pores.

If you’ve tried treatments with salicyclic acid in the past and they haven’t worked, don’t despair.  The most common reasons for salicyclic acid not working are a.) too low concentration and b.) the wrong pH.  The ideal concentration is 1% to 2%, and the ideal pH is 3 to 4.  While La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid has a slightly higher pH than this, its salicyclic acid concentration is sufficient (from my best estimate) to make this product quite effective.

What about the old formulation?

Within the past 2-3 years or so, La Roche-Posay reformulated La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid to include an “anti-relapse” ingredient, and also reformulated the product to make it lighter and thinner.  In truth, I think the ol’ adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here – most consumers really seemed to like it better before.  It works less like a spot treatment now, and more like a full-face preventative serum.

Though LaRoche-Posay has generated in-house data suggesting their “anti-relapse” ingredient helps to prevent the reoccurrence of acne even six weeks after use (LaRoche Posay website),  the truth of the matter is, acne is still eventually going to recur.  Bacteria are living organisms.  The idea “survival of the fittest” applies, with the bacterial strains that are the most resistant to medication surviving, reproducing, and eventually taking over.  The result is that most anti-acne treatments, including La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid, will help you for weeks to months, but eventually stop working.  Still, as far as treatments go, La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid is solid – reformulation and eventual bacterial resistance and all!

Bottom Line

If you’ve tried everything for your acne or oily-prone skin, La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid may be a great bet.  It’s got hard-to-find LHA, plus salicyclic acid and retinol linoleate, all of which will increase cell turnover and help your skin look smoother, more refined, and less broken out over time.  While I wish it was still the old formulation, I still recommend this to anyone with oily or acne-prone skin that has grown resistant to salicyclic acid/retinoid-only treatments.  With that said, keep in mind that the effects of any acne treatment are not likely to last forever, including this one!

Product Rating:  8/10

  • High or optimized concentration of proven ingredients:  3/3
  • Unique formulation or new technology: 3/3
  • Value:  2/3
  • Sunscreen: 0/1

Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid 1.5%, LHA 0.4%. Other Ingredients: Water, Isononyl Isononanoate, Propylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Ammonium, Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Octyldodecanol, Zinc PCA, Sodium Hydroxide, Retinyl Linoleate, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Cetyl Alcohol, Pentaerythrityl, Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Fragrance.


Do African-Americans Need to Wear Sunscreen?

Michelle Obama, official White House portrait.

Michelle Obama's beautiful dark skin still needs UV protection to age as gracefully as possible - as well as to stave off skin cancer.

Submitted via the Twitter page:

Do African-Americans need to wear sunscreen?  I’ve never had any in my community do so.


Dear J,

Absolutely.  But even more importantly, African-Americans need to also take a vitamin D supplement.

Dr. Susan Taylor's Rx for Brown Skin Age Shield SPF 15

Dr. Susan Taylor's Rx for Brown Skin Age Shield SPF 15

The darkest black skin has heavy melanin deposited throughout its composition, resulting in an SPF of about 15 (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, amongst others; 2008).  As a result, most black Americans have a natural guard against damaging UVA/UVB rays.  Still, according to a simple algorithm by Dr. Rachel Herschenfeld, an SPF of 15 still allows about 1/6 of UV rays through.  Over time, this means there is still the potential for dark skin to experience signs of UV-induced aging, hyperpigmentation, and skin cancer.  I have heard great things about Dr. Susan Taylor’s Rx for Brown Skin Age Block UV Shield SPF 15 ($16.99,, with UV protection, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid.

Kirkland Vitamin D3

Kirkland Vitamin D3 supplements regularly perform well on Consumer Reports tests for efficacy and safety - and provide a full 2000 IU vitamin D3.

However, the greatest concern in my opinion is that all African-Americans take a vitamin D supplement.  Due to the amount of melanin naturally occurring in their skin, it is even harder for African-Americans to absorb UVB rays and synthesize vitamin D (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008).  Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen.  Despite recent reports that women do not need to take calcium and vitamin D supplements in order to prevent osteoporosis, many experts still would advise African-Americans take a vitamin D3 supplement of at least 800-1000 IU daily.  In addition, consuming foods rich in vitamin D3 can help, such as the following:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Orange juice
  • Milk enriched with vitamin D
  • Yogurt

Bottom Line

In order to stave off signs of aging and to lower the risk of skin cancer, African-Americans absolutely should wear a daily SPF.  However, because it is difficult for African-Americans to synthesize vitamin D with or without sunscreen, it is especially important for them to take a daily vitamin D supplement as well.

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