Physical and emotional well-being are each reflected in the way skin looks. Embracing the link between beauty and wellness and nutrition and lifestyle, a crossover between these industries emerges. On one hand, the topical beauty industry is incorporating natural, food-derived ingredients. On the other hand, experts and consumers alike are embracing the notion that nutrition is as much part of a beauty routine as a moisturizer and a skincare journey incorporates more basic levels of life.
As a result, there is a boost in the interest in harnessing the power of nature and nutrition with ingestible skincare products, such as supplements taken internally. Therefore, it makes sense that the same trends are relevant to sourcing for the kitchen and sourcing for skincare products, whether they be applied externally to the skin or nutrients ingested through diet and supplements. When nourishing the body and skin, many prefer products that are clean and natural.
While many are aware that an unhealthy diet is reflected in the skin, an individual can achieve more benefits by understanding the direct and mechanistic link between healthy diverse nutrition and its active benefits to skin wellness. Healthy phytonutrients, the thousands of natural chemicals found in plant foods, serve as the foundation to achieving the healthy and beautiful skin that radiates with a healthy glow.
On the cellular level, these antioxidants help balance local inflammation and reduce oxidative stress, the imbalance and free radicals and antioxidants in the body which can lead to cell and tissue damage. This may include environmental challenges, such as ultraviolet radiation, pollution, and smoke, as well as internal challenges, such as stress and lack of sleep. Ironically, the same internal and external challenges serve as catalysts to the depletion of antioxidants from the skin. Therefore, there is a sense in constantly replenishing antioxidants back into the skin.
Importantly, when consumed from the inside through food or food supplements, these phytonutrients are in the best position to be incorporated to the most inner layers of the skin, complementing topical products. Carotenoids, the plant pigments that create bright red, yellow and orange hues in fruits and vegetables, and polyphenols, the micronutrients that we get through certain plant-based foods can also help nourish and balance skin. Examples of antioxidant-rich spices include turmeric, rich in polyphenol curcumin, and carnosic acid from the herb rosemary. Both are commonly used in cooking to enhance flavor and add health benefits.
Carotenoids come in different colors. Lycopene is the red pigment that gives the tomato its vibrant color. Lycopene is also found in watermelon, papaya, and red grapefruit. Beta carotene is an orange pigment prevalent in carrots, as well as in green vegetables. On the yellow part of the spectrum, there is another beneficial carotenoid called lutein.
Lutein is known from its presence in egg yolk but, in fact, the best dietary source of lutein is from green leafy vegetables like kale. Astaxanthin is another skin-healthy carotenoid found in colored marine species and is mainly sourced from algae. All these carotenoids are oil soluble and research shows that when tomatoes, for example, are cooked in oil (preferably a healthy oil like olive oil) the lycopene absorption is optimal. If preferred raw, like in a salad, olive oil or avocado can be added to tomatoes for best results.
As mentioned, lycopene is the main tomato carotenoid that gives the fruit its red color. The tomato also contains colorless carotenoids called phytoene and phytofluene, which have been associated with a beneficial effect on skin wellness and longevity. Moreover, the tomato contains skin-healthy vitamins, such as vitamin A and vitamin E, which contribute to the overall synergy and rounded nutrition from the tomato. It is not surprising, then, that the tomato is a key component of different skin-healthy diet regimens, such as the Mediterranean diet.
For the same reasons, natural tomato extract is a wonderful ingredient for ingestible skincare. The antioxidants in the tomato not only quench free radicals but can actually enhance the body’s own natural resilience and protection mechanisms, helping the skin cells better cope with the challenging micro-environment they encounter. The tomato phytonutrients help balance inflammation and reduce the damage of free radicals in the skin
About the Writer
Dr. Karin Hermoni is head of science and the nutrient complex manager at Lycored, the global leader in natural carotenoids for food, beverage, and dietary supplement products. She holds a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from Ben Gurion University in Israel and her research has focused on the effects of phytonutrients and, specifically, tomato carotenoids on various aspects of human health, including skin health. Hermoni oversees Lycored’s pre-clinical and clinical studies, including planning specific trials, scientific writing, and publication.