Most skin supplements don’t work ‒ according to the BNF

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Beauty supplements that promise to help achieve a ‘youthful’, ‘firm’ or ‘glowing’ skin may be a waste of money, according to a new report by the British Nutrition Foundation.

Scientists from the BNF studied the published scientific evidence on nutrition supplements claiming to improve skin appearance and concluded that the evidence supporting the effectiveness of many of their ingredients “is limited, not sufficiently robust and/or inconsistent”.

According to the Nutraceuticals and Skin Appearance report, some popular ‘nutraceuticals’ including vitamins A, C, B2, B3, B7, copper, iodine and zinc have “authorised skin-related health claims” but many, including green tea extract, pomegranate extract, carotenoids, evening primrose oil, borage oil, fish oil, collagen and co-enzyme Q10, do not.

“When considering the mechanisms of skin ageing… it is plausible that nutrients could play a part in preventing or delaying the process by scavenging free radicals and reducing DNA damage, thus providing a defence against the damage of ROS disrupting cell metabolism and the ECM proteins that give skin its structure,” the report said.

“However, to be effective, such ingredients must survive digestion and be delivered to the dermis through the blood, and supply effective bioactive metabolites directly to the area where skin cells are synthesised.

“For many ingredients, evidence to support such actions is limited.”

BHA nutrition science manager Ayela Spiro further explained that “although there are a small number of human studies suggesting a potential benefit and some plausible biological mechanisms [for the ingredients without claims authorised by the European Food Safety Authority] much of the evidence to date comes from animal and in vitro studies”.

“There are simply not enough good quality randomised controlled trials in this area to draw firm conclusions about the benefit of nutraceuticals to skin appearance.”

Yet despite their lack of proven effectiveness, Spiro stressed that the doses of the compounds typically included in skincare supplements do not appear to be a safety risk for a general healthy population, although there could be an issue for consumers taking multiple supplements.

He also stressed there are both skin and wider health benefits from consuming a healthy, balanced diet although “the simplicity of this point is too often overlooked”.

“The belief of ‘more must be better’ when it comes to micronutrients is a popular misconception.

“Nutraceuticals and other dietary supplements are generally more costly than foods, and it is likely that greater benefits could be obtained at a lower cost from a diet that meets current dietary recommendations and food-based guidance.”

According to Global Industry Analysis Inc, the global nutricosmetics market is projected to be worth US$7.5 billion by 2024.

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