You don't have to be a mad scientist to know all about skin care ingredients, but you do need to be aware of labels and what to look for when shopping. To better understand some of beauty's top ingredients, we enlisted the help of Rachael Pontillo, president and cofounder of The Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, creator of holisticallyhaute.com, and bestselling author of Love Your Skin, Love Yourself. So next time you're scoping out the aisles for new beauty products and supplements, keep an eye out for these:
1. Hyaluronic Acid (HA) Keeps Skin Hydrated
If it's not already on your radar, HA is a skin-care ingredient that you should really get to know. And don't be wary when you see the word "acid." It won't strip the skin at all. In fact, it's actually moisture binding and will help keep skin hydrated and plump, which is why it's the foundation of a plethora of creams and serums. While it's mainly used in topical form, it can also be found in supplements-which Pontillo prefers-that "bind moisture into the skin at the cellular level." But before you buy a supplement, she recommends reading the label carefully. "You want pharmaceutical-grade hyaluronic acid, which is derived from rooster combs," says Pontillo. "As unglamorous as that sounds, vegan alternatives made from sugar beets are typically GMO and only cosmetic grade, which isn't the quality you'd want for internal supplementation."
2. Biotin Supports Production of Keratin
Chances are you've heard of biotin before. This popular B vitamin supports the production of keratin-a key building block of hair, skin, and nails. Biotin helps aid in healthy formation of the hair, skin, and nails from the inside out. It is most commonly used as a supplement, and is best known for strengthening brittle nails and stimulating hair growth. "I always recommend people buy the best quality supplements possible from companies that ethically source and manufacture their products-but it's also widely available from [eating] whole-foods," says Pontillo. "Some whole food sources of biotin are eggs, sweet potatoes, nuts, onions, and tomatoes."
3. Green Tea Helps Preserve Elastin and Collagen
Green tea has many surprising beauty benefits. First and foremost, it helps fight degradation of elastin and collagen, which are essential for youthful-looking skin. It's also high in antioxidants and helps reduce inflammation-which is a great option for those with skin conditions. Pontillo suggests consuming several cups a day to reap the benefits. "I prefer people just drink the tea or use a fresh preparation-the benefits are more intact that way," she says.
Green tea is also popular as an ingredient in skincare products such as toners and cleansers. In powdered form, it's a great option for an at-home face masque treatment. It is also known that green tea, when combined with an FDA-approved sunscreen, will help maximize protection from harmful UV rays.
4. Vitamin C for Healthy Skin
Vitamin C is absolutely necessary for healthy skin. "It is a powerful antioxidant that can help combat free radicals from environmental aggressors, and also is essential for healthy collagen production," says Pontillo. Aside from getting your daily dose from fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, and pineapple, you can also apply it topically or take supplements-but it's important to know the difference between the two.
When taking supplements internally, look for those with L-ascorbic acid. It's more beneficial to the body when taken internally. Topically, Pontillo recommends ascorbyl palmitate, the ester of vitamin C. "It is oil-soluble, which means it can penetrate the skin's barrier layer; it is not acidic, which means it is nonirritant and actually has an anti-inflammatory effect; and it does not break down or oxidize quickly, so its benefits last much longer than L-ascorbic acid." Just be cautious of vitamin C products and the sun, as they're known to cause photosensitivity. Use them at night for the best results.
When it comes to healthy hair, skin, and nails, what you put in your body is as important as what you put on it.
Beauty Supplements for Hair, Skin, and Nails
What's trending in the world of beauty nutrients? Ceramides, collagen, and silicon are among the most-talked-about supplements when it comes to enhancing hair, skin, and nails. Here's why you'll want to add these youth boosts to your daily regimen. by Lisa Turner
New studies show that supplemental ceramides can support skin structure, protect against moisture loss, and maintain smoothness and elasticity of skin. Originally derived from animal sources, newer versions-called "phytoceramides" for "plant"-come from wheat, sweet potato, or rice. Generally, ceramides are available in two primary forms: topical and oral.
Many creams, lotions, and serums contain ceramides, from plant sources or in the form of pseudo-ceramides (often listed as "hydroxypropyl bispalmitamide MEA"). These topical ceramides work by penetrating the top layer or two of skin; they're generally considered less effective in reaching deeper layers of skin, but a few studies show that they're helpful in treating dryness. Some studies show that topical ceramides can improve skin; in one study, ceramides increased skin hydration and elasticity, and significantly reduced dryness.
A powerful ally in the fight against aging-specifically in supplement form-collagen is technically a type of protein. In fact, it makes up about one-third of all proteins found in the human body. It's estimated that there are approximately 29 different types of collagen, but types 1 and 3 make up 80-90 percent of the total, according to research. Like ceramides, collagen production slows with age, starting to decline as early as age 25. Fortunately supplements of type 1, 2, and 3 collagen can help prevent and/or reverse signs of aging. For example, collagen hydrolysate has been shown to improve skin elasticity among women age 35 or older. Collagen has also been shown in some studies to improve the look and strength of hair and nails.
The mineral silicon is also necessary for the formation of collagen and bone. Supplementing with orthosilicic acid (BioSil), the dietary form of silicon, or the herb horsetail, which is rich in silica (silicon dioxide), can help smooth lines and wrinkles and also help fight brittle hair and nails.