Beauty Boosters: Incorporating Phytonutrients for Healthy Skin

Written by Karin L. Hermoni, Ph.D.

True beauty starts from the inside. 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 skin care 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 skin care products. Therefore, it makes sense that the same trends are relevant to sourcing for the kitchen and sourcing for skin care products, whether they be topical or ingestible. 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 serve as the foundation to achieving healthy and beautiful skin that radiates with a healthy glow.

ANTIOXIDANTS
Skin naturally possesses an antioxidant reservoir that serves as a foundation to enhance natural resilience. On the cellular level, these antioxidants help balance local inflammation and reduce oxidative stress and free radical challenges the skin is coping with. Almost any challenge that the skin encounters includes these two core mechanistic processes. This may include environmental challenges, such as ultraviolet radiation, pollution, and smoke, as well as endogenous challenges, such as stress and lack of sleep. Ironically, the same intrinsic and extrinsic challenges serve as catalysts to the depletion of antioxidants from skin. Therefore, there is sense in constantly replenishing antioxidants back into the skin.
Healthy diverse nutrition rich in fruits, vegetables, and spices is key to replenishing skin with natural antioxidants. 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. Plant pigments such as carotenoids and polyphenols also help nourish and balance skin.
Examples of antioxidant rich spices include turmeric, rich in the polyphenol curcumine, 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.
Tomatoes are one of the most skin-healthy foods. 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 skin care products. 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. Several molecular mechanisms are at the heart of these benefits and can help balance both the intrinsic and extrinsic aging factors. The tomato phytonutrients help balance inflammation and reduce the damage of free radicals in the skin. This is done through their antioxidant properties, but also through their ability to induce the antioxidant defense mechanism of skin cells and a series of enzymes involved in detoxification processes called phase two enzymes.

SUN SMART
Another important mechanism is related to the aging effects of the sun. Ultraviolet exposure is the number one preventable cause of skin aging, responsible for about 80 percent of facial skin aging. Couple that with pollution and smoke and that is the recipe for aged and easily bruised skin. Keep a sun smart lifestyle to minimize this risk. This is important and beneficial to skin health and beauty alike. Keeping a sun smart lifestyle is important year-round and should include the use of topical sunscreens and protective clothing combined with inside-out support by a nutritional approach, which should include healthy dietary phytonutrients. The nutritional approach complements the overall sun-conscious lifestyle and the local protection achieved by sunscreens, creating all day whole body support. Carotenoids are the major group of phytonutrients that have been researched in this respect. A carotenoid rich diet, in general, combining different synergistic carotenoids, is preferred. Specific foods to consider are tomatoes (rich in lycopene and other carotenoids), algae (rich in Astaxanthin), and green leafy vegetables rich in beta carotene and lutein.

TOMATO PHYTONUTRIENTS
Nutritional and supplementation studies support the skin benefits of tomato phytonutrients. For example, several studies show the effect of supplementation with natural tomato extract in reducing erythema intensity caused by controlled ultraviolet exposure.1 Additionally, a double blind placebo-controlled study explored the molecular mechanism of action by which the same tomato extract benefited human skin, revealing the modulation of several biomarkers for skin health and appearance following 12 weeks of supplementation in healthy subjects.2 These include genes related to calming inflammation in the skin, as well as genes directly involved in collagen maintenance such as mmp-1, which holds a major role in controlling collagen degradation and downregulating its activity to boost natural collagen content in the skin. Moreover, higher lycopene level in the skin is associated with smoother skin and improved skin texture, density, and thickness.3 Importantly, the support of overall wellness can also impact overall vitality and youthful appearance. For example, eight weeks of supplementation with the same tomato extract resulted in improved blood flow. Blood flow is directly linked to vital and healthy overall appearance and improved oxygen and nutrient delivery to the skin. Healthy blood flow is important for enhancing one’s natural beauty and healthy glow. Moreover, evidence suggest that carotenoids are linked to detox mechanisms and specifically enhance skin natural detox mechanisms.

BIOAVAILABILITY
Lastly, today there is a strong emphasis on bioavailability of skin care products and specifically ingestible skin care. Bioavailability is how much of the active compounds end up being absorbed into the blood, eventually reaching the skin. In this respect, it is important to note that the bioavailability of the tomato carotenoids following supplementation with the tomato extract was well-proven. Specially designed studies reveal a significant increase in carotenoid plasma level following supplementation with a natural tomato extract. Skin levels of lycopene, phytoene, and phytofluene were also shown to increase significantly. It is important to note here that the pharmacokinetics of carotenoid absorption from ingestible skin care product is naturally slower compared to topical application and it takes a few weeks to reach a steady state level of the carotenoids in plasma and skin. The extraction technique by which the carotenoids are extracted from the tomato is highly important for preserving these delicate compounds and the balance between the different tomato phytonutrients.
Interestingly, studies suggest that a carotenoid rich diet is linked to an attractive skin hue and that an increase in carotenoid consumption over the course of a few weeks is linked to a favorable change in skin coloration. This is sometimes referred to as a golden glow, due to the spectrum of yellow to red of the different dietary carotenoids. Importantly, psychological studies suggest that such coloration pattern linked to the color spectrum that can be achieved by a carotenoid rich diet was perceived by subjects as more attractive.
It is important to note that other carotenoids, such as, lutein and astaxanthin were shown to possess skin benefits like skin hydration, as well as reducing damage associated with free radical formation. Polyphenols are another family of skin healthy phytonutrients that includes polyphenols from olives and olive oil, carnosic acid from rosemary, and others. The molecular mechanism includes much of the same mechanisms described above, as well as additional mechanisms related to skin brightening (olive) and collagen modulation. In this respect, supplements that combine specific synergistic phytonutrients may provide optimized solution for skin wellness. One such combination that was proven synergistic is tomato extract with rosemary extract. Each of these on their own shows ability to induce skin detox mechanisms, such as the antioxidant and detoxification mechanisms of skin cells. Cell culture studies show that when the two compounds are combined, the net effect in increasing the transcription of phase two enzymes is larger than the sum of each alone.

INCORPORATING PHYTONUTRIENTS INTO THE SPA
When choosing skin and beauty supplements to carry in the spa, to share with clients, and to consume personally, be mindful to choose those made with natural, food-derived ingredients and to note whether the specific ingredients and their combinations were tested in clinical trials. One can typically find this information on the label. For example, if a product contains lycopene, in the supplement facts, see if the lycopene is derived from tomato extract or if it is synthetic. Some synthetic versions of supplements may be equally as bioavailable but may show less efficacy. For example, science suggests that the benefits of lycopene are compounded by the presence of other synergistic phytonutrients, such as those naturally present in the tomato. Therefore, tomato extract rich in different tomato phytonutrients will be a choice closer to nature compared to lycopene as a standalone.
Last, but not least, it is important to keep in mind that neither topical nor ingestible solutions can serve as magic pills and they will work much better when combined with an overall healthy and active lifestyle. Also, ingestible solutions typically start showing an effect after a few weeks of supplementation. If clients want to gain the full spectrum of benefits, they should plan for a few weeks.

The ingestible skin care and nutritional approach in general are not meant to replace any sun protection measures or any type of procedure, but they can nicely complement these offerings, especially due to their proven ability to balance oxidative stress and inflammation. When planning for clients’ skin care and beauty regimens, consider incorporating ingestible solutions for a more holistic program.

References
1 Aust, O., W. Stahl, H. Sies, H. Tronnier, and U. Heinrich. “Supplementation with tomato- based products increases lycopene, phytofluene, and phytoene levels in human serum and protects against UV-light-induced erythema.” International journal for vitamin and nutrition research 75, no. 1 (2005): 54-60.
2 Grether-Beck, S., A. Marini, T. Jaenicke, W. Stahl, and J. Krutmann. “Molecular evidence that oral supplementation with lycopene or lutein protects human skin against ultraviolet radiation: Results from a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, cross-over study.” The British journal of dermatology 176, no. 5 (2017): 1231-1240.
3 Darvin, M., A. Patzelt, S. Gehse, S. Schanzer, C. Benderoth, W. Sterry, and J. Lademann. “Cutaneous concentration of lycopene correlates significantly with the roughness of the skin.” European journal of pharmaceutics and biopharmaceutics 69, no. 3 (2008): 943-7.
4 Heinrich, U., H. Tronnier, W. Stahl, M. Béjot, and J.M. Maurette. “Antioxidant supplements improve parameters related to skin structure in humans.” Skin pharmacology and physiology 19, no. 4 (2006): 224-31.
5 Kim, J.Y., J.K. Paik, O.Y. Kim, H.W. Park, J.H. Lee, Y. Jang, and J.H. Lee. “Effects of lycopene supplementation on oxidative stress and markers of endothelial function in healthy men.” Atherosclerosis 215, no. 1 (2011): 189-95.


Dr Karin HermoniDr. 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.

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