Nutricosmetics: snake oil now in a pill form

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Nutricosmetics: ingest before breakfast, repeat twice during the day. Pay $60+ per month.  (Image by Iryna Ilkavets, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, CC-BY)

In The Stylist beauty issue, there is a feature article about nutricosmetics, defined as “beauty products you ingest rather than apply”. The rationale – skin/hair/nail are growing things, which you can supplement from outside (the usual “beauty products” – lotions and creams) or from an inside  – in a pill form. Sort of spray on the leaves fertiliser vs. fertiliser in the soil for your plants.

Sounds good if you don’t pay attention to the caveats mentioned in the article:

A)  As the skin is outside of the body, whatever product you are eating, you need to saturate the body from within to get to the skin.

B) The air conditioner argument. Your body is like an air conditioner – when it overshoots the set temperature, it compensates by cooling, sometimes overshooting in the other direction but eventually returning to the balance. So if you try to increase the concentration of say, vitamin A by eating a lot of it in one go, after a short spike the excess is removed via urine, and there is an actual drop in its concentration. And if it accumulates, you skin turns orange and it becomes toxic.

Let’s have a look at the products mentioned in the article about nutricosmetics:

Lumity – £90 ($135) per month for a cocktail of lysine, arginine, and glutamine. These are aminoacids,  building blocks of protein. I don’t have a problem with this, except that you should be getting enough aminoacids from you food. And if you want to top up just in case, you can buy aminoacids in any health shop for 1/10 of the Lumity  price.

Perfect Platinum – £42.99 ($60) – contains bio-marine collagen to keep skin plump. I’ve already written about the futility of using collagen in a cream: it gets degraded in the body, and there is no guarantee that it would boost your collagen production, the only one collagen that matters to you.

Collagen gets even more degraded if you actually eat it. Vaguely enticing sounding “bio-marine collagen” is extracted from saltwater fish scales, e.g. waste product of fishing industry. And the further away something on the evolutionary tree from  us. And the further away something on the evolutionary tree from  us, the further its composition from ours. It’s futile to try building a brick wall from limestone.

The Organic Pharmacy Skin Radiance –  £45 ($65)  with rosehip oil, ascorbic acid and goji extract “to encourage skin regeneration”. Nothing wrong with the principle, except see B, the air conditioner argument. A  120 ml (4 oz) Rosehip Oil bottle will cost around $20 on amazon. Ascorbic acid is vitamin C – lotsa in orange juice, and goji berries are sold by any supermarket.

Phyto Phytophanere  – £33 ($45) is 95% natural (what does it even mean? 5% unicorn?) and contains “the highest concentration of plant extracts for hair and nail growth.” Highest is not the best – you can enjoy traces of cyanide in almonds, but DO NOT try drinking cyanide.

Additional to the manufacturers claims, a highly representative list of four “Stylist” stuff tried nutricosmetics, each one a different product. And lo and behold – every one of them noticed an improvement in the skin or hair. Of course, no control of taking a placebo.

The sciency stuff mentioned:

*H3O Night Repair  (vitamins, magnesium, calcium,pine bark, grape seed extract, astragalus and astaxanthin): “multispectral imaging  of the surface of the skin shows a noticeable improvement”(noticeable by whom and how much of an improvement?);

*Collagen renew:”pore size improved by 6%” – what is the margin of error of the method?

*Women’s max strength supplements“: “hair consists of 20% more strengthening vitamins and minerals” –  I suspect, not “consists” as hair consists of protein, but “contains”. I’m interested in the sampling technique.

*Tricho complex (vitamin & mineral supplement ) “hair is growing 35% faster” –  but offset by nausea

In the end, if you have a balanced diet, sleep well,  don’t overindulge in drinking and smoking (does anybody smoke still?), then your skin, hair, and nails look great. But a healthy lifestyle is boring and undramatic, unlike shiny pills, which will reduce not only your pores size but your account balance as well. Snake oil has the same effect whether it’s sold by gallons or in a bejewelled bijou bottle.

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