At first glance, you might not think these statements reflect the leading edge of beauty science. But the shifting ideals highlighted in the #rethinkbeautiful campaign from ingredient company Lycored align with recent research connecting how you live and feel with how you look. Beauty from within—the belief that what you eat, the supplements you take and even how you manage stress affect your outward appearance—is not new. But now, emerging science supports that concept, and more people are embracing it.
“Over the last 24 months, there is a sense of change in the air, led by a true shift in people’s awareness of the role of nutrition in skin wellness and appearance,” says Golan Raz, PhD, head of the Global Health Division at Lycored. “We see a growing acknowledgment of the importance of overall wellness and well-being and the direct link to beauty.”
Ask nearly any health or beauty expert, and they’ll tell you that great skin, hair and nails don’t start with your skin cream or shampoo (though high-quality personal care products can certainly support the cause, so check out this year’s Delicious Living Beauty & Body Awards online for our favorite picks). Diet and lifestyle are two of the biggest factors in graceful aging, as noted in a landmark 2009 study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. The highly publicized findings took multiple sets of identical twins and compared their appearances to prove that those who had poor habits—smoking, drinking and eating poorly—looked considerably older and less healthy than those who focused more on wellness.
Today, evolving science goes beyond beauty villains (alcohol and cigarettes, no surprise) to the nutrients and lifestyle habits that make you feel and look more vibrant. Increasingly, supplements are an important part of that conversation.
“A diet filled with fresh, whole, mostly seasonal foods is the core of any beauty diet,” says Jolene Hart, author of Eat Pretty Every Day (Chronicle, 2016). “But supplements and superfoods are excellent choices to supercharge the results you see and feel from your daily meals.”
Regarding your body as a system can help you visualize how your appearance depends on what’s happening inside. “You can’t and shouldn’t look at the skin as a stand-alone organ but should see it as a part of the overall mind-body system,” says Raz. “A balanced mind supports a balanced body.”
Start with the gut
Perhaps the best example of a systemic approach to beauty is based on the microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that make up your gastrointestinal tract. Although you may initially connect the microbiome only to gut health, science peels back the layers, revealing the power of something called the “gut-skin-brain axis.” Essentially, keeping stress in check can help balance your gut bacteria, which, according to research, supports ➻ the health of your body’s largest organ: skin. Gut health is particularly relevant when it comes to acne or eczema, which often result when gut imbalances trigger and continue to feed inflammation.
Because of the gut-skin connection, probiotics are a beauty-supplement essential, says Hart. “In addition to digestive power, the population of bacteria that make up your microbiome is incredibly influential to your skin health, weight, inflammation levels and overall beauty,” she says. Hart recommends getting probiotics from both foods and supplements. Prebiotics, too, are critical to ensuring your microbiome is functioning properly, so look for supplements that incorporate both.
Compensate with collagen
Understanding how your body changes with age and what you can do to counteract common deficiencies is another piece of the beauty-from-within puzzle. That’s where collagen comes into play. Collagen is the protein that enables your skin to stay taut, your nails strong and your hair healthy. And because your body’s own collagen production steadily declines after age 25, supplementation is a must. “I have seen collagen peptides work incredibly well to restore hydration and resilience to skin, as well as to build stronger hair,” says Hart.
Today, you can find capsules with marine collagen or collagen from grass-fed cows, delicious collagen gummies and collagen powders to add to other beauty-boosting foods such as bone broth, which is already collagen rich. Translation: You have umpteen options for incorporating this beautifying nutrient into your diet.
Counter free radicals
We all constantly face free radicals generated by the sun, food and environmental toxins. That’s why the role of antioxidants for optimal beauty continues to be significant. Carotenoids such as lycopene, lutein and astaxanthin, coQ10, and vitamins C and E in foods and supplements can all fend off free radicals from UV rays and other environmental toxins, protecting skin cells and reducing signs of aging.
These ingredients in skin care products give you a second strategy to fight free radicals. “Being sensitive to the season and changes in weather, you can combine creams that provide hydration with nutrients that strengthen the ability of the skin to deal with stress caused by environmental changes,” says Raz.