By Dr. Teo Wan Lin, Consultant Dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre
The Science and Myth of Nutricosmetics
In the last decade, the beauty and cosmetic industry has churned out collagen-boosting oral supplements one after the other that claims to boost collagen with a dose of an edible capsule. They boast fish-derived peptides, collagen, carotenoids amongst a host of anti-oxidant ingredients that claim to anti-age, reduce wrinkles and improve glow. Dermatologists have called these nutraceuticals or nutricosmetics.
In my article, I will break down the science and the myth(s) behind these to shed light on the latest dietary supplement that’s supposed to work wonders for your skin and how you can evaluate it for yourself. In the first of a series, I shall discuss a dermatologist’s take on collagen and fish peptide supplements that have been popularised in the beauty and cosmetic industry.
1. What are nutraceuticals or nutricosmetics?
A nutraceutical is a pharmaceutical-grade and standardized nutrient. The FDA and the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore does not recognise nutraceuticals or nutricosmetics as a regulatory category. Rather, they are regulated as food additives and dietary supplements.
2. Do collagen or peptide containing supplements actually promote healthy skin?
These beauty supplements are consumed like food substances and hence they get digested and then absorbed by the body. One recent study showed that in individuals taking a daily supplement containing collagen peptides, there was a reduction in eye wrinkle depth after eight weeks of taking the supplements.
However, dermatologists internationally who spearhead the research and testing of cosmetic dermatology caution that overall there is no substantial body of evidence in the realm of dermatological research to support the use of fish-derived peptides or collagen to boost skin health. Ingested collagen/peptide supplements are digested in the same way as food is taken as part of a normal diet and absorbed similarly, with no specific therapeutic benefit to skin or ability to be delivered directly to skin for its effects.
3. Is there any way at all to ensure that the supplements reach our skin ?
Collagen is a protein found in skin and other tissues, there is no evidence that ingested collagen boosts the amount of collagen in the skin tissues as the body breaks down food/supplements similarly in the digestive tract and edible collagen itself has no medicinal/therapeutic benefit. Collagen in the skin is made by specialised skin cells known as fibroblasts. With age and sun damage, this process is slowed down.
Dermatologists use a combination of lasers, chemical peels and cosmeceuticals to increase collagen production in one’s skin by stimulating one’s collagen receptors, rather than applying collagen to the skin or by consuming collagen. Collagen itself is a large molecule that cannot be absorbed through the skin surface. Collagen hydrolysates(such as fish peptides) have some early evidence in laboratory studies to have some UV-protective and anti-ageing properties in skin but more research needs to be done.
© 2017 Dr. Teo Wan Lin. All rights reserved.
Meet with Dr. Teo Wan Lin, founder and Specialist Consultant Dermatologist of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, an accredited dermatologist specialising in medical and aesthetic dermatology. She integrates her artistic sensibility with her research background and specialist dermatologist training, by means of customised, evidence-based aesthetic treatments using state-of the-art machines, injectables (fillers and toxins) which work synergistically with her proprietary line of specialist dermatologist grade cosmeceuticals Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals.