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  • Beauty Supplements: Hype or Hope?

    Dr Claudia AguirreThe fountain of youth is a mythical spring said to be discovered by 16th century Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon in Florida. Legend says that bathing in its waters gives one eternal youth. It remains a legend – but every day there are claims and studies aimed at quenching the desire for eternal youth and longevity. Wednesday, a very exciting study was published about a breakthrough that delayed the signs of aging (like wrinkles) in mice by flushing out the retired or ‘senescent’ cells in their genome1. Far from fiction, scientific studies can bring hope for delayed aging. But today we are inundated with claims that swallowing a pill will prevent aging overnight. The latest craze in the search for the fountain of youth seems to be in a surge of ‘beauty supplements’ that will prevent wrinkles and loss of tone and elasticity.

    Now I’m all about beauty – or health – from within, but there are people capitalizing on a lack of consumer information. An example: you can purchase a bottle of 60 caplets for about $50-$60 from some companies, which may contain antioxidants from goji berries, resveratrol, açai, and even marine extracts like algae. That’s about $1 per pill. There are a few arguments I have against buying hope in jar.

    First, there are not enough well-designed independent studies that prove these ‘beauty’ supplements really work. Take açai: Although touted as a superfood, both for products that are consumed and that are put on the skin, there is little to no scientific evidence that the anti-aging claims are substantiated, according to the National Institutes of Health. Second, the concept of beauty from within is not a foreign one, and it begins with a healthy diet. A person snacking away on junk food all day and taking her or his ‘beauty pill’ at night will undoubtedly be disappointed the following morning. Whole, unprocessed food provides ample nourishment with vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy body – and this is reflected on the skin. Of course for those lacking, a vitamin supplement may indeed help. Choosing a healthy diet is surely the way to go when looking to enhance the appearance of the skin from within.

    Finally, I’m a firm believer in the placebo effect, so results with supplements will vary! Bottom line: replenish your skin’s lipids topically, fight stressed out skin with topical antioxidants and peptides, and always protect from the environment. Save that dollar and invest it in a healthy diet, which has been proven over the ages to contribute to health and wellness!

    1. D.J. Baker, et al. Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive senescent cells delays ageing-associated disorders. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10600