• Beauty from nature

Beauty from a bottle or nature?

Last week I had a conversation with the well-known photographer Jimmy Nelson. Not only am I a big fan of his, but I have also taken inspiration from him where he has connected with other cultures and learned about their knowledge and wisdom. In my case this is in the field of skin care and the treatment of skin problems. For more and more of that knowledge is in danger of becoming lost through globalisation…

The more I learn about skin the more I am convinced that traditional customs with botanicals and other natural substances are not followed enough by us. I feel this is a pity because, if you start looking into it, you can find so much evidence that many of those ingredients do actually work; when applying them onto the skin as well as taking them orally. It is, above all, essential that we look for alternatives for such things as the use of antibiotics for skin disorders. We still have a long way to go though. Why do some people not have any acne? And how can those who live in certain areas around the equator retain such lovely, youthful skin.

Jimmy Nelson reconfirmed this when he told me about a remote tribe he was with in Papua New Guinea. All of the people there were extremely fit, strong and healthy. Not very far away lived people who had much more contact with the western way of life and had a very different diet containing a high concentration of processed food while doing less physical activity. According to Jimmy, the difference between the physical appearance and condition of these groups was vast.

Can pills make you more attractive?

I think that the realisation is also slowly filtering through here. And that applies to skincare as well; it takes more than just good skincare products if you want beautiful skin. Your diet is also essential. Sadly, business wouldn’t be business if it didn’t involve itself in this. Not with diet but with expensive supplements. And you can bet that as soon as the New Year arrives, they will be launching their claim on how their wonder pills and special drinks can make you much younger and more beautiful. What actually works though, and what doesn’t? And can it also do any harm?

I recently gave an interview on this subject to Nouveau & Co. magazine. But you have also often asked this question. And by the way, I can definitely understand the curiosity in this. There is now such a wide range of products and bottles of pills that promise to make skin more beautiful from the inside out. What exactly do they do?

So which nutricosmetics should you take?

Remedies which promise to improve your skin go by the attractive sounding name of nutricosmetics. They often contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and a load of other antioxidants. The most well-known are carotenoids, lycopene, lutein, astaxanthin and polyphenols. Fish oils and/or omega 3 are also often found in these jars, just like collagen or collagen promoting substances.

All of these ingredients can, in themselves, contribute to healthy, beautiful skin. And the effects of all the above mentioned ingredients on the skin has been proven in various studies; vitamin C, in particular, has been widely researched.

The recurring problem with these subjects is whether the improved effect on the skin can actually be attained by taking a certain supplement. What do you take, how much of it, etc.? Is the effect really attributable to the supplement, or secretly to the use of certain skincare, food habits or other circumstances. Are the results of the studies even a little distorted because they are being financed by a vitamin manufacturer …?

Numerous but often below par studies into beauty pills

It is certainly not unthinkable that taking vitamins and other ingredients in pill form can do something for your skin. I regularly (and increasingly more often) see exciting research results. Sadly, the quality of the studies are often poor and still lack independent and substantial evidence. This is perhaps logical because research into nutrition and/or nutritional supplements remains difficult.

But, as I have already mentioned above, I know for certain that nutrition and the skin are interlinked. I am, for instance, also convinced that, microbiomes have an effect on the condition of our skin. Those who are familiar with me, will know that I have been following the research into probiotics with great interest. A good deal of attention was paid to this subject in the magazine I issued last summer.

In the magazine I concentrated on the sun protecting effect of nutrients such as antioxidants.

Various studies have shown that a eating a generous tablespoon of tomato puree each day can reduce redness after UV exposure. And with this you can prevent skin ageing. The same result can therefore be achieved by taking a supplement with lycopene ( the substance responsible for this). You are indirectly working on your wrinkles, or more importantly, the prevention of them.

I also supplement my own diet

As I’ve often mentioned before, I also take supplements alongside my skincare and diet, which is a supplement containing vitamin D and magnesium. Because, no matter how much I try to have a healthy and varied diet, getting a sufficient amount of these substances from food alone is tricky. In the summer I also take a combination of astaxanthin with omega 3 fatty acids.

Astaxanthin is an antioxidant like vitamin C, but then very potent. The substance is produced by organisms, such as algae and plankton, as a natural protection from the sun. That is how it eventually ends up in our food. Astaxanthin gives fish like salmon, prawns, trout and lobster that pink colour. So, for those who don’t eat it daily, there are supplements. Research has shown that if you take 4mg of it daily you will be protected from the sun after two weeks.

The principle ‘ if it doesn’t work it won’t do any harm either’ isn’t always true

I cannot stress this enough that supplements are not a replacement for food or for sun cream either. It is also important to realise that certain substances are much better applied on the outside than taken orally. But, above all, the principle ‘if it doesn’t work it won’t do you any harm either’ doesn’t always apply to supplements. Because we have learned from certain studies that not all supplements can be taken in unlimited amounts and without side effects.

A very high dose of beta-carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. It’s not advisable to go over the top with vitamin C due to, among other things, stomach and colon issues. Vitamin B6 can, in particular, cause problems for the nervous system. As well as this, the quality of the supplements can vary greatly and the long term effects of many of the products are unknown. Antioxidants which are badly packaged or old can start to oxidise in the packaging and this can be harmful! And unfortunately there is no control over this.

What else should you know about supplements?

It is worth knowing that expensive supplements are no guarantee for quality, but also don’t expect much from very cheap products either. Other tips: don’t keep your supplements for a long time (definitely not in the warmer months), preferably buy them directly from the manufacturer (then you are less likely to have an older product) and check the smell of fatty acid supplements. If the supplement smells rancid then it has oxidised and is not healthy.

My top advice for the New Year

My top advice for the New Year is to always eat a healthy and varied diet. Listen to your body because, funnily enough, it usually tells you what it needs. And if you think you may be deficient in something get yourself tested. Then you will know, for sure, that you are taking substances that you do need. And finally, perhaps we need to gradually let ourselves be inspired by cultures which are (still) closer to nature!


Kind regards,


Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology

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