Organic Anti-Ageing Cosmeceuticals

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Today we live longer, but we want to “age well” in overall health, vitality and beauty. In this worldwide trend, the mature consumer is seeking products to help prevent illness, while looking and feeling their best. This consumer demand is supported by antioxidants and other natural and/or botanical ingredients in Nutricosmetics. 

Nutricosmetics or Nutraceuticals are a category of oral supplements developed for beauty care, they are also known as “beauty pills,”“beauty from within,” and even “oral cosmetics.”  Whether as anti-ageing or condition-specific agents, these functional products are thought to have an effect on outward appearance, either improving the skin condition and /or preventing further ageing.

The growing popularity of Nutricosmetics goes in hand with consumers becoming both, more educated about the overall health benefits of balanced nutrition, and more interested in protecting themselves from accelerated ageing through more natural and non-invasive methods.

This interest in natural alternatives to skin health and beauty, just coincides with the booming of eco-friendly and organic beauty brands. Thus, Nutricosmetic ingredients are usually naturally sourced, making them appealing to consumers interested in sustainable and healthy lifestyles.

1. So, what really is a Nutricosmetic or Nutraceutical?

Nutraceutic is a term derived from “nutrition” and “pharmaceutics” coined in 1989 by Stephen De Felice, founder of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, an American organization which encourages medical health research. He defined a Nutraceutical as a “food, or parts of a food, that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease”.

The term is applied to products that are isolated from herbal products, dietary supplements (nutrients), specific diets, and processed foods such as cereals, soups, and beverages that other than nutrition are also used as medicine.

Nowadays, Nutraceuticals have received considerable interest due to potential nutritional, safety and therapeutic effects. Nutraceuticals may be used to improve health, delay the ageing process, prevent chronic diseases, increase life expectancy, or support the structure or function of the body. Emphasis has been made to present herbal Nutraceuticals effective on hard curative disorders related to oxidative stress including allergy, alzheimer, cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes, eye, immune, inflammatory and Parkinson’s diseases as well as obesity.

Pharmaceuticals and Nutraceuticals both can cure and prevent disease however, only pharmaceuticals have governmental sanction. Pharmaceuticals are compounds which usually possess patent protection due to expensive testing. However, Nutraceuticals do not need these testing documents.

Regarding the appearance and quality of the skin, unbalanced diet and the stress associated with the fast pace of life make it difficult to provide the skin with all the necessary components. That is why, the growing interest in dietary supplements that help to reduce the deficiencies in our diets.

The major claim in the nutraceutical industry is the antiageing effect, reducing wrinkles by fighting free radicals generated by solar radiation. Among the ingredients used in nutricosmetics, antioxidants represent the most crucial. The best‐known antioxidants are carotenoids (beta‐carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin) and polyphenols (anthocyanidins, catechins, flavonoids, tannins, and procyanidins).

Nutraceuticals or nutricosmetics include, in particular, vitamins A, E, C and group B vitamins, horsetail, iron, copper, phosphorus, L-methionine, manganese, borage seed oil and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) acids. On the other hand, in the products for hair and nails, zinc, silicon and calcium are additionally present. Supplements to neutralise free radicals and to slow the ageing process include – apart from vitamins E and C- carotenoids, flavonoids, lycopene and coenzyme Q10. Preparations that are designed to improve skin firmness and reduce cellulite include, among others, substances which enhance collagen and elastin fibers, such as isoflavones (called phytoestrogens) that mimic the action of estrogen, female sex hormones.

2.What nutricosmetics can I get in the market? What benefits do they provide?

2.1 Bioactive Peptides

Peptides are short chains formed by amino acids. Peptides used for cosmetic purposes are typically derived from collagen with improved bioavailability and solubility compared to the whole protein. Bioactive peptides have been used in several nutraceutical formulations claiming antiageing and skin reaffirming properties. There are many studies, for instance in adouble-blind placebo-controlled study, 106 women were randomly allocated to either a placebo or Peptan®F (peptides from fish) group. This supplement was shown to reduce collagen fragmentation by 31% after 12 weeks of oral treatment, contributing to an anti-ageing effect.

2.2 Bioactive Polysaccharides

Polysaccharides are sugar polymers with both structural and energy storage functions. They are present in plants, animals, fungi and procariota organisms. Glycosaminocans (e.g. hyaluronic acid), especially from marine origin, are the most used for nutraceutical formulations.

There are many studies, in one of them for instance, a dietary supplement for skin care containing protein fractions and some glycosaminoglycans extracted from marine fish was used. In addition, this supplement contained vitamin C and zinc gluconate, both relevant ingredients for skin health. This product was used in a trial where 10 women were treated with 500 mg per day for 90 days. Evaluated parameters included wrinkles, mottles, dryness and brittleness of hair and nails. After 90 days of treatment, all signs were improved, and clinical observations were confirmed by changes in skin elasticity and thickness.

2.3 Bioactive Botanical Extracts

Botanical extracts are complex mixtures of natural compounds with different structures and origins. Their use in cosmetics and skin care is well known since ancient times. Polyphenols are the main natural compounds with cosmetic applications and include a large variability of different structures and families. Composition and proportion of polyphenols may greatly vary depending on plant family and extraction procedure.

Flavonoids and Phytoestrogens

Flavonoids (polyphenols), including phytoestrogens, are increasingly used in menopause to delay the signs of skin ageing. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds having similar effects to estrogen. In dietary supplements, isoflavones are mainly used. They are derived mainly from soybeans and other legumes, lignans (found in flaxseed oil) and coumestans found in sunflower seeds and bean sprouts. It was also shown that the use of phytoestrogens has a beneficial effect on the serum lipid profile. It is thought that they reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases in postmenopausal women. Furthermore, these compounds positively affect bone metabolism, mucous membranes and skin; also effectively relieve menopausal symptoms.


Carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments. They can be found in algae, photosynthetic bacteria and plants providing red, orange and yellow colouration. Humans incorporate them from fruits and vegetables sources.

Their main biological activities are related to cardiovascular diseases risk reduction and mentaining optimal visual function maintaining. However, besides these systemic effects, their consumption has been considered beneficious for skin health, especially for photoprotection purposes shown by most of the human studies.

Free radicals under the influence of oxidative stress, which is induced by the effect of ROS activity, damage the structure and functioning of nucleic acids, lipids, proteins and carbohydrates. Consequently, this process can lead to mutations and such diseases as cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory, certain diseases of the eye and may speed up the ageing process of the body. To defense itself against free radicals the body uses its own antioxidant system (enzymes, endogenous antioxidants), as well as antioxidants consumed in diet.

The natural antioxidants, which are to be provided with daily food, are carotenoids. These are widespread polyene vegetable dyes, which are – apart from chlorophyll and anthocyanins – a group of the most important and the most frequently occurring pigments in nature. Humans and animals do not have the ability to synthesize carotenoids de novo and carotenoids must therefore, be delivered to the human organism with food or in the form of pharmaceutical preparations.


Pycnogenol is a standardised extract of bark of the French maritime Pine bark (Pinus pinaster)rich in flavonoids, such as catechins and procyanidins (B1, B2, B3, B7 C1 and C2), and phenolic acids such as caffeic, ferulic, and p-hydroxybenzoic acids. Pycnogenol and it has been demonstrated to have various biological and health effects such as cardiovascular and cholesterol lowering benefits and antioxidant, antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory activity.

In one study, 20 healthy women were supplemented with three 25 mg tables of Pycnogenol (75 mg total) for 12 weeks. Pycnogenol intake showed a significant increase the expression of hyaluronic acid synthase (HAS-1) and the expression involved in collagen de novo synthesis. Externally, Pycnogenol supplementation significantly improved hydration and elasticity of skin.

Horsetail Extract

Horsetail has an antibacterial, remineralizing and regenerating effect. It is a rich source of flavonoids, potassium, and silicon. Large amounts of these components are necessary for the proper functioning of rapidly growing tissues: epidermis, hair and nails. The level of silicon in the body decreases with age, which results in nail and hair brittleness and decreased resistance to fungal and bacterial infections. It participates in the biosynthesis of collagen, which is the main component of connective tissue. In addition, it strengthens the walls of blood vessels, which become more flexible, reducing their permeability and accelerating the wound healing process.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is used to treat a number of diseases, including dermatological disorders, as well as in the production of cosmetics. Aloe Vera gel, extracted from the pulp of the leaf, is used both internally and externally as a topical anti-inflammatory agent and accelerant of wound and burn healing. It has been shown that Aloe gel reduces blood glucose levels in diabetic patients, reduces lipid levels in patients with hyperlipidemia, and inhibits the secretion of pepsin and hydrochloric acid, which prevents formation of stomach ulcers.

Clinical studies have proven that Aloe Vera gel significantly reduces wrinkles, increases skin elasticity and procollagen production. The use of extracts from Aloe Vera helps to maintain proper skin hydration, and may be effective in the treatment of dry skin.

To learn more, you download above your free guide: “Nutricosmetics. Beauty from Within”

References used for this article:

Jiménez Ucero, M. (2012) Los Secretos de la Nutricosmética. Alimenta tu belleza, Barcelona, Editorial Planeta.

Nasri H, Baradaran A, Shirzad H, Rafieian-Kopaei M. New concepts in nutraceuticals as alternative for pharmaceuticals. Int J Prev Med. 2014;5(12):1487–1499.

Pérez-Sánchez A, Barrajón-Catalán E, Herranz-López M, Micol V. Nutraceuticals for Skin Care: A Comprehensive Review of Human Clinical Studies. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):403. Published 2018 Mar 24. doi:10.3390/nu10040403

Szyszkowska B, Lepecka-Klusek C, Kozłowicz K, Jazienicka I, Krasowska D. The influence of selected ingredients of dietary supplements on skin condition. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2014;31(3):174–181. doi:10.5114/pdia.2014.40919

Zierler-Brown S. Nutraceuticals: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. Am J Pharm Educ. 2007;71(5):99.

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