Q & A: Inside-out beauty tips: Nutricosmetics consumed, applied topically for healthy skin

February 1, 2009

What are ectoines? Nutricosmetics and how do mascaras increase eyelash curl?

Q: What are ectoines?

For example, ectoines can maintain water levels consistent with cell viability by slowing down water diffusion around proteins, where water is necessary for the protein to maintain its functional folded configuration.

Ectoines and hydroxyectoines can be isolated from halophilic bacteria, which can be cultivated on a large scale, for use as cosmeceutical ingredients. It is theorized that the protective effect of these molecules could enhance the functioning of aging skin under stress.

Ectoines can quench singlet oxygen radicals and decrease the UV-induced reduction of Langerhans cells in the skin, thus demonstrating antioxidant and immunoprotective effects. These ingredients will show up shortly in high-end cosmeceutical formulations.

Q: What is a nutricosmetic?

A: Nutricosmetic, sometimes spelled nutriocosmetic, is a contraction of the words "nutraceutical" and "cosmeceutical."

A nutraceutical is an orally consumed nutritional supplement that enhances body functioning and appearance.

Nutraceuticals encompass everything from vitamin tablets to granola bars to vitamin drinks to probiotic yogurts to snack mixes to fruit juice cocktails and beyond. Anything edible that is "good for you" can be considered a nutraceutical.

Cosmeceuticals, on the other hand, are products applied to the skin surface also for enhancing skin functioning and appearance. Cosmeceuticals can contain vitamins, peptides, botanicals and anything else that can be formulated as a cream, spray, serum, mousse, gel, etc.

Nutricosmetics are substances that can be consumed and applied topically for the purpose of improving body and skin health.

An example of a currently popular nutricosmetic is mangosteen. Mangosteen is a fruit that is high in lycopene, and all parts of the fruit can be ground and made into a drink or topically applied.

An example of one product sold through multilevel marketing for $40/bottle recommends consuming the drink to increase energy, mental functioning and overall vitality, but the Web site also contains personal testimonials of individuals with psoriasis who have topically applied the drink for improvement in skin disease.

Mangosteen is also an ingredient in several topical skincare lines as a potent antioxidant for improving the appearance of aging skin.

Many currently popular nutricosmetics are sold at premium prices, based on the purported purity, potency and bioavailability of the special ingredient.

Lycopene is an excellent example. Lycopene, a carotenoid, is found in most fruits and vegetables with a yellow, orange or red color. It is especially high in tomatoes that have been vine-ripened to a rich, dark red hue.

Many of the new and improved vitamins have added lycopene to the formulation, with accompanying antioxidant claims.

It may surprise you to know that one of the best sources of lycopene is ketchup. Two foil-wrapped pouches from a hamburger establishment will provide an optimal daily dose.

Nutricosmetics are an interesting approach combining the inside-out concept of beauty. For years, mothers have been telling children to eat their fruits and vegetables. This is sound nutricosmetic advice, reaffirming the adage that mother is always right!

Q: How do mascaras increase eyelash curl?

A: Mascaras are typically brown to black liquids designed to darken, lengthen and thicken eyelashes by placing a polymer coating on the hairs. The product is applied on a brush or comb from a tube to the eyelashes. It is said that mascara is the most popular cosmetic among women.

Mascaras that curl the eyelashes work by placing a polymer on the hair that shrinks as it dries. The shrinkage of the film creates a curve in the hair, making the hair appear longer. This is the basis for self-curling mascaras.

Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a Dermatology Times editorial adviser and investigator, Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point, N.C. Questions may be submitted via e-mail to zdraelos@northstate.net
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