Historical records indicate that the ancient Egyptians understood the concept and importance of nutrition to skin health and beauty. Thousands of years ago natural foods were used by Cleopatra to exfoliate and smooth her skin. Natural skin care goes beyond just the application of topical cleansers and moisturizers. It pertains to a holistic philosophy, embracing the holistic care of one’s body. As the “father of medicine” Hippocrates once said, “let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food”. This succinct admonition states well the philosophy and belief that what is ingested will affect all aspects of health -including health of the skin.
The science, however, behind natural nutrient based skin care formulations and the financial backing to conduct scientific research on them has lagged behind pharmacologic approaches to achieving results. The spheres of Western (pharmacologic and technology based) and Eastern (health, wellness and nutrition based) medical practice has started to overlap, and a much broader awareness of the possibilities for nutritional approaches to health has emerged. These potentials include strategies for health maintenance, disease prevention, and healing for specific problems. This trend is now also extending into the arena of skin health and beauty.
So it is not surprising that a natural, ingestible, nutritionally based thinking and conceptual approach to obtaining healthy and – not coincidently – beautiful skin has been delayed in coming. It is now possible to see the future on the horizon, or perhaps just by looking back into the past – thousands of years ago. A fundamentally natural and holistic approach to achieving better skin – not only through a disciplined approach to skin health with (topical) methods that we know through science and experience work well – but also through a relatively simple, straight forward, and eminently logical approach of supplying the skin (and entire body) internally with the necessary nutrients to metabolize optimally.
An easy example is antioxidants. They have been one of the most researched classes of agents for skin improvement and have truly delivered the results we search for as free radical scavengers, with properties for collagen stimulation, and repair and rebuilding of the cellular DNA. Our good old reliable vitamins C, A and E are the mainstay of antioxidant formulations and the most common to be found in topical agents. But there are other antioxidants that are very potent and beneficial for the skin, yet we don’t see them in topical formulations. Agents such as CoQ10, curcumin, lycopene, lutein, etc – all have scientific evidence documenting their ability to positively stimulate the skin but are not used, either due to cost of the formulations, lack of research of topical application, skin irritation, and instability/oxidation issues.
Let’s look at CoQ10. In order to determine whether CoQ10 can penetrate into the skin, studies have been completed on porcine skin, which is very similar to human skin in terms of permeability. It was found that CoQ10 was able to easily penetrate through the stratum corneum, with 20% penetration into the epidermal layer, but only 2% permeation into the dermis. In contrast to the localized delivery and compromised penetration of bioactives by topical application alone, the oral (ingestible) route of bioactive delivery offers several advantages. These include a) providing the nutrient to the tissues in a physiologically active, usable form b) delivery to all of the skin of the body c) delivery of the nutrient to all skin layers d) absence of obvious barriers to absorption (skin is primarily a protective barrier) e) absence of issues common to topical agents, such as wash off, reapplications, UV sensitivity and degradation, loss of potency, skin sensitivity to product, and unpleasant feel or odor, and f) simplicity, with expected better patient compliance. Recent studies show that plasma blood levels can be increased up to 300% by oral administration of CoQ10, thus making CoQ10 available in markedly increased concentrations to the skin.
With a savvy clientele now coming into our practices and demanding natural and “green” products we must open our minds and be willing to learn where we can draw from nutritional, mineral, and herbal literature to supplement the other aspects of our skin care programs. I believe this to be the new direction – treating the skin from the inside out. Combining therapy may be the ideal approach, topical along with ingestible. Systemic absorption, therefore presented to the body in an easily utilized, bio-available form. This concept is new for many of us, but well worth the time and effort to investigate in order to find the path to the results our patients desire. With this groundwork being laid, we will further explore more details on the concept of a new paradigm for skin care and health in the next issue of the newsletter.
1) Coenzyme Q Intake Elevates the Mitochondrial and Tissue Levels of Coenzyme Q and alpha Tocopherol in Young Mice. Kamlazov, S., Sumien, N., Forster, M., and Sohal, R. Journal of Nutrition. 3175- 3180 2003
2) The bioavailability of Coenzyme Q 10 Supplements Available in New Zealand differs markedly. Molyneaux, S., Florkowski,C., Lever, M., and George, P. Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association 117: #1203 10-80-20
Dr. Banis is a Certified Plastic Surgeon with over 20 years of experience in plastic surgery. He was an early pioneer in the use of microsurgery, routinely addressing the most challenging cases of reconstruction. Over his years of practice he understood the importance of healthy skin. His research has led him to develop vitamin/herbal formulations for skin support and disorders such as acne.