Powerful Cosmetic Ingredients That Come from Foods

Many cosmetic creams and lotions claim to use “active ingredients” that make changes to wrinkles, radiance and aging. In times past, these were often added to formulations in tiny quantities simply to make a label claim. Modern science, however, provides us with ingredients that truly can improve the skin in products that are now known as “Active Cosmetics” or “Cosmeceuticals”. Interestingly, some of the most well-known come to us from the world of foods.

We all know caffeine from the coffee and tea we drink. It is found in the leaves and fruits of plants and has made its way into many popular energy drinks. Caffeine is a stimulant and many of us couldn’t get out of the house in the morning without it.

Caffeine has become popular in topical cosmetics as it is biologically active in the skin. The consumption of caffeine has been associated with lower incidence of certain skin cancers. The application of caffeine to skin has been shown to reduce dark under eye circles and block some types of ultraviolet light. Caffeine is also a potent antioxidant which could help reduce skin damage from sunlight. There are studies where caffeine has been shown to help reduce cellulite.

Turmeric is a spice that hails from the Indian subcontinent. It is easily spotted in your spice cabinet because of its bright yellow colour. Incredibly, it has been used as a cosmetic and medical treatment in India for centuries.

Scientists have discovered the important component of turmeric is called Curcumin. This ingredient is responsible for its effectiveness. Studies have found it can be used to treat burns and wounds, damage by ultraviolet radiation and promote healing when applied to skin after surgery.

Vegetable Oils containing Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA)
The application of oils to the skin dates back to Egyptian times. In food, we have learned that there are some types of oils and fats that are good for us and some that are not. Similarly, research has shown that Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA) provides certain health benefits to the skin. GLA is called an Omega-6 polyunsaturated fat, something well-known in the food industry.

Applied to the skin, vegetable oils rich in GLA have been shown to improve the skin barrier and reduce the amount of water loss from the skin. More importantly, oils high in GLA such as Evening Primrose Oil have been investigated for the treatment of eczema. It is believed that GLA’s benefits are due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Vitamin B3
For many of us, taking our multivitamin is a simple daily routine. Vitamins can also play an important role in the health of our skin. For example, vitamin B3 has been shown to have a wide variety of benefits. This vitamin appears under a variety of names including niacin, nicotinic acid and nicotinamide.

Vitamin B3 has been shown to improve the barrier function of skin, reduce inflammation, increase protein synthesis and reduce the appearance of photoaging and hyperpigmentation. It may even be useful in aiding the healing of wounds.

Unlike many of the “active ingredients” used in cosmetics years ago, all of these ingredients have substantial science and clinical proof behind them. Of course the effectiveness of any product is dependent on many factors including the other ingredients present, and most importantly the concentration of the active. But we are living in the world where cosmetics have the potential to truly improve the skin.