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Why your new skincare regime might not require any topical products

Ingestible beauty is the upcoming trend encouraging people to consider what they consume for glowing results from the inside out

We are the skincare and beauty products we consume. It’s a simple concept, though it’s a message beauty brands have historically buried beneath campaigns selling us on the idea that topical products are the only way to treat skincare issues. Though recently skincare has started to follow in healthcare’s footsteps and is adopting a more holistic approach to address the entire body, not just an individual symptom. “Rather than just treating a skin condition, the goal is to get to the root of the problem to begin with,” says dermatologist Dr Joshua Zeichner. “As part of a holistic treatment of the skin, ingestible nutraceuticals are becoming extremely popular.” These treatments contain various foods, vitamins, minerals, and botanical extracts that can help specific skin needs. 

From thinning hair and acne to ageing skin, there are nutraceutical formulas catering to every skin need. With better digestive functioning, ingestible beauty boosts skin vitality, supporting bodily hydration and the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. “So long as you are healthy, and your primary care doctor gives you the OK, these supplements have little downside,” says Zeichner. However, their true efficacy is unclear. 

For many, ingestible beauty is becoming the go-to supplement to achieve healthy, glowing skin, nails, and hair, all from the inside. “Topical products can only address 20 per cent of skin issues,” says Glendean Rehvan, skincare director at In-Trend Ltd. “As we know the skin is the first organ to show signs of poor nutrition.” While addressing our skin “from the inside out” isn’t a new approach, it’s becoming more prominent. And it’s about time. From Sephora to drugstores and the supermarket, consumers are ready to see food as their new beauty routine, believes Rehvan; Drinks, snacks, and meals all have wellness and beauty enhancing action.

“What you put inside your body is a natural complement to the products you put onto your skin,” says Melissa Hago, VP and creative director of beauty at Fashion Snoops. According to Hago, collagen was one of the first major trends (it flourished in 2020)  within this space with the ingredient popping up in powders, teas, and even ice cream. “Even now, collagen continues to be a popular supplement, evolving into other forms like beauty tinctures, pill-form supplements, and liquid shots, while plant-based updates like vegan collagen open the market up to plant-conscious consumers.” From the collagen powder trend, powder-form supplements that consumers can easily mix into beverages like coffee, tea, and smoothies are becoming popular. 

Consumers are “eating” their skincare routines with products like Lume’s collagen, biotin, and pearl infused granola support glowing skin, healthy hair, and strong nails at breakfast time, while Kalumi’s convenient BEAUTYfood collagen bar contains 12 grams of Marine Collagen for a skin-plumping snack on-the-go. Food brands like Health Ade have launched products like their new Health Ade Plus Beauty, infused with silica and biotin to support healthy skin, hair, and nails. “We’ll continue to see beauty ingredients beyond collagen in our snacks. Already-popular retinol is experiencing steady growth, with options like Embody’s retinol gummies that provide an all-in-one skincare solution that helps prevent premature ageing, provide a dewy glow, and reduce blemishes in less than 12 weeks.”

“From those who struggle with chronic issues like acne or wrinkles, to consumers who simply want a boost of hydration, the idea that you can give the appearance of a glowing complexion, full, shiny hair, and strong nails without the perceived need for topical products plays right into societal norms that the ultimate beauty comes naturally, and from within”

The driving force behind the ingestible trend, argues Hago, is not only the desire to generate optimal beauty from within but also a greater societal desire for nutrition. The very term “nutricosmetics” stems from the blending of overall nutrition and targeted beauty support. “Environmental-protection supplements like those from SunDaily and Ora are growing in appeal as the market shifts from ‘detox’ to ‘internal environmental defence.’ We also see evolving research that increasingly shows how stress – and resulting stress hormones – are the root cause of a host of beauty and wellness woes like acne, hair loss/thinning, dull/dry skin, and weight retention.” Recognising this, nutricosmetics companies are rebranding themselves to embrace stress-management as beauty care, with brands relying on ingredients like ashwagandha and magnesium to balance and soothe stress.

Modern, hectic lifestyles and the growing desire among consumers to pare down topical routines are also drivers, says Hago. There’s a huge appeal in products that can easily be eaten or taken in everyday beverages, instead of more product cluttering shelves. “From those who struggle with chronic issues like acne or wrinkles, to consumers who simply want a boost of hydration, the idea that you can give the appearance of a glowing complexion, full, shiny hair, and strong nails without the perceived need for topical products plays right into societal norms that the ultimate beauty comes naturally, and from within.

Out of this, brands like Moodbeli, Hago says, have created this sense of “tonic herb rituals”, with its range of botanical powders that include key actives, like mushroom or plant-sourced adaptogens to help the body adapt to physical, environmental, and emotional stress. “My personal favourite brand, Four Sigmatic, offers nutrient-dense coffee powders filled with Reishi, Cordyceps, and Ashwagandha to provide immune-boosting support in everyday beverages, like coffee.” 

Another important part of this trend is gut-health. “We’ve seen an increase in consumers looking to probiotics as a vehicle for skin healing, with brands like Zitsticka and Hum Nutrition using probiotics to support the gut/skin microbiome balance. All these gut health products that you would normally find in foods like yoghurt are now finding their way into the beauty aisles.” It’s only a matter of time before cult favourites like Glossier to tap into this sphere.

Recently the brand Bellway, an all-natural fibre supplement company that supports healthy digestion and wellness, launched its Bellway Beauty Super Fibre + Collagen. “This new supplement blends digestion-soothing prebiotic fibre with collagen and hyaluronic acid to specifically target the gut-skin axis, ultimately improving skin health and clarity for a radiant complexion,” says Hago. The trend forecaster has found that the brand’s philosophy of “gorgeous skin starts from within and, more importantly, with a balanced, healthy gut!” is resonating with consumers who are learning that the gut is a central component of skincare routines. “While everyone knows that fibre is good for your gut, beauty insiders and health experts have brought it to the forefront of the conversation, as it helps to reduce acne, oil, and premature ageing.”  

Researcher Sarah Jay says that her chronic illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), is the direct result of trying to cure her cystic acne topically and with an abundance of oral pharmaceuticals. Jay, who is the creator of the Toxic Beauty (2019) documentary and founder of All Earthlings, an organisation dedicated to improving transparency in cosmetic supply chains, firmly believes diet is the only way to genuinely cure your skin issues, including acne. 

As a teen, Jay’s logic was more is more. “Every day I slathered on as many products as possible, a cocktail soup of chemical reactions from prescription, over the counter, and drugstore products, everything from Neomedrol (a harsh topical steroid) to Proactiv, to Oxy to Clean & Clear.” But this left her intestinal (and overall) health devastated by chronic antibiotic abuse, destroying her microbiome; she ultimately adopted a holistic approach to skincare and made changes to her diet. Inflammatory conditions like acne, eczema must be addressed systematically. “The skincare industry preys on our vulnerabilities and sells us toxic products we don’t need that often exacerbate the ailments they claim to remedy,” she says.

While debunking the topical approach to skincare is a core pillar of Jay’s work, it’s something more people are paying attention to; what once was seen as a 30+ supplement, ingestibles are gaining traction with Millennial and Gen Z customers interested in clean beauty products.

A huge part of this trend stems from the fact that Gen-Zers are deeply invested in the wellness economy; according to Mallory Huron, beauty & wellness editor at Fashion Snoops, a recent report showed that “72 per cent of Gen Zers say managing stress and mental health is their most important health and wellness concern.” No surprise there given the economic and sociopolitical turmoil they’ve experienced in their lifetimes. Already the cohort is being targeted by the supplement industry.

“You may not see ‘designed specifically for Gen Z’ on a product package, but in terms of aesthetics, brand communication, and target concerns they absolutely are being catered to within the ingestible wellness space,” says Huron. According to her, young consumers are invested in maintaining their health, and their acceptance of things like alternative medicine, spirituality, and internal wellness has turned them into huge consumers of nutricosmetics. “Even Ocean Spray, who is capitalizing on Gen Z attention thanks to the viral recent TikToks, is investing in health tonic products as a way to resonate with wellness-minded Gen Zers.”

A handful of brands are catering to Gen-Z with offerings including Recoop, which has ingredients that help users transition stimulants to supplements. “Fredi is also an intriguing Gen Z targeted brand,” Huron says. “With sunny visuals and a balanced message, Fredi’s ‘success at work starts with wellness’ speaks not only to Gen Z’s hard-working attitude but also to their desire to be well and stay well.” Brands like Zitsticka, whose Skin Discipline acne supplement really cornered the market for Gen Z, and Sup Supplements use playful graphics and pastel hues that appeal to the younger generation. There’s also Whimsy Official’s Glow Getter collagen blend, which Huron says has it all for Gen Z: a sleek, minimalist aesthetic, trendy brand design, and a gorgeous, Instagram-and-TikTok worthy cool blue hue. 

The message that healthy skin is the result of a healthy diet and that what we put into our bodies rather than what we put on our bodies, is spreading. “There is a definitive movement towards non-toxic ingredients, simplification, skinimalism as writer Jessica Defino calls it,” Jay says. “After decades of selling us countless unnecessary and often toxic lotions and potions that strip the skin's microbiome and prevent the skin from carrying out its natural cleansing and protective functions, brands are responding by offering ingestible – vitamins and supplements that promote skin health from within.” 

There is no quick fix for acne. “We look to topical products to fix our skin problems when in reality, it takes time for the body to recover and the skin to replenish.” When you eliminate inflammatory foods from your diet, Jay says your skin will transform, and this is especially true with the elimination of dairy, animal products, and common allergens including wheat. “Aside from the environmental benefits of veganism, a plant-based diet is known to alkalize the body and improve gut flora by promoting the growth of pre and probiotic.” Now when she suffers a breakout, she reminds herself to be grateful that my skin has communicated with her and mirrored back her choices. “Our skin is constantly sending us messages. We should listen.”

Moving forward, more categories are set to get in on the ingestible trend. “New categories like sexual wellness are also taking part in the ingestible trend, as they look to provide solutions that not only support performance and pleasure, but also aid in balancing hormones, PMS-symptoms, postpartum effects, and menopausal concerns like hair thinning,” says Hago. “This holistic, multi-generational approach to sexual wellness supplements enables the category to appeal to teens, new mothers, and menopausal women.” For example, Ora Organics’ Hormonious supplement, for example, uses adaptogens like maca and holy basil to balance hormones, not only helping with mood and energy but also working to reduce hormonal acne. 

Skincare brands can no longer just launch a topical, Rehvan says they must come as a set for inside and outside use. Expect to see functional ingredients (pro-retinol) used in the beauty space for decades to be offered in a drinkable format. Our skin is our biggest organ, so there should be no difference between what we eat and what we put on top of our hair or skin.