Evidence-based beauty from within

 For this week’s blog, we have invited Miguel Toribio-Mateas to share with us his knowledge on the key natural ingredients known to have a tangible effect on skin.  “Everyone loves looking good, whatever their age” says Miguel, who also tells us that “nutrition, good moisturisation, and good supplements can help keep skin glowing and looking its healthiest, regardless of age”. And at 46, Miguel does seem to have been walking the walk as well as talking the talk. But apart from looking like he has been applying some of this knowledge to himself, he will also be substantiating these claims with some good quality scientific evidence.

As a nutrition practitioner, I am happy to experiment a little with foods and natural ingredients sourced from plants that have a record of safe traditional use. A little trial and error has never hurt anyone, so I am happy to eat two pieces of broccoli instead of one, even if precise evidence on this type of intervention is lacking. But as a clinical scientist I always seek good evidence that an intervention actually works in humans (not just in the laboratory) so that I am confident that results will bear some degree of reproducibility. The better the evidence that something works, the more likely you are to experience a benefit, so for me – if I am to invest in natural beauty, I still need clinical evidence. It isn’t really an option, it’s a necessity. In this blog, I am focusing on skin and on the combination of foods and nutraceuticals that I use myself and that I’m happy to recommend to my clients to support that “glow from within” look.

Cocoa extract

Cocoa beans from the Theobroma cacao tree fruit are dried and the fatty seeds fermented. This is where cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted from. Cocoa is the main ingredient in chocolate. At least in dark chocolate! Cocoa is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect health. In fact, cocoa is one of the best sources of antioxidants on earth.

For decades, dermatologists have been intrigued about the effects of dietary antioxidants – from foods and from food supplements – as a strategy to protect skin against photo-ageing. In fact, the effects of oral consumption of high-flavanol cocoa products on skin photo-ageing have been studied thoroughly, with good clinical evidence that moderately photo-aged skin can benefit from regular cocoa flavanol consumption – which has positive effects on facial wrinkles and elasticity. However, unfortunately, during conventional chocolate making, flavanols are damaged by the manufacturing processes, so unless your chocolate is “flavanol-enriched”, i.e. chocolate with the addition of supplementary flavanols, then that won’t do the trick. But with regard to chocolate that is flavanol enriched, or indeed a food supplement containing cocoa flavanols, there is clinical evidence that eating chocolate rich in flavanols regularly enhances the skin’s ability to protect itself from the effects of harmful ultra-violet radiation.1,2 Not an excuse to leave the house with no sunscreen, but as with many things in health, a multi-pronged approach is always best. Particularly because cocoa flavanols don’t just increase resistance against ultra violet (UV)-induced inflammatory damage (erythema) and optimise transepidermal water loss, keeping skin looking “plumper,”3 they have also been found to acutely increase dermal blood flow and oxygen saturation.3

Maritime pine bark extract

Maritime pine trees grow in countries on the Mediterranean sea. Their bark is rich in flavonoids and is used to make food supplements that have powerful physiological effects. The extracts include oligomeric proanthocyanidins that have been widely studied for over 40 yearswith more than 160 clinical trials and 420 scientific publicationsensuring safety and efficacy as an ingredient in food supplements.

One of the things that pine bark extract does extremely well is to help increase skin hydration and elasticity.4 Effects are most likely due to an increased synthesis of extracellular matrix molecules such as hyaluronic acid and possibly of collagen too. But oral supplementation with pine bark extract also protects skin from UV radiation, as tested in recent clinical trials.4,5 Amounts as little as 40mg / day maritime pine bark extract (providing 95% proanthcyanidins) have been seen to reduce hyperpigmentation of human skin, improve skin barrier function and extracellular matrix homeostasis. I like taking care of my skin and keeping it young and vibrant-looking, so pine bark extract is definitely one of my favourite “plant-based supplements”.

Astaxanthin (and a little on bilberry too)

Astaxanthin is a red pigment that belongs to a group of phytonutrients called carotenoids. It occurs naturally in certain algae (the rainwater microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis) and causes the pink colour in salmon, trout, lobster, prawns, and other seafood. Astaxanthin is one of those extremely powerful carotenoids that is effective at tiny physiological doses. It has been found to have a range of beneficial effects for a number of organs. But focusing on its skin-protecting properties it works by means of its lipid-loving nature. It is able to penetrate deep inside the fatty layer that provides “cushioning” to the skin, keeping it healthy by reducing damage by free radicals, thereby contributing to facial skin rejuvenation.6

Dermatologists are still trying to figure out how astaxanthin actually effects skin physiology, but there is increasing evidence that astaxanthin works on skin homeostasis as a photoprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory agent.7,8

Bilberry extract

As with other “beauty from within” ingredients, when looking for a “skin” nutraceutical I wouldn’t focus entirely on one single item. My professional advice would be to focus on the synergy that emerges out of a nutrient combination. When taken alongside a meal that contains other polyphenols, e.g. extra virgin olive oil, lycopene from tomatoes, or beta-carotene from carrots, there is synergy and potentiation that leads to increased bioavailability of these compounds.9,10  That’s to me is a very powerful argument that deserves some careful consideration when pondering about what foods and nutraceuticals might combine well in order to maximise the protection to skin. Some very interesting compounds from bilberry, for example, only have emerging clinical data on non-skin applications such as varicose veins11 but they are known to have a high ORAC (Oxygen-Radical Absorbing Capacity),12 and provide compounds known as anthocyanins that are very similar to those found in pine bark extract .This means they’re highly likely to work well in combination with other pine bark and other polyphenol-rich plants.

Lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein

Continuing with my synergy argument, I believe lycopene – a carotenoid found in tomatoes – and beta-carotene – found in carrots and pumpkin, amongst other vegetables – work beautifully alongside astaxanthin and pine bark extract for glowing skin that has beautiful elasticity. Oral supplementation with a combination of these two powerful antioxidants has been found to dampen down inflammation caused by UV radiation, decreasing levels of cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-alpha and protecting skin from long-lasting free radical damage.13 Lycopene has also been found to help with skin health in people with a tendency to develop acne.14 In combination with lutein – another carotenoid present in spinach, kale and egg yolks, lycopene has been found to protect against solar radiation-induced health damage.15

Miguel is a doctoral researcher in clinical nutrition practice with wide-angle, first-hand experience of the research process. From the laboratory bench, having completed a lab-based Masters in Clinical Neuroscience focusing on brain ageing, to the design and implementation of human clinical trials on the effect of fermented foods on mood and cognition as leading investigator at the “Bowels and Brains™️” project at the London Agri-Food Innovation Clinic. Miguel has been delivering quality individualised nutrition care to his clients from 2009, translating complex science findings into meaningful recommendations that can be used by people like you to improve health and wellbeing. Miguel’s background includes 15+ years in senior consulting and training roles in life sciences and medical publishing, having trained clinicians and scientists around the world.

With many thanks to Miguel for this blog; if you have any questions regarding the health topics that have been raised, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Clare via phone; 01684 310099 or e-mail clare@cytoplan.co.uk

Related Cytoplan products

CytoProtect Hair, Skin and Nails (New) – A synergistic multi-nutrient and antioxidant one-a-day complex that has been specially formulated to help support the health of hair, skin and nails. The formula features cocoa extract, maritime pink bark extract, bilberry extract, beta carotene, lycopene, lutein, 1-3, 1-6 beta glucan and astaxanthin providing a broad spectrum of antioxidants to support the health of hair, skin and nails. This product also include MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), a source of organic sulphur as sulphur is found naturally in hair, skin and nails, along with selected vitamins and trace minerals.

Phytoshield – A powerful phyto-antioxidant nutrient complex containing high levels of flavonoids and carotenoids.

Krill Oil – Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA along with astaxanthin

Evening Primrose Oil – Provides a source of the omega-6 fatty acid GLA

Acidophilus Plus – Live bacteria supplement containing 9 strains of friendly bacteria

Wholefood Multi – all round multivitamin and mineral complex


  1. Williams, S.; Tamburic, S.; Lally, C. Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from uv light. J Cosmet Dermatol 2009, 8, 169-173.10.1111/j.1473-2165.2009.00448.x
  2. Yoon, H.S.; Kim, J.R.; Park, G.Y.; Kim, J.E.; Lee, D.H.; Lee, K.W.; Chung, J.H. Cocoa flavanol supplementation influences skin conditions of photo-aged women: A 24-week double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. J Nutr 2016, 146, 46-50.10.3945/jn.115.217711
  3. Heinrich, U.; Neukam, K.; Tronnier, H.; Sies, H.; Stahl, W. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against uv-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J Nutr 2006, 136, 1565-1569.10.1093/jn/136.6.1565
  4. Grether-Beck, S.; Marini, A.; Jaenicke, T.; Krutmann, J. French maritime pine bark extract (pycnogenol(r)) effects on human skin: Clinical and molecular evidence. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2016, 29, 13-17.10.1159/000441039
  5. Furumura, M.; Sato, N.; Kusaba, N.; Takagaki, K.; Nakayama, J. Oral administration of french maritime pine bark extract (flavangenol((r))) improves clinical symptoms in photoaged facial skin. Clin Interv Aging 2012, 7, 275-286.10.2147/cia.S33165
  6. Chalyk, N.E.; Klochkov, V.A.; Bandaletova, T.Y.; Kyle, N.H.; Petyaev, I.M. Continuous astaxanthin intake reduces oxidative stress and reverses age-related morphological changes of residual skin surface components in middle-aged volunteers. Nutr Res 2017, 48, 40-48.10.1016/j.nutres.2017.10.006
  7. Aiello, A.; Accardi, G.; Candore, G.; Carruba, G.; Davinelli, S.; Passarino, G.; Scapagnini, G.; Vasto, S.; Caruso, C. Nutrigerontology: A key for achieving successful ageing and longevity. Immun Ageing 2016, 13, 17.10.1186/s12979-016-0071-2
  8. Ito, N.; Seki, S.; Ueda, F. The protective role of astaxanthin for uv-induced skin deterioration in healthy people-a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrients 2018, 10.10.3390/nu10070817
  9. Linnewiel-Hermoni, K.; Khanin, M.; Danilenko, M.; Zango, G.; Amosi, Y.; Levy, J.; Sharoni, Y. The anti-cancer effects of carotenoids and other phytonutrients resides in their combined activity. Arch Biochem Biophys 2015, 572, 28-35.10.1016/j.abb.2015.02.018
  10. Dhuique-Mayer, C.; Servent, A.; Descalzo, A.; Mouquet-Rivier, C.; Amiot, M.J.; Achir, N. Culinary practices mimicking a polysaccharide-rich recipe enhance the bioaccessibility of fat-soluble micronutrients. Food Chem 2016, 210, 182-188.10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.04.037
  11. Belcaro, G.; Dugall, M.; Luzzi, R.; Corsi, M.; Ledda, A.; Ricci, A.; Pellegrini, L.; Cesarone, M.R.; Hosoi, M.; Errichi, B.M., et al. Management of varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency in a comparative registry with nine venoactive products in comparison with stockings. Int J Angiol 2017, 26, 170-178.10.1055/s-0036-1597756
  12. Bagchi, D.; Sen, C.K.; Bagchi, M.; Atalay, M. Anti-angiogenic, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties of a novel anthocyanin-rich berry extract formula. Biochemistry (Mosc) 2004, 69, 75-80, 71 p preceding 75
  13. Groten, K.; Marini, A.; Grether-Beck, S.; Jaenicke, T.; Ibbotson, S.H.; Moseley, H.; Ferguson, J.; Krutmann, J. Tomato phytonutrients balance uv response: Results from a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2019, 32, 101-108.10.1159/000497104
  14. Chernyshova, M.P.; Pristenskiy, D.V.; Lozbiakova, M.V.; Chalyk, N.E.; Bandaletova, T.Y.; Petyaev, I.M. Systemic and skin-targeting beneficial effects of lycopene-enriched ice cream: A pilot study. J Dairy Sci 2019, 102, 14-25.10.3168/jds.2018-15282
  15. Grether-Beck, S.; Marini, A.; Jaenicke, T.; Stahl, W.; Krutmann, J. Molecular evidence that oral supplementation with lycopene or lutein protects human skin against ultraviolet radiation: Results from a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Br J Dermatol 2017, 176, 1231-1240.10.1111/bjd.15080

Last updated on 2nd November 2022 by cytoffice


10 thoughts on “Evidence-based beauty from within

  1. Hello , can the Hair Skins Nails be taken alongside the Wholefood Multi safely as daily supplements?

    1. Hi Rachael, thank you for your comment. Yes, both products can be taken together safely. Thanks, Jackie.

  2. Hello, I’ve also heard that Biotin(?) is good for skin. Do you have any products that contain this?

    1. Hi, thank you for your comment. Yes, biotin is important for carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism and for the health of the skin, hair and nervous system. We sell Biotin (available here) or included in our Hair, Skin & Nails, available here. Thanks, Jackie.

  3. There is much said about Sun damaging the skin. There is evidence of that obviously especially with the Ozone layers being damaged
    However there’s also evidence that most sunscreens have toxic chemicals that cause other problems like cancer! There is research that shows that the Sun has more value on overall health improvement than being screened from it. Personally I would only use organic carcinogen free sunscreens when in the Sun more than 15 minutes
    I am more interested in overall health ( from inside) rather than how wonderful the skin looks outside
    One question: most moisturisers use Glycerin including Waleda. Glycerin takes moisture from 5 cell layers below skin surface and traps the moisture on the surface making it look artificially glowing
    However it’s a fabrication that traps users to continue to use those products. There are a few companies like Dr Bonners that don’t use Glycerin which I recommend to my Acupuncture patients
    I have been working with nutrition alongside Acupuncture for 31 years and seen very successful results
    Any comments from Miguel regarding Glycerin?
    Good article overall
    Altair de Almeida, Malvern. UK

    1. Hi Altair,

      Thank you for your comments. When it comes to sun exposure, the benefits are likely to turn into detriment past a threshold that is different for everyone. On that basis, protecting the skin with a good quality sunscreen would be a good idea. There are plenty of good natural physical (i.e. non-chemical) sunscreen products out there. Texture and feel are important factors when choosing a product, and these are highly individual, so it’s good to try a few and see how they feel.

      With regards to your glycerin comment, natural glycerols from vegetable sources like coconut oil have a good record of safety and even good evidence of protecting the skin barrier. Different skins have different needs and this goes a little beyond what was meant to be covered in the blog. For those interested in this topic, we recommend you read the feature on glycerin by Healthline, here. You are right that skin care products don’t necessarily need glycerin. There are 100s of glycerin-free options out there, so we recommend experimenting so you find your best fit.

      Hope this helps.


  4. I am nearly 70 . Spend much time outside and have recently develop ed
    deep wrinkles. Is there any help for someone of my age ?

    1. Hi Janet,

      Thank you for your question on our blog. In your message you say you have developed these deep wrinkles quite recently. Is there something that you can identify that may have triggered this and I wonder if you also have any other symptoms. Have you had any particular stress, shock or illness recently? Or has anything else changed?

      One of the reasons that we develop wrinkles as we age is due to the process of oxidative stress and diet, lifestyle and environmental factors all contribute to this. From a dietary perspective some areas to consider

      – Avoid sugary and refined foods. Keep starchy carbohydrate portions small. Blood sugar spikes can increase ‘advanced glycation end’ products which cause damage to skin (and other tissues/organs)
      – Eat lots of vegetables – half a plate at both lunch and supper
      – 4 portions of healthy fats every day – eg olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocado, oily fish, coconut oil. A portion is 15 ml oil, 30g nuts/seeds or half an avocado. Avoid sunflower oil, margarine and processed foods

      You could apply some olive oil or coconut oil topically to your skin. Coconut oil absorbs fairly quickly and can be used on the face as well (extra virgin coconut oil).

      Whilst getting outside is very desirable, weathering can also be harsh on the skin. Some UV is important for vitamin D synthesis eg 5-15 mins in the middle of the day when the sun is shining as often as possible, but do not allow yourself to go pink. UV can also give rise to wrinkles and it is best to wear sunglasses and a hat to protect the delicate face and neck. On the other hand arms and legs can be exposed.

      In terms of supplements I would suggest an all round multivitamin-mineral, some omegas and our Hair Skin and Nails, so:

      CoQ10 Multi – one or two capsules per day with breakfast
      Krill Oil – 2 capsules per day
      Hair Skin and Nails – 1 capsule per day

      You may also be interested in our free health questionnaire service – if you complete and return a health questionnaire we can look a bit more closely and send you some written diet and supplement recommendations, available here.

      I hope this helps.


  5. As a 70 year old woman I am pleased to say that my skin is plump & free of wrinkles. But my hair which used to be very thick is beginning to thin out especially at the parting immediately in the front. Can you please recommend a regimen or supplements that will help to renew the health of the hair? Usually supplements tend to target skin, nail & hair but is there one that helps hair alone?

    1. Hi Mary,

      Thank you for your question on our blog. Our Hair, Skin and Nails product has a number of nutrients relevant for hair. For example – biotin, zinc and selenium all contribute to the maintenance of normal hair. MSM is an organic source of sulphur and sulphur is found in hair. In addition the antioxidants in the product are relevant. As well as this product, other suggestions I would make are:

      – an all-round multivitamin and mineral. We have a product called 50+ which would be suitable and you can take one or two per day (with breakfast)
      – essential fatty acids – DHA, EPA and GLA. We have a new product called Omega Balance which contains all three. If you are taking blood thinning medication then you should not take more than one per day. Otherwise one to two per day.

      There may be other relevant recommendations we could make. If you would like to email me with some more information on any supplements/medications you are taking, any other health concerns/conditions/symptoms – clare@cytoplan.co.uk, I will give it some more consideration. Alternatively we do offer a free health questionnaire service – if you complete and return a health questionnaire we will send you some written diet and supplement recommendations.

      Best wishes,


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