27/08/2010 16:54 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Skincare You Can Swallow: The Beauty Supplement Debate

OJO Images/Rex Features

Cleanse, tone, moisturise, pop a pill? That's right, with the rise of supplements specifically designed to treat your skin, it seems the traditional three-step beauty regime has gained another step.

It might sound like nothing more than a new way to part you from your cold hard cash, but there's evidence that quality supplements can shave off years. One recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found women who supplemented their diets with a high intake of multivitamins, in particular vitamins C, E, and vitamin B12, had less free radical damage and longer telomeres, the part of DNA associated with ageing - the shorter your telomeres, the more your cells will age.

So what can supplements do, which ones are best, and will we see them replacing our favourite moisturiser? We rounded up the experts to give us some answers.

What's all the excitement about?
"Supplements go where skincare cannot reach," says anti-ageing expert, dermatologist and nutritionist Dr Nicholas Perricone. "They've come a long way and now we have highly targeted antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that can do everything from repairing our bodies on a cellular level to regulating blood sugar and insulin.

"Many of these super antioxidants penetrate right into the cell where they combat free radicals and decrease inflammation. Because of this, the right supplements can keep us much younger than our chronological years."

Candice Gardner, skincare expert at the International Dermal Institute, agrees that supplements fit well into our busy modern lifestyles.

"They are definitely become very popular as people are becoming more time compressed and looking for quick-fix skin results." she says. "Although, obviously, if your diet consists of all the wrong things then no matter how many skin supplements you take, you are not likely to see much of a difference."

Can't I just eat lots of fruit and veggies?
Nope. Even if your diet would make a nutritionist cry for joy, the latest top-quality supplements are so precisely targeted you'll be getting more benefit than you could through food alone.

"Alpha lipoic acid, for example, is one of the most powerful and beneficial anti-inflammatory antioxidants and a very important nutrient for fighting ageing and weight problems," says Dr Perricone. "However, there are no really adequate food sources for this nutrient."

What should I look for?
"Top of the list is a rich supply of multivitamins, especially B vitamins, and antioxidants to fight free radical damage and protect against UV sunlight which causes photo-ageing," says registered nutritionist Anita Ellis. "Collagen to help build collagen fibres and omega 6 and 3 fatty acids to keep skin supple and hydrated, can also prevent ageing."

Dr Perricone also advises going for the best quality you can, avoiding synthetic fillers and preservatives, such as sugar, sodium, wheat and gluten where possible.

"In addition to the recommended vitamins and minerals, a good beauty supplement should contain powerful anti-oxidants and nutrients such as alpha lipoic acid, vitamin C ester, DMAE (dimethyl amino ethanol), pycnogenol, coenzyme Q10, conjugated linoleic acid, GLA (gamma linolenic acid), l-carnitine fumerate, n-acetyl carnitine, omega3 essential fatty acids, carnosine, benfotiamine and astaxanthin."

So is it goodbye to traditional skincare?
No. Our experts say don't start chucking your serum out just yet, especially as creams are getting even more high-tech, promising to work on everything from your genes to your cells' body clocks.

"Topically applied vitamins, in serums or other products, can have an immediate effect as they are applied directly to the skin," explains Gardner, "so you'll see fast results plus you can target the skincare to where you need it.'"

Dr Perricone agrees, "My approach has always been that it's the components combined that achieve the best results. You won't get perfect skin by product alone, however great it is. But use that product alongside a skin-friendly diet and lifestyle and you will get the results you want."

What does the future hold?
"Over the next five to 10 years, results will prove that supplementation is invaluable and essential to slow down cellular ageing," says Ellis.

And Dr Perricone believes we'll see better technology improving the quality of the supplements on offer. "In addition, food and drink, probably especially drinks, will begin to offer an amazing array of benefits that will truly rejuvenate the skin from the inside out, this will include oral wrinkle reduction that will be very dramatic."

What's out there now?
The supplements
Perfectil Plus contains antioxidants, B vitamins, selenium, Co-Q10 and omega 3 and 6 to slow down ageing, as well as doubling up as a complete multivitamin. It costs £16.59 for a month's supply. Available from Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, Holland and Barrett and online at

Anti-ageing Perfectil Platinum contains high-grade marine collagen, pine bark extract, black currant seed oil, lycopene and alpha lipoic acid. It costs £38.65 for 60 tablets, from Boots and Superdrug.

Perricone MD Alpha Lipoic Acid contains the powerful antioxidant, which is 400 times stronger than vitamins E and C combined, to slow wrinkles and boost radiance. It costs £24 for a month's supply, available from or call 020 7734 2566

The Advanced Nutrition Skin range, created by Patrick Holford, includes a string of products targeted to improve the skin, including Skin Vitality, Skin Defender and Skin Collagen Support. The range costs from £9.95, available nationwide. Call 020 8830 8030 for stockists or go to

The creams
L'Oréal Youth Code Rejuvenating Anti-Wrinkle Day Cream took 10 years to develop and contains 'pro-gen' technology, promising to help your skin reset its own genetic code and look more youthful. £14.99, available nationwide.

Lancôme Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate, is another product that's been 10 years in the making. Based on genetic research, it activates part of the cell which creates the proteins associated with keeping skin looking young. £53.50, available nationwide.

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex has recently been reformulated. The classic product works on each skin cell's individual clock genes, to help it repair itself and keep it looking young. £36, available nationwide.

Perricone MD Cold Plasma is based around a revolutionary suspension carrier system - which, in plain English, means your skin extracts whatever it needs, giving you a bespoke treatment each time to leave it protected and radiant. £120 from