Baked chicken with skin

I recognize that ladies have an impressive amount of interest and knowledge in skin appearance and health. But I also see women spending huge amounts of money on cosmetics, toiletries, and aesthetic procedures while not actually addressing skin or overall health. And guys: don’t skip this discussion because a properly designed oral skin program also benefits joint health, metabolic health, and brain/cognitive health.

There is a growing recognition that orally-consumed nutrients and microbes have the ability to exert significant skin health and appearance benefits. And, while your skin may look smoother and more youthful, there are other important health benefits that simply do not develop with topical products.

Say you purchase an expensive hyaluronic acid serum that you apply topically: it smooths wrinkles and moisturizes–but then you wash it off at night, losing all its effects. Neither you nor your skin are healthier as a result of applying hyaluronic acid topically. Likewise, you take retinoids or undergo micro-needling or expose your skin to red light: are you or your health improved? No–you experience a temporary increase in dermal collagen that smooths skin, but the effect is transient. It is no different than applying lipstick: the application can enhance appearance, but is transient, yielding no long-lasting improvements in skin or overall health.

What if you could experience an improvement in skin health and appearance that didn’t wash off with your evening skin routine? What if you applied topical products on top of skin that was smoother, plumper, more radiant, moister–wouldn’t you expect better results? It would be like being 30 years old again at age 60: the results would just be better.

Welcome to the world of nutricosmetics, factors that actually improve skin health and appearance. Even better, because the skin is the outward reflection of internal health, especially gastrointestinal (GI) health, factors that improve health by reducing inflammation and improve hormonal status through the GI tract also make contributions.

Let’s consider hyaluronic acid, a unique collection of linear molecules that have exceptional properties of water retention, viscosity, flexibility, and barrier function. In addition to its topical application, hyaluronic acid is also injected into joints to reduce joint pain, into skin to plump up skin and reduce wrinkles, and in eye procedures to increase the volume of vitreous that provides volume to eyes. The evidence is clear: hyaluronic acid consumed orally increases dermal collagen, dermal thickness, dermal moisture and reduces wrinkle depth, effects that do not wash off but remain for extended durations. Then why would someone pay a lot of money for a topically applied transient form but neglect ingestion of the form that yields numerous health benefits including smoother, moister skin? We are meant to ingest plenty of hyaluronic acid through consumption of organ meats, especially brain and skin that are among the most plentiful sources. (There are no plant sources of hyaluronic acid, contrary to misleading online claims that vegetarians and vegans have options for non-animal alternative sources, one of the numerous deficiencies that such lifestyles yield. Vegetarians and vegans obtain zero hyaluronic acid through diet, but must rely only on limited capacity to synthesize.) But most modern people, thanks to blundering dietary guidelines, have abandoned organ and skin consumption to reduce saturated fat intake. The failure to take in hyaluronic acid therefore leads to an acceleration of skin aging and thinning, joint deterioration (since the lubricating synovial fluid of joints is mostly hyaluronic acid), worsening of vaginal atrophy in females (the uterus, cervix, and vagina are largely hyaluronic acid), and deterioration of brain health (the brain is also rich in hyaluronic acid).

Hyaluronic acid also acts as a fiber in the GI tract, nourishing microbes and causing proliferation or “bloom” of species such as Akkermansia muciniphila, an important keystone microbial species. The bloom in Akkermansia yields a number of important health effects including an increase in intestinal mucus production, increased butyrate production that leads to reduced insulin resistance, reduced blood sugar and blood pressure. This leads to reduced endotoxemia that, in turn, yields skin benefits due to a reduction in inflammation and insulin resistance. Cultivation of microbial species in the GI tract that produce hyaluronic acid can also add to endogenous (internal) production of hyaluronic acid, augmenting ingested hyaluronic acid. In short, no skin health routine is complete without oral supplementation of hyaluronic acid, the prototypical orally-consumed nutricosmetic.

Sure, enjoy the transient effects of topical products. But recognize that obtaining components of diet, especially hyaluronic acid, collagen (no more skinless boneless chicken breast—eat the skin!), carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, restoring lost microbes such as L. reuteri and “feeding” them with prebiotic fibers from root vegetables or polysaccharides from mushrooms, yield more durable effects that also contribute to skin health and appearance, making the results of your topical products even better.