Beauty is big business—and getting even bigger. The category of nutricosmetics, or the use of diet and nutritional supplements to elicit a cosmetic effect naturally, is expected to rise at a 5.0% CAGR from 2017 to 2025, climbing to a worth of $7.93 billion worldwide, according to a report from Transparency Market Research (1). What’s more, the U.S. market is underdeveloped in nutricosmetics compared to other countries, and therefore displays the greatest growth potential.

“Until recently, Asia and parts of South America—notably Brazil—led the trend of drinks and supplements for ‘inner beauty,’” says Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, senior director of research & development/national educator for the Texas-based Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation. “That said, the market is rising and products for beauty within are going to be one of the biggest trends between now and 2025.”

What’s driving this billion dollar industry? A demand for natural products due to concerns about potential negative health effects of toxins in conventional cosmetics brands. Parabens, synthetic colors, phthalates...consumers don’t want to put these chemicals onto (and therefore into) their bodies. In 2016 Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the Personal Care Products Safety Act, a bill to strengthen regulation of ingredients in personal care products. “Our skin is our largest organ, and many ingredients contained in these products—whether it be lotion, shampoo, or deodorant—are quickly absorbed by the skin,” Feinstein said in her testimony to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (2). “There is increasing evidence that certain ingredients in personal care products are linked to a range of health concerns, ranging from reproductive issues, such as fertility problems and miscarriage, to cancer.”

And who is driving the trend? An aging global population. As Sugarek MacDonald points out, women between the ages of 30 to 60 “are aware of the importance of nutrition for well-being in general, and for their skin. And if you take a closer look, traditionally you will find the market is primarily driven by women over the age 35 who are defying the aging process.” But they’re not alone—a shift is taking place, she adds. “Younger women and more men are now spurring an evolution of the category.” Younger millennials (18 to 25) are concerned with environmental impact and are familiar with the benefits of natural ingredients and nutricosmetics.

For these shoppers, beauty has stopped being skin deep and evolved into a search for total wellness. “When we ask people what they expect from a nutricosmetical product, they often answer, ‘to look healthy,’” says Richard Passwater, Jr., product education director for Bio Minerals, the maker of BioSil, a specialty line from Washington-based Natural Factors. “They say they try their best to live healthy, and they feel they are healthy and in return they want to look healthy.”

Ultimately, looking healthy is about smart, scientifically sound ways to care for and enhance the skin, hair, nails and body. And it starts with loving yourself and treating your body well, says Sugarek MacDonald. “A great place to start is eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, getting sufficient sleep and being physically active,” she notes. “However, there are many obstacles to keeping hair, skin and nails looking and feeling good, from genetics, sun exposure and pollution to the aging process.” Bluebonnet offers a nutricosmetics line called Beautiful Ally,  designed to provide beauty benefits from within, but also to provide protection from various everyday external damages (such as environmental exposures, sun exposure, smoking and poor diet), as well as internal factors (such as premature skin aging and poor antioxidant protection). The formulas deliver collagen peptides (types I & III), keratin, biotin, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, zinc, and more, in scientifically relevant potencies that nourish hair, skin and nails. And that science backing is key, says Sugarek MacDonald. She points out that consumer research shows Americans are skeptical of nutricosmetic claims. “To be convinced, they need to see credible scientific validation.”

Also touting the benefits of a holistic approach backed by science, Lycored, based in Secaucus, NJ, has been spreading the word about research showing supplementation of Lycoderm, a carotenoid-rich tomato nutrient complex, works to nourish the skin and balance skin’s response to UV rays. In April, the company launched a campaign to educate consumers on the key components of this study through the three stages of Lycored’s “Cycle of Glow”—Nourish, Balance, and Sustain. Zev Ziegler, head of global brand & marketing at Lycored, explained that the concept highlights Lycored’s commitment to pursuing holistic wellness through nutrition (Nourish), supplementation (Balance) and activities that have a positive impact on well-being (Sustain). “By utilizing the Cycle of Glow, we were able to highlight the importance of a well-rounded healthy lifestyle; weaving in the benefits of Lycored’s new wellness-boosting app, littleglow, for a person’s well-being and findings from our latest skin health research to support the importance of balance—how a skin-conscious lifestyle means caring for our skin on the inside just as much as we do on the outside.”

It’s important for consumers to understand that nutritional support from beauty from within is not a quick fix. “While perhaps not slow enough for some of us, scientifically speaking, aging is a slow and steady process,” says Tim Hammond, VP, sales and marketing for Vancouver-based Bergstrom Nutrition. “Healthily embracing the aging process is best accomplished in the same way—slow and steady.” The company offers OptiMSM, which has been shown to positively effect key genes tied to the structure and function of the skin, he says, adding that in one study 100% of participants supplementing with MSM experienced a decrease in wrinkles, with an average reduction of 38%. And while slow-and-steady may be key, consumers may not have to wait too long for benefits. “A soon-to-be published study also demonstrated 1g/day of OptiMSM taken daily provides visible benefits within two weeks for nails,” he says, “and within four weeks for hair and skin in healthy adult females.”

Scientific support is central, agrees Douglas Jones, global sales & marketing manager for BioCell Technology, LLC, in Irvine, CA. “Consumers these days are looking for clinically validated ingredients that have dose response data.” And often they look for specific ingredients instead of downstream benefits. “The advantage that branded ingredients bring to both retailers and consumers is supply chain transparency,” Jones says. “Both retailers and consumers can easily look up a branded ingredient and get information on their smart phone in a store.”

BioCell researches, develops, brands and distributes dietary ingredients that are available under licensing to marketers and manufacturers of finished products, Jones says. In the nutricosmetics category, the company offers BioCell Collagen for skin and joint health. “What makes BioCell Collagen unique is a matrix of Collagen Type II, Hyaluronic Acid and chondroitin sulfate found naturally in our ingredient,” Jones adds. A 2012 study (3) looked at the effects of BioCell Collagen on 26 subjects who were undergoing both natural (chronological) and photo aging process in the face. After taking one gram of the collagen supplement daily for three months, skin dryness and scaling dropped 76% and the appearance of wrinkles was reduced by 13% over baseline.

Also pointing to the science, Michael A. Smith, M.D., director of education for Florida-based Life Extension, says the company’s Hair, Skin & Nails Rejuvenation Formula with Verisol is formulated with nutrients that promote collagen and keratin health to keep hair, skin, and nails looking youthful and healthy. In studies, Verisol Bioactive Collagen Peptides demonstrated an average 20% reduction in eye wrinkle volume after eight weeks, an 18% increase in elastin, and a 7% increase in skin elasticity—an effect even more pronounced in women over 50.

The growing awareness of collagen over the last decade has transformed the marketplace, says Samantha Ford, business development director at AIDP, Inc., in City of Industry, CA. The company offers collagen products including Naticol, a natural type I collagen peptide from fish skin and scales. Early on, collagen did not have a good taste or odor profile, Ford says. As suppliers addressed taste, the industry saw the emergence of many bone broth products and collagen-enhanced food products. “Collagen has gone way beyond ‘beauty from within’ and research is focused on areas such as anti-aging, gut health, sarcopenia, bone strength/joint flexibility and eye health,” she notes. “Marketers and brands are further segmenting collagen launches with collagen water, condition-specific formulations with other actives for support, and formulations with a mix of raw material sources—for example, bovine, chicken and marine. Alternative delivery technologies such as gummies, chocolates, chews, fruit gellees and shots are also being introduced.”

There’s even candy-style collagen. Reserveage Nutrition’s new Collagen Candy is a powdered treat that dissolves on the tongue and is said to spark memories of the sweets we enjoyed as kids. The candy-style stick delivery system doesn’t require water or mixing and contains patented collagen peptides backed by double-blind clinical studies, one of which shows reduced volume of eye wrinkles by 20% within eight weeks. The upside of the candy approach: “Our research shows that not only are women experiencing pill fatigue, but they are also feeling drink fatigued with so many nutritional powders requiring mixing into a beverage,” Yamit Sadok, a member of the Reserveage product development team, explained in a press release. “That’s the beauty of Collagen Candy. You can get a full serving of highly absorbable collagen that’s convenient, fun and delicious.”

Other offerings work to support collagen production. Natural Factors offers BioSil products for hair, skin and nails, including Beauty Bones Joints liquid drops and Hair Skin Nails vegan capsules. The products contain the choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid complex ch-OSA complex, which Passwater says generates new collagen, elastin and keratin by activating and supporting enzymes critical to making these “3 beauty proteins.” The ch-OSA complex also helps protect collagen and elastin by neutralizing homocysteine, an “anti-collagen” amino acid that destroys collagen and elastin in the body and suppresses new collagen.

Nourishing “the Third Brain”

Your skin knows more than you think. In fact, it is being referred to as “the third brain,” based on studies suggesting this interface between the body and the environment employs a sentient information-processing network that can influence whole-body states and emotions (3).

“Yes, the skin can see and hear,” maintains Paul Schulick, CEO and founder of For The Biome. “And we need to be mindful of what we put on it.” Schulick is launching a new line of skin care products (or, skin health products, as he prefers to call them) this summer that include powders, serums, and essence sprays featuring fermented and certified organic ingredients such as Manuka honey, sprouted oats, and adaptogenic mushrooms. Schulick calls the latter “the most evolutionary plant that breathes oxygen and helps ward off stress.” The company also recently announced a partnership with Algatech, and one of For The Biome’s first products will feature Algatech’s AstaPure astaxanthin.

“We understand there are many factors to healthy skin—the mind and gut play an equally important role. In order to truly offer a holistic solution to our community, in addition to our skincare products we will leverage our website and social channels to further expand on the role of the gut and mind for healthy skin,” Schulick says, adding that diet guidance is an important component. “I suggest a nutrient-dense and supplemented diet to encourage healthy gut flora which supports healthier skin. Along with clean skincare and a nutritious diet, mental wellbeing is critical to beautiful skin. My partner and wife of 42 years, Barbi, will lead freely offered meditation to complete our approach to holistic healing and beauty from the inside out.”
Those benefits appeal to a variety of demographics. Passwater notes that often younger women are interested in trying BioSil to improve nail strength, reduce split ends of hair and increase the rate of hair growth. Women over 40 often are looking to increase skin elasticity and radiance, to increase hair thickness and strength, and/or to improve eye lashes. And men are interested for hair and to improve skin without needing to apply topicals. Also, reducing the “black circles” that often develop under eyes as people age is a common motivating factor.

As WholeFoods previously reported, Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract from Horphag Research, has been shown to increase hyaluronic acid (HA) synthase and collagen production in the skin. In one study, daily supplementation increased HA synthase in women by up to 44% after 12 weeks, plus enhanced skin elasticity 25% and improved skin hydration 21%.

Moving beyond collagen and collagen-boosters, Sabinsa Cosmetics offers a range of ingredients, and the company notes that getting the “beauty from within” concept depends heavily upon the integrity and functioning of various processes in the body, including countering oxidative stress and strengthening antioxidant defenses. Among the ingredient offerings: Saberry, a powder prepared from the amla fruit, studied for its antioxidant activity and UV protection; Ellagic Acid, an antioxidant that manages hyperpigmentation; and soy isoflavones, studied for their ability to improve elasticity, ward off wrinkles and maintain skin hydration.

Fats such as fish oil, borage, chia and flax provide omega-3 and -6 oils that help maintaining healthy skin, as does turmeric, which helps helps fight free radicals and protects against the aging effects of wrinkles, dry skin, and dark spots. And medicinal mushrooms offer benefits—to learn more, head to the Retail Content Library at for Steve Lankford’s HealthQuest Podcast interview with Mark J. Kaylo titled “China’s Secret for Healthy and Beautiful Skin: Tremella Mushroom hydrates the skin, supports immune health and increases antioxidants.

Intermittent Fasting: A Fountain of Youth?

Can intermittent fasting (IF) turn back the clock? Yes, says Naomi Whittel, New York Times best-selling author of Glow15 . Not eating for 16 hours two or three days a week induces autophagy, or cell renewal, and has the potential to slow signs of aging while boosting physical and mental performance. “Autophagy is like your body’s very own Roomba,” Whittel explains. “It removes waste, recycles junk and repairs the damaged components in your cells. This keeps everything ‘clean’ and functioning optimally. But as we get older autophagy becomes less efficient. As the process slows, the waste and junk accumulate in our cells. This buildup can eventually lead to signs of aging: wrinkles, exhaustion, weight gain.  While growing older is inevitable, ‘aging’ as we know it, is not.”

The advice Whittel gives those who want to try IF? Start slowly, fasting for 12 hours, then ease into the 16 hour fast. This can be done by stopping eating after dinner, for instance, 8 p.m., and then skipping breakfast and not eating until noon. For optimal results, she suggests working up to three non-consecutive fasting days per week. “If you prefer, you can begin your fast after breakfast and then skip dinner. The timing isn’t important–but the amount and cyclical nature of the timing is. On non-fasting days, consume enough protein to ensure the body’s needs are met. Fiber-packed veggies and satiating fat at meal times are also key.”

Whittel has been a long time advocate of fasting for personal reasons. “I have suffered from auto-immune issues—specifically eczema—since childhood. Fasting helps to reduce the overall inflammation in my body and support me in managing my eczema. It also supports my blood sugar balance, and of course activates autophagy. For me, I’ve been fasting for over two decades and as the research pours out about the positive impact it has on our health, it becomes even more exciting in terms of what it means for our well being.”
Also driving growth and innovation in the nutricosmetics category: Emerging science that has given us a better understanding of the role the gut plays in skin health. In 2018 AIDP launched BeautyOLIGO, a prebiotic that has been shown to improve skin via the gut axis, Ford says. “The gut acts as an important line of defense for the rest of the body. An imbalanced gut environment can generate compounds and toxins that enter circulation and accumulate in the skin—this can lead to inflammation, dryness, breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers, discoloration and appearance of wrinkles.” BeautyOLIGO, she explains, is a low-glycemic prebiotic shown to improve skin appearance by improving the gut environment, supporting immune function and inhibiting enzymes that degrade collagen and elastin in the skin. (See page 32 for more on pre- and probiotics for skin and beyond.)

For hair, Gene Bruno, senior director of product innovation for Twinlab Consolidation Corp., and Melissa Zawada, VP of brand at Reserveage, point to solubilized keratin. “Keratin is the predominant protein in hair, so it makes sense that supplementation with keratin would help support the structure of keratin in human hair—and indeed human research has shown that is the case.” The company offers several products for women and men: Reserveage Nutrition Keratin Booster for Women, which includes biotin; Keratin Booster for Men, which adds saw palmetto and beta sitosterol to support prostate health; and Reserveage Nutrition Tres Beauty 3, which targets hair, skin & nails with collagen, keratin and elastin.

“Customers seem to be drawn to products that say ‘hair, skin, and nails’ right on them,” says Matt D’Addio, nutritionist for Dean’s Natural Food Market, WholeFoods 2017 Retailer of the Year, with four locations in New Jersey. “We have a variety of hair, skin, and nail formulas as well as single ingredients like biotin, silica and collagen. I like products that have a mix of collagen and keratin to provide the amino acids to rebuild the hair, skin, and nails as well as the vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, biotin, and silica that act as cofactors in collagen and keratin production.”

Dean’s doesn’t merchandise nutricosmetics in a particular way, D’Addio adds. “We keep them grouped with the women’s supplements and collagen powders a little below eye level but a lot of them have flashy packaging so they make themselves stand out.” With demand being so high, it seems, shoppers are finding these products on shelves. And with the growing interest from all demos, putting those supplements and shelf talkers at eye level for men may pay off, too. WF
  1. “Global Nutricosmetics Market: Snapshot,”, June 2017,
  2. “Feinstein Testifies in Support of Personal Care Products Safety Act,” Dianne Feinstein, September 2016.
  3. S. Schwartz, J. Park, “Ingestion of BioCell Collagen(®), a novel hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract; enhanced blood microcirculation and reduced facial aging signs,” Clinical Interventions on Aging, 2012;7:267-73, Epub 2012 Jul 27,
  4. Mitsuhiro Denda, “Epidermis as the “Third Brain”?” Dermatologica Sinica, Volume 33, Issue 2, June 2015, Pages 70-73,