Legendary women have long been recorded as physically perfect – Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and Messalina remain famous even today, for their famed ‘beauty’. Even Boudica – Warrior Queen of the Icenis – is rarely described without a nod to her “great mass of flowing red hair that fell to her hips.” Yet when you consider the qualities these women must have had – surely Helen used wit as well as wiles to survive, and Cleopatra must have been a master strategist, not to mention the pure ferocity that Boudica must have embodied – reducing the ‘beauty’ of these women to their physical appearances just seems.... wrong.

Fortunately, modern dictionaries define ‘beauty’ as the quality of being pleasing to the senses or mind, recognising that there is more to being a ‘beautiful’ person than outer appearance, and reflecting a healthier attitude in how we should perceive ourselves and each other.

Kirsty Mawhinney, a popular beauty and wellbeing evangelist [1], comments, “Skincare products can leave your skin feeling rejuvenated, radiant and appear more youthful, but the fountain of your beauty is inside you, in your heart. I have also always believed that you are what you eat – the slow food phenomenon of eating simply and mindfully is one of the true pleasures of life. Eat to live, not live to eat, is a mantra I often say to myself, and the results can definitely show on the outside.”


This concept of beauty on the outside reflecting what is happening on the inside resonates throughout many aspects of our lives. In particular, it is now well accepted that healthy eating can have a direct impact on your appearance.

For example, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that eating more fruit and vegetables can change skin tone, lending it a healthier glow, within a matter of weeks [2]. Participants who increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables showed more of a golden healthy glow; those who ate less showed a reduction in skin tone. Apparently, the effect is due to carotenoids, orangey-red pigments found in fruits and vegetables – just two extra portions a day is enough to cause a detectable change in skin tone.

Similarly, The Trichological Society confirms that nutritional deficiencies can lead to dry, dull hair, and sometimes hair loss, while diets containing protein, fruits, vegetables and grains will lead to healthy heads of hair [3]. Essential omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12 and iron prevent a dry scalp and dull hair colour, while vitamins A and C help with production of sebum and provide a natural hair conditioner. Calcium is a key component for hair growth, while iron, zinc and biotin maintain hair strength and fullness. A well balanced, nutritious diet that contains plenty of minerals and vitamins – including biotin – can also help to keep nails strong [4].

In summary, a balanced diet can play a role in improving skin tone and glow, hair lustre and thickness, nail quality and strength. Few people would argue with the benefits of healthy eating. However, this knowledge is now being taking a step further, as a trend emerges for more consumers to take vitamin and nutrient supplements, and ingestible beauty products, with the sole aim of improving their physical appearances.

When this trend began, critics focussed on the pharmacokinetics of these products – how would the active ingredients survive the stomach and reach the skin, hair or nails, they wondered. How could you affect ‘dead’ hair or nail cells from within? Surely, they protested, if these products work at all, it would be better to apply them topically. However, if we accept that healthy eating can improve our skin, hair and nails, why shouldn’t we consider the possibility that ingestible beauty products can do the same?

A trend emerges for vitamin and nutrient supplements, and ingestible beauty products



In fact, preclinical studies have shown that intact molecules of collagen peptides can pass the stomach, be absorbed by the body in the intestine and reach the dermis where they stimulate the body’s own collagen metabolism and can have a real effect on the skin matrix. Naturally, the onus lies on the manufacturer to provide scientific backing for any claims made, but the scientific validity of many edible beauty products is definitely growing in credence, as more data are gathered.

Several studies confirm the effect of orally applied specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides on wrinkle reduction, decreasing signs of cellulite and strengthening nails,” says Oliver Wolf, Head of B2B Marketing at Gelita [5]. “Besides beneficial effects on skin and nails, these peptides support hair health. This was researched in a randomized, placebo-controlled study that showed supplementation with VERISOL® leads to improved hair structure, by significantly increasing hair thickness and proliferation of human hair follicle cells.”

This kind of evidence is important because, as explained by Claire Tansey, Director of Operations at Atlantia Clinical Trials [6], “Products with demonstrated efficacy will garner more purchases and recommendations than advertisements, loyalty rewards or discounts. The stronger and more widespread the scientific backing for these claims, the more products will be able to cite specific cases and add quantitative data to support existing claims. In an era of ever-increasing competition for ‘skin health’, using scientific studies, such as human clinical trials, to back up specific health claims is key to building trust in a brand or product.”


A growing belief in the concept that something consumed orally can nourish external appearance, and general trends for a more rounded approach to health and beauty, have led a number of personal care brands to develop ingestible beauty products.

Atlantia’s Claire Tansey explains, “There has been a shift away from negative ‘anti-ageing’ claims in the skincare industry and the focus is now on ‘well ageing’. I believe the future of skin research will be focused towards skin health, and will delve further into the gut–skin–brain connection.”

According to Statista, the global beauty supplements market size is currently worth US$5.7 billion, and is predicted to reach US$6.8 billion by 2024 [7]. Meanwhile, collagen peptides are among the fastest growing nutraceutical and functional ingredients in new supplement product launches with a skin health claim [8].

There is a continued upward trend for collagen in the market, and collagen peptides are still considered to be one of the hottest ingredients for Nutricosmetics and other dietary supplements,” comments Gelita’s Oliver Wolf. “This popularity not only reflects their clearly recognisable effects, but is also based on supporting scientific evidence.

Collagen peptides are among the fastest growing nutraceutical and functional ingredients


An impressive range of oral beauty and skincare edible products are now widely available. Some of the most original recent products include Huaxi Biology’s hyaluronic acid drinking water, intended to allow consumers to “experience hyaluronic acid through daily packaged beverages”, or Unichi’s Rosa Prima’s Rosehip Complex Gummy, a teddy-bear shaped chewy sweet containing a variety of vitamins involved in maintaining collagen synthesis and promoting skin repair.

Unichi’s Gummy is a classic example of providing consumers with desirable texture and sensory properties. Consumers today expect the products they consume to look, taste and smell good, so ensuring excellent, customizable sensory properties is important when developing any ingestible product.

“When formulating nutricosmetics products, it is important to consider not only the scientific evidence behind the active ingredient such as collagen peptide but also its sensory profile,” says Dr Valérie Lemarcq, Sensory Expert at Rousselot [9]. This is even more important when it is used at a higher dosage in beauty shots or RTD applications, which are some of the most popular application formats in the beauty-from-within category. At Rousselot, we have dedicated sensory control processes through our Global Sensory Program using strict quality protocols and science-based methodology to test and evaluate our products. This way, we ensure that our collagen-based solutions meet the quality requirements of our customers and their consumers.”

It is also interesting to note a recent rise in vegan options, or those from non-animal sources. For example, collagen has conventionally been extracted from animals, but modern biotechnology has allowed the development of vegan collagen, by adding the human genes that code for the genetic structure of yeast or bacteria [10]. These microbes then start to produce amino acids that act as building blocks of human collagen.

Vegan hyaluronic acid can also be produced through genetically manipulated bacteria [11]. In fact, microbial fermentation is already the most common way to source hyaluronic acid. Not only can microbial fermentation be more cost-effective for manufacturers, and therefore consumers, but it’s also more eco-friendly because it produces less environmental pollution than sourcing these ingredients from animals.


While it seems unlikely that consumers will stop applying creams and lotions in their quest to maintain a youthful appearances, there is an upward curve in supplements and ingestibles used alongside conventional topical products. Consumer hunger for health in a post-COVID world has magnified a trend that was already developing at the end of the last decade. The personal care industry is responding by focusing on the ‘health’ in ‘health and beauty’, and the nutrition industry has a massive role to play.


Image by mohamed_hassan from Pixabay