Nutricosmetics—the lovechild of the supplement, food and personal care worlds—is a sizzling-hot topic these days, one fraught with a bit of controversy, some skepticism and, of course, monster marketing potential. The biggest issue surrounds whether or not specific supps and vitamin-fortified foods and beverages really have beautifying benefits as they allege, or if it’s all a bunch of unfounded claims. (Check out Jessica Rubino's recent blog discussing consumer perceptions.)
The latest nutricosmetic ingredient to come under fire is vitamin E, which some manufacturers claim produces a host of cosmetic benefits. Just last week, the European Food Safety Authority determined that, based on data presented to its panel, dietary intake of the vitamin does not directly result in "maintenance of normal" nails, hair, teeth, skin or scalp.
This decision doesn't totally surprise me. Without trying to figure out the EFSA's intense evaluation process, I imagine it would be tough to establish hard-and-fast cause and effect for these types of results. But does this necessary mean that vitamin E has no effect on hair, skin, teeth, nails and scalp? Now that would be surprising.
The EFSA did, in fact, establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between vitamin E intake and "protection of DNA, protein and lipids from oxidative damage." And, as we know, oxidative stress is a major player in drying out and aging skin, weakening bones and teeth, and making hair brittle and even gray. Therefore, it seems there are possible—and very likely—indirect beauty benefits of dietary vitamin E.
Some nutricosmetic companies may be disappointed that they can't use overt language stating that vitamin E has direct hair-, skin- and nail-plumping effects—and cracking down on unfounded claims is a good thing. But I think this all rolls back to the old mantra: Take your vitamins, eat nutrient-rich foods, supplement with what you can't (or don't) get from diet and you'll be amazed at how good you feel and dashing you look.