If you're a kale lover, this'll be music to your ears. In the latest beauty trend, you can now wear your favourite leafy green on your face, along with all of the other "buzz" food products like quinoa, chia seeds and goji berries.
Recently, UK nail brand Nails Inc - known for kick-starting the infamous "caviar" nail trend - announced model and it-girl Alexa Chung as the face of its new nail line, Nailkale, a line of basecoats infused with, yep, the leaf-of-the-moment: kale. Enriched with vitamins A, C and E, they're hedging their bets on this salad-staple as the new answer to strong, healthy, durable nails.
But it's not just nail wear. Cosmetic developers have found most of the health-food aisle products can have beauty benefits. Dermatologist Dr Perricone's latest product, Chia Oil serum, features chia seed extract, together with a host of essential vitamins to load your skin up with omega-3 fatty acids for a hydrated, glowing effect. Hungarian brand Eminence delivers a Citrus & Kale serum to serve skin with antioxidants, defending against everyday free radicals that destroy healthy skin cells.
Salma Hayek's Nuance hair care brand has gotten in the game too, with the popular protein grain quinoa being hydrolysed (meaning it's been broken down into its component amino acids) and used to form a protective barrier around hair follicles to retain moisture and add shine. Meanwhile, Chinese skincare brand Wei offers goji berries in its Age Defence Serum, touted to energise and renew skin appearance.
Celeste Lutrario, vice president of global research and development for Burt's Bees - which offers foodie ingredients in their formulations, such as pomegranate, coconut and apricot - says that the beauty industry has always looked to the food industry for ingredients. "They do the most research on the nutrients of ingredients, so they have an abundance of research that we can use to see what the chemical makeup is and what the nutritional value will be."
It's a win for the beauty brands because from their point of view, the food industry has already done the legwork in educating us on their benefits, "so we don't have to spend a lot of time talking to the consumer about them," says Lutrario.
The question remains, however, are they as effective externally as they are internally?
Cosmetic chemist and editor-in-chief of TheBeautyBrains.com, Randy Schueller, isn't convinced yet. "Just because something is good for you when you eat it doesn't mean it will do anything when you slather it onto your skin." In his opinion, further research is needed: "I wouldn't believe the hype until I see the proposed mechanism for how the ingredient works when applied, proof that the ingredient can penetrate the skin to get where it needs, and peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies demonstrating how the ingredient really works when applied to real people."
Melbourne based dermatologist Dr Rich agrees, saying that it's still unknown whether these ingredients are as "super" on the skin as they are in your body. "There's a marketing aspect to it - every brand is looking for point of difference since there's so much competition in the space. Some brands bring out a new magical ingredient and combine it with existing, already-proven [to be effective] ingredients that give the majority of the benefits," he explains.
There's also the matter of the amount of the ingredient included in the formulation. He points to licorice extract - now one of a select group of ingredients used to treat pigmentation - as an example. "It's great for pigmentation, but you need such a high percentage of it and that discolours the product. Plus, it's so expensive that they can't afford to put the percentage into the product that's going to be beneficial," he says.
The key to these super foods, he says, is that they are full of good antioxidants that ply our internal system full of free-radical fighting nutrients when eaten, but further study is needed on whether the same level make it into the beauty products - and whether they can be absorbed as beneficially. "Tomatoes have been shown to help skin conditions like eczema," he says. "But is it better than existing emollients? Are they getting enough tomato extract to get a benefit? Most likely not."
The market is out there for these products, though: "There's one consumer who is always looking for something new and wonderful, as well as another who lobbies for natural and healthy, the 'it must be good for me because it's so good for me when I eat it'." But the jury is still out on this, and the experts agree that we get healthy skin benefits from the super foods we consume anyway. So right now, it's probably an easier option just to eat your kale, quinoa and goji instead.
- Daily Life