According to market research firm Mintel, nearly 300 new food and drink products with "functional beauty benefits" launched in 2008, about double the number in 2007. Products like Borba, Glowelle, Crystal Light Skin Essentials, BeautyScoop, and Noah's Naturals Anti-Aging Beauty Elixir all claim to improve appearance and fight the signs of time on your skin.
But can what you drink really make a difference in how you look?
What Are Beauty Beverages?
"Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a beauty drink is in the perspective of the consumer," says New York nutritionist Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN.
"Drinks with beauty benefits usually contain vitamins, amino acids, or botanicals that possess antioxidant activities," says New York dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. "A person should usually get enough of these nutrients through diet. But drinking them is a reasonable way to supplement."
How Well Do They Work?
Ideally, everyone would eat a healthy diet packed with fruits and vegetables, lean protein, good fats, and whole grains, says Los Angeles dermatologist Howard Murad, MD, who sells supplements as part of his skincare line. He sees supplements as a good back-up plan.
"I have tried to put adequate amounts of supplements in drinks, but they aren't palatable at the levels required to see benefits," Murad says. "Plus, to make a supplement drinkable, you need to add preservatives, emulsifiers, and sweeteners -- things that aren't ideal to ingest."
The makers of beauty drinks say that sometimes eating well isn't enough. "Even people who eat a healthy diet have problems with their skin, hair, and nails," says plastic surgeon Michelle Yagoda, MD, creator of BeautyScoop. "So absorption can be a problem and liquids tend to be more bio-available to your body."
"A drinkable supplement can be an effective way to treat skin because it can contain vitamins that are more bio-available and easier for the body to absorb," says Scott-Vincent Borba, founder and CEO of the skin product company Borba.
However, experts such as New York dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD, disagree. "Certain nutrients do help the skin, but that doesn't mean putting them in a drink will have the same effect as eating a well-balanced diet," Schultz says. "The body is too smart for that.
Your Diet Affects Your Skin
Good nutrition, in general, benefits your skin. But just as doing thousands of crunches won't burn fat from your waistline, adding high levels of vitamins to your water won't yield increasing returns.
"You can't load the circuit nutritionally," Schultz says. "If you press on a light switch harder, it doesn't come on any faster or brighter, and the skin is the same way." Drinking nutrients to benefit the skin doesn't mean they will end up there.
"A bottled beauty drink should be in addition to, not instead of, water," Glassman says. She recommends making sure your drink has less than 15 grams of sugar.
How to Quench Your Skin's Thirst
Staying hydrated is key to your overall health, including your skin.
Drink enough water so that you're not thirsty. You can also hydrate your skin and get nutrients by eating more fruits and vegetables.
If you're looking for a simple beauty beverage, you might consider tea. In at least one study, people who drank a minimum of two daily cups of green or black tea were 20% to 30% less likely to get nonmelanoma skin cancer, the most common type of skin cancer. Tea contains polyphenols, plant chemicals that help fight sun damage -- the No. 1 skin ager. Other studies have shown that polyphenols may help sunscreens reduce UV damage. Polyphenols also ease inflammation, another skin foe.
What's on the inside matters to your skin, but it's also important to work on the skin's surface, too.
Products you put on your skin "have a much better chance of making improvements because they have a better chance of getting where you need them," Schultz says.