The idea of ‘inner beauty’ once referred to all those qualities your parents encouraged you to develop as a child: kindness, honesty, the patience to tolerate the irritations of your siblings. But ever since the advent of the cult of ‘wellness’, it’s come to mean something entirely different. Now ‘inner beauty’ is shorthand for a diet of good stuff – juices, smoothies, grains, so many grains – that’s a means of achieving ‘outer beauty’, too.
Enter “ingestibles”, powdered mixtures of skin-enhancing ingredients such as collagen that promise to make you “glow from within”. They’re hugely popular – sales of market leader The Beauty Chef’s Glow powder have grown 301 per cent in the last five years – but the multi-million-dollar question is: do they work? We tried four products to find out.
‘This did something good for my complexion’
Beauty writer Sherine Youssef tried The Beauty Chef Collagen Inner Beauty Boost, $42
First, a primer: collagen is a protein found throughout our body and it performs a vital function, helping bind together cells and keep our skin plump and strong. That is, until our 30s, when production starts to decrease, leading our skin to become saggier and less elastic.
So you can see the appeal of collagen supplements that promise to halt and even reverse this ageing process. Thing is, the advice around drinking collagen is still up for debate (some research indicates it only makes it as far as the bloodstream and never reaches the skin), but I’m here to tell you that this did something good for my complexion.
Don’t ask me what, though.
It reminds me of what happens whenever I reintroduce SK-II Facial Treatment Essence into my routine: I don’t know exactly what it’s doing to my skin, I just know that my face looks a little clearer, it has some sheen to it and it feels – I swear, I’m not making this up – springier. Spongy.
I’m a regular consumer of The Beauty Chef Glow Inner Beauty Powder, and this elixir also features a gut-balancing blend of bio-fermented and probiotic ingredients, so the fact that I felt good inside wasn’t a surprise. I had a glass of Collagen with cold water first thing in the morning, and unlike Glow, which retains grittiness even when diluted, this one is smooth and goes down easily (it also tastes delicious). Drinking this did nothing for my nails and hair, which is the other purported benefit of ingesting collagen supplements, but the skin thing? It was real.
‘I feel less bloated and my skin looks great’
PRIMER co-founder Anna Saunders tried WelleCo Super Elixir, from $35
Like anyone who spends even a sliver of their day on Instagram, I’ve noticed the proliferation of posts featuring artfully photographed smoothies, supplements and “ingestible beauty products”, all designed to make your skin glow from the inside out.
But until now, I’ve never been tempted to try them.
This is partly because I’m a natural sceptic, and partly because my diet throughout my 20s and early 30s was – how shall I put this? – pathetic. When you’re mainlining Coke Zero at your desk every day and topping it off with a glass of wine or two every night, the idea of adding a green wellness supplement to your diet in the hopes you’ll glow from within seems pointless and, frankly, deluded.
But, recently, my attitude has changed. With two small children and a demanding new business, energy (and sleep) are at a premium, and I can’t afford the rollercoaster highs and lows of a caffeine-and-alcohol-fuelled diet. So, having cut down on both, I’m keen to take my newly healthy regimen one step further. Which is why I order WelleCo’s Super Elixir.
I’ve never been tempted to try ‘ingestible beauty’ – until now
You’ve probably spotted WelleCo’s distinctive glossy black pots on social media, where the brand has 140,000 followers. (And I can report that, yes, the packaging is beautiful.) You may even know that the brand is the brainchild of supermodel Elle MacPherson.
What I didn’t realise until the powders arrived is that WelleCo, which was developed by Dr Simone Laubscher, promotes an alkaline diet in the belief that this combats disease and “promotes cellular renewal”. Let’s be frank: the science around this is mixed.
However, Super Elixir (which is the brand’s signature product) includes 45 naturally derived ingredients, from vitamins to probiotics, which is precisely 45 more vitamins and probiotics than I have ever taken before, so I set my scepticism aside.
My first encounter is not brilliant. Having stirred two teaspoons of the moss-green powder into a glass of water, I’m contemplating the murky mixture when my two year old comes over for an inspection. “Wuck,” he declares, wrinkling his nose. Wuck, indeed.
The following day I mix the powder with coconut water, as per WelleCo’s suggestion, and, this time, I shake it thoroughly. The result, while not exactly delicious, is perfectly fine. A few days later, I try the “lemon and ginger” flavour, which is genuinely tasty and refreshing.
Within a couple of days I look and feel noticeably less bloated and my skin also looks better than it has for ages (though whether that’s Super Elixir or the combination of this together with Lancome’s Genefique serum and Skinceuticals’ C E Ferulic that our beauty editor Sherine convinced me to try, I’m not sure).
And, yes, I also have more energy. Again though, whether this is the Super Elixir itself – or whether the small daily act of self-care involved in substituting my early morning coffee for a green smoothie sets me on a more healthy path for the day, I couldn’t say. But I’m not sure it matters. Right now, in the sleep-deprived trenches of working motherhood, anything that makes me look and feel healthier is a win. After 30 days, I feel great – and I’m sticking with it.
‘Who knew a post-dinner sweet treat could also be a way to radiant skin?’
PRIMER beauty editor Lucy Adams tried Vida Glow Beauty Skin Cacao Maple, $59.95
I love chocolate. Good quality dark is my favourite and I probably sneak in a couple of squares daily. But that’s normally after 3pm, not at 7am. While the cocoa maple flavour of Vida Glow Beauty Skin is delicious, I felt almost naughty (and definitely not nutritious) drinking it first thing mixed in water or my breakfast smoothie.
It wasn’t till my chocolate stash ran out and I went hunting through the cupboards that I discovered the best way to drink this beauty ingestible: warmed and mixed with almond milk! Not only did it dissolve far more easily when hot, I could sip smugly knowing that my chocolate fix was working on my skin from within.
And what about my skin? I’ve tried a few ingestible beauty brands and I’m a big fan of treating your skin from the inside out – be it through diet, taking supplements, drinking enough water or using these nifty all-in-one powders. Having also studied a bit of nutrition back in the day, I am very picky about what ingredients I’ll put in my body (as well as on my skin).
I discovered the best way to drink this beauty ingestible is warmed and mixed with almond milk
Vida Glow Beauty Skin passed my test (the majority of ingredients are certified organic and it’s free from artificial sugars). I was particularly intrigued by the Jerusalem artichoke powder, hemp seed protein powder and fermented spirulina, spinach and flaxseed blend it included.
While I can’t say I noticed any changes immediately, perhaps my nails felt a little less brittle. After 10-14 days of continued use I definitely noticed a subtle glow, an improved skin texture – it felt much smoother to touch – and fewer and less noticeable fine lines on my forehead.
My skin looked as though I’d been diligent enough to drink at least two litres of water a day (does anyone do that in the middle of winter?) – but I hadn’t. Who knew that a post-dinner sweet treat could be my newfound answer to radiant skin? Will I keep using it? Yes! Chocolate and better skin (from the inside out) are a winning combination.
‘The skin on my hands looked smoother and plumper’
PRIMER co-founder Felicity Robinson tried Grown Alchemist Dermal Smoothing powder, $210
Would I have been as well-disposed towards Grown Alchemist’s powder if it were packaged in lurid pink plastic? Probably not. But the modishly low-key glass pot, with its medicinal brown glass and plain black lid suggests seriousness and science. And it also looks lovely on my bathroom shelf.
Like Anna, I was sceptical about the benefits of oral powders. I’m married to a doctor, who rolls his eyes at the claims made by products in my beauty arsenal, particularly if they haven’t been adequately peer reviewed and written up in at least one high-impact journal. So I did my best to check out the evidence. And while studies are small, results are encouraging. Preliminary findings from a literature review this year, for example, suggested collagen supplements did make a difference to skin elasticity and hydration.
Good enough for me, I thought, as I happily stirred a 5mg scoop of the powder into a glass of water the next morning. Smelling of wheat and vitamin C tablets (more appealing than it sounds), the powder took a few seconds of vigorous stirring to dissolve and some stubborn grains refused to sink. My enthusiasm paled. I took a large gulp. The powder tasted… ok. The grapefruit extract came through quite strongly and the texture reminded me of the fibre supplements I took while pregnant.
A few days after starting to take the powder, I found myself staring absentmindedly at my hands while trying to finish an email. The skin looks smoother, I thought, as I examined them more closely. Plumper, too. I wondered if I’d been applying more hand cream than usual (I hadn’t). My nails have also been stronger recently. Coincidence or collagen, though? It’s difficult to say.
I am, however, still taking Dermal Smoothing Powder every day and I’d continue my morning regimen if it weren’t for the cost. $210 for 60 days dosage, or 30 days if you take one scoop twice daily. That’s $3.50 a day. Less than a coffee, mind you.
Maybe I’ll consider it.