Anti-Aging Supplements for Skin (“Internal Skincare”)

Since the interest in improving skin appearance and preserving youth is increasing exponentially, and in line with the creation of new cosmetic treatments and topical formulations, it is as good a time as ever to highlight the internal means by which this can achieved.Internal agents are woefully underwritten in skincare when in fact, unlike nearly all of topical agents, these agents are capable of acting on skin through the dermis after they are digested and taken into bloodstream. Topical skin creams and such do not permeate past the epidermis. If the face can be thought of as a house, internal skincare helps to improve skin appearance by repairing the foundation and improving the look of the exterior by re-structuring the interior.

The presented oral anti-skin aging supplements and compounds detailed below can be used alone or used as additives to topical skincare for possible synergistic benefits.

Oral Hydrolyzed Collagen:

Contrary to most beliefs, oral collagen is not useless for skin; in fact, oral collagen has produced statistically significant positive changes in multiple clinical trials. For example, oral collagen supported by other supplementary nutrients (vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, copper, etc.) was shown to significantly improve wrinkle depth and elasticity. (1) Interestingly, this study also found that wrinkles of greater depth resulted in greater improvement, indicating that the internally-supplied collagen works by restoring collagen levels at the dermis to counteract the aging process at the source rather than the epidermis where shallower surface wrinkles are found. (Ibid). Another placebo-controlled double-blinded study that similarly explored the skin-specific effects of a marine collagen peptide-containing micronutrient supplement found not only a visible amelioration of fines lines and overall skin appearance but also a 78% increase in dermis density by 3 months! (7) A collagen-containing (as hydrolyzed collagen type II) supplement consisting of  low-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate called BioCell Collagen (BCC) was also put through a clinical trial and was found to enhance microcirculation and collagen in the dermis and improve hydration, which resulted in noticeable cosmetic benefits such as decreased facial lines and wrinkles and reduced skin dryness and scaling with daily use of the product (1 g/day) for 12 weeks. (8) A different that study that used collagen peptide supplementation without any other micronutrient supplementation has noted statistically significant elasticity benefits with only 3 g of collagen supplementation daily after 12 weeks. (9) Moreover, other studies have reported increases in skin hydration with ingestion of collagen peptides, probably due to their ability to also increase glycosaminoglycan production. (2-4, 13)

Given the multiple and varied sources attesting to the benefits of oral collagen, it seems that supplemental collagen would be a straightforward and easy method to combat physiological changes with skin aging that overwhelmingly stem from declining collagen formation. Doses from 2.5 g to 10 g appear to be the normal efficacious doses for oral collagen.


Hyaluronic Acid:

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is probably familiar to most people who are interested in skincare now that it is in so many products touting anti-aging benefits as a result of its presence. Hyaluronic acid does indeed possess anti-aging skin benefits, but the problem is its concentration in skincare and makeup products is much too diluted to have any real lasting benefit. Furthermore, “size matters” with HA.  Much of these products contain high-molecular-weight HA that does not penetrate beyond the epidermis and as a result, offers inferior moisturizing and anti-aging capabilities. Oral HA is an under-appreciated alternative (or additive) skin remedy.  Like collagen, it may not be expected to reach the skin while digested, but a useful portion of HA is in fact transferred to the skin. Out of the number of studies reporting successful skin changes with HA, the recent randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled trial by Kawada et al is a standout. In this study, different supplemental HA sources of differing molecular weights (Hyaluronsan HA-F MW: 800 k / Hyabest MW: 300 k — 120 mg/d) were both found to provide numerous benefits to the participants after weeks including an increase in skin moisture content and improvements in other traits present in a youthful complexion such as suppleness and luster. It was also reported that the lower MW oral HA supplement had better and longer increases in moisture content following the study period. (10)

Hyaluronic acid combines nicely  — and theoretically, synergistically — with collagen. Although collagen (and elastin) primarily support skin elasticity, HA that is within the dermis —which is achievable with oral HA, not high-to-average-molecular-weight HA in most products — also contributes to skin viscoelasticity by serving as the fluid matrix that collagen and elastin are embedded in. (Ibid)(11) If elastin and collagen content are supported, it is likely that adding HA will further boost elastin properties of the skin. And unlike collagen, supplemental HA also substantially impacts the moisture content of the skin. Moisture does more than simply make skin look nice and dewy; moisture softens existing wrinkles and helps prevent new ones from permanently forming in the skin after repeated facial expressions. Predictably, improvements in the appearance of wrinkles have been noted with use of oral HA. (12) Hyaluronic acid additionally is involved with tissue repair. (14)Anecdotal evidence also points towards a volumizing effect on the lips. If one has the funds available, oral collagen should be not used as an alternative to HA and vice versa.  Supplementing with 120-240 mg of HA daily has shown to be completely safe and effective.


Astaxanthin is a coral-colored carotenoid with profound antioxidant activity. Thanks to the media, it is relatively well known and heralded for its potential in eye protection,  but it is equally if not more protective of the skin. By itself, astaxanthin taken orally has shown to confer broad spectrum benefits to skin including wrinkle and elasticity improvement in vulnerable areas such as the “crow’s feet”, increases in moisture and sebum content, and when combined with other helpful anti-aging ingredients (e.g., collagen),  decreases in UV-induced upregulation of collagen breakdown enzymes MMP-1 and MMP-12. (15-16) As a carotenoid, astaxanthin should be taken with a relatively high-fat meal. Alternatively, one can look out for astaxanthin in lipid-based formulations. (17) For optimal effects, total oral astaxanthin intake should be at least 2 mg a day, but preferably 6 mg (as 3 mg twice daily based on study results).

Other Carotenoids:

Among the carotenoid family, there are a couple carotenoids especially involved in skin protection besides astaxanthin. Such carotenoids deserving of mention are beta-carotene and lycopene. Mostly known as a supplement, beta-carotene can be found in many foods such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, pumpkin, squash , and more. Lycopene, on the other hand, is widely known to be in high quantities in tomatoes, although lycopene is rich in other foods including watermelon, papaya, and grapefruit. “Low-dose” beta-carotene supplementation (30 mg/day) was found to significant improve wrinkles and elasticity in female volunteers with evidence of increased collagen production and decreased DNA damage in skin cells. (18) It is crucial to differentiate between low-dose and high-dose beta-carotene supplementation as the “high-dose” (90 mg/day) group revealed increased oxidative stress. (Ibid)  With carotenoids, it is a must that physiological but not supraphysiological tissue amounts are achieved as carotenoids do have the potential to generate prooxidant activity if they are mega-dosed.

With lycopene, an even more powerful free radical quencher, oral ingestion has shown to nearly inhibit UVA-induced free radical production in skin. (19) While this study was never published, a published study that gave healthy volunteers  55 g of tomato paste with olive oil and a control group only olive oil daily for 12 weeks similarly reported positive benefits such as increased collagen deposition and a reduction of UV-induced upregulation of MMP-1 (i.e., collagen breakdown enzyme) compared to the control group. (20) It is better that whole dietary sources (e.g., tomato products) are consumed rather than isolated carotenoid supplements as whole compounds such as tomato have a mixture of nutrients that offer greater benefit to skin and better protection against aging UV-rays. For example, tomatoes also contain naringenin, a flavonoid, which stabilitizes the carotenoid and prevents its oxidative degradation. (21) Tomato products also contian other phytonutrients, including phytofluene and phytoene, that contribute to photoprotection. (22) Besides basic antioxidants (i.e., tocopherol/vitamin E), tomato products additionally contain phenolic compounds such as quercetin and chlorogenic acid (23) that could likely account for at least part of the better skin appearance observed with tomato products. Furthermore, lycopene concentrations in skin are significantly inversely related to skin roughness (24), which may be solely attributed to lycopene, or instead, attributed to lycopene plus the mixture of antioxidants and nutrients in lycopene-containing foodstuff. When an oral formula containing tomato extract (28.76 mg) and other skin anti-aging compounds such as marine protein (210 mg of marine complex, composed of fish proteins and polysaccharides), vitamin C (54 mg), grapeseed extract (27.5 mg), and zinc (4 mg) was given to normal male volunteers, significant improvement in multiple skin parameters was reported including hydration, dermal ultrasound density (i.e., increased skin thickness), sun spots, appearance of pores, texture, increased collagen and elastic fibers, and visible improvements in fine lines and wrinkles with daily use after 210 days. (25)

Because all carotenoids are lipophilic, it is important that carotenoid-based supplements are also consumed with fat-containing meals or in a lipid-containing formula for maximal oral bioavailability. Dietary sources of carotenoids also rely on concurrent fat intake to maximize their absorption.

Aloe Vera Gel:

Supplementation with low-dose (1200 mg/day) and high-dose (3600 mg/day) aloe vera gel in healthy volunteers  significantly ameliorates facial wrinkles, and in the low-dose group, also improves skin elasticity, with corresponding increases in type 1 collagen in already photoprotected skin after 90 days. (26) Aloe vera is thought to confer such a strong effect on skin due to immunostimulation (i.e., better defense) with polysaccharides, boosts in collagen biosynthesis with acemannan (i.e., a dominant polysaccharide in aloe vera gel), anti-inflammatory glycoproteins, and enhanced superoxide dismutase (i.e., antioxidant) activity. (Ibid) A newer  double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial using aloe vera powder (0.5 g in five capsules, containing 40 μg aloe sterols, used daily) in women aged 40 and over (i.e., a time of rapid aging) corroborated with the previous study, finding reductions in wrinkle depth  in the aloe vera-treated group with simultaneous worsening of wrinkle depth in the control group within the 8-week study period (27), an expected occurrence with middle-aged skin. These researchers also performed an in vitro study in which they uncovered a 2-fold and 1.5 increase in collagen and hyaluronic acid, respectively, in human dermal fibroblasts treated with aloe sterols cycloartenol and lophenol (Ibid), supporting the results of their human trial. Although the extent of the protection effect of oral aloe vera during continuous UV exposure has not been evaluated in humans, a recent rodent study indicates that oral intake could counteract UVB-induced decreases in skin elasticity and hyaluronic acid content by downregulating collagen degradation enzymes (MMPs) and upregulating adiponectin. (28)

Before deciding to supplement with aloe vera, consumers must be aware that the chosen aloe vera supplement does not contain anthraquinones, as these phenolic compounds can generate reactive oxygen species (i.e., free radicals) in response to UV light, worsening photoaging (27). Aloe vera gel, which is taken from the leaf, does not include anthraquinones For extra precautions, it may be wise to contact the supplement manufacturer for possible inclusion of  anthraquinones.


Pycnogenol is a standardized bark extract that comes from the French maritime pine which contains multiple beneficial phenolic compounds that positively affect skin health. In postmenopausal women, 75 mg of pyncogenol taken daily improves skin elasticity, hydration, wrinkles, and smoothness after 12 weeks, and hydration was increased most apparently in those with dry skin. (29) These welcomed changes were accompanied by substantial upregulations in hyaluronic acid synthase-1 (HAS-1) (i.e., an enzyme responsible for synthesis of hyaluronic acid) and gene expression for collagen synthesis. (Ibid) In an ex vivo study, supplementation wit pycnogenol revealed inhibition of MMP-9 (i.e., a collagen degrading enzyme) in human monocytes (i.e., white blood cells). (30)

Skin effects from pycnogenol are also noticeable when pycnogenol is supplemented with a combination of other effective nutrients even with pycnogenol in lower daily amounts (30-40 mg). For example, multi-nutrient supplements such as Viscoderm pearls (total pycnogeol intake: 30 mg/day, also containing collagen , chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and low-MW hyaluronic acid)  has shown to improve photoaging, hydration, serum fibronectin (important to the extracellular matrix – roughness, wrinkling, etc.), sebum, and tonicity, and Evelle (total pycnogeol intake: 40 mg/day, also containing vitamin C , vitamin E, biotin, selenium, zinc, bio-marine collagen, silica, blueberry extract, and tomato extract), was seen to benefit  elasticity and roughness, respectively. (31-32)

Cocoa Flavanols:

Cocoa products are not so “sinful” as long as antioxidant-rich cocoa powder is consumed as opposed to high-sugar chocolates. In fact, the flavanols in cocoa confer much benefit to skin. Long-term ingestion of flavanol-rich cocoa powder (flavanol content: 326 mg/day) have been proven to increase blood flow to skin, improve its hydration, mitigate its roughness, and increase its thickness. (33) A similar very recent placebo-controlled trial also noted positive effects on skin in women with moderately photoaged skin including roughness, wrinkles, and elasticity with around the same amount of cocoa flavanol intake (320 mg/day) following 24 weeks. (34)

Chocolate lovers need not feel so guilty as long as their cocoa product of choice is high in cocoa over sugar and that these treats are consumed in moderation. Non-chocolate lovers or chocolate lovers looking for more potent effects may supplement with readily available cocoa flavanol supplements.


Carnosine is probably one of the most valuable oral supplements one can take for skin health. Carnosine has already been discussed in detail on this blog for its considerable usefulness as an anti-glycation agent. Besides glycation’s role in diabetes and general aging of the organism, glycation elicits a marked effect on skin aging. Actually, two of the greater facial aging contributors – chronic UV exposure and smoking – mediate their pro-aging effects through glycation reactions. By using carnosine to inhibit glycation, many aging processes can be inhibited at the source.

Based on the results of a randomized, double-blinded, controlled study, participants who were assigned an oral non-hydrolized carnosine formula (Can-C Plus, containing 250 mg of carnosine per capsule) experienced amelioration of several skin parameters including fine lines, smoothness, skin tone, radiance, skin creping, and overall appearance by 3 months. (35) In this trial, carnosine capsules were only taken every second day in modest amounts. It is predicted that higher amounts with daily dosing will achieve even more remarkable effects.

A range of carnosine doses have been utilized and tolerated well in studies, although certain conditions may require more carnosine than an average healthy person would require. To balance safety and efficacy, 200-500 mg of carnosine is an advisable dose in an otherwise person. Since carnosine is found in meat products, vegetarians and vegan may opt for ~500 mg.


Soy and Other Estrogenic Compounds:

This category is especially suited to postmenopausal women who are depleted of estrogen. Skin integrity is dependent on  estrogen and estrogen-like compounds that are majorly involved in collagen production, skin thickness, elasticity, and epidermal hydration. (5-6) Soy compounds with estrogen-like compounds or “phytoestrogens” can substitute for natural estrogen to combat the effects of hypoestrogenism on elasticity and collagen, or alternatively, add as an additive for those on HRT.

Equol, a metabolite of daidzein, is produced by intestinal bacteria of the gut after the ingestion of daidzein from soy, but not all humans produce equol, hence its supplementation (with S-equol) is still relevant in those who may still consume healthy helpings of soy in their diet. When S-equol is supplemented in equol “non-producers” in low and high doses (10 mg and 30 mg), significant reductions in wrinkle area (with low and high doses) and significant reductions in wrinkle depth with the high-dose are experienced after 1 month of use in postmenopausal women. (36)

General high soy isoflavone intake is also of great use to skin health. High oral intake of a isoflavone-rich soy extract supplement (100 mg/day isoflavones) was proven to increase skin epithelial thickness and the number of elastic and collagen fibers based on skin biopsies of the postmenopausal participants with 6 months of supplement intake. (37) Another study that used high isoflavone supplementation (70 mg) within a mixed-nutrient drink (also containing: lycopene, vitamin C, vitamin E) with omega-3 fatty acid capsules (660 mg) also documented impressive reductions in wrinkle depth in menopausal women with daily usage for 14 weeks.(38)

Even though phytoestrogen use with soy isoflavones targets postmenopausal women, it is worthy to note that middle-age women can apparently benefit as well. Middle-aged women who supplemented with 40 mg of soy isoflavone aglycone per day experienced a lessening of fine wrinkles and an increase in malar skin elastically by 12 weeks. (39)

Argan Oil:

Although it is usually olive oil that is casually cited to have beneficial effects on skin aging, it is argan oil that is worthy of the attention. In fact, a recent study involving postmenopausal women compared argan oil consumption (25 mL/day) against olive oil (25 mL/day) and noted that the argan oil group revealed significant increases in several skin elasticity tests. (40) These findings are not at all surprising considering that argan oil actually has higher antioxidant content (gamma tocopherol, ferulic acid, other polyphenols) than olive oil.The remarkable correction of elasticity with argan oil consumption is expected to be explained mainly by the synergistic effects of vitamin E and ferulic acid in the oil. (Ibid)

Argan oil represents an excellent alternative to postmenopausal women or others with decreased elasticity who wish to avoid all estrogen and estrogen-like oral and topical compounds.


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  16. Fernández-García E. Photoprotection of human dermal fibroblasts against ultraviolet light by antioxidant combinations present in tomato. Food & function. 2014;5(2):285-90.
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10 thoughts on “Anti-Aging Supplements for Skin (“Internal Skincare”)

  1. You mention to avoid aloe vera with anthraquinones. I take a liquid aloe vera product and the manufacturer states that “during processing anthraquinones, aloin, alo emodin are filtered out to less than 1 part per million” would this still be ok to use?

    I’m also wondering about topical aloe vera. As anthraquinones are naturally present in aloe vera, would using a topical product made from whole leaf, rather than gel only, be ok if anthraquinones are removed? And if they were present in even small levels, such as the less than 1 part per million quoted above, would exposure to UV light still be a problem if the product is applied at night?


  2. I have a follow up question. I’ve contacted the manufacturer of an aloe vera capsule i use called aloeride which i am using in a topical solution with my homemade vitamin c serum. They tell me that laxative anthraquinones have been removed, but state that:

    “Kindly note that anthraquinones are in part responsible for aloe vera’s analgesic, antibacterial and antiviral properties. We have removed selectively so people with for instance Crohn’s Disease benefit from the beneficial properties of aloe without having their stool problem aggravated by laxative anthraquinones”

    Are you saying all anthraquinones should be avoided in aloe vera products? What about cinnamic acid, for example? That is an anthraquinone but has protective effects against UVB. Could you please clarify your recommendation to avoid anthraquinones, as these seem to contain a whole host of molcules (e.g., Barbaloin, isobarbaloine, anthracene, antranol, aloetic acid, Emodin, aloe emodin, Ethereal oil, Aloetic Acid, Chrysophanic acid, Cinnamic acid and Resistonole) some of which, as stated above, seem to be protective against UV light. Thanks


    • After looking into this today i found this journal article:

      “Photo-irradiation of Aloe vera by UVA—Formation of free radicals, singlet oxygen, superoxide, and induction of lipid peroxidation”

      There was an interesting line in the abstract which caught my eye:

      “The amounts of lipid peroxides formed were higher in the Aloe vera leaf extract that contained lower amounts of anthraquinones.”

      This is saying that there was more lipid damage when there were LOWER amounts of anthraquinones present. Perhaps not all anthraquinones are bad after all???


    • Hi Martin,

      I figure I’ll address all your questions in one reply:

      Concerning the journal article you referenced, it is a study I am very familiar with. I think it’s important to note *how* the anthraquinones were reduced in the aloe vera extract. It is not mentioned in the abstract, but the authors used active carbon filtration to lower the anthraquinones, which quite possibly could explain that unexpected result. The authors proposed that the filtration method could have reduced the antioxidants in the extract and/or enhanced the pro-oxidant activity.

      What has been verified is that *aloe vera-derived anthraquinones* (I should have been more specific in my article, as not ALL anthraquinones are phototoxic, such as cinnamic acid as you mention.) DO result in photo-oxidative damage to cells under UV exposure in vitro. (Source here: In vitro studies on the photobiological properties of aloe emodin and aloin A)

      With that said, I am not sure how the anthraquinones were removed in your product. Given the possible worsening of phototoxicity with active carbon filtration, I would stay on the safe side and stick with aloe vera gel supplements or powders. Additionally, all studies that I know of have found improvements of skin appearance with ingestion of aloe vera gel, not topically applied aloe vera gel. So, once again, I would instead adopt the routine closest to the published articles and use aloe vera gel orally rather than topically.

      Hope this helped. You are definitely on track with the topical vitamin C serum!


  3. I read the abstract of that article (In vitro studies on the photobiological properties of aloe emodin and aloin A) and this seems to be talking about the laxative anthraquinones aloe emodin and aloin A. It also states that it was aloe emodin and not aloin A which results in photocytotoxic reactions.

    This source ( states that there are 12 anthraquinones in aloe.

    The laxative anthraquinones may increase skin sensitivity to UV light, i agree with that, but aloe contains other anthraquinones (including cinnamic acid) which can be protective. So whilst i do take your point about specific anthraquinones being an issue, it seems unfair to generalize and say that all aloe anthraquinones should be avoided (especially if a product has the laxative anthraquinones removed).

    This article suggests aloe can be protective against UVA:

    There is also this article which has an interesting sentence suggesting that it is the concentration of anthraquinones which is the problem (

    “Although the phototoxicity anthraquinone components of Aloe plants have been demonstrated, several clinical studies of preparations derived from Aloe barbadensis plants demonstrated no phototoxicity, confirming that the concentrations of anthraquinones in such preparations are too low to induce phototoxicity.”

    Any thoughts about these studies?


    • Hi Martin, I was able to look at the studies in full. Let’s go down the list.

      As far as the first study is concerned, you are correct that aloin A is not directly phototoxic, but it appears to be indirectly phototoxic. The study mentions that the skin can metabolize aloin A to emodin. Since aloin A can be oxidized to emodin, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with its topical application. Anyhow, I don’t think we need to quibble over which latex anthraquinone is more toxic than the other as you agree that laxative anthraquinones altogether can potentially exacerbate photodamage.

      Concerning the other studies you bring up, yes, Aloe vera is composed of multiple anthraquinones and we ultimately care about the net effect – will the Aloe vera leaf enhance photodamage or not? I read the Rodrigues et al article ( in its entirely and I’m quite surprised that the Aloe vera extract inhibited the photodamage from UVA light. I don’t believe this article was available to me when I wrote this blog post. Ah, but that’s all part of the scientific discipline – discover new findings and alter your opinions and hypotheses as necessary. You also cite another article that discusses the importance of concentration, which is something I certainly wouldn’t argue against. Even water, one of our requirements for life, is obviously toxic in high concentrations, so I’ll concede that “the dose makes the poison”. I think I can agree with you that with the latex anthraquinones being selectively filtered out (for other gastrointestinal and toxicological concerns), you are likely to be fine with other anthraquinones in aloe. When I do add Aloe vera to my regime, it would be taken orally and as Aloe vera gel, so I hadn’t looked into this as much as you did apparently. I’ll amend the blog post at a later date so there is no misunderstandings.

      Thanks for bringing those studies to my attention!


      • Thanks for looking into those. Basically when i read your article i did some research myself and thought i would get your expert opinion on it. Btw, this is a great website with very informative content. Loved your glycation series, that was a real eyeopener!


  4. Hello Yochana,

    Out of all the supplements listen, which ones do you think would be most beneficial to take instead? (assuming of course, that one has a healthy diet comprised of various food groups)

    Also, are there any supplements you personally consume as well?

    Thank you


    • Hey Simu,

      There are a lot of supplements that can be beneficial to skin, and understandably, not everybody has a budget (or even the patience) that will justify adding multiple supplements to their current regime. I would say the most helpful supplements to include are the very components within our skin – collagen and hyaluronic acid. Those two supplements will go a long way in maintaining healthy skin and even reversing current moisture/collagen/elastin deficits.

      If you can add a little extra, I’d also recommend astaxanthin (oral collagen and astaxanthin evidently complement very nicely). Moreover, Fernblock (a supplement I mentioned in my latest blog entry – Anti-Aging Supplements for Skin (“Internal Skincare”) Part II) would be an excellent supplement to enhance the protection of your daily topical sunblock.

      Many other supplements I’ve listed can be found within the diet, which you mention. A daily diet low in sugar and rich vegetables (especially processed tomato products and greens, plus moderate dark cocoa) will be helpful in emulating the benefits reported with single antioxidant/carotenoid/amino acid (e.g., chlorophyll, lycopene, cocoa extract, carnosine) supplements.

      I have not yet taken any supplements specifically for my skin health, but I do intend to get an early start and maximize prevention. I also plan to start with the two fundamentals – oral collagen and hyaluronic acid. With collagen, I would make sure to take at least 3 grams a day for appreciable benefits. Double or triple that would be even better.


      • Hi Yochana,

        Thank you for your reply!

        Speaking of topical sunblock, hope you don’t mind me asking but are there any particular ones that you use or recommend?


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