Beauty supplements are the magic pill of the moment. The ads are alluring, and the promises are big. The market is saturated with beauty pills and powders, so should we take them? Do they really work? Could they help? If you take a close look at the ingredients of some of the most popular supplements, there aren’t any secret sprinkles of magic! Many supplements are simply rebranded multivitamins that are repackaged pretty with catchy names.
As doctors, we look for data – is there data that something works, or is there data that something won’t harm us? Unfortunately, the data for most of these products is sketchy at best. We get most of our nutrients from the foods we eat, and as long as someone doesn’t have an actual nutrient deficiency, then adding more supplements doesn’t help. It is also concerning that the supplement industry regulates itself, so safety is a big issue, and we may never have real, unbiased proof of anything.
Can too much be harmful?
YES. It is absolutely possible to overdose on vitamins. It is also unknown how some supplements might interact or interfere with other medications people may take.
So what might help?
There are some supplements that might benefit us if taken appropriately. Nicotinamide, a specific form of vitamin B, has been shown to be helpful for skin cancer prevention. It could help to reduce the risk of basal and squamous cell skin cancers. The recommended dose is 500mg twice a day. This has also been shown to help adult acne in women.
Antioxidants have been shown to have potential anti-aging effects. BUT again, too much of a good thing may cause a problem here as well, namely an increased risk for cancer. So as long as you don’t have the “more is better” mentality, you should be fine. Our bodies are programmed to keep a very fine balance. Antioxidants in green tea have promising effects. Resveratrol found in red grapes (and therefore red wine) might help and not harm. Again, these could be most beneficial from a healthy diet, rather than in the form of a pill.
The scoop on collagen is still tough to tease out. This is one of the most popular supplements on the market these days. Even though collagen is in the skin and joints, collagen alone is not going to give us that inner glow. Most argue that collagen supplements are not in a form that the body can use. Most oral collagen is fish protein, and there just isn’t enough data to show that it preferentially collects in the skin.
Viviscal has some data, more than most, that it might help with hair growth.
And what about biotin? Well, it might actually help with strengthening your nails, but it does not have the data to back it up for helping your hair. And after all the decades of people taking it for their hair growth, just recently it was shown it could interfere with accurate blood work when testing thyroid or cardiac lab work.
What about my diet?
We may have gaps in our diet that vitamins can help fill. Of course, that is different from having a restricted diet for other reasons (inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, a special diet), which could lead to low levels of nutrients that a physician should then check. Foods might not be as nutritious as they were generations ago, so covering your bases with a multivitamin can be a good idea. And even common meds, like birth control pills, could deplete us of certain vitamins. Remember, it may take 4-6 months to see the benefits of starting a new supplement.
Your body absorbs nutrients most effectively from food, as opposed to pills. So how much, if any, gets absorbed is highly debatable, and whether there is enough to actually even travel to your skin and make a difference is also very questionable!
Remember, don’t get your quasi-medical advice from social media – the Nordstroms, Paltrows and Kardashians of the world are the only ones reaping the benefits.
No matter what, the bottom line is still to eat a healthy diet rich in antioxidants 🍇, hydrate well 💦, manage stress 🧘♀️, optimize sleep 😴, and exercise regularly 🏋️♀️!! We would all like to rewind the clock, restore thick tresses, and grow nails as hard as nails, but there isn’t a magic pill yet. So for now, stay educated and be careful!
**We have no conflicts of interest with any supplement or vitamin companies.