Skin and Hair Supplements: Do They Work?

Beauty supplements are the magic pill of the moment. Everyone’s looking for a simple way to transform skin, rewind the clock, restore lush and thick tresses, and grow nails that are hard as, well, nails. As the beauty and wellness worlds collide, many people are taking the idea that beauty comes from within literally. According to a report compiled by CBI insights and published in August 2018, beauty retailers from Nordstrom to Anthropologie to Sephora are lining their shelves with beauty supplements, and in turn, people are swallowing skin, hair, and nail vitamins as they might toss back Tic Tacs.

While traditional medical professionals may not be convinced, the public now has an alternative source of quasi-medical advice: social media. Egged on by celebrity influencers like Kylie Jenner and Gwyneth Paltrow, consumers risk conflating the glamour of fame with reliable wellness practices. While the Kardashians and Paltrows of this world continue to earn more than the gross domestic products of some developing nations by hawking wellness and beauty supplements, for the people on the other side of the cash register, these amazing-sounding solutions can come with a hefty price tag — Jane Iredale’s Skin Accumax, for example, can set you back $115 for a monthly supply.

Not to mention that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements the way it does drugs. So you never really know what you’re getting when you buy one of these products.

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How are you to know how much, if at all, these vitamins and supplements can help? There’s no shortage of claims, but what do doctors, experts, nutritionists, and the scientific evidence say?

The Hard Science Behind Supplements for Hair and Skin

review published in the journal Dermato Endocrinology notes that antioxidants, vitamins including A, C, D, and E, omega-3s, some proteins, and probiotics can indeed promote anti-aging effects. And while most doctors tend to support the use of these time-tested elements of a healthy diet, it is mainly new supplements that are gaining the most popularity. “Some of the trendier ingredients these days include ingestible collagen, resveratrol, astaxanthin, and hyaluronic acid, along with extracts of bamboo, olive fruit, and green tea,” says Trevor Cates, ND, who is based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Cates says that antioxidants can help skin by protecting against oxidative damage — one of the main root causes behind skin issues including premature aging and hyperpigmentation. “Oxidative damage happens naturally with aging, but also occurs from exposure to air pollution and other toxin exposures in the environment, and excess sun exposure,” says Cates. “Collagen peptides and antioxidants seem to show the greatest promise.”

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